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Iwafune had just been out shopping for groceries, making a run to the supermarket, when he saw him. It was honestly hard not to. Fiery red hair, an intimidating aura carried with the lazy charm of a resting beast. He would recognise it anywhere. Not only because he had been watching him through the lenses for quite some time now, but also, because to him, that meant…


He was used to changing stores every so often. It was bothersome, but he rather not build any familiarity between himself and the neighborhood people. Even so, Iwafune tended to avoid clan territory when he went out, which had become ever so rare with Sukuna and Yukari added to the team and able to perform most outside world tasks for him, only whenever those two weren't available…. In sort, it didn't cross his mind that this could happen. The chances were that slim.


Yet it did.


The Grey King had a complex relationship with his own beliefs and whether there was such thing as destiny. After that  day, the idea had been shattered, but sometimes he wondered if instead, the tragedy too had been meant to be all along. The thought nauseated him.


As the cashier checked his items, he watched the other look through the different brands of smokes. That made sense. Iwafune wouldn't imagine him shopping. Despite having never met, he knew of the man's habits. He acknowledged the creepiness in that, but didn't care for the matter -- since he stepped into Nagare's world, he didn't question much of anything. "That'll be 750¥."


The cashier's voice brought him back out of his musings. Right, he should just leave, walk straight back to the base. Iwafune swiped his PDA over the reader and lifted the plastic bags with his buyings before walking out of the shop without a second glance. 


Suoh Mikoto, the Red King, walked out into the dark winter night and lit one of his cigarettes right away. The way he moved, his every gesture, were those of someone who knew they had nowhere to be, yet could go anywhere they wanted. There was something almost mighty to it and it was hard to tell whether that was really there for the naked eye to see, or if the knowledge of his status as King painted the everyday youngster in the light of a superior being.


Straight back to the base, he said… So why am I here .


Something like disbelief and shame crept up Iwafune's spine. He was watching from the shadows of a corner, side of the store building. Now not only was he being creepy, but unnecessarily so. And careless. There was no reason for him to linger like this, yet somehow he found himself unable to look away. 


It was just that… The Red King. The man who put an end to it all, who made Ootori Seigo's life crumble and burn like the old pages of a Bible in the fires of Hell. That man, and the one in his sights now, weren't the same -- yet they were. They would be soon, if everything went as planned. It was such an intense realisation the older man found himself nailed to the spot. He looked so young, around his own age back then, maybe younger… Nagare's. More than a decade had passed… It felt like a cycle. 


He wanted to run away. He wanted to seek him out and yell at him, demand responsibility out of a stranger. Responsibility…? Iwafune frowned. No, there's no way an innocent child, one who had yet to be chosen by the Slate on top of that, could have been more responsible than the protector of the people. I have no right to even think like that. Faced with a ghost of the past, yet someone of whom he only ever read reports or spied on just because it was requested of him, he couldn't be left unaffected. The same sensations he numbed with alcohol stirred in his gut and before he knew it, he was following the red monster through the streets of Tokyo.


As expected, it was cold at that time of the year. The sky was black, a dirty ashy kind, what with the city's pollution hanging over them. It must have been cloudy as well. On a day like that, it felt like it could snow. The street wasn't crowded, he had come to learn that the Red King rather avoided crowds, so Iwafune kept a good distance between them. He was sure Mikoto didn't catch him staring at the store, those golden eyes seemed blind to each and every person in their surroundings, shadows who made way at the sight of him. 


Even with that. He should stop. This was dangerous. This was pointless. He didn't even know what he wanted from this, what kind of void he meant to patch with this nonsensical impulse, among the many empty corners in Iwafune's carcass-like heart.


And truth be told, he didn't have any experience tailing others. Before that day, he had been too public a figure to even attempt to hide amongst the people, and afterwards it was never his job to follow others. Ah. I lost him.  Iwafune realised, after he turned another corner, only to find the angry red bundle of hair out of his peripheral view. 


The Grey King sighed, irritated with himself. Better this way. It was about time he cut it out with this little game. The frozen goods in his bags were growing warm. The end game would likely have been making it to the doors of HOMRA or getting caught in the process. He must be going mad, all that time in isolation, the same four people -- and a bird. He just couldn't forget about the feeling of the Red King's downfall -- that burning sensation, burning into the very depths of his being, consuming him like he would disintegrate into nothing. Like so many others were, but ultimately… Not him.


Choosing to forget about his minute distraction and return where he came from, he walked down the street and turned the next corner, trying to get his head back into more domestic worries. He didn't make it far. A fist had him by the collar and slammed back into the brick wall, with force and speed far beyond those of the average street rat. Iwafune opened his eyes to encounter slow, burning gold and a red mane; the Red King wearing an unamused expression.


He had underestimated him. Suoh Mikoto was not as unaware of his surroundings as it seemed. “What's your deal.” The beast growled lowly around a cigarette, and Mikoto paused to pull it from his lips and blow into the man's face. “Speak.”


Iwafune managed a shaky smile. “No, I…… It's not….” He grimaced at the polluted air. He had not breathed cigarette smoke in a very long time, not like this. Ah, dammit, what now. Walked right into his claws. Could the other sense it? Something out of the ordinary about this unassuming old man? The Grey King knew he wore his mask well. His practiced performance didn't worry him. It was not the cunning of man that posed the risk, but the beast's instinct.


The Red King stepped closer, tips of his shoes touching the stranger's. The smoke from his cigarette filled the air between them. “Picking a fight, old man?” He didn't seem particularly aggravated, yet -- like the calm before the storm. 


“No!” Iwafune on the other hand sounded properly intimidated, even dropping the bags to raise his hands in surrender. “Is this about gang violence? I don't know anything about that! P-Please! I'm not from around here, it's all a misunderstanding!” Beneath his well-crafted layer of fear, he had to wonder why the Red King even bothered, usually he left the threatening and beating to his clansmen, not going out of his way to fight small fry. Hot…  The young King's body heat spread out like waves. It was dizzying.


His panic was answered with a frown. “You don't know me…” It made sense. Usually, a man who got on the Red King's bad side would be on his knees, begging for mercy by then. But this old man acted as though he might get beat by a gangster, rather than burnt alive.


“Excuse me...?” Said old man looked positively clueless. Oh, he knew, alright. “Not at all. Sorry if I bothered ya, it was just… You were so eye-catching.” He didn't need to lie. Even if the King were indeed merely a stranger to him, the scarlet locks and leather were hardly discreet. Could he blame an old-fashioned guy for staring? Not that it justified the stalking though… Iwafune chuckled nervously and hoped to be let off the hook.


“Eye-catching huh.” The youngster responded gruffly, and let silence fall over them. The butt of his cigarette illuminated their faces in the hardly lit alley. He looked Iwafune up and down, like a predator weighting whether to go for the hunt. The Grey King held his breath. It all came down to this moment. Gold glinted in those eyes when they locked with grey again. Something feline, curious. “So you're a pervert?”


… Iwafune hadn't expected that. The way he said it was undoubtedly mocking, but not disgusted. Instead of disagreeing immediately, The Grey King held back his rebuttal to read him a little better. He was mildly aware of the man's visits to love hotels, always with a stranger on his arm, who seemed to come out of nowhere and disappear just the same afterwards. Mostly women, but there had been men as well. As to where the initial meetings happened, he would guess at bars, public spaces… Alleys. 


So that's how it was. Iwafune considered his situation. Out of all the excuses that came to mind, it seemed to be the safest, and most believable one. The Red King may laugh at him, kick him, but he doubted a serious attack would come since the man was used to this sort of thing -- being singled out by interested people on the street, even if the attention was unwanted. He opened his mouth to say something. The one you'd been eyeing with desire called you out, what do you do? In the end he looked away in embarrassment. Sometimes, silence spoke louder than words. This was one of those times.


The Grey King waited. But nor the laughter, the grimace or the pat on the shoulder ever came. When he glanced back at the other, what he saw was a grin. A hint of teeth and flashing golden eyes. Still drenched in mockery, but most of all, satisfaction. Iwafune's grey gaze narrowed a fraction. … Oh .


~  ×  ~


The walls were a tasteful wine color which had paled over the years, and the light was yellow and warm, slipping out through the glass window and into the darkness of the night. A room and a bathroom, huge bed, a nightstand. Nothing more, nothing less. No screen in sight. Then again you wouldn't come here to watch TV, would you.


Discarding his shirt on the floor, the Grey King watched the room with empty eyes. His bags were put down on the corner, surely, some of the contents already going bad inside. Just how did it turn out like this? Sitting on the bed of a hotel, the Red King undressing on the other end. About to get in bed with the enemy, in the most literal sense. You find ways to get lower . Whenever the words echoed in his head, he found they meant less to him each time.


“Hurry up.” Came a real voice outside his head, belonging to the only other person in the room, before he was unceremoniously pushed down by the Red King. Iwafune found himself lying on the mattress, hair sprawled out beneath him, still dazed as a fully naked Suoh Mikoto climbed on top of him and began eagerly pulling at his belt. He wasn't exactly helping, but it didn't look like his help was needed. Without the clothes covering the younger man, the gap between them became all the more noticeable; the redhead was all muscle and terse skin. 


What had such a man even seen in him? Or maybe the Red King regarded him with the same indifference as he did everyone else in the store. He wanted to fuck, and he'd been approached by Iwafune. That was it. The older, on the other hand.... After so many years underground, what was he about to do with the Red King, a man Nagare's age? His throat tightened. However, there wasn't any time left to ponder over. 


His trousers and underwear landed on the floor and soon, hands were threaded through his hair, lips on his skin more abrasive than the press of a cigarette. The Grey King arched his back and groaned. The younger, whom Iwafune had grown used to watching in his slow paced apathy, was eager and demanding now. His true nature peeking out through such primal, carnal act. The overwhelming heat knocked the breath out of Iwafune. He felt those dangerous fingers trailing over his stomach, traveling lower unabashedly, and his eyes opened wide.


Grabbing the younger man, he rolled them over, throwing him onto the mattress and straddling his legs, effectively switching their positions. He didn't leave Mikoto time to give it any thought before his hands were on his chest, palming over tight muscle, down his toned abs. Firm. Young. Iwafune pressed his lips to the cavity between neck and collarbone, sucked while his sandy locks fell across the heated torso, trickling down like water. He heard Mikoto panting, quiet otherwise, but that was enough. After a few wet kisses he leant back to watch the Red King in his burning allure, and touched him like he wanted him.


Even though Suoh Mikoto was a handsome man, all Iwafune could see in his eyes was Kagutsu. Not that he ever thought of Kagutsu like this. He was so calm, but Iwafune saw past that, saw destruction. Molten lava shimmering just below the thin layer of skin his fingers were mapping. The Red King's eyes were half lidded, swimming with arousal. Both their bodies, they were just containers. Didn't matter if they were used and defiled. Every touch was surface level. Every connection. Nobody could reach within. This meaningless, lustful act was empty. Even though they were pressed together, they were worlds apart. Ootori Seigo, who once thought himself a vessel of His holy grace, whoring himself out for the sake of no-one.


It was not this body he wanted, but what lay beyond. If only he could reach inside and tear the beast out of the man… 


Hardly aware of the sounds filling the room, the friction of his rolling hips and his fingers sinking greedily into heated flesh, grey eyes were locked on that strong neck steadily gathering beads of sweat. 


If he were to close his hand around that neck now…


“You finally catch on.” Suoh Mikoto's words broke his half-formed mirage, sounding breathy and amused. Iwafune wondered what kind of expression he'd been making. In any case, he needed to get back into the act. If the younger had time to be curious, he must be doing something wrong.


“What about you?” Sitting up straighter, Iwafune ground harder against the erection below him. Placing both hands behind his head, he rolled his body as sensually as he knew how. “You look pissed off.” Iwafune didn't mind Mikoto's raised eyebrow. If he was bothered by a complete stranger stating that so confidently, he didn't show it. His desire was plain to see, and that was all the older man needed. Shifting on his knees, he moved backwards, brown locks swaying along, until the man's crotch was right before him. There was no attempt to stop him when he let the King's cock bounce free, and stand up red and leaking. Iwafune's gaze clouded over with something other than desire. “Don't hold back on me.”


“You sure?” Although his eyes were not on the Red King's expression, the youngster's voice didn't hide the way he saw him - A repressed man with no experience in this. And he was right. That too, didn't matter to Iwafune. It should have been me. The Grey King eyed the obscene display, looking like it was melting from the heat within. Take it out on me. If only he could have taken it all in. Burnt along with Kagutsu, only the two of them. Burnt until disappearing. Hurt me instead. If he hadn't failed, then. So many people… Even Nagare… “I can take it.” The older murmured finally.


Mikoto didn't question him after that. He grabbed a packet of lube from the pocket of his jeans, leaning over to reach the floor where they had gathered along with the rest of his clothes, as well as a condom. Iwafune realised they looked brand new. Bought earlier at the store. Further cementing his suspicion that the young man had been in the mood for sex before, and Iwafune, simply a convenient companion. He opened the packet and went to wet his fingers when the older King stopped him, holding his hand out for it. He didn't need Mikoto to prepare him. Didn't want it. It was all the same for the Red King, who handed him the plastic without question.


Pressing a hand to the mattress to support his weight, he rose on his knees to reach behind himself. The wet pads of his fingers dragged against the puckered skin. The contact against the entrance felt… Ticklish at best. Definitely odd. It didn't feel right. But if men did this, there had to be some kind of catch. Rather than that, Iwafune wasn't doing this to attain sexual pleasure. That approach was fundamentally wrong. This was… That's right. An offering.  With that thought in mind he closed his eyes and breached the tight ring of muscle, slowly pushing his finger in as far as it'd go.


It had just started and the man was breathless already. He waited a second, two. Five. Ten. And finally forced himself to move, rocking the digit in and out of him. He could feel Mikoto's eyes on him, but Iwafune stubbornly focused on the task at hand, like it was a chore. Even with the lube, it burnt. The Red King probably hadn't thought he'd be having his way with a newbie that night. Not only that, but despite the agility and flexibility he demonstrated in battle, Iwafune's muscles weren't as elastic as they used to. He pressed in deep each time, waiting for the intrusion to grow familiar, but the pain didn't really go away. Accepting this was as manageable as it was going to get, he added a second finger and winced. No matter. The Grey King had long grown accustomed to taking pain, one way or another. This is nothing , he insisted, forcing his body to withstand the stretch.


Almost looking bored, albeit with a smile on his lips, the Red King observed him with a tilted head and grabbed forwards. He wrapped both of their erections in his fist, causing Iwafune to gasp. When did he get so hard…? A decade of abstinence will do that to you, he guessed. He would have been in quite an awkward position if he couldn't get it up while in bed with the youth he had been lustfully stalking. Sighing shakily, he got back to work as the younger handled him as he pleased. Every touch, slide and squeeze and their subsequent reactions, the way they made Iwafune's breath stutter and his body clench around his fingers… Made him feel like a toy at the hands of a child. Poked and teased, having his strings pulled out of curiosity for what sounds he could make. And yet there was nothing child-like about this, about Mikoto's cock pressed against his, hot like branding iron.


Iwafune was tormented by the mixed pain and pleasure. Delirious from the heat. He knew it was all inside his head, but to what extent, he couldn’t be certain. Playing with fire, that was what he was doing. No, playing with fire would imply a degree of caution. He was feeding himself to the flames. The older man tilted back his head and moaned. He finally inserted a third finger, more pain diluting into the watercolor-like landscape of sensations inside his head. Unlike the flames he felt licking his skin with every touch from the Red King, this burn was very real, and Iwafune rolled his hips into it, back and forth, rewarded by the hand on his cock every time he did.


As with the earlier intrusion, he didn't wait for the pain to fade before moving forward. The friction caused by his retreating fingers was barely liberating either, sharp pain lingering behind. He didn't feel different after it was over. His flesh stung from the abuse, and as expected, it’d felt like nothing but conditioning his body to accept being used. Like oiling up a machine. The Red King's hunger glowed in his eyes, and the Grey King was a willing sacrifice. Panting heavily, he watched Mikoto lick his lips and let go of him, deftly ripping the condom's packet like someone who'd done it a dozen times before. Likely more. Iwafune watched quietly as the rubber was rolled on, his mind drifting away like an out-of-body experience. He didn't know what he was trying to accomplish with this, why he was fooling himself, pretending this was nothing but a necessary play to cover up his slip of judgement. It was hardly cathartic. But he had a drive to go through with it.


To properly face the Red King on, at least one last time. To receive that anger, that madness. To take it all in. Like he should have taken it all in. Like the King of Protection would have. That title that mocked him, weighting on his shoulders like a life-long sentence. Was this penance, self-inflicted punishment? Yet another instance of humiliation? He didn't know. But this filthy, hateful act... 


Iwafune's eyes fell half-lidded as Mikoto fisted his cock at the base and invited him with a tempting gaze. The King advanced on his knees, grabbed onto the youngster's thigh and spread his cheeks, taking a deep breath.


… It felt just.


As expected, his fingers couldn't compare to this. He’d known it, but that didn't stop his body from feeling as though it was tearing apart, as though no amount of foreplay would have been enough. He had rushed his preparation, been unkind to his inexperienced body, and he still was, pushing himself further. Or perhaps he'd done it right, and this was just it. Maybe the pain was the catch. A masochistic form of sexual gratification. Iwafune wasn't actually a masochist, he didn't enjoy pain, and because he didn't, he was putting himself through it. His eyes had slipped closed, lower lip caught by his teeth hard enough to bleed. Was he bleeding? How much left? He could keep going. He would keep going. This was just-


"Old man." Iwafune opened his eyes, summoned by the redhead's call, and the sudden hold on his wrist. With the neutral arch of those eyebrows the tiniest bit furrowed, the Red King looked put off. "Relax." He sat up and pulled on his wrist, capturing Iwafune's lips with his own. When the older's mouth opened in surprise, it took no time for that melting hot tongue to slip inside and stroke his, coaxing. It caused him to shudder. Then there was a hand on his hip, but the younger didn't push him. Mikoto wasn't doing this out of want or kindness, rather, the sight of the man's pained grimace seemed to be killing the mood for him. So he's not a monster . At least not in the sense of relishing in one-sided pleasure in bed.


He hated to admit it, but the kiss helped him calm down, hips sliding lower until they were resting on top of the other's thighs. A quiet sound left him and their mouths broke apart, breathing the same air. It was big. Beyond material shape, it was… Overflowing. The fire was inside him. He let the beast in. The constricting void that crushed his lungs at night filled to the brim with incandescent power. The Red King let him compose himself until Iwafune pushed his body back up, if only a few inches, and then slowly, slowly, lowered himself with a hitch of breath. The hand at his hip tightened and on the next thrust, aided him, holding onto his body as Mikoto joined his rhythm. 


For a short while, they were men. Supporting each other through it, clumsily trying to figure things out, learning and adapting to each ridge, crack and curve. Two shapes blending into one. Twitching limbs and shifting hands, the ghost of lips on lips, fluttering eyelids, shuddering skin. Quiet noises so painfully human. But they weren't. It didn't last. Iwafune's nerves, numbed from over-stimulation, eventually reacted and his brain reconnected with his body. The moment he regained a semblance of control, purpose re-sparked, damning everything in its way. Their movements got rougher, their sounds more animalistic. Sweat gathered between them. The helping hand on his hip became demanding pressure, and his own on Mikoto's shoulder sunk in deeper as his body rose and fell violently. 


It was hot. Mechanical. Anything but sweet. And painful. Suoh Mikoto disappeared from his mind entirely. It was just him and this monster, circling each other. This monster that took everything from him, everything but him. No matter how hard he fucked, how deep he hurt, it wasn't enough. It was never going to be enough. He wished the Red King would stop treating him like a human being, would stop acting like one, that he’d truly take everything out on him, the fury of being shackled to something frail and mortal, the craving to make it all disappear. But of course Suoh Mikoto wouldn't do that. Not to a stranger, someone he could snap in two if he got even a little careless. Iwafune Tenkei, who had wanted to pull Kagutsu into his arms and bring him salvation. Shield this world from the havoc his mortal body could no longer contain. The Red King would have finally rested. Everyone would have been safe. He had wanted….. He wanted…. 


Then, suddenly, something changed. Something that caused his thoughts to liquify and spill down the drain. Mikoto must have changed the angle, or maybe it was him, but on one precise thrust he stiffened and shook, unconsciously sinking his nails into hot skin. He didn't have the time to be alarmed when the Red King held him still and repeated the motion. This new color in his palette... It still hurt, it was suffocating, but… It wasn't just that, anymore. “Wait, ahㅡ” Iwafune fought back a moan, clawing at the younger man. However, while the Grey Kind would be able to push him off, that should not be the case for a simple man. And so he couldn't. Didn't. “What's with you...” Meeting his eyes, Mikoto looked unsettled yet again, but this time he was not confused. Rather, his eyes were shadowed by disturbed realisation. Upon seeing it, clenching his teeth, Iwafune tried to free himself anew, but the Red King didn't let him. Instead, he thrusted in deeper, aiming for that spot again, and finding it. The way the older man's body clenched around him confirmed it. So he did it once more. And again.


Wait, his mind insisted, but all that left his throat was a helpless groan. He had to stop this. Pain may have been sacrificial, but this… This was sinful. His hips were secured by strong hands while he was penetrated from beneath, and the position was painfully effective. He was losing himself. The fire licked him affectionately now, the beast purred at him. In all his life, he had never-... He could tell the Red King was getting more into it now. His pants grew louder, grunting occasionally. The way Iwafune's thoughts rebelled against this wouldn't stop his body from adjusting to the intrusion, from shamelessly tightening around the length -- for flesh knows no shame --, from demanding more of the euphoria it had been deprived of for far too long -- for flesh knows no modesty.


It didn't take long for the carnal pleasure to infiltrate his thoughts as well. The snake of Eden, a whining child. Hadn't he suffered enough? It said. After all, he ate and drank leisurely, indulged in other treats and vices. It was already happening, so why not give in and accept it? Or did he think there was still something inside him pure enough to be worth salvaging? The mere idea repulsed him. There was nothing left within him worth that consideration. And now Suoh Mikoto was fucking him like men fuck men, and he was enjoying it. He had nothing to say for himself. Not one word. His cock ached painfully, only allowed the friction of the Red King's torso dragging against it. The pleasure was overwhelming, but not quite enough. Ah… It wasn't enough to surrender. He had to commit to it, had to actively, willingly fall. The beast didn't want his pain… It burnt and burnt, but this act, it was about mutual gratification. Was supposed to be. It’s what the Red King saw missing in his eyes. What creased his brows as he plunged in deep. 


Iwafune tightened his jaw and saw himself, his will, bent and broken, brought to his knees as he finally reached down and began jerking himself furiously, to the point of hurting. Even though he was coated in precum, his touch was too cruel, not indulgent enough, not relishing. But it would do. However, another hand reached out and wrapped around his, enclosing his fist firmly and slowing him down. He was like a child being taught patience by a Red King, a brat, of all things. Iwafune might have laughed at the irony if the delicious pressure, combined with the pounding of his prostate hadn't reduced him to a shivering, moaning mess. He couldn't look away from the younger hand wrapped around his. It was so hot. Melting him in place. And it was that more than anything, that overpowering heat trapping him, manipulating the pace, that pushed him over the edge.


He never lay with a man before but that's not what made it different. It wasn't about the sex at all. No, when he tilted his head and came, making a mess of both their hands, it was like a seal had been broken. For the first time, he had sinned for pleasure. Not because there was no other choice, or because Nagare wanted it of him. But because he wanted it. The realization, or rather, the admission shocked him. As if the last threads had snapped, effectively breaking off a long tearing cord. He never felt quite like this. Nor holy, not even overcome by unmeasurable guilt and failure. But human. Carnal, sinful and selfishly human. And he did so at the hands of the beast. Mikoto continued to guide his hand up and down, thrusting into him in time until Iwafune went limp and leant forward, chests heaving together, the older man's head pressed to his neck and shoulder, his soft, wavy hair now sticky with sweat. As the stranger came undone and slowly recomposed, his breath waltzing, like the tide, the youngster released him and ran his hands up the man's back. Iwafune might be spent but his body was wet and tight still, Mikoto's cock inside twitching to renew it’s motions.


The trail of his fingers was deliberately slow… But eventually, it did reach the old man's nape and the digits curled into his hair, gripping tightly before tugging at it. Iwafune only grimaced, blinking, still in a haze when the Red King forced them face to face anew. No more hesitation in those eyes of gold. No more questions, nor disturbance. Only greed. Finally. As it dawned on him, he was pushed off and onto his hands and knees, making him hiss when he felt the length buried in him pull out unceremoniously, the younger man rolling off his sitting position to kneel behind him. 


Iwafune looked over his shoulder and saw Mikoto gripping the base of his cock, and placing a hand on the Grey King's lower back. Their eyes met. In this new setting, he wouldn’t be able to see the other. Couldn't touch him, couldn't set the pace. He had no agency. All he'd be left to do, was take it. At that moment, he thought the Red King understood. They both did. He was pleading with the fire. The beast's eyes, ravenous and merciless, looked generous to him, not unlike Iwafune had once looked over his flock, not unlike the Lord should look over the people -- and at that he acknowledged vaguely, in the back on his mind, just how unhinged and delusional he was. His sin, his lust, were treasured by the Devil. And now he was going to be rewarded with what he'd longed for all along.


The young man said nothing at all as he once again penetrated Iwafune, knocking the breath right out of his lungs. He was certainly well-stretched now, but also sore, and the mindless drive to chase climax was gone, as was the pleasure. It was savage from there. The Red King did not hold back at all -- he must have been, had to be, but if there was even a shade of restraint in his movements it was imperceptible to the man beneath him. He drove in all the way each time, and when he continued to hit Iwafune's oversensitive prostate, the rush of pleasure dampened into pain, burn and sting. Rejection. Iwafune was gripping at the sheets, possibly screaming out, he couldn't be too sure how much of it was in his head and how much made it out his aching throat. The flames consumed him without pity. And through his tear-soaked eyes, the Grey King could only see one image.


The image of himself, on his knees where he'd fallen, in the house of the Lord. Mikoto behind him, pressing him down over the altar. He could only catch sight of the crucified Christ nailed to the wall before them, eyeing them with indifference, pity, or perhaps dismay. He heard the sharpening of a blade. So which one was it? He thought, asking into a void that never provided answers, and then -- the blade descended upon him. He was a sacrificed lamb; bleeding over the pure, white marble.


It was bliss.


Iwafune felt like he could cry.


Hard snap of hips. Flesh abusing flesh. Pulling muscles and singing nerves. Boiling blood, in his heart, in his ears, in his eyes, through his veins, blinding his senses. Fire… He was devoured by the fire. Grunts filling the air. Fingers that imprinted bruises on his skin. Aching bones and tense sinew. His gut, twisting and coiling. His walls, burning. More. Harder. Iwafune's knuckles went white around the sheets. Harder. He'd never sweated this much. Like he'd dry out and die just like this. Harder. It hurt. Such intensity. Such dominance. Such strength. So raw. Harder . He felt raw inside too. Perhaps he’d been bleeding after all. Hot breath brushed his ear. "Comin'." Said the hoarse voice, and with one last snap of his hips that nearly threw Iwafune forward, that's exactly what the Red King, releasing deep and lengthy within the old man's quivering walls. One last gasp escaped him, drifted and disappeared...


~  ×  ~


Damp coldness slipped through the plastic bags, the clinging ice from the store freezer had melted into water. Iwafune's eyes settled on them, although his head felt mushy and empty. He thought he could hear droplets trickling down and hitting the floor, muted, like the ticking of a clock. 


He had rolled on his back and stayed there, breathing. Droplets of cum sticking to his stomach and his sore body protesting, crying for attention. A part of him, one he had buried deep and kept quiet, wanted to wipe his body clean and run away, cleanse himself from this, scratch the filth out of his flesh and his heart, but still, he didn't move. This was part of it too. Staying. Just like how he never moved on, drowning himself in alcohol and misery. Ootori had once soared the skies, but Iwafune was a rock, motionless, eroded at the edges by the stream of time as well as Nagare's. Scents and substances he could get rid of. Not memories. Nor consequences.


As for feelings, well… There was no particular guilt washing over him, and neither was satisfaction. He'd meant to do this, and he had. He knew he wouldn't feel better about himself afterwards, that nothing would change, and it hadn't. Yet another shame. A grain of sand could only add so much to an ancient desert. If anything, there was just… Disappointment. About what he had made this out to be in his head, about how pathetic and desperate he was. At first, that visceral need for something , whether it would cure or deepen the wound, had been his anchor. Now, it just made it all worse. He probably would have been better off fucking Suoh Mikoto because he wanted him, point blank. If only that had been the case.


Better off being the closeted pervert the Red King believed him to be -- he thought with a bitter smile. But he couldn't even be that. Rolling his head, he glanced at the content of the trash bin by the bed. Once again a barrier stood between him and the scalding heat of the Red King. Not that he should have such deep thoughts about a condom. Hell, a condom had actually been more useful than the Grey King's so called protection turned out to be, in the end. What a joke.


The bathroom door opened and out came the young man, his clothes back on, hair sticking to his forehead. He raised a brow, apparently surprised by finding Iwafune exactly the way he left him. He let out a low hum, that Iwafune assumed to be a question, because the Red King could only get so talkative.


"Hurts like a bitch." He offered as an explanation, vaguely swirling his hand in the air. Another hum came, this time accompanied by a smile. Like Mikoto was pleased with himself. Well, at least one of them was.


The Red King pulled out a cigarette and held it between his lips. For whatever reason, Iwafune wondered whether or not he carried a lighter with him, for appearances. The room was quiet... He never lit the stick. "See ya." Was all the younger said, and he turned away, throwing a hand over his shoulder as a parting wave. There were no exchanged numbers or unnecessary words. They both knew there would be no seeing each other again. Mikoto probably assumed it. But Iwafune knew it for a fact.


The door opened.


And closed.


The Grey King was alone again.


Ti-tack. Tick-tack. Plastic. Wet, wasted and spilled. Stained. Melting. Iwafune breathed on, sweat clinging to his body, naked and bathed in his own disgrace. He was certainly alone now, but the heat remained. No, the heat had never really left. That which had brushed him way back then, before the flame had been extinguished and with it, all that the Grey King was. All that he ever had. Years later, the fire had sparked anew within someone else, but all which had been snubbed from this Earth never returned.


Even so… Iwafune pressed an arm over his forehead. He may actually have a fever.


~  ×  ~


Any other household would have their lights out by then, but not the JUNGLE HQ, a place that never saw sunlight, where the night and day would be indistinguishable from each other if not for the cameras connecting them to the outside world. Even something like schedules were ever-changing and unreliable. The only thing that truly bound this place to the passing of time, were the meals.


Sukuna's face was priceless when he saw the grocery bags dripping and spoiled, accompanied by the old man's smile much resembling a brat presenting his parents with a shamefully low grade.


"Yaaaaah…. Sorry about that ~~~ They had new things at the store, I got distracted ~~~"


"Like Hell, old man! You were drinking, weren't you?" 


"Gyahahaha… You caught me."


"Jeeze! At least wait until you get home!"


With sharp words and glares, he youngest clansman lectured the Grey King for a while. Yukari simply rolled his eyes, deciding it wasn't worth his time and attention compared to his perfectly manicured nails. Nagare observed.


Luckily they had leftovers from the previous day. Sukuna, who had been looking forward to having takoyaki that night, pouted throughout the whole dinner, but otherwise, everything was as usual. Iwafune filled the air with pointless, albeit entertaining conversation, readily accepting the others' quips, and chuckling here and there. The basement was like a giant jail cell they willingly put themselves in, but this room was small and cozy. Within the tall, quiet walls, it was barren as far as the eye could see, but this tiny space was packed with things, each telling their own story. This was the place the Green Clan, JUNGLE, called home.


After dinner came tiredness and Yukari announced he would go get his beauty sleep, while Sukuna got ready to roll out his futon and sleep on the floor. But not before his classmate grabbed a hold of him and dragged him into the bathroom to have him clean his teeth first. As they walked off Iwafune watched them fondly.


"Iwa-san" Nagare, his protegee, who gave purpose to this life Iwafune unfairly continued on with, spoke up, as neutral as ever. His expression too was unreadable. "The Red King, Suoh Mikoto. How was he?"




… He couldn't say he was surprised. 


A part of him felt like he should be more ashamed about Nagare knowing, but most of all, he felt numb. As always, there wasn't a trace of judgement in the young King's voice. And why would there be. Of course. How was he… Iwafune considered the question. That's right, along with the beast, there had been a man. He had been so self-consumed, he couldn't even turn his mistake into a useful opportunity. Looked right into his eyes, and didn't see him. "... Like someone who doesn't have much time left." He concluded in the end. Expanding heat. The ticking of a clock. The flame that burns the brightest before being snuffed out.


"Excellent." Said the younger King. And thoroughly satisfied with that answer, the green beast smiled.