Ryo froze, recognizing the look on Touma’s face---he was trying to remain in control and failing miserably.
Shin remained oblivious. "Hello, Touma. I was just saying to Ryo that I think it was all right to be affected by that much alcohol."
Touma’s eyes widened. "Was that it, then? Was that the alcohol talkin’, last night? I can’t believe you!"
Ryo swallowed. He didn’t want to get caught in a lover’s spat. "Guys, maybe we should talk about this a little more quietly?"
Shin looked utterly confused. "Touma, I don’t understand."
The archer advanced menacingly, fists clenched at his side. "Oh, you don’t understand! Do you want me to explain it to you? Draw a diagram? Or do you just want me to demonstrate?!"
"Touma! Calm down." Seiji appeared behind him, in his usual formal dress but with his hair still wet. Ryo frankly stared. Seiji never came downstairs if his hair wasn’t at least dried. Usually there had to be nothing less than a youjakai invasion if he emerged without it styled. Seiji caught his curious gaze and glared a warning.
Ryo just cowered. Did Seiji remember what he’d done?
Touma took a breath, then snapped at his best friend. "Why should I calm down, Seiji? Look at ‘im, flashing his fu--- his hickey for everyone to see, and he acts like last night was nothing."
Shin’s head was hurting. "Hickey?"
"On your neck, Shin. Left side," Ryo said gently.
Shin felt the bruise gingerly. He wilted. Looking from Seiji to Touma, he sat down heavily.
Seiji sighed. "You know what, guys? Let’s eat first. I’m starving. And then maybe we can sort this out." He touched Touma’s arm. Touma looked up, obviously sending something which only Seiji could receive. Whatever the blond answered, it made Touma settle down. Shin watched this exchange with a chastened look on his face.
They all ended up eating in silence. It was easier given the dull pain of the hangovers. Even Shuu’s absence wasn’t commented on. Ryo stared at his plate, trying not to think of Shuu and trying not to look at Seiji. For his part, Seiji was keeping a covert eye on a grousing Touma. And Shin just curled his legs in his chair and hung his head.
At last Shin spoke. "You know I’m really sorry for whatever I did last night. I’m sure I didn’t mean it."
"You little---!" Touma snarled, rising from his seat.
Seiji gave him a sharp look. Whatever he sent to Touma, the archer’s eyes widened. It was like he’d been stung. Ryo thought he was going to cry. Then what Shin had said to Touma last night came back to him.
/We’ll remember. This counts, Touma-chan./
‘Shin doesn’t remember! But then... had they been an item anyway, all this time?’
Touma said, "I... need to go lie down for a while." He hurried out.
‘Well, if they were, they’re not anymore.’
Seiji coughed. "I’ll go check on Touma. Sorry about the dishes."
"I’ll take care of it. Go," said Ryo.
Once they were both gone, Shin looked like he was going to burst. "Ryo, I---"
Ryo went over and hugged him. And tried very hard not to think about Shin’s slender body pressing against Touma, arching up... "Ryo, what happened last night?"
"Well, I wasn’t there for some of it, but you... you, uh, sleptwithTouma."
The auburn-haired boy shifted in his arms. Ryo stiffened as Shin leaned against his neck. "You mean... I had sex with him? Touma?" There was disbelief in his voice, but it was fading fast. "You sure?"
"Uh, yeah. We all kind of watched. I’m sorry, Shin, we were all really drunk." Except for Shuu. "Touma’s taking it pretty hard."
"Seiji?" Shin asked, trying to account for the few memories he did have.
Completely misunderstanding, Ryo replied, "I don’t know, Shin, he never shows anything he’s feeling. I wasn’t there for a lot of things." ‘I definitely don’t think I was at home when I did... that to Seiji.’
Shin replayed his conversation with Touma. "Oh, Ryo, I was only trying to help!"
"Yeah, I know." Ryo hugged him tighter. He was starting to like the feel of Shin... ‘No. Focus, Rekka.’
"Ryo, I have to go to the bathroom." Shin pulled away and ran up the stairs. Ryo blew out his breath. Just in time. He’d been about to do something he regretted... he stopped himself. He was as sober as the rest of them. What did that mean?
/You okay, Shin?/
A weak, /I’ll be fine. Sorry. I’ve got to think about this by myself./
/Well, if you need me, just call./
Ryo sighed, taking in all the uneaten food. Belatedly he wondered where Shuu was. ‘If he doesn’t get down here, we’re gonna have leftover pancakes for the rest of the week.’ Ryo started loading the silverware into the dishwasher.
‘What am I going to do about Seiji? I mean, I was drunk, but that doesn’t excuse it. He just looked so, so nice, lying there. I knew he was watching me and Shuu. Geez...’ A warm blush spread through his face. The images flooded back: to have been touched by someone else, to make that person gasp in ecstasy. Had he wanted Seiji to see that, too? The sheer exhilaration of sharing intimacies with another person? ‘I have to admit, that was incredible with Shuu.’
A fork dropped through the mesh of the dishwasher. Ryo swore and stuck his head inside to fish it out.
Shuu peeked into the kitchen. The coast was clear. He’d heard a lot of activity upstairs, and then everything had gone quiet. ‘Yum. Pancakes. All for me!’
He’d already grabbed a plateful before he spotted Ryo bending over the dishwasher.
The dropped plate clattered loudly on the tabletop. Ryo started, almost bumping his head. "Shimatta, does everybody have to sneak up on me like that?!"
Shuu just stared at him as his cat-like body unfolded and stood up. ‘Don’t think about it. Just don’t.’ But Shuu couldn’t help it; bright-eyed and strong, Ryo was just attractive.
Ryo met his gaze uncertainly. "Hey, Shuu," he offered softly. The silence lengthened. "Um. I was just thinking about last night."
Shuu’s appetite fled. "Yeah. Me too," he said hoarsely.
"I don’t think we could’ve done what we did if not for the beer," said Ryo slowly. "But I can’t help thinking... I wouldn’t take back what we did."
It took Shuu a moment to digest this. "You wouldn’t?"
Ryo sat down, leaning over the table conspiratorially. "I mean... didn’t you enjoy it?"
Shuu swallowed. Ryo looked so seductive, stretched out like that. ‘Seductive? Why would I think another boy could be seductive? It isn’t just because I know what those lips can do.’
"Yeah." Shuu’s voice was small. "I did."
Ryo sat up suddenly. "I never thought I’d say this to you, but... aren’t you gonna eat that?"
Shuu looked at the tower of pancakes on his plate and chuckled. Man, he was hungry! He dug in, trying to ignore Ryo’s teasing laugh. "It’s like you haven’t eaten in weeks, dude. I thought you’d be starved to death in your room. Kongo’d fall right off you."
Shuu swallowed his mouthful. "Fuck off, Ryo," he said playfully.
"Thanks, I’m kinda busy right now."
Shuu paused, his fork in mid-air. "Ryo... we’re still friends, right?"
"Of course!" Ryo looked shocked that he’d asked.
"Just wanna make sure. I mean, I haven’t talked to Shin yet, but I don’t know how it’s gonna work out with him and Touma."
Ryo scowled. "It’s a mess." He proceeded to tell Shuu about the earlier events. "You saw how scared Touma was, just to go through with it. And now Shin doesn’t remember!"
Shuu cleaned his plate of syrup. "I honestly don’t know if Touma and Shin were together before. I’d think Shin would have told me, but after last night, I don’t know anymore. Shin sure looked like he knew what he was doin’. Man! This is so weird! I can’t believe I’m thinking of all my best friends like... that, you know?"
Ryo nodded. "Yeah. I’ve never considered it before, much less with you guys. I thought I’d be disgusted with the whole idea, but... I trust you guys with my life. So I should trust you with this. There’s something about it that seems right."
Shuu nodded. "But if Touma and Shin don’t get their acts together--- geez, Ryo, this could tear us apart."
Ryo rose to go over to Shuu. "Yeah, I know, I’m worried about that too. But first," Shuu felt strong hands on his shoulders, "You’re more wound up than Touma’s bowstring. It’s just not like you."
Shuu melted under Ryo’s touch. It felt wonderful. The tension and worry seeped out of his back and shoulders, and flowed into the rising heat in his groin. Ryo concentrated on the slow even strokes, wondering that his fingers could soften the rock-hard muscles beneath them. He’d done this before, of course, for all of them, but he couldn’t recall if the participants had ever been this enthusiastic. Shuu made a contented sound.
Now was as good a time as any. /Shuu, can I tell you something?/
/Last night, when you were taking care of Shin... I, uh, did something to Seiji./
To Seiji? /He passed out again?/
/Yeah./ The strokes got faster.
/What did you do, Ryo?/ Shuu stiffened.
/I just touched him. That’s all. But he was down here to eat, and I have no idea if he remembered or not. I have to talk to him, Shuu./
/And you’re afraid he’ll break you in two./
/Waddaya mean? He will break me in two./
Shuu sighed, half-lulled, half-resigned. /Seiji may have bigger problems than that. I think he might have mixed it up with Shin or Touma later on. I can’t be sure./
/Shit./ The implications made Ryo’s head hurt. /Let’s not think about that right now./
/Yeah, I know. I am too./ Ryo pressed against Shuu’s back, softly nuzzling the thick dark hair.
/It’s not so bad, I guess./
/Not so bad?! It had better be great!/
Shuu gave deep rumbling laugh. He leaned against Ryo’s chest, and reached up to cup his chin with his hand. Ryo drew in his breath a little. Shuu’s fingers smelled of syrup, mixed with the same earthy scent from last night. Ryo felt giddy with desire, knowing he had to pour out his frustration somewhere and Shuu was all too happy to let him do just that.
"Let’s do this right, this time, huh?"
Shuu twisted, his hand in Ryo’s hair, pulling his lips towards his---
They both jumped. Ryo grabbed the phone. "Moshi moshi ... Nasuti! How’s it going?"
Shuu covered his face in his hands, stifling a groan.
"No, everything’s fine. No, really, you don’t have to come back early!"
Ryo and Shuu looked at each other. /Shit. I gotta talk to her for a while, or she will come storming back!/
/Look, I’ll go talk to Seiji. Is that all right? I’ll just find out what he knows. And if he wants to break you in two.... /
/Thanks, Shuu./ "Last night? Well, huh, you know, we watched some hockey. Uh... I think it was the Angels and the Blades. Yeah..."
Shuu put the dishes in the sink, and padded out, squeezing Ryo’s arm on the way out. He headed up the stairs to Seiji’s room, for the second time that morning trying to ignore a raging hard-on.
It was already too hot to do katas in his usual spot, so Seiji went deeper into the Yagiyu property, to a shaded clearing in the forest. He’d managed to pack a small satchel before Touma threw him out of the room. There was a tacit understanding that Touma needed to be left alone, even if it meant calling Tenku and flying to space.
Seiji cut through the air with a frustrated cry. Touma had been handling himself so well...! True, he’d needed convincing just to leave the room, but his composure had held in Shin’s presence. Then, before Seiji could warn him, Touma had come down to breakfast and heard the worst possible thing: Shin didn’t remember last night.
‘At least Touma’s too mad at Shin to be freaked out around me.’
Seiji flowed into the next form--- and halted. He couldn’t do the finishing move. It was so simple, but it just wouldn’t come to him. Grinding his teeth, he collapsed against a tree. There weren’t swear words strong enough for what he was feeling. He ran a hand through his wild, matted hair. Some of it had settled into his usual style, but the rest of it was frizzing up. Even with the bathroom locked, Touma hadn’t allowed him to fix his hair. It wasn’t so much that it looked great when he was finished, but that it looked and felt awful when it wasn’t. Touma had seen his ‘bad hair days’; Seiji had no wish to get teased like that again.
‘Touma, Touma, always Touma! I can’t stop thinking about him!’
The previous night came rushing back to him. He’d finally put everyone to bed. Even Shuu was exhausted from having to rescue both Shin and Touma. The sheets Shin had ruined were in the washer. All he’d wanted to do was sleep... and then he’d remembered that Touma was sleeping in his bed.
He should have turned to go, but he hadn’t. He’d looked on Touma for a long time until the suddenly conscious archer seized him. Touma was thin but strong, pinning him down with a move Seiji had taught him. If he’d been a little more awake, or a little more willing, Seiji could have broken the hold, but then Touma had started saying things... started kissing him the way Ryo had been kissing Shuu, as though floodgates had opened ... started moving lower...
Seiji shut his eyes tight, the stray sunbeams tracing red on his eyelids. He’d never thought anything that made him feel so vulnerable could be so sweet. But the feel of Touma was nothing compared to the words he’d spoken. They resonated in his spirit, fierce and true and overwhelming.
Words Touma couldn’t remember saying.
"I am such a baka," he muttered. "I shouldn’t have thrown it back in his face."
When Shin had made it clear that he had no recollection of last night, Seiji had sent a quick message to Touma, to calm him down.
/ I know you’re angry, but think about how I feel./
‘Can we say "backfired"?’ Seiji sighed. He rummaged through the satchel and came up with a worn bamboo flute. He hadn’t played in years. Nothing else had worked to clear his thoughts so far. He put the instrument to his lips and began to play a slow tune. The soft notes broke the forest’s stillness.
The sun moved into the clearing as mid-morning wore on.
Shin stood at the edge of the dock, watching the small waves of the lake. On a nice day like this he usually tore off his shirt and went swimming, or at least dangled his feet in the water. Today he didn’t feel like he deserved it.
Yesterday had started out so well. For weeks Shin could tell Nasuti was getting stressed out, and her tension had inevitably spread to the rest of the household. When she’d left for her much needed research trip, everyone had loosened up. Now they were all on edge again. And it was his fault.
He’d been so careful. Stealing looks when no one was watching, and indulging in light touches only when reassurance was needed. He’d long since gotten used to admiring his friends. But it had always been from afar.
Now... he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Ryo, always at ease with him, had tensed even as his desire washed over Shin. Touma, who had at least been willing to talk before, had greeted Shin’s knock with a psychic barrage of anger. Shuu didn’t even feel like eating.
Shin’s cheeks reddened with shame. Had he caused all this? The others were certainly avoiding him. The empty ache in his stomach was nothing compared to the sudden hollowness in their armor bonds. He kicked at a pebble. ‘Oh, snap out of it, Shin. They’re only doing it out of uncertainty. If---when things calm down, they’ll be back.’
And not all the bonds were faint. Shin smiled. ‘At least Ryo and Shuu seem to be all right. Shuu’s probably helping him out.’
Shin knelt on the wooden planks, leaning against a post. ‘Oh, Shuu. Damn it. Knowing you, you probably picked up after me all night. I’ll have to thank you. But I ought not to ask your advice, as much as I want to. I can’t drag you into this or make you choose sides. Besides, if you were too jittery to eat breakfast...’ Shin frowned, fighting off a twinge of jealousy. ‘Were you avoiding someone, from last night?’
Last night. How was Touma ever going to trust him again? Some Suiko he was. He had to make things right with Touma. It was affecting everyone else. Shin had even noticed a trace of anxiety in Seiji’s eyes.
Seiji. Shin hugged the wooden post, his heartbeat in time with the lapping water. Every time he tried to retrieve a memory from last night, he ran right back into those eyes. That morning had been bad enough. He gulped, remembering the sleek, moist body, the normally pale skin rosy with arousal.
‘If Seiji has been with Touma all this time, this is probably the most upsetting for him.’
A flash of Seiji carrying him, setting him down on the bed.
‘I should probably talk to Touma first. Then he and Seiji can work it out.’
Pressed against Seiji’s chest, skin fragrant with sandalwood and sweat.
‘But what do I say to him? I truly don’t remember anything! Maybe a walk in the woods will clear my head.’
Shin got up and headed up the hill, trying to escape the persistent image of lavender eyes.
"Red for Pleasure" copyright © 2000-2 Sameshima Shuzumi. All content is mine; HTML and layout are produced by me. Background and button graphics are courtesy Angel's Webgraphics.