The dawn arrived hot and bright. A good day for revenge.
Touma rolled out of bed horny, pissed, and itching for retribution. Seiji was already gone, but it wasnít because heíd spent the night elsewhere. Touma had pretended to sleep till Seiji crept into bed past two a.m. The swordsman was likely meditating before breakfast.
Touma smirked as he pulled off his shirt. Seiji may rise before the sun, but heís gonna take a nap later. Thatíll give me a chance.
Pulling a prank in Seijiís presence was out of the question. Maybe Shin knew that Touma knew about him, but Seiji might not know that they knew about each other. Or something like that, Touma thought, padding into the bathroom to brush his teeth. Either way, if Seiji's in the dark I need to keep him there. No sense decreasing my chances.
He stared at himself in the mirror blearily. Bags under his eyes. Dark stubble which resembled a widespread bruise. A ratís nest of hair. "No wonder Seiji doesnít want me."
There was a tickling sensation on the back of his neck, almost as though heíd spotted someone in the mirror. He whirled around. The sensation immediately dissipated.
"Paranoid, Tou-kun. Messed up and paranoid." He squeezed the toothpaste onto his brush. "Not even hung over, and Iím---" He started brushing.
And promptly spit it out. "WHAT THE FU--- what the fuck?" He stared at the nasty puddle in his sink. Cautiously he tasted the 'toothpaste'.
Onion and chives. "Cream cheese?! Gahhhh!" Sure enough there was a small slash where the toothpaste had been evacuated and the flavored dairy product inserted. He washed out his mouth vigorously, his eyes growing more bloodshot by the second. Muttering under his breath, he made up his mind. He tore through his clothes drawer, throwing on jeans and a ratty t-shirt.
Out the door... he turned around and grabbed the car keys.
A minute passed.
He rushed back in the room and gargled mouthwash. "Little fishy, you are soooo dead."
Shin rolled out of bed to the Rolling Stoneís ĎYou Canít Always Get What You Want.í He lay there for a while, listening to Shuuís CD. The boy in question had one arm out of the covers, leaning on the stereo.
"Ah, Ďkuso. Shuu! Why didnít you wake me, itís past breakfast time."
The mound of sheets mumbled, "Ate too much last night."
"This morning you mean. Get out of bed, you probably need some tea. And some waffles with jam, hmm?"
"Youíre the best, Shin."
"Thatís right," he said, changing into a fresh button-down shirt. "I wonder if Ryo or Seiji got hungry?"
"They can take care of Ďemselves." Shuu rolled out from under the covers. "I think I heard Seiji leaving. Probably meditating."
"He shouldnít do that without breakfast," said Shin worriedly. He combed his hair. Donít obsess over him.
"Oh, and I think Touma took the car this morning..."
Shin waved it off. "Come down in ten, all right? Itís our turn to go to the bank today."
Going down the stairs, Shin reflected on the events of last night. He flushed as he remembered that heated kiss. Just last night, right there by the sink... it made him feel uneasy and excited at the same time.
The sink... "What is that?" Shin sniffed. He went over to take a look.
Touma was reading in the living room when the shriek echoed through the house.
He grinned. "Eat that, Fish Boy."
Shuu rushed into the kitchen. "What? Whatís wrong? I heard you---" He took one look at the sink and guffawed.
"Donít... you... dare...."
"Ha ha--- sorry, Shin, itís just---"
"Well donít just stand there, get them out! Get rid of them!!"
Shuu walked over and looked at the items. He wrinkled his nose. They did look rather... intimidating. He didnít know what kind they were, but they each had to be thirty centimeters across.
"Just pick them up and put them in the trash!"
"Trash Ďem? My mom can make a great soup out of these."
Shin backed against the screen door. "Um... just do something, Shuu!"
"Whatís going on, guys?" Ryo strolled in, yawning. He looked over Shuuís shoulder. "Maybe Byakuen will eat it."
"Whatever. Just. Get. Rid. Of. THEM!"
"Whatís the racket?" Said a soft voice behind Shin. He whirled, heart hammering in his chest. Seiji was standing there in a practice gi, a wooden kendo sword in hand.
He smells so good, like the woods, and sweat---
"A plastic bag full of fish heads," Seiji observed.
Shin wrung his hands. "I donít know what theyíre doing there."
"Thawing?" It was Touma. A hint of a smirk danced on his face. Shin tried not to panic when he made eye contact with Seiji and the same smirk appeared on the swordsmanís face.
"Whatís the big id--! I mean, what are they doing here?"
Touma crossed his arms. "I went shopping this morning. It looked like we were out of food." At that, Shin barely halted an outburst. "And the lady who sold me those said they were fresh, and had to be cooked right away."
"How thoughtful," murmured Seiji.
"You didnít expect me to cook them, did you?!"
"She also gave me this packet of flavoring and the recipe," Touma said. "I do know how to boil water, you know."
Ryo cleared his throat. "Ah, Touma, I donít think any of us eat fish heads." He kicked Shuu before he could object. "Weíll chop them up for Byakuen."
Shin backed away. He hated to retreat from his own territory, but the things were staring at him... "Has everyone eaten?"
"Iíll scrounge around, donít worry about it," said Shuu, limping a bit from Ryo's kick.
Seiji set his sword in its niche. "I havenít."
"Thereís goat cheese, and watercress sandwiches in the fridge," said Touma quickly. Everyone gaped. "What? They added a take-out section."
Shinís mouth was hanging. Oh, he was awake now. He grabbed some fresh fruit as Ryo and Shuu took care of the sink, and Touma served Seiji some of his favorite foods.
Outmaneuvered. But Touma had seemed relatively fine, so one trap had gone off but not the other. Touma had not yet seen the worst.
Youíre being so childish, Shin.
Seiji poured himself some juice. "Thank you, Touma."
Was that a smile? Did he smile at Touma?! Shin stormed out as gracefully as he could.
Touma whistled as he restacked his books. Shin and Shuu were at the bank, and Seiji and Ryo were... somewhere. ĎI wish heíd stop messing with his head,í he thought. ĎRyo doesnít deserve it.í
"So thatís seven new books. Iíd better label them." He dug into his bedside drawer and got a pen.
"Crap. All dry. Heh heh, thatís why I have two dozen pens."
He tried another. And another. By the tenth, heíd ripped a hole in the paper he was using.
Touma was pissed beyond belief.
"Shimatta! Of course he was in the room last night. Probably got rid of the water in the ink. No. He is not gonna get the better of me. Iíve got to have another one he didnít find."
An hour later, Touma had ripped apart his side of the room. Books and notes were scattered around the floor. A leaning tower of computer disks tottered on the bed. Clothes hung out of every drawer. Every piece of furniture had been moved aside.
Touma looked over at Seijiís immaculate part of the room. "God, I have to clean up before he comes--"
The door opened.
Seiji took one look at the chaos and said, "Lose a pen again?"
Touma blanched. "Yeah, Iím really sorry about that, Iíll have it cleared up---"
"Tell me when youíre finished." The door closed.
Touma stared at the door. He looked around at the disaster area, shaking his head. Iím an idiot.
"Thereís nothing he hates more than a mess. And now he thinks Iím an obsessive slob. AAUGH! Shin, you are going to pay."
Shin flopped on his bed. What a day. Theyíd gone all over the place. The bank, the clothing store, the gas station, the market... to his surprise, Touma had actually stuck to his grocery list, but food-shopping with Shuu was always relaxing. It would get him talking about the restaurant and the food business. Talking shop. It made a lot more sense than talking about his love life.
Or lack thereof.
Ryo had actually done his chores this time, so he didnít have to clean up much. Well, there was the front foyer, and the gutters needed clearing before the next rain. Granted, that wouldnít be till next week, but still...
The mid-afternoon sun warmed his body. He looked out the window. "I wonder where Seiji is."
Sploosh. A large spot of brown appeared on the window. A burst waterballoon slid down the glass.
"What in the name of..."
Only one person had long range accuracy like that. "Touma!!! What the hell are you doing?!" He sprang up and opened the window... only to slam it down again. Mud exploded next to his face.
The shots gooped their way up the window pane. "Stop it! Touma! You baka, whatís your problem?"
Someone else leaned out the window and yelled. "Work on your aim, boy! Donít hit my window!" It was Ryo.
"Sorry!" Touma stood on the hill outside, a crossbow tucked under his arm.
Shin rushed over to Ryoís room. He leaned out the window, keeping Ryo next to him as insurance. "Touma! If you stink up our room, Shuu and I are going to kill you!"
"Itís perfectly clean," called Touma. "Itís just mud. And itíll come out in the next rain."
Shin saw red. "You--you--"
Shuu, well-versed in his native element, popped in. "Itíll come right off, Shin. Itís clay."
"CLAY?! Thatíll dry in the sun. Iíll never be able to... Touma!"
"Better get it before it streaks, Fish Breath!" With that he disappeared into the forest.
Ryo scratched his head as Shin seethed. "Weíll help you wash it off. Itís not very much."
"Yeah, donít Cho-ryu-ha the house, eh, Shin?"
The boy glowered. "I should Cho-ryu-ha his sorry ass. Iíll be outside hosing off that mess." He stomped away, then looked over his shoulder. "Shuu, would you please stay in our room and make sure he doesnít open the window while Iím washing it." He disappeared.
Shuuís face fell. Ryo patted his back. "Iíll string the phone over there and you can call Mareko."
He brightened. "Good idea!"
Ryo shook his head. "This is getting out of hand."
"No kidding. How about we keep an eye on them, hm?"
"Itís a deal. You better go before Shin has another fit."
The afternoon heat finally drove Touma back to the house. It had been a nice walk in the woods. He'd visited the not-so-secret waterfall and taken a nap there. The place was so peaceful, though the withered sunbursts of cereus had been a tad depressing. Shin had probably tried so hard last night. Maybe he was the eldest, but he had no place in machinations of the type Seiji was fond of. And even if Touma warned Shin, it would likely be dismissed as another ploy to get Seiji.
Not for the first time, Touma wondered if it was worth all this trouble. All he wanted was to come home to his room and have someone waiting there... and Seiji was always so tantalizingly close...
Touma patted the browned flower sitting in his former mud-balloon bag. At least the clean-up in his room had unearthed his old scrapbook. He had a couple of nice heavy books to press the flower. The house was in view now, shining in the sun.
He started. It was Ryo. "Hi. Shin calmed down yet?"
Ryo shrugged. "Heís quiet."
"That bad, huh?"
"Youíre really bent on this, arenít you?"
Touma held the flower in his hands for a moment. "Itís pretty juvenile, I guess. I was just mad about last night."
"So, no more pranks?"
"Ah címon, Ryo, it was pretty funny."
"Well yeah, but itís driving everybody crazy."
"Everybody?" Touma kicked a tuft of grass. "Whereís Seiji?"
Touma raised his eyebrows. "Oh yeah?"
"Heís just hanging out. Reading, grooming Byakuen. Itís nothing."
"Ryo." Touma touched his shoulders. "Donít let him push you around."
"Itís not that."
Touma was silent for a few minutes. "Okay. Just donít... do something you donít want to do."
"I could say the same thing to you."
Touma shook his shirt for ventilation. His voice was soft among the trees. "I want him so bad. Some times I just wanna wring his neck, you know? But other times I look at him and heís so beautiful he could break."
Ryo stared at his friendís face. "Have you ever told him that?"
"Heíd freeze. I know it. And donít tell me I should just take the chance; he really will freeze. He wouldnít believe me."
"Uh, can I ask...?"
"Is it lust?"
Touma stopped. "Yeah. Part of it. But you know what? Even if it is just lust, Shinís willing to do the same. And heís the most level-headed of all of us."
"Canít you, um, share?"
The blue haired boy laughed nervously. "Thereís a thought. No, Seiji wouldnít want that."
"And what Seiji wants, he gets."
"Of course. Thatís the name of the game." He pushed a lock of hair out of his eyes. That was the pathetic whole of it, and if Shin hadn't been caught up in the same mess, Touma would have gone to him for advice. "Donít try to understand it. Thatís just the way it is." His gaze traveled to the house. "Shin did a good job, huh?"
"Wouldnít let us help. He was out here for an hour and a half in the heat. Took out the ladder too, and hand-scrubbed every bit."
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