Feast for the Eyes
Daisuke smiled, and couldn't stop smiling. Damn! He studied the impressive figure of his lover, highlighted by a soft glow and set strikingly at the top of the stairs. He's hot! Hotter than before! When did I get so lucky?
The Kaizer let his wings fold, and started down the stairs, gracefully. His eyes locked with Daisuke's, and his smile widened. Everyone else in the hall was quiet, watching.
"Took you long enough," Daisuke muttered, when Ken finally made his way over to him.
"I had to make a good entrance," Ken replied. "I'm sure you understand, love. You made quite the appearance yourself, and don't tell me you didn't enjoy every minute of it." He took the red-head in his arms.
Immediately, the music started up again, and Ken spun Daisuke out onto the floor, seeming to ignore the stares of everyone in the room in order to stare into his Consort's eyes.
"Yeah." Daisuke grinned, feeling light. He felt Ken's arms tighten around him. It was nice; safe, protected, totally loved. I could get used to this. Heck, I will get used to this! "I had fun. Especially seeing the look on Takeru's face."
"How do you think he'll do with his trial?"
Daisuke shrugged. "Well, that depends on how hungry he is, right? Maybe he'll pass and maybe he'll fail. The only good thing about him failing would be that I'd have someone to talk with when you and I are fighting."
Ken smiled. "A heated relationship is a lot more interesting than something lukewarm. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Hell, yes." Daisuke grinned again, leaning against Ken's shoulder and feeling completely satisfied. "Hell, yes."
"Can I sit by you tonight?"
Yamato frowned, and didn't look up.
"Will you at least look at me?" Taichi's hand rested on his arm. It felt warm, and solid.
As if he isn't one of them. As if he's human. As if he's mortal. The thoughts were bitter. Yamato pulled his arm free. "What for?"
"Because I'm in love with you. Isn't that good enough?" The tone of Taichi's voice was on the verge of desperation; it was as if he could see the evening slipping away already, and with it any change he might have of convincing Yamato to stay.
I'm not staying. I'm not. Not even for a short while. Not even for one night. We aren't meant to be; all we'd be doing is kidding ourselves, and he knows that…
Yamato shook his head, clearing away the thoughts. "I know that," he muttered, in answer to Taichi's question. "Fine. I'll sit with you tonight. And I want you to promise that you'll take care of Takeru if he fails his Trial."
"You don't even have to ask me," Taichi promised.
Takeru watched from the side as Daisuke danced with the guy called 'Kaizer'. The red-head seemed deliriously happy, and the expression on his partner's face could almost be described as 'enchanted'.
He cares about Daisuke. That's good.
"What are you thinking about?" Hikari asked him, touching his arm lightly. She was watching Daisuke and the Kaizer as well.
"I'm glad he's found someone," Takeru answered, truthfully. The two really did seem to fit well together. "He's just snagged everything he's ever going to want in life and a guy who appears to really like him. So, yeah, I guess coming to rescue him was pointless."
"But you're glad you came," she finished.
He turned and looked at her again. She was smiling brilliantly, and he decided right then that it didn't matter if they lived here, or there. As long as he could be with her.
"Yeah," he agreed. "I'm glad I came."
The dance ended.
On the floor, the Kaizer had released his partner - though reluctantly, it looked like. "And now, we have some… special… entertainment planned," he announced, in a normal tone of voice that was somehow perfectly audible to everyone in the huge room. "Another mortal has come unbidden to join us."
There was some excited murmuring following that announcement.
The Kaizer ignored them, and kept speaking. "Of course, we have a banquet prepared…" He gestured toward the stairs, which had become a dais. There was a huge table piled high with food in its place. Everything was elegantly arranged, and the smell of the food was intoxicating.
Takeru suddenly found himself famished. His stomach growled as he noticed that everything displayed there was one of his favorite foods. Hot dishes… cold dishes… everything appeared to be prepared just the way he wanted it. If this is how they treat their guests… He started toward the table.
Hikari stopped him. "A warning," she said softly, catching his eyes with a firm gaze. "You are a visitor in our realm. If you wish to return to your own with no claim of ours upon you, you will take no food from that table!"
The words were so fervent that Takeru licked his lips nervously.
"As an honored guest, your place is at the high table," she said then, in a normal tone. "You will sit at my right, and to the left of the far end, and servants will serve you. Any wish you have will be fulfilled." Then she gave him a mischievous smile, and turned to lead him to the table.
Takeru bit his lip to hold in a groan as he was led to a seat beside the tempting pile of food. This isn't fair, is it? I'm starving! The smell of the food was like a siren's song. I have to eat something! My stomach is going to collapse in on itself!
He glanced sideways. Daisuke was avoiding his eyes; he had piled his plate full already. Beside him, the Kaizer was pensively chewing on forkfuls of steak - medium well-done, and looking just short of too salty, the way Takeru loved it. The dark-haired Immortal was staring back at him, his gaze penetrating. On his other side were three more Immortals that Takeru didn't recognize - all of whom were also eating. Beside him, Hikari had filled her plate, but she didn't eat.
Ahhh… This place can't be so bad to live at, can it? The blond wrenched his gaze back to his empty plate - but it was inevitably caught again, by the steaming potatoes piled in front of him. No, it can't be so bad… I could do worse. Who needs college, anyway?
"Will the guest not eat?" The Kaizer's words cut into Takeru's trance. Again, he looked at the Immortal, and found the same look on his face - this time including a knowing smirk. "The foods were chosen especially for your pleasure, Mortal. Do you not wish to sample them?"
He snapped his fingers then, and a servant appeared at Takeru's side, offering a plate arranged with the things he had been craving the most. "You won't sample the cooking?" she asked innocently, holding the plate directly in front of him.
Yeah, this place is fine… Takeru sighed, and reached for the spicy-seasoned chicken wing. "Yeah," he said, out loud, hardly noticing that everyone in the room was watching him. Daisuke's gaze was worried, Yamato's impassive, and Hikari's impossible to read. Anticipation hung in the air as Takeru took the wing and stared at it as if wondering what it did, torn between the two compulsions.
Then he started raising it to his mouth. I can't… I have to…
A light touch on his shoulder stopped those thoughts, and he looked away from the chicken wing. Hikari stared at his face, her hand still resting on his arm. Her expression was still unreadable, but the look in her eyes couldn't be mistaken.
She believed in him. She actually thought he could do it.
Takeru dropped the chicken wing. "No thanks," he said, finally feeling like he had some control over his stomach. "I'm not hungry."
The hall immediately exploded with noise as Immortals strove to have their opinions heard. 'Not fair' and 'unheard of' featured highly in those discussions. What? Takeru wondered, alarmed. Had he got it wrong? Had he failed after all?
The Kaizer stood up, and everyone fell silent.
"Well," he said, after a moment, raising an eyebrow at Takeru. "That was interesting."
Daisuke grinned at his friend, and flashed him a thumbs-up.
"It goes against our rules, however." Ken wasn't smiling. "Yagami Hikari. You, out of all of us… you know the law. Your job has always been to uphold it."
Abruptly, Daisuke was on his feet. "She helped him! It's not his fault! He passed the test!"
The Kaizer frowned at him.
Daisuke glared back, and crossed his arms. "If you think you're getting any after you've unfairly judged my best friend, you're nuts, Kaizer! See me after a few centuries!"
The hall broke out into buzzing chatter again. Daisuke overstepping his bounds as 'Consort' was suddenly a lot more interesting than Takeru's Trial. The Kaizer and his lover were still trying to glare each other down, and neither appeared to notice the behavior of their observers.
"Excuse us," Ken said curtly, and then he grabbed Daisuke's arm and turned to drag him off into thin air - disappearing.
Any hope of order vanished with them.
"It's our law."
"Daisuke - "
"You're being stubborn."
"I don’t care!" Daisuke glared some more, still keeping his distance. "That's my best friend we're talking about! I don’t care if what's-her-name broke your law! It's not his fault! He won! He's free to go!"
"I can't let this go, Daisuke," Ken explained patiently. "It's just not done. I can't make exceptions. There will be others to follow, and none of them will follow the law - they'll know that they can argue with this as an example."
"So?" Daisuke refused to back down. "Work something out! If you condemn my friend, I'm never, ever sleeping with you again! Ever!"
Ken sighed. "Why do you have to be so difficult?"
"If I was easy, you'd take me for granted."
"I wouldn't - but I wouldn't change you, either." Ken moved in to brush a hand over Daisuke's cheek.
The red-head dodged it. "Don't try to soften me up! I'm still mad at you! You let my friend go or else!"
"All right!" Ken gave in. "All right. Fine. He's free to go. But Hikari will have to be punished."
Daisuke nodded, frowning. "Yeah… She kinda did break the law, didn't she?"
"She did." Ken frowned as well. "And I don't want to punish her. She is a slave to her heart, and I well understand how that feels." This time, when he reached up to caress Daisuke's cheek, the red-head didn't move away.
"Maybe there's some kinda punishment that will help her," Daisuke suggested, not really thinking about it.
"The only thing that would help her would be to put her with Takeru…" Ken broke off that thought, looking like he'd just had an idea.
"But to do that you'd have to - oh!" Daisuke's eyes grew wide, and he looked at Ken.
Instantly, he knew that they were thinking the same thing. Perfect!
"Nice show, little brother."
Takeru turned, and found Yamato standing beside his chair. "What's going to happen?" he asked. The crowd was still buzzing over what had happened earlier. "They won't punish Hikari, will they?"
Yamato snorted. "Of course they will! She's forbidden to help you! Remember what I said when Taichi helped us with the night stallions? It warrants a punishment, helping us with our Trials."
"But that's not fair!" Takeru felt his heart ache at the thought that he'd earned Hikari a punishment.
"It is our law," the Immortal beside him said, very softly. She looked up, and he noticed that her large brown eyes were very clear. "I would do it again," she told him, seriously. "I love you, Takeru."
"I… love you too," he said, without thinking about it. It's true. I love her. I'd do anything…"Hikari…"
He was interrupted then, as the Kaizer and Daisuke reappeared, walking in through thin air. How do they keep doing that? Ken had an arm around Daisuke's waist, and the red-head looked pleased with himself. That's probably a good sign.
"My Consort and I have come to a decision," the Kaizer announced, glancing at Daisuke. "The Mortal Takeru is free to go."
The crowd exploded into outraged talk, until Ken held up his hand for silence.
"Since he didn't ask for the help, it can't be said that the help was his own fault," the Kaizer continued. "I will ask that he leave as soon as possible, and not return. In the case of Hikari, who was conscious of her crime…"
Takeru started to rise, but Yamato held him back. "You can't do anything now, little brother. Wait and see what happens. He might surprise you."
"Were you Immortal, Hikari," Ken said, staring at her impassively. "I would strip you of your Immortality and order you cast out of our world for the rest of your days."
The gasps from the crowd were loud and there was some extended murmuring - of both shock and some approval.
"However," the Kaizer went on, "you are not. And so your punishment is only that - you are human. Not of our kind. Cast out, to dwell in the land of mortals."
Hikari stared at him, her mouth slightly open in shock.
"Y-Yes," she replied. Takeru could feel her trembling.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, helping her from her chair. "I hadn't meant to - "
"Sorry?" she repeated, and a wondering sort of smile spread over her face. "Why should you be sorry? Do you realize what he's just done for us?"
Takeru blinked. "Uh… not really. What do you mean?"
"I'm mortal," she said. "I'm human. He's just ordered me to leave here and spend the rest of my life being with you."
That got his attention. "Then…?"
"You are mine now, Takeru Takaishi," she told him, cupping his face in both of her hands. "And I'm yours."
Takeru couldn't speak. He wrapped his shaking arms around her waist, leaned down, and kissed her lips. She tasted like spring, and love, and all the things he'd wanted in life.
"Congratulations," Yamato said quietly, when they parted. "I'm glad you got luckier than I did, little brother." The bitterness in his voice was still apparent.
Hikari looked at him speculatively. Then she pulled out of Takeru's arms and faced the Kaizer again. "My Lord!" she said, in a ringing voice that quieted the talk that had once again begun.
He looked at her questioningly.
"Before I go, I feel I must do you one further duty," she said, respectfully. "There was another crime committed tonight, and the guilty party must, too, be given punishment."
"What?" Takeru watched her, amazed.
"My brother, Taichi, helped these humans in their Trial involving the night stallions," she reported, staring directly at the brown-haired Immortal, who had frozen in mid-chew and was looking at her with wide eyes.
"I see." A small smile was spreading across the Kaizer's face. "He shared your crime, and he will share your punishment, of course, Hikari." He turned. "Yagami Taichi!"
Taichi rushed forward and stood in front of the table. "Yes, my Lord?"
Yamato was looking back and forth from Hikari to Taichi, disbelief painting his features. Takeru felt a smile building on his face as well. I know what's coming now…
"You are hereby stripped of your Immortality," the Kaizer said firmly. "And condemned to live your life in the lands of the mortals. This will be the punishment now for all who aid a mortal in a task set only for them."
"I understand." Taichi appeared stony-faced, but a smile was trying to tug up the corners of his mouth as well. "I'll take the punishment, my Lord, without complaint."
He walked away from the table. Hikari put her arms around Takeru's waist, and as Taichi approached the open-mouthed Yamato, the room around them started to fade…
"And now that takes care of… hmm… just about everything, wouldn't you say, pet?" The Kaizer sank down onto the cushions, dragging his Consort down on top of him.
"Shut up, Kaizer," Daisuke muttered, and nipped at Ken's neck hungrily. "We still have the matter of me getting a turn with you to take care of now… and that's something I'm not going to be patient about."
"Mmm…" Ken sighed happily. "No complaints here."
The first thing Takeru heard when he came out of that brief trance was Taichi's voice, and when he looked up, it was just in time to see the former Immortal throw his arms around Yamato and pull him in for a passionate kiss.
"Mine," he repeated, when they broke apart. "You've got no excuses… and I am never letting you get away from me this time. Not ever."
"Do you see me complaining?" Yamato asked breathlessly, and kissed his brown-haired lover deeply. "Taichi… I love you so much… Even if you wanted to, you couldn't get rid of me!"
Taichi laughed, almost crying at the same time. "I love you, Yama!" he cried, and they kissed again, passion and happiness and disbelieving joy in each other coming out in every one after that.
"That was brilliant," Takeru said, smiling at Hikari. "I never would've thought of it… but you solved their problem completely." He put his arms around her waist again. "I love you, you know."
"I know." Her smile lit up her face, and she leaned forward to kiss him softly. "And we have the rest of our lives to tell each other that."