No Such Thing

 

Part Two

 

Koushiro opened the door to his apartment a crack, and peered out cautiously.

Everything was still.

Slowly, he eased the door open, moving to glance warily around at the hallway on either side of him.

Still no movement.

Safe for now. Koushiro let out a breath. He was scheduled to begin his new job that morning, and he wasn't anxious to be late. Slipping out through the door, he closed it behind him as quietly as possible. The cool silence of an early spring morning had settled in around him - but he wasn't about to let his guard down.

Too many opportunities for trouble to find him yet.

Now if he could just sneak down the stairs without being seen…

"He-e-ey! Koushiro!"

Oh no…

"Uh… Miyako!" He turned around with a huge fake smile, hoping the fact that he was keeping his voice down would encourage her to do the same. "I'm sorry, I don't have time to stay and converse with you - I'm on my way to work at the moment."

The girl sauntered over to where he stood at the top of the stairs, the beginnings of a little smirk on her face. "Why so quiet?" she asked - still in quite a loud voice.

"Uhhh… I'm just attempting to avoid waking anyone else up." He glanced around nervously. He had this feeling about Miyako… she had cut down on the casual flirting, but there was a sense that she was not on his side in a particularly important matter… "It is fairly early, after all."

"Hmm… I guess you're right… " She gave him an arch look, the little smirk growing. "I suppose if you're a genius, your excuses all seem plausible, don't they?" Mercifully, she had lowered her voice a little.

"Excuses?" Koushiro was trying desperately to play innocent on this one. If she figured him out… "What do you mean? I'm not giving any excuses. It's the tru - "

"Are you sure?" She waved a finger in his face, with a somewhat overdone sigh. "Koushiro… you wouldn't be trying to avoid a certain someone, would you?"

So she did know.

"N-No! Not at all! There isn't even a miniscule chance that I - "

"That's so rude, you know." Miyako shook her head at him, face assuming a stern expression. "I thought you had better manners, Koushiro Izumi!" Her voice was getting louder again - and that definitely made him jumpy. "Avoiding your poor, hardworking admirer, just because you don’t want to deal with his attentions…"

"No!" He waved both hands in an attempt to stop her. "No, that's not it! Really it's not! I just have to get to work and I didn't want to - "

"You can't even let the poor guy walk you there? When he's suffered so much trouble at your expense?" The look she gave him was the perfect picture of incredulity. "You are a terrible person, Koushiro - terrible!"

This was only going to progress into even further levels of worse before it worked its way back up to 'better'. Giving up on reasoning with the girl, Koushiro turned and bolted down the stairs as fast as his legs would carry him.

"KOUSHIRO IZUMI!" she shrieked after him - an over-dramatic imitation of a slighted and hysterical young girl. "YOU GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!"

And the sound of her laughter followed after him.

Maybe he's not here yet… Maybe it's too early… Maybe I can run, and -

"Hey Koushiro!" A tall figure suddenly seem to manifest from thin air to stand directly in his path, blocking the bottom of the stairs. "There you are!"

"GAH!" And he couldn't stop himself fast enough… With a startled yelp, Koushiro crashed right into the very person he'd been trying to avoid - sending both of them toppling into an unceremonious heap on the ground.

"Owww… geez, Koushiro…" Taichi gave him a wry look. "There are better ways to say hello than plowing into someone at full speed, you know." Then he glanced down to where the redhead was currently lying half-sprawled over his chest, and grinned. "Although I can't say I'm complaining about the result…"

"Taichi!" Feeling his face start to go crimson, Koushiro scrambled backward - away from that all-too-tempting contact. No romance with crazy stalkers, thank you… No matter how charming they were, or how attractive they looked… how warm it felt to be pressed up against…

No!

"Where were you going in such a hurry, anyway?" Taichi asked, jumping up and brushing himself off.

Koushiro sighed. There was no possible way to avoid the inevitable, now. "To work," he admitted, casting a baleful stare back up to where Miyako had been standing.

The girl was gone.

Funny… Actually, for all her support of Taichi's campaign to drive Koushiro insane, he couldn't recall an instance where the two of them had actually made contact of any sort. In fact, it didn't seem as if they had ever even met before.

She's just one of those girls who have to meddle in things that really don’t concern them, it seems. Unfortunately for him.

A week of poorly-written poems, of flowers, of having an insistent suitor turn up when he was least expected… It was as headache-inducing as it was sweet - and it was still just the slightest bit creepy, considering he'd only met Taichi a week ago at a bus station. The fact that he found the man so damnably attractive only made him more desperate to avoid him at any cost. No matter how much he wanted to… getting involved with a perfect stranger - particularly one who was on the verge of stalking him - could never be classified as a good idea. He was right on the verge of making a very serious mistake - so the source of the temptation had to be kept as far away as possible.

However, that plan had one serious flaw. And that flaw was Taichi's own plan of spending as much time with him as possible.

For whatever reason, Taichi's plan seemed to be showing considerably more success than Koushiro's.

"Well, come on then, I'll walk you there."

Koushiro glanced at his watch. If he didn't head straight to work, he was going to be late. So there wasn't much choice left to him now… "All right," he agreed, with a defeated sigh.

'Defeated' seemed to be the sum-up of his efforts that past week.

"Excellent." Taichi made some show of slinging a casual arm around Koushiro's shoulders as they walked - which the redhead ducked under automatically. This did not seem to daunt him in the slightest. "Hey, are you a big chocolate fan at all?"

Koushiro cast a wary look in his direction. The question did not seem quite innocent, though it was casually cast out. "I don’t exactly despise it, if that's what you mean," he answered, cautiously.

"I know a place with really good chocolate cake, that's all." Taichi gave him that infectious grin - the one that always seemed to put him at ease and make him smile in return. "How about if you let me take you there for lunch? I guarantee you'll become a fan."

"I don't know… I'm working this morning, if you recall what I said earlier." And it was a relief to have that excuse… Koushiro had found it was better to avoid spending any amount of time alone with Taichi if he could avoid it. "I'm certain I'll be busy all day."

"Okay… then how about dinner?"

That was the problem… he was so impossibly stubborn. "I'll probably be too tired to go out after work."

Taichi frowned thoughtfully. "I guess I could make you something to eat…"

Warning signals immediately began flashing in Koushiro's mind. "Ah… maybe I'll be able to find the energy after all," he said hastily. He wasn't about to trust Taichi's cooking - and leaving him alone to put whatever he wanted into the food and drinks was definitely not a good idea. He certainly hadn't known him long enough to determine what morals the man stood by.

"Hey, I'll have you know I'm a pretty decent cook," Taichi protested. "I cook for my little sister all the time - my best friend taught me how."

Koushiro glanced sideways at him. The mention of other people in his admirer's life made him curious. "You've never mentioned that you have a younger sister," he said, hoping to draw out some more information.

"Yeah… she likes to stay at home most of the time," Taichi told him. "She's called me crazy more than once. But Yamato, on the other hand…" He grinned. "I might introduce you to him some time - he's here with us."

"That sounds good," Koushiro replied, with a certain amount of sincerity. Despite his reservations about Taichi, he was interested to meet the sort of people his personal stalker liked to spend time with.

"Great!"

The small building where Koushiro would likely be spending most of his time came into view as they rounded the next corner. "Well… here's where I work," he pointed out, squashing all reluctance and only letting the relief through.

Taichi nodded. "I'll just walk you to the door, and we'll part ways from there."

Koushiro quickened his pace.

On the inside, however, his place of work turned out to be… not what he had been expecting. There were boxes stacked untidily in the main entrance, and men in plain clothing stumbling around with more boxes and equipment. The rooms he could see through some of the doorways even looked like they were being renovated. "Uhh…"

"Hey! Be careful with that! It's very expensive!"

Koushiro turned in time to see a tall, bespectacled man in a suit chase after one of the movers, a harried expression on his face. "Don't you know what's in that box? You're supposed to treat these things delicately!"

"Sorry sir," the chastised man mumbled. He was at least twice as wide as his employer, so the exchange was kind of humorous to see.

"Okay, then, hurry up…" The tall man seemed to be considerably stressed by all of this. His eyes darted about the room - and fell on Koushiro. He blinked. "Are you one of the new employees we hired?"

"Uh… yes." It was hard to see how he could be expected to help, in this sort of mess… I'm not all that skilled at moving boxes around - particularly heavy ones. "Koushiro Izumi," he introduced himself politely, holding out a hand.

The taller man shook it. "Jyou Kido," he said tensely. "I'll be your employer - at least once we've finished sorting this out. We're a bit behind schedule… and there was an accident…"

"I'm sorry," Koushiro said, wincing as one of the boxes was hauled unceremoniously into the air by another big man. "I hadn't heard."

"Well, someone was supposed to get word to all of our employees, but we've been having some problems with our communications as well." Jyou's expression was pained. "We won't be needing anyone for a while - you'll be receiving compensation for your time, of course… Can I get you to check back with us next week?"

Koushiro flinched at the sound of a loud crash from the back. "Uhhh… sure…" His voice, however, was not heard.

"OH MY GOD!" Jyou ran for the doorway to the room, pushing through another couple of employees. "WHAT HAPPENED?"

The younger man decided that a hasty exit at this point might be well in order.

Only one problem with that… He glanced through the window apprehensively. No sign of Taichi - but he was sure to be nearby. And it never took him long to figure out just where Koushiro was at.

I think it might be time for some evasive action…

~~~~~~

Daisuke had honestly seen very few of those among his own kind who were more attractive than the mortal who currently had his arm in a firm grasp. He allowed himself to be led, more interested in watching Ken's face than in looking where they were going. He had the palest skin of anyone Daisuke had ever seen… even Yamato couldn't match it. And those eyes…

He felt he could end his life on a completely happy note staring into Ken's eyes.

Honestly, the more time he spent with this mortal, the less he cared about whatever he was doing before he'd been spending time with him. Ken was kind… and smart… and wonderful in so many ways…

I've wasted my life without him in it…

The only problem was… while he was slowly learning everything there was to know about Ken, the mortal knew absolutely nothing about him. Less than nothing, in fact, since he assumed Daisuke was mortal, too.

And we're going to be leaving at midnight on All Hallow's Eve…

That was really not something he wanted to think about.

"There are people here who've claimed to have made contact with those they call the fair folk," Ken was explaining, in that quiet, even-toned voice that never failed to make Daisuke want to stop talking and just listen. "In the woods, during one of those six month periods between Moving Days. Most of them are older, and they don't remember much - it's rare that they come to the same spot twice in a person's lifetime, you know."

Daisuke did in fact know. "Yeah, well… with so many places to go to, why would they want to stick around, huh?"

"True enough." Ken smiled at him. "People seem to think they're pretty flighty - and the decision of where to move is supposed to belong to the Queen."

Don't I know it… He ignored the urge to make a face. "If I were a fairy, I'd want to move wherever I want - not where some Queen decides to go." Especially not a Queen who considers a new hairstyle grounds for a formal celebration.

"I know what you mean." Ken was definitely finding Daisuke's interest in his research an appealing factor. "But I suppose since that's been their custom for such a long time, they wouldn't feel that way about it."

Yeah. Daisuke mentally snickered. Sure.

"Anyway, the kind of meetings that the people I've spoken to tell me about generally have a similar theme," Ken continued, guiding Daisuke around another corner - at a less than hurried pace. "Nothing happens inside the town, of course - I imagine there's some sort of law they follow that forbids it. Almost every encounter I've heard about has taken place inside the forest east of here. I made a few trips in there myself - that's where the Fairy Mound is, after all. I would guess that the entire forest becomes their territory once it's chosen as their current entranceway."

Unofficially, Daisuke answered silently. Mimi'd have a fit if she thought someone was calling the forest our "territory". "That makes sense," he said out loud.

Ken nodded. "Anyway, there were varying sensations caused by the contact. Some felt fear - some a sense of calm. Not a few admitted to experiencing sudden lustful thoughts. The images are rather vague… human-like creatures with wings was the most accurate description I could get. Most of them just saw flickering lights and heard faint laughter."

And I'll bet they're not remembering everything that happened… Daisuke was well aware of what some of the 'traditionalists' tended to enjoy when mortals wandered into a place they considered 'theirs'. Mischief and games… in the old style. Personally, he thought it was a waste of time - but he wouldn't mind getting Ken in a fairy circle… and having his way with him… "Sounds weird," he commented, trying not to let that daydream get out of hand.

Maybe I can even try that some time - it wouldn't be too hard to lure him up into the woods somehow…

"I guess it would be," Ken agreed. "I'm not so sure I wouldn't be frightened if I had a flying person screaming at me."

"We don’t scream!" Daisuke protested, indignantly.

Ken blinked at him. "I'm sorry?"

"Oh…" Crap! "Uhh… I said… We need ice-cream!" Daisuke laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his neck and offering Ken his most appealing smile. "What do you say?"

Fortunately enough, the mortal seemed inclined to take him at his word. "That sounds fine with me," he agreed. "I'll even treat you."

"Hey, great!" I think I'm in love… really…

"Let me guess what flavor." Ken offered a bit of a smirk. "Anything with chocolate."

"Huh?" It was Daisuke's turn to be taken aback. "How'd you do that?" I thought mortals weren't supposed to have any powers…

"I just had a hunch," Ken said, shrugging a little. "Aided by the fact that every time you order something sweet, your flavor is chocolate." He offered one of his brilliant smiles, keeping his eyes fixed on Daisuke's face. "I'll pick you out something good, all right? Wait here for me." He let go of Daisuke's arm and headed toward one of the shops.

The immortal smiled to himself, eyes following the movement almost without his conscious consent. Ken was really something… If someone had told him a week ago that he'd be falling this hard for a mortal, he would've laughed in their face. But with Ken… it just seemed right.

And maybe…just maybe…

"Watch out!"

Abruptly, Daisuke found himself almost having to use his wings to avoid getting run down by a flustered-looking young man with almost crimson hair who had just come charging around a corner at him. As it was, they ran into each other anyway.

"Ah - sorry!" The mortal seemed in an awful hurry; he cast a quick, apologetic look at Daisuke and then rushed along. "If a taller man with a lot of brown hair comes after me, would it be possible for you to avoid telling him I went this way?" he called back over his shoulder, ducking into an alleyway. "Thank you!"

Daisuke stared after him, a bit perplexed.

"Huh? Daisuke? What are you doing here?"

"Eh?" He turned back around again, and found himself faced with a familiar face - under a lot of brown hair. Ah… that clicked. "Hey Taichi! You wouldn't happen to be chasing after a red-haired mortal guy, would you? He told me not to tell you which way he went."

Taichi grimaced. "Which way did he go?"

Daisuke pointed after the mortal. "That way."

"Thanks!" The older immortal was off down the alley.

I'd give a lot to know what's going on there

"Daisuke?"

He turned around. Ken was back, ice cream in his hands, and giving him an odd look. "What are you looking at?"

"Uh… nothing!" He took the cone that Ken was holding out as an offering. "Just waiting for my chocolate! Yum!"

"It's fudge, actually," Ken pointed out, smiling a little. "But it's almost the same thing. I have a feeling you'll like this one."

Daisuke took an experimental lick. "Hey, it's great!"

Ken's smile curved up even more. "I thought so."

Wow… Daisuke closed his eyes in bliss, absorbing the combined pleasure of the ice cream and Ken's company. He's fantastic…

Ken laughed softly. "You really look like you're enjoying yourself - maybe a little too much," he teased.

Daisuke stuck his tongue out. "So?" He opened one eye, and found the other boy watching him with a strange little smile. Time to go for it! "Hey… now that you bought me ice cream, does that make this a date?"

Ken's cheeks flushed. It was an appealing sort of sight, like a dusting of red across that pale skin. "I… well… actually, I…"

"Great!" Daisuke grinned up at him, as if he'd already been given a positive response. "That means I can do this." He braced his free hand on Ken's shoulder and leaned over to bring their lips together as smoothly as he could manage.

Ken tasted like vanilla ice cream.

Hmm… maybe I should try that flavor next time… If it's as good as this…

"Daisuke…" Ken murmured, when they broke apart. His free arm slid around Daisuke's waist almost hesitantly, and their mouths came together again, this time in a kiss that was mutual on both sides.

The immortal let himself get lost in that warm contact, all thoughts driven out of his head but one.

No matter what… he was never going anywhere again without Ken beside him.

~~~~~~

"I just finished my first year," Iori said, in response to Takeru's question about his education. "I'll be starting my second in September." He took another sip of his iced tea.

Takeru knew enough about universities to avoid looking like he'd lived under a rock his whole life. Which would've been quite a long time. "What are you studying?"

"Nothing too definite right now." The vivid green eyes that had first caught his attention looked up at him again. "Right now I'm doing a general arts degree - I'm leaning towards philosophy, though."

"That's an interesting subject." Takeru casually leaned forward against the table… letting one hand slide across with the movement so it lightly rested beside Iori's. It was a challenge, getting him to accept those more meaningful touches - but it spurred him on to keep trying. There was something about this quiet, serious young man that somehow drew him in - he wasn't entirely sure what it was, but he didn't feel like resisting its call.

Iori blinked down at his hand, then brought his gaze back up to Takeru again, looking a bit flustered. It was really cute…

"Uh… yes," he agreed, recovering somewhat. Takeru noted with no small amount of triumph that he made no attempt to move his hand away. "And you're traveling around - with family, you said?"

"Right." I guess you could call them family… "Remind me to introduce you to my brother - he's staying here in town with us. I'll just have to track him down one of these days…"

Iori nodded. "I would like that."

"Great." Takeru sipped at his drink, planning his next words carefully. "So how did you end up getting to be friends with Ken, anyway?"

"If you can call him a friend," Iori said wryly, rolling his eyes upward. "We live in the same apartment building… He asked for my opinion on his research subject" - that came out in a tone of deep disgust - "and ever since I told him, he hasn't stopped bothering me. There are times when he really isn't too bad, but I don't appreciate someone chasing me around trying to 'convert' me."

I take it you wouldn't appreciate if I invited you to visit my home and meet the rest of my 'family', in that case… "Yeah, that would be annoying." Now to lead this conversation in the direction that he wanted. "He seems to like Daisuke quite a bit."

Iori bit his lip around a bit of a smirk. "You noticed."

"Well, I wasn't sure if it was just the fact that Daisuke liked all that junk he's always spouting off," Takeru said, shrugging as if it were no big thing and he weren't carefully watching his companion for a reaction. "But it looks like he's really fallen for him."

Iori nodded absently. "The good part is that he doesn't bother me so much any more," he mused.

Takeru laughed a little. "Daisuke's charming enough to keep anyone's attention."

"Not mine." Iori made a face. "He's too flighty - I can't go for guys like that. You can't even have a steady conversation with them. Ken doesn’t seem to mind that too much, though." He took another long sip from his drink, not even seeming to realize what he'd just let slip.

Takeru smiled to himself. Not guys like Daisuke… but guys all the same. "Well, if Daisuke's not your type, who is? Are you into tall, blond and blue-eyed, or what?"

"Well, I try not to be into cliches, but I guess you don’t always choose what you find attractive, do you?" Iori smiled ruefully, lowering his drink again. "Still, even looking like that, he'd have to have a mind in - " He came to a halt, as if suddenly realizing something, and stared up at Takeru's sunny-colored hair, bright blue eyes, and lanky form.

And his face went completely and totally red.

Takeru rested his chin on one hand and pretended he didn't notice. "It's good to be attracted to the outside, but he needs something on the inside… right?"

"Er… right…" Iori slumped a little, looking relieved.

This was going pretty well, all things considered.

"I'll pay for the drinks," Takeru offered, sliding his hand away from Iori's slowly enough so that the mortal's attention was drawn down to it again. "Did you want to take a walk or something?"

Iori smiled a little, glancing up from Takeru's hand. "I've already shown you around."

"So we'll walk just for the hell of it." The immortal shrugged. "I like your company. That's enough reason, isn't it?"

The way Iori's lips slowly curled upward - just the slightest bit more - made the statement more than worth the breath it had taken to say it.

I'm definitely getting somewhere… The thought was enough to paste a goofy-looking grin across his face; he could feel it sitting there foolishly even as he handed the waitress a tip that was much too large.

What was it about this guy? He was started to make Takeru think about mutiny against his own Queen… Heck, if Iori asked it, he'd sneak in and steal Mimi's crystal dagger for the mortal to butter his toast with. What had happened to his reason? His sensible nature?

It all seemed to fly out the window whenever Iori so much as glanced at him.

Takeru decided that this was a situation where Daisuke's attitude on life would definitely come in handy. Who really gives a damn, anyway?

"Where did you want to go?" Iori asked him, once they'd left the restaurant and were on their way. They weren't making intentional contact with each other, but he was walking close enough to Takeru that their shoulders brushed more often than not.

It was nice.

"Anywhere's fine with me." Takeru shrugged. "It's a great day for a walk." You're a great person to walk with… "How about we just wander around and see where we end up?"

"I usually like to have some idea of where I'm going…" Iori frowned to himself.

Always so practical… Takeru smiled. "All right, then, wherever you want to lead me, I'll follow."

Iori nodded - although, perhaps as a concession, he didn't move very fast. "So why are you staying here all the way until Halloween? Seems like a long time for a vacation."

"I'm not the one making the decision," Takeru admitted truthfully. "I'm just along for the ride, really. But so far, I think I'm going to be glad we're staying for such a long time."

Surprisingly, Iori didn't avoid that obvious reference to himself. "I'm only this free because it's summer," he pointed out. "Starting in September, I'll be taking the bus to the university and coming back late. You won't see a lot of me."

"That'll be more than I'd see if we weren't staying here." Takeru didn't really like the reminder that he'd be on his way - without Iori - at the end of October. Maybe I just won't go, he mused. What would Mimi say to that?

It was something to think about, anyway. And I'll bet that's the route Daisuke goes if Ken can't come along.

The situation was so weird, though… Takeru wasn’t entirely sure he was ready to make a life-altering decision based on his attraction - however strong - to someone he'd only just met a week ago. He still had almost six months to spend with Iori… If his instinct was right, and this really did turn out to be something amazing… Well, he could make a decision then.

Right at the moment, he wanted to enjoy himself.

"There's something I want to talk to you about, Takeru," Iori began, glancing sideways at the blond walking him. He took a deep breath, then continued. "If you want to date me, I'd appreciate if you'd come right out and say it, instead of playing around with all this casual flirting."

Takeru blinked.

The mortal gave him a bit of a wry look. "I don’t have a lot of patience with anything that isn't straightforward, if you hadn't noticed."

"I'm sorry." Takeru smiled ruefully. He had noticed. "I wasn't sure how you felt about it - and I didn't want to make you uncomfortable, so I thought I'd wait until you brought it up first."

Iori let out a breath. "Can I get right to the point?"

Is that good or bad? "Sure."

A small, almost shy smile was tugging up the corners of the green-eyed boy's mouth; he didn't look at Takeru as he spoke. "If you did ask me out… I'd like that."

Wasting time was not an option here… The blond immortal took a couple of quick steps to place himself ahead of Iori, and swung to face him. "In that case…" He lifted his surprised companion's hand in both of his own. "Would you do me the greatest of honors and accept my invitation to dinner tonight?" The words came with just a hint of a smile, but enough of a straight face so that the mortal would know he was being sincere.

Iori's cheeks flushed. "Sure," he blurted out, glancing quickly from Takeru's hands to his face.

"Great." He didn't let go of Iori's hand, but instead leaned forward to brush his lips over the shorter boy's, not minding the stares they were getting. Iori didn't seem to mind any more than he did; he tilted his face and returned the kiss without hesitation.

Eternity couldn't have tasted sweeter.

~~~~~~

The nights were getting to be almost unbearably hot.

Koushiro found he had some trouble drifting off in a room that bore certain similarities to a sauna. Despite being absolutely exhausted, it was difficult to get comfortable - and thus difficult to drift off. He'd gone to bed at around eleven - clad only in shorts, and with the covers rolled off to the side - but didn't manage to fall into a blissful sleep until around one-thirty.

At precisely two o'clock in the morning, someone threw a handful of pebbles through the open window from the courtyard beyond it, several of which struck him in the face and pulled him back from a sound sleep.

"Hhh… uhhh?" Koushiro sat up, brushing pebbles off of himself and blinking at the window, still not entirely awake. "Wha's go… going on?" He yawned around the words, and padded over to the window sleepily.

"Koushiro!" A familiar night-shadowed shape hissed at him.

Oh god, no… This was going too far. "Taichi…" He checked his watch. "It's two in the morning… what do you want?"

"Can we talk?"

Koushiro sighed, burying his face in his hands. He was beginning to suspect that there really was no good reason for Taichi to have woken him up only a half hour after he'd finally fallen asleep. "We're talking," he answered flatly. "What do you want?"

"Come on down here!" Taichi urged him.

That was it. "It's two o'clock in the morning!" he retorted, pushed past toleration. "Whatever you have to say, I'm sure it can wait until tomorrow! Good night!" And he pulled the curtains closed.

Silence from outside.

Koushiro lay back down with a sigh, staring at the ceiling. Now he was awake… It was probably going to take another hour or so before he could get back to sleep. And there was probably a sexy stalker still lingering outside his apartment…

Was he still there? He was being awfully quiet…

With another sigh - a long-suffering one, this time - Koushiro heaved himself out of bed yet again. I'm only looking for caution's sake… just a brief glance, through the curtains… He pulled the curtains apart just a little bit and peered out.

To see Taichi less than a foot away, grinning back at him.

"GAH!" Koushiro jerked back, lost his footing, and fell onto a hard seat on the floor. What the…? He scrambled to his feet and yanked back the curtains, determined to find out just how his persistent suitor had managed to accomplish such a feat.

Taichi blinked innocently at him from the ground beneath his window. "Was there something you wanted?"

"What…?" This was impossible. Koushiro's mouth worked silently for a moment. "What exactly did you just do?" he demanded, when his vocal cords started working again.

The older boy raised an eyebrow at him. "What are you talking about?"

Okay… I must be more exhausted than I originally thought… Koushiro closed his eyes and counted to ten - slowly. "Are you planning to stand there all night?"

"That's the idea." Taichi grinned at him. "At least until you come down and talk to me. How about it?"

It wasn't nearly so charming now… Koushiro gritted his teeth, and moved away from the window.

"Hey! Where are you going? Koushiro! Kou-shi-ro!"

Ken caught up to him on the way to the bathroom. "What's going on?" the mythology specialist asked, yawning a little and blinking at him. "Who's doing all the yelling out there?"

"Koushiro! Are you coming back or what?"

"Nobody." Koushiro pulled the bucket he'd been looking for from the cupboard, and propped it in under the faucet. "You might as well go back to bed," he told his roommate, turning on the cold water.

"Hey, am I talking to myself out here?"

"Uhh… okay…" Ken gave him an odd look, but moved to do as he said. Koushiro yawned widely, listening to the water pour into his bucket, and stared wearily at the bathroom wall.

"You know, ignoring me won't be enough to make me go away!"

As soon as the bucket was close enough to full, Koushiro turned off the faucet, took the thing by its handle, and headed back to his own room.

"Hey, if you're not going to come down, I'll just - "

Taichi was cut off as the younger man walked casually up to the window, raised his bucket, and dumped the contents out over his stalker's head.

"Good night, Taichi," Koushiro told the astonished - and wet - young man, in an even tone.

Then he pulled the window shut with a firm click, and turned around to collapse back onto the bed and pull his pillow over his head.

He was starting to seriously consider moving back and signing on for another four years of schooling.

~~~~~~

From the roof of the apartment building, Yamato clapped his hands together in a mock show of applause. "Congratulations, Taichi," he told his soggy-looking friend. "That was brilliant. I really think he's weakening. Why don't you try singing to him - that should clinch things."

"Shut up." Taichi glanced around quickly and then brought his wings out of hiding, bringing himself up to perch beside the blond. "Don’t try to pretend you could do any better."

"I'm not the one who fell for a mortal, am I?"

Taichi clenched his fists in his lap, frowning. "Can I ask you for some advice?"

Yamato raised an eyebrow at him. "I thought you just said I couldn't do any better."

"I lied. You have ten times more success with this sort of thing than I do." Taichi leaned back, still frowning but looking more frustrated than angry. "I wasn't lying when I said I'm really in love with him. I'd ask Sora for advice if I thought it'd do any good."

Yamato shook his head, but chose not to make any sarcastic comments. "I'm sure Sora would be happy to see you - but I'd rather not lose that bet with her. Anyway, I do have an idea that I think will help you."

Taichi tossed a wry look his way. "Which will help you win that bet."

"Hey, do you want my help, or would you rather continue on the way you have been?"

"Sorry."

"That's better." Yamato knew he was pushing it, but Taichi was too desperate to push back. "You've already tried all the more modern methods… what's wrong with the traditional approach?"

"The traditional approach?" Taichi frowned. "Isn't that a little… well…?"

"It shows results, doesn't it?" The blond smirked. "Look… the problem is that he doesn't trust you. He doesn't know you - mortals can be suspicious like that. You have to do something about that, or you're never going to get anywhere with him."

"Yeah, I can understand that…" Taichi was still frowning. "But still…"

"It's either that or get him sloshed."

"Oh sure, that would do me a lot of good." The shorter immortal made a derisive noise. "No one stays drunk forever; eventually, they all sober up."

"Then you come back to that 'one option left' thing," Yamato pointed out.

Taichi sighed. "All right, fine. I'm willing to try anything at this point. Are you going to help me?"

Yamato smirked again, thinking of the sort of headache he could cause Sora by having Taichi hook up with a mortal - and right under her nose, too. She's never going to win this bet.

"Why don't we get started on that right now?"

 

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