No Such Thing

 

Part Three

 

Koushiro stared at his employer in dismay. "Are you sure?"

Jyou lowered himself into his chair with a long-suffering sigh, looking absolutely wretched - as he had for the past month and a half. "I'm really sorry about this… everything seems to be going wrong," he moaned, burying his face in one hand.

"That's okay." Koushiro sighed, feeling rather disheartened himself. He'd been hoping that he'd finally be able to start working, and could get away from Taichi.

It wasn't that he found the man's company so terrible… just the opposite, in fact. He was starting to enjoy spending time with Taichi a little too much. There was something just so… so… charming about him - just a casual grin could make Koushiro's knees weaken. He even found himself looking forward to seeing Taichi - a feeling he desperately tried to squash. No matter how friendly Taichi was… how sweet his attentions were… how soft his brown eyes were when he looked at him… how firm his ass was…

The fact remains that I know almost nothing about him, and that is the end of that, he told himself, firmly enough to banish those thoughts from his head.

It took more and more effort every time.

Koushiro really needed to get to work.

"Is something the matter?" Jyou asked, his stress-ravaged eyes studying his employee's face with mild concern.

"Nothing important," Koushiro answered in a resigned tone. "I guess I'll be going, if you don't have any work for me. Have a nice night."

"If you don't mind me saying it… you seem anxious to get to work," the man noted a touch worriedly, getting up to see him off. "You are getting your check, aren't you?"

"Yes. It's just… It's complicated." Koushiro grimaced. "I'm attempting to avoid someone who is being quite persistent - I thought perhaps if I were at work, he might give up - at least temporarily."

Jyou laughed - a short, humorless sound. "You should consider yourself lucky," he said, in a wry tone. "Some of us find it harder to get that sort of attention." He winced even as he spoke, looking as if he regretted letting the words out.

Koushiro frowned at his employer. "What do you mean?"

Jyou sighed. "I can't believe I'm telling this to one of my employees," he muttered, running a hand through his hair. "All right. Here goes. The truth is… there's this guy…"

That seemed to be going around lately. "Go on," the younger man urged, not really surprised. It had been a surreal couple of months.

"Well…" Jyou swallowed hard, looking away. "Actually, he doesn't think much of me. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's great… he's really attractive - has a great personality. He's about as perfect as they come. And I'm - well - not."

"You seem like a perfectly nice person," Koushiro noted, truthfully.

"Yeah, well, maybe that's part of the problem." Jyou smiled ruefully. "The truth is, I don't even think he knows I'm alive. Anyway…" He shrugged, awkwardly. "That's the reason I sympathize more with your admirer. I know how it feels to want someone who doesn't return it."

That last statement was enough to make Koushiro feel quite low. "I see…"

"Would you be at all offended if I asked you a bit of a personal question?" Jyou said, studying his face for signs of offense. At the redhead's negative reply, he went on. "Are you not attracted to guys, and that's why you're refusing him?"

The younger man could feel his face growing hot. "Well… no, that's not the reason…"

"Is it this guy in particular who's not very attractive?"

Koushiro shook his head. "No… he's very attractive…" Too attractive. He could call up a very vivid image of Taichi's sun-browned face, brown eyes intent and with a bit of a grin playing on his lips. He could see the line of his neck, running smoothly down from his jaw to connect with lean, attractively shaped shoulders and an upper torso that he'd really kill to run his hands ov -

"So does he have an obnoxious personality?" Jyou's next question interrupted that thought.

Thankfully.

"Er… no, not exactly…" Not even close. Taichi was one of the most interesting, most likable, most appealing people he'd spent time with in a very, very long time. Possibly ever.

"But you're not attracted to him that way, is that right?"

"Uh… well…" Koushiro winced. This would be considerably less complicated if I weren't. "Maybe I am… somewhat. Or more than somewhat. But still…"

"Okay." Jyou was giving him quite the odd look. "Let me know if I've got this straight. You're saying that you are attracted to males, and this very attractive guy with a nice personality has been chasing after you consistently - and you have some feelings for him in return. And this is somehow… a problem?"

It sounded very silly when it was put like that… "There's more to it than just that!" Koushiro protested. "I met him at a bus station about two months ago, and I don't know very much about him. For all I know, he could be a psychotic stalker of some sort."

"Oh. Well, I can understand about being cautious." Jyou gave him a small smile, the harried expression on his face lightening somewhat as he focussed on Koushiro's problem rather than his company's. "You probably know better than I do what's best for you. I wish I could give you some answers, but I can't."

Not that I really expected you to… "Is there any way you can give me an estimate of when I might be able to work for you?"

Jyou grimaced. "At the rate we seem to be going, it could be all summer." He offered an apologetic look. "All I can tell you is the same thing I've been saying every week: to check back next week."

Koushiro sighed. Another week of spending time with something he wanted but would not allow himself to have. Another week to become more and more helplessly attracted to a stranger who seemed to be casually making his way into a spot at the center of his life.

Another week

"You don't have anything to drink," he asked Jyou in a resigned tone, "do you?"

Faced with another week of the same thing he'd been dealing with for the past two months… Koushiro felt he could drink a whole case of whatever his employer might have.

~~~~~~

Daisuke rolled onto his back and grinned up at the ceiling of the apartment building. It was dark out, but he could still feel the heat that had plagued the day. The weather had been very hot lately.

That's not the only thing that was hot today…

"Mmph." Beside him on the bed, Ken seemed to shake off that lethargic drowsiness that was generally the reaction to really good sex. About half of his face was still buried in the pillow beneath it, but one half-lidded blue-violet eye watched Daisuke over a pale-skinned bare shoulder.

Daisuke grinned back at him. "Have a nice nap?"

"What time is it?" Ken asked, pushing himself up a little. His back arched gracefully against the mattress as he propped himself on his elbows, smiling softly in response to his lover's greeting.

He looked unbelievably sexy, even having just woken up.

"About eleven." Daisuke stretched generously, attempting to attract Ken's eyes. "It's still pretty early," he pointed out hopefully.

"So it is." Ken was either oblivious or pretending to be oblivious. He rolled over onto one side and gave Daisuke the faintest hint of a smirk. "Does that mean you'd like to break out a deck of cards and play 'Go Fish'?"

Pretending to be, then.

Daisuke sat up, looking around for his boxers. "Do you have anything to drink around here?" He could play at this game too, if Ken was going to be like that. Besides, it was hot and he was thirsty.

"Sure," Ken answered him, tugging on his own shorts. "Maybe we should get some dinner while we're at it." He offered another smirk; his eyes getting that wicked look in them that sent Daisuke's thoughts scattering. "You never know what you might need to build up your energy for."

Yes! Daisuke scores again!

"That's funny…" Ken glanced at the open door next to his, as Daisuke followed him out into the main area of the apartment. "Koushiro's usually in by ten or earlier. I wonder where he is."

"Maybe he finally decided to give Taichi a chance." Daisuke shrugged. Koushiro seemed awfully prudish to him… He was a nice guy - roughly translated to 'boring as hell' - not half as gorgeous as Ken, and he talked like an encyclopedia. It was hard to understand why Taichi was so obsessed with him.

Then again… maybe there's just something there I'm not seeing. Daisuke had the greatest respect for Taichi's good taste.

"I very much doubt that," Ken replied, opening the fridge and looking inside to see what they had for drinks. "Koushiro's a very cautious person - he doesn't trust people easily. He's been avoiding your friend's advances as if his life depended on it."

"Is he really that bad?" Daisuke reached around him to grab the carton of orange juice - he was comfortable enough at Ken's apartment to act as if it were a second home.

Ken laughed. "I'll never forget this one incident," he said, taking out a bottle of flavored spring water. "Taichi somehow got out under Koushiro's window at about two in the morning - he was trying to get him to come out and talk." The corners of his mouth twisted up wryly. "Anyway, Koushiro came into the bathroom, filled up a bucket of water, and - I'm assuming - dumped it out on his head."

Daisuke brought the carton away from his mouth and stared at Ken, appalled. "Are you serious?" Poor Taichi! His first thought was sympathetic. For a long time, the older immortal had been the picture Daisuke had hoped to shove himself into.

The second thought was less charitable… I really wish I could've seen that!

"I didn't actually see it," Ken admitted. "But yes, I'm pretty sure of what happened." He snickered a little, pouring himself a glass of his beverage of choice.

Daisuke grinned. Taichi's never going to live this down - I'll be seeing about that. "You'd never do that to me, would you?" He offered Ken his most charming smile.

Ken glanced sideways at him. "Well, I can hardly expect to find you outside of my window at two in the morning, can I?"

"Hey, that's right." Daisuke reached out and slid his fingers over Ken's bare arm. He had such smooth skin… it was warmer than usual, because of the heat, but Daisuke didn't mind at all. "What are we having to eat?" he asked brightly, when he'd gotten his lover's attention.

"Hmm… soup in a can?" Ken suggested, retaliating to that by stretching out and giving Daisuke a clear display of his lean, graceful form. "Neither of us have been shopping in a while, so I think that's about all we have."

"Sounds good." Daisuke leaned against the counter as Ken pulled the soup and a pot from somewhere in the tiny, cramped cupboards. "I'm not too picky."

"I noticed."

Companionable silence followed. Daisuke watched Ken out of the sides of his eyes, going over a debate he'd been having with himself for the past month or so. The more time he spent with Ken, the more he found himself falling for him. There was something about him - so smart and kind, and altogether wonderful… He fit together with Daisuke so well… Like there had been a Ken-sized hole in his life that had just been waiting for the two of them to meet. Even physically - they could sit in each other's arms just so. Ken felt perfect against him - he was completely and utterly comfortable in the mortal's presence.

They'd only been together for two months, and he wanted to spend eternity with this guy.

Well, maybe not eternity - we don't exactly live that long…but a long time!

And that meant taking the first step toward a real relationship - honesty.

Daisuke swallowed a little, gathering up his nerve. "Hey… Ken?"

The dark-haired young man looked up from the soup he was casually stirring around. "Yes?"

"I want to tell you something." Daisuke took in a deep breath, and looked up at his lover with what he hoped was his most serious expression. "You have to promise not to go around telling people, or I'll be in a whole lot of trouble. But… I just… It's big, and I want you to know. It's… It's about who I am." He scratched his head nervously.

"Who you are?" Ken repeated. He'd set the spoon down entirely, blue-violet eyes focussing on Daisuke with a seriousness to match the gaze that met his. "What are you talking about?"

Daisuke reached out and touched Ken's cheek, smiling a little. "Don't pass out on me," he said softly, still staring into his mortal lover's eyes. "I'm not… like you."

There was definitely a charged atmosphere around them now; Ken was staring at him as if hypnotized, helplessly caught by Daisuke's desire to have him pay close attention. "What do you mean?" he asked slowly, in a voice that was barely a whisper. "Not like me… in what way?"

"Not…" Daisuke pulled back his hand and retreated a couple of steps. "Not human," he finished up, and let his wings flow up out of their concealment. They were thin appendages - typically delicate, with a slight blue-ish tinge to them. Fairy wings. They were actually quite pretty, if you took the time to study them.

Daisuke was even rather proud of them.

Ken let out a gasp and leaned back against the counter, his eyes widening. The room seemed illuminated by the soft glow that came with Daisuke's wings - a light blue glow, emphasized ever so slightly by the moonlight streaming in from the window by the sink. Ken was complimented best by this sort of light, though… His skin seemed to glow as well, looking ethereal in the dim light. Even with the wide eyes and the shocked expression… he was beautiful. Even more so than Daisuke, and he was the immortal.

"You…" Ken took a hesitant step forward, holding out his hand as if to reach up and touch the wings. "You're…"

"Sorry to say this, Ken…" Daisuke couldn't help but grin a little, impishly. "But I know a hell of a lot more about your research subject than you do."

The look in Ken's eyes was that of complete wonder. "Daisuke…" he breathed out, the name falling from his lips almost like a prayer. "I can't believe this… it's… its…"

Daisuke closed the rest of the distance between them, taking advantage of Ken's surprise to kiss him softly. The mortal all but melted against him. "You like them?" he asked when they broke apart, smirking a little. "They come in pretty handy, you know."

"They're…" Ken seemed at a loss for words; he reached out with fingers that trembled just a little to run his hand over the lightly built wings. "Absolutely amazing," he said fervently, turning his gaze down against to stare into Daisuke's eyes.

Oh, this is good… this is really good… Daisuke beamed.

"We're going to head back to the bedroom without eating, aren't we?"

Ken nodded vehemently. "Oh yes… we are."

~~~~~~

It might've been somewhere close to midnight… Koushiro stared at his watch in perplexity as he stumbled along the street. The numbers kept blending together…

I think maybe I had one too many of those… whatever they were…

Koushiro smiled to himself. He felt great… Far better than he had felt in weeks. Jyou had been an absolutely fabulous host - even going so far as to give Koushiro his paycheck early, some time after their fourth or fifth drink. It was wonderful to be able to let go of all the things that had been bothering him for the past little while.

The only problem was, having let go of those things, he now found that he could not quite recall what they had been.

In which case… they couldn't have been terribly important, could they?

It was a wonderful evening… the heat even seemed bearable. Koushiro braced one hand on the wall beside him as he walked, still smiling hugely. He and Jyou had been talking about what they found attractive in men… there seemed to be a remembered conversation about which were more appealing - blonds or brunets. He could not for the life of him recall which side he had been arguing for, but he suspected that the argument had not been resolved. They seemed to have lost the focus of their conversations a great many times - it was really rather amusing…

Brown hair, Koushiro told himself firmly, holding on to that fuzzy memory for a moment. No matter which side he had been arguing… or, wait… if it had been for blonds, then he was dead wrong. There was a very attractive image in his head of a man with brown hair… and tanned skin… One of his problems, maybe?

It was a nice image, wherever it had been conjured up from. Koushiro came to a halt and leaned against the wall, smiling dreamily. He could take a few minutes to think about something like this…

"Koushiro?"

That voice sounded quite familiar… Koushiro blinked, looking around. "Huh?"

The image from his daydream stared back down at him, frowning a little. "Are you okay? I don't usually see you out this late…"

"Hello Taichi." The name came to him with the combination of voice and face - Koushiro was immensely proud of himself for having remembered. He held out his wrist. "Can you do me a favor and tell me what time it is? I can't read the numbers properly, for some reason…"

Taichi took hold of the offered arm. "It's about ten minutes after midnight," he reported, and peered closely at Koushiro. "Are you drunk?" he asked, after a moment.

"Perhaps…" He drew the word out, smiling contentedly. Taichi was so close… he felt warm - a good kind of warm, not like the muggy summer weather - and there was a really nice scent about him, like leaves or flowers. "Can you answer a question for me?"

"That depends. Is it going to be a coherent question?"

Koushiro laughed. "That was really funny," he said, leaning forward a little more against the taller man. "What was I saying? Oh, right…" He tried to straighten up and looked Taichi right in the eye. "Why do I remember you being a problem?"

"A problem?" Taichi raised an eyebrow at him.

"That's right." Koushiro frowned, peering at Taichi's face. It was a very nice face to peer at. "I think it was… you are…" He tried to think of what he was attempting to get across. "You are the extreme of every ideal I've ever admired in another man," he got out finally, waving a finger to emphasize his point. "And I can't sleep with you." For some reason, that struck him as really funny. "That would explain why I consider it a problem," he gasped out, around his laughter.

"Self control…" Vaguely, he could hear Taichi muttering to himself. "He won't be drunk tomorrow…" The man cleared his throat. "Koushiro, maybe I should walk you home," he said out loud, and grinned a little. "I'll even put you to bed - how does that sound?"

Koushiro almost tripped, trying to keep up with the pace Taichi set. His arm was still clutched tightly in the taller man's grip. "You're not planning to put yourself to bed with me, are you?"

Taichi grimaced. "Don’t tempt me."

"I am… pretty drunk." Koushiro smiled some more, as if he'd just given away something that Taichi couldn't have guessed. "If you'd like to go right ahead and ravish me, I would be all for it." He leaned heavily on Taichi as they walked, breathing in that oddly addictive scent again. "Did I mention that I consider you one of the hottest people I've met during the course of my life?"

"No, but I'll keep that in mind." Taichi grinned, then sighed. "Goddamn me and my morals… I'm not going to ravish you, because I want you sober. Understand?"

"Yeah, well…" Koushiro blinked up at him. "I want you naked, but you appear to be fully clothed. We don't always get what we want - this is why improvisation is necessary." He tugged Taichi to a halt before he could start up the stairs to Koushiro's apartment building, leaning toward the tempting set of lips just in front of him. "I might be persuaded to give you what you want if you do the same for me," he offered, and moved forward to press his lips against Taichi's. All this teasing and taunting was becoming annoying - he wanted things to start progressing.

Even the first brush of that contact was electrifying. Koushiro felt himself shiver, eagerly pressing forward for more.

Taichi pulled back before he could deepen the kiss, grabbing Koushiro's other wrist and pushing him back. "Not tonight," he said firmly - and with considerable regret. "You'll thank me when you wake up tomorrow - assuming you remember how you got home."

"I could thank you in person tomorrow," Koushiro replied, terribly disappointed at being denied his kiss. "I'm confident in your ability to give me a night to remember."

Taichi allowed him another brief kiss, again pulling back before things could get out of hand. "No," he repeated, locking gazes with Koushiro. "I could… but not when you're drunk. Ask me again when you're sober." He changed his grip on the hand that still held the check Jyou had given his employee. "Is this important?"

Koushiro sighed, but allowed his attention to be diverted. "Yes. I need it to pay for my rent."

"Good." Taichi pried his fingers from it carefully.

"What are you doing?"

The taller man grinned at him - the charming grin that never failed to weaken Koushiro's knees. "I want to be sure I'll get to enjoy the pleasure of your company tomorrow," he answered, pressing a small folded piece of paper into the fingers that had held the check. "So I'll hang onto it for you until then."

"Oh… all right." More of Taichi's company couldn't be a bad thing… Koushiro allowed himself to be led up the stairs and his apartment. "Don't wake my roommate up," he warned, as the older man helped him unlock the door.

"I'm not coming in," Taichi reminded him. "I'll see you tomorrow."

He started to leave, but didn't get very far before Koushiro grabbed hold of his shirt with both hands and pulled him back down into a hungry kiss. For a moment… Taichi seemed to be responding well. Then he jerked back, staring at Koushiro with a partially dazed and partially stunned sort of look. His breath was coming heavily.

Koushiro smiled. "I have to ensure that you'll want to see me tomorrow, don't I?"

Taichi ran a hand through his hair, letting out a long breath. "No danger that I won't," he muttered, and backed away before he could be grabbed again. "Tomorrow," he repeated, and half-stumbled back down the hallway.

Koushiro stood there staring after him for a moment, then turned into his apartment, made a beeline for his room, and fell half onto the bed - still fully clothed.

Then he passed out.

~~~~~~

"Takeru!"

Daisuke's enthusiastic greeting stopped the blond as he was about to knock on Iori's apartment door. "Just the immortal I was looking for," the shorter boy said brightly.

"Don't say that so loud!" Takeru glanced around, half expecting one of Sora's spies to be lurking around waiting for them to slip up. "What is it? I've got a lunch date in less than five minutes, you know."

"Iori's a patient guy - he'll wait." Daisuke stepped around behind his friend and pushed him in the direction of Ken's apartment. "I need you to show Ken your wings really quick."

"What!?"

"Show Ken your wings," Daisuke repeated, taking a hand from Takeru's shoulders to open the door. "Just for a little while - it'll only take a second, and then you can get back to Iori."

Of all the things Daisuke could've asked of him, he definitely wasn't expecting that. "Have you gone completely insane!? You can't go around showing just anyone!" He lowered his voice as they moved inside, not wanting Ken or his roommate to overhear anything.

"Ken's not 'just anyone'," Daisuke protested. "He's the love of my life, remember? We can trust him, anyway, and I want him to know all my secrets. No more lying."

Takeru turned and gave Daisuke a long look - then shook his head. "You've already showed him yours, haven't you?"

Daisuke didn't even have the grace to look ashamed of himself. "Yeah, but he doesn't believe me about you. That show you're putting on for Iori is too convincing."

"Buttering me up will get you nowhere, you realize."

"Aw, come on, for me?"

Takeru shook his head, enjoying the power his position gave him. "No good. Try again."

Daisuke gave him a pleading look. "Please? I'll really owe you one if you do. And hey, if you ever need help with Iori…"

"I won't be asking for it from you, trust me." Takeru smiled calmly down at the fretfully bouncing figure of his friend. "Oh, all right, but you do owe me one - and don't you forget it."

"I won't!" Daisuke beamed. "Hey, Ken! He's here!"

"So I heard." Ken's voice was slightly muffled - he came out of his room, pulling a shirt over his head. "Be a little more quiet - you'll wake up Koushiro, and then you won't have a chance to prove anything to me."

"He won't be waking up for a while," Daisuke said, with a bit of a smirk. "I glanced in on him - his door was still open, you know - and he's still got all his clothes from yesterday on. I think he's gong to be out of it for a while."

Ken raised both eyebrows at that, but didn't comment. "I'm surprised you got back so soon," he commented. "I thought you might run into Miyako."

Takeru and Daisuke exchanged glances. "Miyako?" Daisuke repeated.

"Yeah." Ken frowned. "You've heard of her? I didn't think her reputation would extend onto another plane of existence…"

"It couldn't be," Takeru said, before Daisuke could answer. The Miyako he knew… "How long has she lived here for?"

Ken shrugged. "Only a couple of months before I met Daisuke… why?"

"No reason," Daisuke assured him. "We know a Miyako too, that's all. It can't be the same one, though - unless she's really breaking the rules."

Breaking Mimi's rules? Miyako? I don't think so…

"I'm a little surprised I haven't had the opportunity to introduce you to her," Ken said thoughtfully. "She's usually pretty easy to find when there are a lot of attractive guys around."

"We'll get around to it." Daisuke waved a hand. "Ready for your proof?" He grinned at his lover, then looked over at Takeru expectantly.

The blond glanced around to be sure Ken's roommate wasn't getting curious about the noise. "Okay," he said after a moment, and let out his wings.

Ken's eyes only widened the slightest bit as he took in the sight - he'd already seen the same wings on Daisuke, after all. "That's… I never would've thought you were one of them," he mused out loud. "Didn't you say only a real loonie would believe in people with wings?"

Takeru shrugged. "So I lied. Iori wouldn't have been very impressed with me if I'd claimed to be one of those people with wings, would he?" He grinned.

"No, that's true," Ken admitted, thoughtfully. "But if you really - "

"Ken, did your boyfriend just abduct mi - ?" Iori's voice trailed off in mid-question.

Oh, crap…

Takeru turned around slowly, almost afraid to see the expression on the smaller boy's face. After all that talk about how Daisuke should be more careful… "Iori," he began, taking a step toward the young man currently standing in Ken's doorway with his mouth hanging open and one hand still on the door handle. "I can explain…"

"You… you…" Iori looked at first shocked - then an odd sort of hurt spread over his face, followed closely by anger. "You've - you're… You're just like those two, aren't you?"

"What?" Takeru did not like that look - at all. "Iori, wait… I…"

"And you've just been mocking me all this time!?" He was definitely angry by then - those green eyes were flashing. "What's this supposed to be - some sort of prank you were planning on me?"

Takeru blinked, confused. "Huh?"

"Forget it!" Iori balled his hands into fists and stalked out of Ken's apartment. "Just forget it! I don’t ever want to see you again - stay the hell out of my life from now on!"

"Iori!" This is definitely not good… Takeru hurried out of the apartment, remembering at the last moment to conceal his wings again before leaving. "Wait! What do you mean you don't want to see me again? What did I do!?"

"Pasting on fake wings!?" Iori spun again, meeting Takeru with a glare so fierce that the blond immortal even backed up a step, feeling a brief, irrational spark of panic. "You lied to me! I thought you said you didn't believe in any of that crap! And here you are plotting with Daisuke and Ken to play some lame joke on me about it!? Don't you even talk to me - I don't want to hear whatever stupid excuse you can come up with!"

"Wait! I didn't - Iori!" Takeru had to lunge forward as the shorter boy retreated into his room and tried to slam the door in the blond's face. He managed to catch the door with his foot, wincing as it was jammed in. "Please, just hear me out! I wasn't mocking you, and we weren't planning any sort of prank! It was just - !"

"Just what!? Playing dress-up!?"

"No, I - "

"And I'll bet the three of you have been having a great laugh over this, haven't you?"

"Iori - "

"Just like everyone else in this god-forsaken nowhere town! I'm sick and tired of all of you, acting like your stupid make-believe theories are so high and wonderful!"

"I don't - "

"Get away from my door, you lying bastard!"

That did it. Takeru abandoned caution, drawing up more strength than his mortal pose normally allowed him and forcing his way through the door. "Goddamn it!" He slammed the door behind him, fixing the startled Iori with a glare. "Would you stop talking and just listen to me!"

That enthralling set of green eyes just blinked at him in response, as their owner's mouth worked silently.

"I am not mocking you, first of all." Takeru backed off a little, his gaze turning more level than angry. Hadn't he seemed sincere enough about his feelings for Iori to trust him - just a little? "In case you hadn't noticed, I happen to be falling in love with you, even after a sorry display like that one - which really should tell you something."

Iori's eyes, just going back to normal size, widened again at that. "You… love…?"

"Secondly… you might have been right about the lying part." Takeru sighed. "But it's not what you think - and I haven't been conspiring with Daisuke and Ken at all. In fact… I'm going to start being totally honest with you - right now."

Iori backed up a step instinctively, his eyes still a bit wide. "What…?"

"Watch."

It didn't take much time. When he was home, Takeru kept his wings out most of the time anyway, so bringing them back out felt far more natural than keeping them concealed. He stretched them out with something like relief, waiting anxiously for his boyfriend's response.

Silence.

"Iori?"

Takeru looked up again - just in time to see the mortal's eyes roll back into his head as he fell backwards onto the floor with a loud 'thud'.

"Uhhhh… Iori…?"

This couldn't be a good sign…

~~~~~~

"Oh god…"

Koushiro pulled his pillow over his head, groaning - then pulled it off again as the heat began to intensify the ache pounding at his temples.

What on earth possessed me to put myself through this?

He was most definitely never putting his hands on any sort of alcoholic beverage again for the rest of his life.

Pushing himself shakily into a sitting position, Koushiro set down the folded paper he had clutched in his right hand and raised both hands to bury his face in them. His skin was too warm, his mouth had a truly foul taste, and his head felt like someone had been using it as a basketball.

And the light shining in through his window indicated early afternoon.

He couldn't even recall where most of the previous night had gone. I don't remember walking home… I suppose it's only by some miracle that I made it here at all…

Something inched its way past the wall of pain surrounding his head… Taichi's face, looking thoroughly regretful as he said…

"You'll thank me tomorrow morning."

Oh god… Koushiro groaned again, flashes of the evening returning to him. I made an attempt to seduce him, didn't I? An extremely pathetic, extremely drunk attempt… but it was an attempt all the same. He could feel the heat on his face increasing. Taichi was going to be impossible to live with - and more than impossible to get rid of.

And a brief memory involving warm lips pressed against his made Koushiro shiver and start wondering if he wanted Taichi gone at all.

No… I suppose I don't really… But if I think it through logically, it really is for the best.

At the moment, Koushiro was not in the mood to think anything through logically - at least not until after he'd had a nice cold shower and taken some aspirin.

Someone steadied him as he tried to stumble out to the bathroom. "Are you feeling better?" Ken's voice asked. "You spent so much time bonding with the toilet when you first got out of bed, I honestly thought you might have puked up your liver."

That would explain the foul taste. "I don't remember doing that," Koushiro admitted, straightening a little more. He felt shaky, but most of his clumsiness was likely caused by the headache. "I seem to have considerable holes in my memory concerning last night…"

"Have you sworn off drinking forever yet?" Ken asked him with a hint of a smile, letting go of his arm when they reached the bathroom.

"I fully intend to keep to that vow, too," Koushiro said, managing a pale imitation of an answering smile as he shut the door behind him.

He felt much better when he was finished - and after he'd downed some medicine that would hopefully dull the pain of that headache. Once he was clean and dressed again, he felt at least marginally prepared for the upcoming confrontation - during which he would inform Taichi that Miyako had taken over his body while they were talking the previous night and he was in no way responsible for his actions.

"Where's Daisuke?" he asked Ken when he came out, looking for a distraction from his thoughts.

Ken looked up from the notes he was furiously scribbling out at the table. The surface of it was littered with paper. "He's helping Takeru revive Iori."

Koushiro blinked. "What's wrong with Iori?"

"He fainted." Ken shrugged, going back to his work. "It must be the heat. Or maybe Takeru said something to shock him - you know how Iori is."

I imagine I'll hear about it later… Koushiro chose not to pry - more because he was starting to feel slightly ill than anything. "I think I'll go lie down some more," he told Ken, who didn't appear to be listening. "I received my paycheck early, so I should be able to pay my half of the rent right away."

"That's good," Ken answered him in a tone of vague disinterest.

Koushiro retreated into his room again. Where is that check, anyway…?

Something tugged at his memory again - Taichi holding his wrist firmly as he pried the envelope free of Koushiro's grip. "I want to be sure I'll get to enjoy the pleasure of your company tomorrow - so I'll hang onto it for you until then."

A terrible sinking feeling was forming in Koushiro's stomach. That doesn't sound good… "Oh no," he muttered under his breath, scanning the room quickly in case that had been just a casual jest on Taichi's part.

No such luck.

His eyes fell on the folded paper that had been clutched in his hand when he woke up that morning. Taichi gave that to me… The memory came a little more clearly then. Koushiro reached for the paper and began unfolding it. He took my paycheck, and gave me this in return…

As he had suspected, the paper held a note scrawled in Taichi's somewhat messy printing. Sighing in irritation, Koushiro finished unfolding it and began to read.

Koushiro,

By this point, you've probably realized that I've managed to take something of yours - something important enough so that I know you'll come looking for it. Sorry about that, but without an incentive, I know you'd never come out to meet me.

There's a clearing just a short ways into the woods that I'd like you to meet me at. If you follow the path that leads out just past the tennis courts, that'll get you there. Tonight, okay? Just come up whenever you're ready; I'll be there.

Love, Taichi

"Damnit…" Koushiro set the note down and buried his face in his hands for the second time that day. "This is not good…"

But he didn't have much choice, if he wanted to pay his rent… Taichi would probably not give up his pilfered goods easily. He could be terribly stubborn when he wanted something.

And obviously, what he wanted was Koushiro.

~~~~~~

It was getting dark out by the time Koushiro felt well enough to follow Taichi's instructions without fear of his headache returning. Daisuke and Ken had only just returned from dinner, and from the way they were acting, he suspected he'd be in more danger of the headache in the apartment than he would be walking out to meet Taichi.

They were also being strangely evasive about the cause of Iori's sudden collapse - but whatever the reason, the younger boy had remained in his apartment for the rest of the day. There had been no sign of Takeru, either - if he wasn't in the apartment with Iori, then he was keeping his distance for some reason.

Daisuke and Ken offered no information whatsoever on the subject.

It was frustrating… He was worried about someone who had become a friend during his stay, and two others he also considered friends refused to even tell him what was wrong.

Koushiro sighed, trudging along the path Taichi had mentioned in his note. He was too tired of this entire situation to even try not to be eager to see his admirer. He wasn't going to get into a relationship with Taichi - that would be foolish - but since he had to spend the evening with him…

Well. He might as well enjoy it.

There was something of an odd feeling to the air around him, intensifying as he moved further on his way to his destination. It was a warmth - like the way the evening had felt: lazy, slow, almost inspiring daydreaming. The change from inside the town to out in the woods was quite subtle - those same feelings just grew a little heavier the more he moved.

By the time he'd made it far enough so that the clearing was likely closer than the town, Koushiro's mind felt as if it were half-dozing. He could hear faint sounds at the outside edge of his range of hearing, but somehow his mind wasn't registering them in the proper way.

Laughter? Or voices…

Taichi. The thought brushed aside his mild speculation about the source of the noises. What would have happened, Koushiro found himself wondering, if the older man hadn't been bothered by the fact that he was drunk the night before? They would have found themselves in a very compromising position… Very nice, though. Even Taichi's kisses felt like sparks of electricity coursing through him.

His lids felt heavy. Koushiro let them droop, watching the path in front of him from under them. Did Taichi's skin feel as good as it looked? Sun-browned… smooth… Sometimes it made his fingers itch just to look.

There was a soft, teasing scent in the air, like leaves or flowers… like Taichi had smelled, when he -

When I hit on him…

Abruptly, he jerked his eyes open, breaking free of that trance. "Ah…" What have I been thinking? What on earth could have brought those sorts of thoughts on? And somewhere along the way, Koushiro noted with no small amount of dismay, he had wandered off the path.

In fact… looking around, he didn't even see the path…

This does not appear to be a good sign.

Koushiro looked around him. He was standing in a small space of grass - a circular shaped space, in fact. One rarely found such symmetry in nature. And around the grass, oddly arranged to line it perfectly, was a cluster of large brown mushrooms.

What the…?

This was starting to make him nervous.

"Don't move!" Taichi's voice called out suddenly, and Koushiro froze even before he could lift his leg to walk out of that odd little clearing. He looked around, attempting to find the source of the voice.

"Taichi?" His own voice came out sounding considerably less certain of itself.

"Don't move, Koushiro," Taichi said, in a less urgent tone. There was more of a coaxing note to it this time. "Just relax. Don't fight it."

"Don't fight…?" Koushiro's words trailed off as he felt his knees wobble. He was feeling strangely unbalanced… almost dizzy… "Taichi… what…?"

"I'll be right here to catch you." The tall figure of Koushiro's admirer materialized from somewhere in the darkness beyond the trees. "Trust me."

And he stepped forward just in time to grab the redhead as every muscle in his body went limp.

"Sorry about this." Taichi's words were fuzzy, almost seeming to come from far away. Koushiro could feel himself being lowered to the ground, still held carefully in the taller man's arms. "But you're in my circle now - and that means you'll have to live out the dream I created for you."

Dream… He fought to keep his mind aware - to focus on what Taichi's words meant.

But in the end, his struggles were useless and he had to succumb to the darkness that was pulling him in.

 

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