Picking up the Pieces

 

Chapter Four

 

“What a surprise to find you here.”

Saruhiko’s wry voice barely registered somewhere outside of the game Yata was playing. He didn’t bother to spare a glance back at the source, though. “Huh? Sorry – welcome back. I’m a little busy, though, Saru, could you just…?” He swore at the screen, trying to maneuver.

“I think I can keep myself occupied, Misaki.” A familiar weight settled next to him on the couch.

He really should start paying attention. Yata was kind of dimly aware of that, even as he continued to play. When Saruhiko said his name like that… well… yeah. But he was almost through this stage, and then he was pretty sure there’d be a boss battle, and he’d been waiting for this one, so whatever.

There was a shift on the couch cushions, and a warm body settled against his side. Hot breath curled tantalizingly against the sensitive skin of his neck, prompting a shudder. Yata frowned, a little puzzled by the sudden close proximity. Saru?”

“You can keep playing,” Saruhiko murmured into his ear. His mouth brushed against the edge just slightly, and Yata had to bite his lip as a little coil of heat spun to life at the pit of his stomach. “I’m just” – one of his hands teased its way under Yata’s shirt, fingers running lightly across his abdomen – “keeping myself occupied.”

Ah, fuck. He could see where this was going now. And, to be honest, he liked the idea. A lot, actually. His cock gave a little twitch of anticipation as one of those slender fingers ran teasingly past the waistband of his shorts. But… he was so close… If he could just get to the boss battle there’d be a save point. And then…

Saruhiko was planting open-mouthed kisses down the line of his neck, and that wet hot suction was just about driving Yata to the point of madness. His teeth dug into his lower lip as he tried to focus his attention on the screen. A little more… just a little…

That deft hand had already made short work of his fly; just as Saruhiko’s lips reached the juncture of neck and shoulder, his fingers were closing firmly around Yata’s half-formed erection through his boxers, pulling a reluctant whine from the back of Yata’s throat as pleasure flooded his system. A few lazy strokes were all it took to bring him to full attention, and his fingers were unsteady on the controller as he desperately tried not to forget what the hell he was doing.

It was… really fucking difficult. Yata panted, feeling his whole body shaking with effort, his control hanging by a thin thread as Saruhiko’s tongue swiped along the line of his collarbone, fingers snaking through the gap in his boxers. His thumb brushed over the head of Yata’s dick, smearing pre-cum around the over-sensitive skin and bringing up another little needy sound that probably would’ve been embarrassing if Yata wasn’t already so turned on.

It feels so good… so good… I want to… to…

His fingers hovered indecisively over the controls, head clouded with arousal, tense and quivering as Saruhiko shifted again, wedging one knee behind him and bringing his body flush against Yata’s. There was an unmistakeable hard bulge that jutted against his hip with the contact; Saruhiko breathed into his ear again, “Misaki,” and tightened his fingers just a bit.

That was it – the breaking point.

Yata let the controller fall, past the point of caring about save points and boss battles and even whether or not the stupid thing broke when it hit the floor, and turned his head to catch those wicked lips with his, grabbing at Saruhiko’s hips aggressively in an instinctive attempt to surge in and push him down. His partner had both a cooler head and better leverage, though, so the frenzied attempt ended with him pressed up against the arm of the couch instead, with one of Saruhiko’s legs wedged in between his.

He really didn’t fucking mind. Honestly, being overpowered like this was kind of hot, not that he’d admit that out loud. And he was too turned on to care about the details. Saruhiko’s hand was cupping his dick almost possessively, thumbing the head as his fingers stroked slowly, teasingly along the length of it.

Saru,” Yata gasped, as their kiss broke; his hands clenched hard against those slim hips. “Stop… stop teasing... Ngh…” He arched up helplessly as the grip around his erection grew firmer, every nerve ending in his body on high alert. Hot waves of sensitive rolled over him.

Misaki,” Saruhiko murmured, into the corner of his jaw, and then –

 

 

Yata opened his eyes, staring blankly up at his bedroom ceiling. For a moment, his dream-fogged brain seemed to shut down, unable to make a connection between the previous certainty that he’d been on the couch while Saruhiko jerked him off and the present reality that he was lying in bed with insistent morning wood and an uncomfortable damp spot on his underwear.

Realization sunk in all at once.

Oh, fuck…

He’d just had a sex dream. A fucking sex dream, for crying out loud – what the hell was he, fourteen? Yata shut his eyes, letting out a frustrated breath.

Oh god, and it was a sex dream about Saruhiko. He cringed, already growing hot with embarrassment – shit, it was on the couch, in the apartment they shared. He had to look at that couch every fucking day; they’d sat next to each other on it not that long ago – what the hell was wrong with his brain? Why was he doing this to himself?

I don’t know, maybe because you fucking want him? That stupid little traitor voice again.

It was hard to deny that when the evidence was still fresh in his mind. A little too fresh, really; Yata could remember the feeling of Saruhiko’s hand closing around him as sharply as if it had really just happened. He shut his eyes and swallowed hard, the corresponding ache between his legs capturing his attention. Those fingers really were as deft as they looked, fuck.

At least, his mind seemed to think they were.

It felt really real, though. Yata self-conscious palmed himself through the thin cloth of his boxers, a little ashamed but too turned on to avoid the urge entirely. Maybe… maybe it was…

No. No way. It couldn’t have been a memory – Saruhiko would have said something. No way.

But… if it was…

That thought – the idea that it had all really happened, and he’d been jerked off by his oldest friend on the couch that he’d been sitting on just the other day without realizing – had him reaching into his boxers without a second for reflection, taking himself fully in hand. Yata breathed out slowly, tensing up against the mattress as rational thought shut down and the drive for completion took over.

He hadn’t seen the end of the dream. Anything could have happened. Saruhiko could have just touched him until he came – or maybe that had been a warm-up. Yata shivered, stroking himself firmly as he remembered the heat and the slickness of Saruhiko’s mouth against his neck.

What would that feel like… down there?

Hah, yes… He could see it in the darkness behind his eyelids: Saruhiko’s head lowering between his legs, those normally cool eyes looking up at him all hot and wicked and promising, his mouth closing over Yata’s erection, tongue sliding out teasingly like he was lapping at something delicious…

Yata groaned through his teeth, quickening his pace. He was already past the point of no return, pushed beyond his limits with the combination of his dream and its imagined conclusion. There was a familiar tension building in his groin, coiling tighter and tighter as he pictured Saruhiko’s lips and tongue on him, drawing out the corresponding pleasant sensations with his hand…

Orgasm hit, hard and fast, momentarily taking the breath out of him as his body stuttered and shook in the throes of release. It felt really good, much better than the times he’d done it before – but then, he couldn’t remember ever being so turned on that he’d felt like he had to touch himself.

Until now.

Fuck. Yata sank back against the pillow again, breathing hard, spots dancing behind his closed eyes as he came down from it. What’s wrong with me? His fingers and lower abdomen were a sticky mess; he drew his hand back with a grimace, pushing aside the covers to avoid spreading it further. I’m never like this – what gives?

He knew the answer, of course. Saruhiko. This crazy stupid thing of his. Dreaming about Saruhiko. Thinking about Saruhiko. Yesterday’s memory had just kind of… let it all out somehow, and now it was out of control.

How the hell am I supposed to talk to him now?

He didn’t have an answer for that. Maybe there wasn’t one. He was just going to have to improvise, apparently.

Ugh, whatever…

Yata turned his head, wincing a little as it threw back a sharp rush of pain in response. The display on the clock beside his bed told him it was just after noon, and he hadn’t bothered to take a painkiller before bed, so yeah, that was overdue.

It’s only been a couple of days, he reminded himself, sitting up carefully. I’ve got enough for a week. And it’s supposed to be two more weeks after that before I go back to work. Well, back to looking for another part-time job, anyway – he doubted wherever he’d been working before had given him three weeks of leave. And hopefully he’d be able to hang out at Homra again before that. It wasn’t so bad being alone in the apartment when he was spending most of the day sleeping, but once he was past that stage, he was sure it would get on his nerves.

He didn’t know exactly when he’d get red aura control back, though. After the first week? After three weeks? Even longer?

That was a really depressing thought.

There was a package of tissue in the drawer beside the bed; Yata cleaned himself up as best he could, trying very hard not to think too much about his recent actions, and then took one of his painkillers and washed it down with the bottle of water he’d brought in the night before. Outside of his room, the apartment was quiet; Saruhiko would have gone to work hours ago.

He didn’t wake me up or anything. It was probably a good thing, considering what kind of dream he’d been having, but he wasn’t sure what had prompted the change. Maybe he figured he’d let me sleep? Who knows.

Or… maybe Yata had been making weird sounds in his sleep and he’d decided against it.

That thought brought heat rushing to his face. No – no way! He didn’t usually talk in his sleep, right? He was a pretty sound sleeper, so it was really unlikely. Besides, Saruhiko was the type who would wake him up anyway, and then make fun of him.

There’s no way that could have happened, damnit!

Yata’s PDA buzzed against his wrist, providing a welcome interruption to his thoughts. When he lifted his hand to check the display, it came up as ‘Homra’.

Kusanagi. Somehow, he couldn’t help but smile. Of course he’d be checked up on – it was as welcoming as it was embarrassing, having people worry about you. And actually, he was kind of surprised he hadn’t gotten a call from them sooner. Yata clicked the button to activate the phone, and answered enthusiastically. “Hey!”

“You’re sounding lively, Yata,” Kusanagi greeted him. “How are things going?”

“I’m doing great – I’ll probably be back sooner than a week.” That was definitely over-confident, but whatever. He usually healed up fast, so maybe it would be true.

“I guess I shouldn’t have worried, then.” There was a sort of tolerant amusement in his tone. “You’re getting along with Fushimi all right?”

Define ‘getting along’. “Uh, yeah… more or less – you know.” Yata scratched at the back of his head, feeling a bit embarrassed about it. “I still don’t remember much, and things are kind of” – he had to think for a moment about the best way to put it – “difficult.”

“Ah. Well, I guess that’s understandable.” Kusanagi was tactful enough to change the subject. “We haven’t been that busy here, so you can relax. Everyone misses you, though.”

From somewhere obviously a ways away from the phone, Yata heard the muffled sound of Eric’s voice saying, “Speak for yourself.” There was some clearly audible laughter in response.

Yata scowled at his PDA. “Can you hit him for me?”

“Just let it go this time.” There was a brief pause; it sounded like someone might be saying something, but it was too quiet for him to hear. “Oh, Anna said to tell you not to worry too much about your memories – they’ll come back soon enough.”

“O-Oh.” He knew that already, of course; the doctor had said so. But hearing it from Anna was somehow more reassuring. When she’d visited him at the hospital, she’d mostly sat beside him in silence while he talked with Kusanagi – but before leaving, she’d patted his hand and smiled at him, and it had left him feeling warm all the way through. “Thank her for me? I… really appreciate it.”

“Of course,” Kusanagi assured him. “And, you know, there’s no need to rush to feel better – you’ll just have another job hunt waiting for you, anyway.”

Yata grinned ruefully to himself. “Yeah, I kinda figured three weeks off was pushing it. I was fired, huh?”

There was another of those telling pauses on the other end. “Fushimi never told you?”

Now what? “As if that fucker ever tells me anything.”

“I guess it never came up.” There he was being all diplomatic again. “Your workplace was the building you were in when the accident happened. It’s gone, Yata.”

A cold shudder went through him at that, completely unprompted. “Huh.” Yata blinked, feeling something tug at his brain a bit. It was sort of an ominous sensation – which, considering the subject, made total sense. “Guess I can’t blame them, then.” His voice came out a bit shaky.

A fucking bus crashing into a building, shit. He hadn’t given it much thought, but hell, he was lucky he’d managed to walk out of that with as little damage as he had.

“I wouldn’t think so, no.” Kusanagi still sounded calm and even, which helped somewhat. “Anyway, you don’t need to worry about it for now – just take your time and make sure you don’t push yourself.”

“Don’t push yourself, Yata – you’re still recovering.”

The concussion… Anna’s warning… running into Saruhiko… then the strains…

The strains… what…?

It was dark, and cold, and his head felt like it was going to split open any second. Yata shifted, struggling against what felt like a heavy blanket of sleep covering his brain and preventing him from being aware of his surroundings. It was like his eyes were weighed down with lead.

What happened?

Focussing on something other than his aching head was a challenge, but he was gradually starting to wake up more, and the reality of his situation was piecing together. He was sitting on a cement floor, wrists and ankles bound tightly with his legs in front of him and his arms behind his back. There was a warm weight behind him, and he’d been tied to that as well, just under his ripcage and around his elbows.

Someone was talking nearby – several someones, actually – but he couldn’t make out more than a few words. ‘PDA’, ‘King’, ‘asshole’… nothing that really told him anything.

Shit… He was starting to remember now – right, he’d been with Saruhiko, and that strain had grabbed him. The urgency of his situation now was sinking in. I can’t use red aura. No one knows I’ve even gone missing. Except for Saruhiko, but that wouldn’t help him, because the last thing he remembered was his former friend going down. They got Saru, too…

That was enough to force him the rest of the way through to wakefulness. Yata opened his eyes, and then jerked his head up, startled and a bit panicked when he realized he was still engulfed in darkness. The motion brought an angry spike of pain from the back of his skull, and he couldn’t bite back a groan.

“Hey, Ubou!” A woman’s voice, sharp enough and close enough to make him wince. “I think the little guy’s awake.”

“Perfect timing.” That was a man’s voice, drawing closer even as he spoke. Yata felt the movement of the air around him as the speaker came over to stand in front of him, although he still couldn’t see.

He could feel the reason for it now, though – there was some kind of cloth wrapped around his head, covering his eyes. They fucking blindfolded me – what the hell?

“Hey, you – Homra.” Something nudged him just above his bindings – probably a boot, from the way it felt. “Where the fuck is your PDA? Don’t try to tell me you don’t have one.”

My PDA? Yata twisted his lips into a scowl, struggling to think. What the hell would they want with that? He had it on him, of course – it was still sitting there, a familiar weight on his wrist. Obviously, these guys weren’t all that tech savvy if they hadn’t recognized it. Whatever, he decided, doesn’t matter. His answer wouldn’t change. He glared into the darkness of the blindfold. “Fuck you! As if I’d tell you scumbags anythi – !”

The resulting kick to the stomach wasn’t totally unanticipated, but it still hurt like a bitch, and combined with the jostle to his already-suffering head, he nearly puked in response. It was a struggle to breathe, and his instinctive attempt to double forward was hampered by his bonds.

Somewhere outside of his own pain, he was aware of the weight behind him shifting around. A soft, familiar-sounding groan met his ears.

Saruhiko!

“I’ll ask again,” the man was saying, voice hard, “where’s your PDA?”

“Go to hell!” Yata managed to gasp out, once he had his breath back. He was starting to feel his confidence return. At least if Saruhiko was there, they could potentially get out of this. Even if he was tied up, he could still call up his aura. And even if he couldn’t, he’d probably be able to think of something. He may have been a traitor, but he was smart, and these guys were clearly idiots. “You’re all fucking dead, you assho – ”

The second kick caught him in the ribs, and the pain was so bad he could feel his eyes water. He caught the scream behind gritted teeth, not wanting to give them the satisfaction.

But it hurt, really badly. Even as he sat there struggling for breath and trying to recover, it didn’t get any better.

“Stubborn little rat, isn’t he?” another man’s voice commented, almost off-hand.

“We don’t have time for this,” the first man snarled out, and Yata felt the motion as he crouched down. His hair was grabbed roughly and his head forced back. “Just answer the fucking question, Homra, because when you get right down to it, we don’t actually need you.”

His heart was pounding so loud in his ears it was deafening; for the first time in years, Yata was starting to feel less than certain that he’d actually live through this. He tried to wipe that thought from his head, managing to grit out, “I forgot it at home.”

“Bullshit!” the man snapped back at him. The grip on his hair tightened painfully.

Yata twisted his lips into what he hoped was a sneer – it was difficult with his head tipped back. “It’s the fucking truth!”

“I searched him, Ubou,” the second man threw in. “Unless he has it up his ass, he probably is telling the truth.”

“Why would Scepter 4 even look this guy up, anyway?” the woman added. “He’s just some random Homra punk; you think they’re going to ID him from a PDA snapshot?”

A faint, hazy-sounding chuckle came from behind him. “Random Homra punk, is it?” Saruhiko’s voice asked, groggy and with a weirdly sing-song tone. “Playing with fire and playing house, that’s what they do over there, all day long.”

He’s awake… Yata felt a little pang of hope. Saruhiko was awake – maybe now they could get out of this.

The second man barked out a laugh. “That Blue sounds high as a kite.”

“He should be,” the woman answered, dryly. “The shot I gave him should have him thinking he’s a pink elephant living in a gingerbread house for the next sixteen hours. He couldn’t put together enough focus to handle that whatever thing they use if his life depended on it.”

Fuck. Yata’s heart sank; he listened to the lazy mix of incoherent mumbles from behind him with something like despair. They fucking drugged him.

“You could see if he’s got his pal’s number in his PDA,” the second man suggested.

A little chill ran down his spin at that; Yata fought to keep his face unconcerned as his hair was released and he slumped forward, clenching his teeth against the dual spikes of pain from his damaged ribs and head. He kind of had some idea of what the PDA thing was about now – Scepter 4 could search their database and come up with a location in seconds. He wasn’t sure how they’d know to look for him, but these guys seemed worried about it, so it was obviously possible.

Anna could look for him too, of course, but that would take longer. And he wasn’t sure if they knew about Anna or not. They were strains, or something, so maybe they had a way to block her. Plus, she wouldn’t even know to look for him – he was supposed to be at home resting.

Saru said he didn’t have my number in his PDA. Ironically, he was now half-hoping that it was true. The thought made him want to both laugh and cry at the same time; it was the first time he’d ever actually hoped that Saruhiko had in some way discarded him.

“I checked already,” the woman answered, oblivious to his inner turmoil. “He’s only got Scepter 4’s directory in there, and some random chick – probably his girlfriend. Something Misaki.”

And there it was.

Yata shut his eyes, thankful for the blindfold that would guard some of his expression. That lying bastard. He wasn’t sure exactly what to make of the emotions swirling about in his head, but the first thought that came to mind was, At least I’m not the only one.

“Fuck.” The first man stalked away from Yata, clearly agitated. “Fine – fine, we’ll go with it. Gatou’s watching them anyway; we’ll know if they start heading this way. Ishinaka, come with me. Terada, stay here and keep an eye on those two.”

“You got it,” the second man responded, and two sets of footsteps echoed off.

Saruhiko’s head suddenly rolled back onto Yata’s shoulder; he started, feeling his skin prickle. “Saru?” he whispered, hoping to avoid alerting their captor.

Misaki,” Saruhiko murmured, and for a second it seemed like he was rational – then he suddenly hummed, light and unconcerned. “You shouldn’t wish for fire, Misaki – you’ll burn up into ashes.”

Yata resisted the urge to scream in frustration. “That doesn’t make any fucking sense, goddamnit,” he muttered, squirming helplessly against his bonds. It felt like his ribs were jabbing into his lungs; it was difficult to breathe.

“Burning, burning, burning,” Saruhiko sing-songed back at him, and then he laughed, high and almost hysterical. “Until you’re not you anymore. Until your world is soot and sand.”

The ache in his head was starting to rival the stabbing pain at his ribcage. Yata gave up trying to appear strong – who the hell cared at this point anyway? – and tilted his head sideways to rest it against Saruhiko’s, breathing slow and steady.

If his eyes were wet, well… no one could see it with the blindfold, anyway.

Yata?”

Kusanagi’s concerned voice was the first thing to register as he came out of the memory. Yata blinked rapidly, his head giving a confused throb as he took in his surroundings. Instinctively, he raised a hand to his ribcage – no pain.

It was just a memory, he reminded himself, still feeling his heart hammer away. It had to have been almost a year ago, so he’d be totally healed up.

Still, though…

Yata shut his eyes, focussing on breathing. That was… He couldn’t think of a word. The feeling of complete helplessness. Despair when it turned out Saruhiko was compromised. The frustration of hearing that familiar, doped-up voice from behind him, spouting nonsensical things. His number being in Saruhiko’s PDA after all.

Even closed, his eyes were stinging. What the hell?

Yata, are you still there?”

It took several tries to find his voice. “Sorry.” Even then, it came out shaky-sounding. “I just had a memory come back, that’s all.”

“Oh.” Kusanagi sounded a little surprised at that. “Something good, at least?”

Not exactly. Yata smiled humorlessly to himself, running a hand through his hair. “More like the opposite.” He didn’t wait for a response, plunging ahead without thinking too hard. “You remember when Saru and I were captured by those strains, right? After I got my concussion?”

There was a brief pause. Then, “I can see what you mean about it being the opposite.”

“Right, so you know what was going on.” That was all he needed – Yata rushed onward, almost desperately. “What the hell happened to us back then?”

Yata…” There was a sigh from the other end of the line. “I can only tell you what happened from my perspective, so I can’t guarantee it’s going to be what you’re looking for.” His voice lowered. “We were contacted by Scepter 4 – off the record, I think. Seri recognized you in a picture sent by the strains – I guess they were demanding the release of one of their comrades. The usual hostage situation.”

“Huh.” It was kind of unnerving, hearing the scenario he’d just been re-living described so casually.

“Anyway, Scepter 4 had already done a location check, but Fushimi’s PDA and yours were turning up on opposite ends of the city. I’m guessing they didn’t recognize your custom unit as a PDA.” Yeah, pretty much. “In any case, Seri wanted Anna to confirm your location. She didn’t exactly say we should raid the place, but with you involved, she had to know it was a foregone conclusion.”

Yata couldn’t help but smirk at that, a little of his spirit invigorated. “Of course!”

“To make a long story short, Anna found you without any trouble, and we pulled the two of you out well before their proposed ‘exchange’.” Kusanagi’s voice turned wry then. “To be honest, the people involved weren’t that bright – mostly, they just got lucky. I think they may have been a bit rougher on you since you accidentally blocked their first attempt on the subway, but if you hadn’t been concussed, it wouldn’t have even gotten that far.”

“It was the same assholes from the subway?” That figured. Yata let out a sharp ‘ch’ from the side of his mouth, disgruntled with himself over the whole business. If he hadn’t insisted on walking home alone… But, whatever. “Did you beat the hell out of them, at least?”

“Scepter 4 ended up handling that.” Kusanagi sounded a bit rueful. “I’m guessing they were especially lucky in that respect. I think just about everyone we took on that little expedition wanted a piece of them by the end.”

“Heh.” It was hard not to feel heartened by that. Yata allowed himself a smile. Homra took it personally when one of their own was roughed up. Even having to be that ‘one’, it still felt good. “Would’ve served them right. Bastards.”

“Well, I can’t say I disagree,” his older friend admitted, “considering how we found you two.”

You two. Right. Yata frowned to himself. Kusanagi was right – the things he’d just talked about weren’t the things that Yata really wanted to know. “They drugged him up. Saruhiko, I mean.”

“Mm.” The confirmation came easily enough. “He wasn’t very coherent when we got to you. From what Seri was telling me afterwards, he spent three days in the infirmary recovering. Pretty nasty drug, whatever they gave him.”

Three days recovering. Yata shut his eyes again, and thought back to the memory of Saruhiko standing outside the Scepter 4 gate, while they debated over their lost friendship. His face had been pale and sick-looking… and then there were the aches and pains on Yata’s own body…

It felt like there were pieces sliding into place in his head – all but the last one. Yata smiled to himself, a bit resigned. I guess I’ll just have to keep waiting for that one. Kusanagi.”

Hm?”

“Thanks.”

There was another short pause on the other end. Then, “Of course. Any time.”

After they hung up, Yata stared at his PDA for a long moment, debating with himself internally, and then gave up and rolled back into bed.

Sleep came almost instantly.

 

 

He didn’t exactly dream – at least, he didn’t remember it if he did – but there were a few vague impressions here and there. Like cool, slender fingers carding through his hair, the snug feeling of arms around him, and the warm sense of another body tucked in between his own arms.

It was nice, really. Yata didn’t think of himself as particularly romantic, but the idea of being loved in that sense was appealing. The little reminders that someone really needed you – that you were so important to them… Yeah, he definitely wanted something like that, one day.

And if it was Saruhiko’s face he pictured, and Saruhiko’s touch he craved… well, that was probably inevitable.

The light was fading when he stirred awake again, and the apartment was still quiet.

Saru isn’t home yet. Not that he’d really expected it – Scepter 4 seemed to require long hours even when there weren’t any emergencies.

It felt like his feelings were more settled now – something about the combination of the memory from before and the impressions from when he was sleeping. I guess maybe I’m a little bit in love with that dumbass. Yata grinned ruefully to himself, climbing out of bed. It wasn’t like he had expectations or anything. This is fine the way it is. It’s not like he’s ever agreed to live with anyone else.

It was a hell of a lot more than he’d thought he would get, anyway.

There were no messages on his PDA, which he took as a good sign. He typed out something quick for his mother anyway, just in case, and then got up and left the room.

The kitchen was his first stop of the day – Yata briefly contemplated reheating some food before having a shower. He stood with the fridge door open, unenthusiastically studying the remains of the takeout from two nights ago, before deciding it could wait. His stomach wasn’t too keen on that, but whatever. The stash of pre-made food was getting low, anyway. I guess I can ask Saru to order some more tonight or something.

The fact that he didn’t have the money to order it himself really rankled. His wallet was depressingly empty, and a quick check on the PDA banking application didn’t give him any better results. As usual: flat fucking broke. The only difference was that he wouldn’t have a paycheck he could count on in the near future.

Well, that and he now had Saruhiko to pay for everything, but that honestly just made things worse. It was humiliating to not be able to pull his own weight. He wanted to do something – anything, really – to make up the debt that was steadily growing between them, but as long as he was still in recovery mode, there was a serious limitation on what that could be.

Hell, he apparently couldn’t even be trusted to do the fucking laundry. That was pretty sad.

At least another week… It was probably better not to think about it.

His head still felt uncomfortably heavy, but he wasn’t groggy – that was probably a positive sign, right? And maybe it was just wishful thinking, but the image frowning speculatively back at him from the bathroom mirror didn’t seem as pale and sickly as before.

Whatever, he’d take it.

When he came out of the bathroom, in fresh boxers and a tank top with his towel slung around his neck, Saruhiko was leaning against the back of the couch. His Scepter 4 jacket hung over one arm and his eyes were on his PDA. He looked up when the door opened, lowering the device. “I hope you left some hot water for me.”

He was ready for this. Seriously. Yata felt a slight prickling on his skin, but that was as far as the awkwardness went. “Yeah, you’re good,” he responded, turning to head back towards his room. “I wasn’t in there that long.”

“Mm, if you say so.” Saruhiko’s eyes were on him; he could feel that gaze on his back, and it was making him nervous. The sooner he got clothes on, the better. “I thought maybe you were jerking off, but I guess I was wrong.”

Yata just about missed the handle for his door; he turned around so fast that his head gave a little throb of pain in protest. Wha Huh? The fuck?” He couldn’t have heard that right. “Say that again?”

Saruhiko ignored him, bringing a hand to his chin in mock thoughtfulness. “Then again, it probably still wouldn’t take that long, would it?”

His face felt like it was on fire. Yata opened his mouth, closed it, and stared at his friend, unsure if he was more horrified, embarrassed, or outraged. Anger won out in the end – his eyebrows came down, and he glared furiously. “What the hell, Saru? You fucking asshole!”

“Okay, so it was a lie. Probably.” Saruhiko smiled placidly at him, holding up both hands in a slightly exaggerated gesture of conciliation. “Quite the reaction you had there, Misaki.”

Yata felt his eyebrow twitch. “What the fuck did you expect, saying something like that?”

“Well, that is the sort of thing I’d expect from a virgin,” Saruhiko admitted, tossing his coat on the couch and moving towards the bathroom door, unhurriedly. “Except you’re not a virgin anymore, so what’s your excuse, Misaki?”

He might as well have dropped a fucking bomb. Yata stared at him, uncomprehending. “… eh?”

Saruhiko paused at the door, raising a mocking eyebrow. “’Eh’? Oh, right.” He made a show of snapping his fingers. “You don’t remember, do you?”

Comprehension was starting to creep in, along with a sense of growing horror. No way… Yata opened his mouth to demand a response, but nothing came out. It felt like something inside of him had died, and was slowly shriveling up, the rest of him following along, into a worthless husk of emptiness.

What. The. Fuck?

“Well, that’s a lie, too.” Saruhiko shrugged easily, offering one final smug little smile, before moving on into the bathroom. “Or not. I’ll let you figure out which.”

The sound of the door closing behind him was like the echo of Yata’s brain snapping in half.

Saru! He instinctively moved to stalk over to the bathroom door, cursing under his breath when his head responded with a warning pulse at the sharp movement. There was murder stewing in his heart as he approached, more carefully this time, not bothering to reign in his temper. “Don’t you fuck with me, you son of a bitch! I’ll fucking kill you, I swear it!”

He~h.” The muffed sound of Saruhiko’s amused drawl came back to him through the door. “You swear it, huh, Misaki?”

If he could’ve triggered red aura in that instant, he probably would’ve. Yata glared at the unoffending block of wood in front of him, wishing he could project his rage directly onto the person beyond it. “I’m not kidding around, Saru – you’d better fucking tell me the truth, right now!”

“Is that the desperate plea of a frustrated virgin I’m hearing?”

“Fuck you! I told you I’m not kidding!”

“I might be, though.” There was a rustle of clothing from inside. “Instead of wasting time here, why don’t you see if you can figure it out for yourself?”

Goddamnit, Saru!” He smashed a fist into the door, aggravated. “I’m gonna beat the hell out of you, just you fucking wait!”

“You can try it anytime you want, Misaki.”

I can’t believe I’m in love with this asshole – what the hell? Yata seethed, glaring murderously at the door. “You lying sack of shit!” he growled, and kicked the frame once for good measure before turning and making the frustratingly slow trip back to his room.

His head was insistently protesting against everything that had just happened, and he pressed the heel of his palm against his forehead, grimacing. Goddamn monkey! Even with the pain, it was still a struggle to control his temper and think rationally about what he’d just been told.

If it was true… It’s not fucking true!

But if it was… It’s not; shut the fuck up!

But… No, goddamnit!

Yata clenched his teeth together, too aggravated to even be flustered. The thought – just the thought – that he’d maybe somehow managed to have sex sometime in the past year and then fucking forgot about it was burning inside him like all the fire from every Homra clansman who had ever existed in history, combined. He felt like punching something. Preferably Saruhiko – and preferably right in the middle of his smug fucking face. How the hell did he get off, spouting off something like that as if it was nothing and then refusing to say whether it was true or not?

It’s gotta be a fucking lie.

That had to be the case. Yata slowed his breathing, struggling to calm himself down. In fact… in fact, it didn’t make sense otherwise, did it? I’m in love with him. I’m fucking in love with Saruhiko, remember? It was easy to forget when he was this pissed off, but still. The relief that came with that thought was almost staggering; Yata slumped, letting out all of his breath in a rush. There – it had to be a lie, because he wasn’t desperate enough to just sleep with whoever, and he’d gone and fallen in love with his best friend like a dumbass, so that settled it.

Unless it was with him, that sneaky little voice chimed in, and Yata’s whole body flushed with heat.

No. No way.

That dream, though…

Totally just wishful thinking. He tried to ignore the little pleasant shiver that came with those thoughts – that he’d maybe slept with Saruhiko; that the attraction might be mutual; that there could be something real between them outside of his confused longing. There was no fucking way. He would know by now, because someone would have said something. Saruhiko would have said something.

Wouldn’t he?

Yata shifted uneasily, rewinding back over some of the conversations they’d had since he’d woken up in the hospital. Aside from that very first moment, when Saruhiko had been clinging to his hand like he was worried someone was going to snatch it away from him, he’d been frustratingly close-mouthed about just about everything. In fact, the small scraps of information he had given out had required Yata to basically pry the words out of his throat.

So… no, he really wouldn’t have said a damn thing, would he? Goddamnit, Saru

Something like a cocktail mix of excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty was brewing up at the pit of Yata’s stomach; he felt like he was going to be sick, and he wasn’t sure if he was upset about it or not. If – if – his hunch was right, and there was something going on between the two of them, that still left a metric fuckton of questions. Did they actually have a thing, or was it a drunken one-night stand or something? And if it was a thing, were they together as in… together together – dating and the whole bit – or were they just fuck-buddies? Had he confessed? Did Saruhiko feel the same way he did? Were they exclusive? Okay, the last one was probably redundant; he somehow didn’t think either of them would share well – I wouldn’t; fuck that – but that wasn’t the point!

And this was all if it was true. Besides a gut feeling and a sex dream that may or may not have been a memory, the whole idea was kind of based on nothing at all. If he said something about it and it turned out he was wrong (which was pretty fucking likely, all things considered), he was probably either going to get laughed at or shunned.

Neither possibility was appealing.

Yata frowned at the carpet, brows furrowed and head pounding as his brain tried to come up with a solution that would let him keep his dignity while still getting a straight answer. The only thing that came to mind was to wait for his memories to come back and see if anything turned up, which was unappealing on a number of levels, the most obvious and frustrating being that it meant fucking waiting.

But if he rejected that, then it left him with either straight-up asking (not fucking happening), or hoping Saruhiko would bring it up on his own (yeah, maybe when hell freezes over he will).

So… wait for memories. As fucking usual.

Yata’s mood was foul when he pulled on his clothes, and it got even fouler when he stepped out of his room and took note of the closed door to the bathroom, the faint rushing sound of the shower audible from just beyond it. He took a few seconds to glare, still hoping beyond hope that it would somehow burn through to the bastard inside, and then turned away with an irritated ‘ch’, set his shoulders, and headed purposefully – rebelliously – for the fridge.

He found most of what he needed inside, and the rest he could do without. Locating his spices and cooking tools wasn’t hard – the kitchen setup wasn’t so different from his old one, and he’d kept everything in more or less the same general place – so within about five or ten minutes, he had food simmering in the wok, spatula in hand and satisfaction in his heart.

It finally, finally felt like he had some goddamn control.

The door to the bathroom opened just as he was adding some of the vegetables – perfect timing – and Yata let the corners of his mouth tip up into a smirk. It was probably kind of a lame revenge, but he felt somehow vindicated as he deftly mixed the greens in with the sizzling meat and seasonings.

I’m throwing out all of the take-out, seriously. This is what you get from now on. Enjoy your goddamn vegetables, you fuckhead.

Unsurprisingly, Saruhiko came directly into the kitchen. “What are you doing?”

It was satisfying to hear the nonplussed tone of voice. Yata didn’t bother to turn around, keeping his attention focussed on what he was doing. “What the hell does it look like?”

“It looks like you’re being an idiot.” There was a slight edge to that voice now, and it didn’t seem deliberate. “I’m not sure why I’m surprised about that. Weren’t you supposed to wait until you’re off the medication before you start cooking again?”

“Before I use the stove again,” Yata corrected him, smugly. “No one said anything against woks.”

There was a soft ‘tsk’ from behind him. “Aren’t you being too literal?”

“Aren’t you being a dick?”

Saruhiko let out what sounded like an aggrieved sigh. “Is this supposed to prove a point or something?”

The condescension in his tone was enough to trip Yata’s half-suppressed irritation. “If the point is that you’re a dick, then yes, I’m proving a goddamn point!” He flipped some of the contents of the wok with his spatula, lowered the temperature a notch, and reached for the bottle of soy sauce. “I don’t need an audience, so sit the fuck down and let me cook, asshole.”

There was a moment of what felt like startled silence behind him. Then Saruhiko made a small, amused noise and said, in a surprisingly unguarded tone, “You always did try to find something to keep busy with when you’re upset.”

That caught him off guard; Yata felt his cheeks flush, and nearly spilled sauce on the counter. He kept his attention fixed stubbornly on the food. “Wha – who says I’m upset?”

“I can tell you are – you’re terrible at hiding it.” The words came with a kind of simple certainty – not mocking or anything, just… sure. “I guess it can’t really be helped, since I brought something like that up.”

Tell me something I don’t already know. Yata swallowed back his instinctive snarky remark, frowning to himself as he tried to catch his bearings again. Saruhiko was being uncharacteristically honest with him; he didn’t want to waste the opportunity just to satisfy his ego. “Why’d you bring it up in the first place?”

“I thought it might trigger something.”

Yata’s fingers froze in the act of turning off the temperature on the wok. He could feel his heartbeat increase in tempo, but managed to keep his voice even somehow when he stated, flatly, “Okay, so… you figured talking about it would help get my memory back.”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue. “Isn’t that what I said?”

He ignored that. “You figured talking about me losing my virginity would help get my memory back.”

“I thought that would get your attention quickly.”

Fuck you so hard. Yata gave his food one more half-hearted flip to hide his exasperation. “So would telling me I won a million dollars! Seriously, what the hell kind of memory were you trying to trigger?”

I lost my virginity to you, didn’t I? His less cynical side had somehow worked up into a frenzy of expectation. That’s the memory you’re trying to trigger. You want me to remember, so we can do it again, right? Admit it. Just admit it, Saruhiko!

“Who knows.” That maddening drawl was back. “I also wanted to see your reaction.”

You are so fucking annoying, oh my god… He unplugged the wok – mainly to keep his hands busy so he didn’t turn around and strangle his roommate. The disappointment that came with that obvious evasion was ridiculous – he shouldn’t have expected anything more in the first place. “So, that’s it, then? No specific memory? And you’re not going to bother telling me if it’s true or not?”

“Don’t you think it makes a better surprise?”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Yata stared down at the result of his sudden burst of effort, torn between frustration and resignation – then sighed, giving up. “Whatever. I made stir fry, so come and get it.” He tossed the spatula into the sink and tugged the apron loose, pulling the neck strap over his head as he turned around. “Just remember you said you’d eat the vegetables if I – ”

The sentence trailed off into some black pit of oblivion inside his head. Saruhiko was standing at the entrance to the kitchen, with a towel slung across his waist and his uniform hanging off one of his arms.

Other than that… yeah, completely fucking buck-ass-naked.

Yata wasn’t sure what exactly to make of the mix of emotions in his head. The distinct scar over Saruhiko’s heart both drew his attention and made his eyes want to shy away; he wasn’t sure if it was his own bad memories or just plain and simple discomfort with how poorly the wound had healed. Either way, he wasn’t eager to dwell on it.

But if he didn’t have that to focus on…

It was hard to say if it was more outrage or hormones that had all the blood rushing to his head with a sudden ferocious speed.  That… that towel was way too short, and the tie didn’t look very secure, and Saruhiko’s skin was really pale and he was so skinny but it didn’t look that bad, actually, and Yata’s fingers were itching, because he kind of wanted to touch… touch…

“If you what?” The voice sounded like it was coming from a different room.

He blinked rapidly, and the fog seemed to clear from his head. The reality of the current situation – his roommate standing there with just a towel on and him ogling away like some kind of drooling idiot – struck all at once, and he could feel his face flare up. “WhWh – Why aren’t you dressed?” he blurted out desperately, more to cover his embarrassment than anything.

Saruhiko raised an eyebrow at him, and Yata became aware all of a sudden that he was not even wearing his glasses. The sight just made him even more flustered; it wasn’t like the glasses made Saruhiko less attractive or anything, but… well… this was a new look, that was all, and he wasn’t used to it. “I just came out of the shower.”

“Yeah, but – ” Yata wasn’t sure where he was going with that; he really shouldn’t have been so surprised and bothered by the display of naked skin in front of him. Actually, his reaction didn’t even really make sense if he didn’t factor in his stupid awkward feelings. They’d seen each other naked more times than he felt like counting in the past.

You weren’t in love with him in the past…

Yata averted his eyes deliberately, scowling at the fridge in an attempt to regain some sense of dignity. He was painfully aware that his cheeks were still flaming and his heart was beating erratically. “Just – just go put pants on or something! You can’t eat dinner in a towel!”

“I know that.” Saruhiko clicked his tongue. “Fine, I’ll go change.”

“R-Right, you do that.” It came out as a sort of nervous mutter, but Yata was too preoccupied to care much. He risked one quick, guilty glance at his friend’s retreating back – yup, okay, the towel was just as unreasonably short on that side too – before wrenching his eyes back to safe territory again. He wasn’t sure if he was feeling more shame or embarrassment, but that mental image wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.

I swear to god, if this ends with another sex dream…

The door to Saruhiko’s room shut behind him, and Yata brought his hands up to his face, digging the heels of his palms into his eyes. His head pounded at him in warning; he felt suddenly exhausted, as if all the frustrated energy he’d been holding onto had drained out of him at once.

Being in love sucked. So far his experience with it had included embarrassment, frustration, extreme awkwardness, and then more embarrassment and frustration over the awkwardness. Nothing that was actually good had come out of it.

The good stuff only happens if the other person loves you back, his brain supplied, unhelpfully. Yata lowered his hands, scowling at the fridge for a moment. Right, yeah, all those cheesy things about love being awesome relied on having mutual feelings and being in stable relationships and all that other shit. The word for what he had was ‘unrequited’, and it wasn’t talked about nicely.

Not like there was anything he could do about it, though.

Yata sucked in a breath and let it out in a rush, too tired to be frustrated. He would just have to manage somehow – that was all there was to it.

With that in mind, he moved towards the cupboard to pull out the plates.

Saruhiko returned as he was laying things out on the table, in comfortable-looking slacks and a plain sweatshirt. His glasses were back, but his hair was un-styled, and Yata was simultaneously reminded of both their time together before things had turned complicated and unpleasant between them and that moment in the hospital when Saruhiko had clung to his hand and stared at him with desperation. The combination did some funny things to his stomach, which he tried to cover up by slumping down into his seat and fixing his attention on his plate.

Seriously, this period of awkwardness would end eventually, right? It was really annoying.

Saruhiko sat down across from him, looked down his plate of mixed meat and vegetables without particular enthusiasm, and clicked his tongue. “Thanks for the food,” he mumbled, somehow managing to put whatever comments he might have made directly into his tone.

Yata fixed him with a flat stare. “You’re welcome,” he answered in the same spirit, keeping his voice low and deliberately even. Go ahead and say it – I dare you.

That was the extent of their dinner conversation for the most part – although the silence wasn’t entirely unpleasant. Yata suspected that the way Saruhiko maneuvered his meat into bundles around some of the greens on his plate before scooping it up with his chopsticks was a peace gesture, so he did his part and kept quiet about it. The meal wasn’t anything spectacular, anyway – it hadn’t been more than a quick, easy way to channel his frustration – but he felt a little better about himself when eating his own cooking.

At the very least, it was worth the persistent, dull pounding against the back of his skull.

When the dishes were cleaned and the remains of Saruhiko’s dinner (all vegetables, go figure) had been added to the container of leftovers stowed in the fridge, it was a bit of a surprise when his roommate actually turned to him and said, “Still wanting to play co-op again?”

Yata took a moment to shove the dream from that morning as far to the back of his mind as he could get it. I am not going to let things get weird, all right? “Yeah,” he agreed, and summoned up a smile despite everything, because there was no way he was letting unrequited feelings get the best of him – he was going to be happy, damnit, and that was all there was to it. “Okay. Let’s do it!”

He still had the better part of a year’s worth of memories to get back, anyway.

 

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