Set in Stone

 

Chapter Five

 

Somehow even without removing the moonstone from his pocket and giving it a go, Yata still felt the thrumming energy of the sun beating against his body as he settled on the rooftop of the building that housed the bar. Moreso than usual.

So this is it, huh? One of those spots Munakata had mentioned. As expected, since Anna had confirmed it, this really did feel different from the usual energy he got from the sun.

Experimentally, he spread out his wings again, feeling the vibrant warmth soaking into his entire body. It was as comforting as it was invigorating – he could feel the tension and stress in his muscles start to dissipate even as his energy level rose. Closing his eyes for a moment, Yata tilted his face up toward the sun and just took it in.

“Based on that reaction, it seems like this is the right place,” Fushimi commented dryly. When Yata turned to look at him, he was settling himself on the ground, cross-legged. “In any case, you’re the one who manages sun charges, so I’ll leave that to you.”

Again with that irritating tone. Yata scowled at him, but reached into his pocket for the moonstone all the same. It felt cool against his palm as he turned it up to absorb the sun’s energy, and he could get a sense of its response: sluggish and reluctant, as expected. Still, at least it was taking something in. “Yeah, and what are you gonna do? Sleep?”

Fushimi turned one of his hands slightly and a thin laptop manifested within the grip of his fingers. “I’ll be doing something I wouldn’t trust you with,” he responded, opening the device and starting it up. “Researching our next move.”

“Like I wanna do that shit anyway!” Feeling disgruntled but still too curious to let it go, Yata flopped down beside Fushimi, pulling his wings back behind him and still holding the stone on the palm of his hand so it was exposed to the sun. “So? How you gonna figure that out?”

As he watched, Fushimi opened a program that displayed what looked like a 3D map, zoomed out to the point where individual buildings weren’t visible. “This is your city,” he explained dispassionately, tilting the model so that the view was completely top-down. “As up-to-date a view of it as we can get, anyway.” He shifted things again, this time turning the axis of the camera so that the city spun on the screen, and moved the mouse to the top of the map. “North is here, for reference.”

“Ah… right.” Yata wasn’t great with abstraction but he could at least read a map. And he’d done enough rituals to kinda get a sense of where this was heading. “You think the charging points are at like the north, south, east, and west? But you’d need a center point for that, right?”

“I guess you’re not quite as dumb as you come across,” Fushimi murmured, and ignored Yata’s scowl, continuing immediately. “There are two centers that I can think of: this bar, which is our starting point” – he slid the mouse pointer to a blinking spot on the screen and clicked, leaving a red dot with solid lines extending out to all four sides – “and the Captain’s office, which will be our finishing point.” The mouse moved across the screen again, settling at a different location and clicking to create another mark.

Yata blinked at him. “Munakata’s place is the finish line?”

“Almost guaranteed.” Fushimi didn’t even look up, this time spinning the mouse around the places where the solid lines hit the outskirts of the city to create rough circles. “It’s the closest point to where I live – my ‘place I belong to’, so to speak. These other points are a rough estimate; we’ll have to go to the areas and look around for the charging spots.”

“Still, this narrows it down a lot!” Once again, Yata was impressed by how quickly Fushimi had worked it out. “That’s awesome! How’d you think of all that stuff just like that, anyway?”

Fushimi looked up and met his gaze, a slight frown on his lips. There was something almost wary in his eyes. “This isn’t anything special – it’s basic logic.”

“Whatever – it’s still pretty cool to watch you just… go at it, y’know?” Yata grinned back, feeling more enthusiastic about the whole thing than he had since they’d started. There was some honesty in that cautious look that made Fushimi seem like less of a cryptic asshole and more of a closed-off grump. Maybe there was a possibility they could get along eventually. If there’d even be time for it. “With you figuring all that stuff out, we’ll probably be done in no time, huh?”

“We still have to search these areas and find the right spots,” Fushimi reminded him, turning back to his screen. “And as for the last two points…” He circled the two places on the map where the lines from Bar Homra and Munakata’s office intersected. “We might almost want to get those out of the way quickly.”

Yata frowned at the map and then at him, confused. “What’s that mean? What’s special about those places?”

“Just a hunch.” Fushimi was frowning at the map as if he were suspicious of it. “They’re not related to the directional poles but to those so-called ‘places we belong to’, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re a little more…” He paused, and then finished his sentence with a certain amount of distaste, “personal.”

“Huh.” Yata squinted at the map. “Not sure I get it, but…” Actually, based on where the line extending up from Homra met the line extending out from Munakata’s place was… “Shit,” he muttered out loud, a tiny shock spiking through him as recognition struck. He knew that neighborhood. “Seriously?”

“It’s true, huh?” Fushimi clicked his tongue, eyes flickering from Yata’s face back to the map again. “I guess the other one probably is around the area where that happened, huh?” he mumbled, as if to himself, tapping a finger with restless energy against the side of the laptop.

Yata didn’t bother to ask for clarification, feeling a small pit of dread forming in his stomach as he thought about it. Going back there again, huh? It sounded both painful and pleasant; he could already feel a taste of the mingled good and bad memories rising even at the idea. The thought of going there now, with this asshole getting a sense of all the emotion it was going to bring back… “Fuck.” He reached up to scratch at the back of his head with agitation. “Forget it. Let’s do those last.”

If he had to do it, at least he’d do it when he was close to getting rid of Fushimi and not have to face him for too long afterwards.

Fushimi took in a breath, clicking his tongue again before letting it out. “Not like I have a choice, having to tag along with you everywhere,” he muttered. “Well, I’m not any more eager to go there than you are.” He glanced down towards Yata’s open palm, where the moonstone still rested. “Are you sure that thing isn’t done yet? Overcharging won’t help us any.”

“Huh? Oh.” Yata shrugged. He could still feel the sluggish sense of energy absorption from the stone in his hand, a sense of warmth drawing into the cool, smooth surface of it. “It’s still going. We gotta wait a while, probably; this guy isn’t really stoked about sunlight.”

“‘This guy’, huh?” Fushimi turned his dubious gaze upward, meeting Yata’s eyes. “It’s a rock, you know.”

Yata frowned back. “Yeah, so? Everything’s connected to life somehow, y’know – even rocks. They got a purpose just like everything else.” He raised an eyebrow. “I woulda thought a demon would be better at hearing ’em than regular people, but whatever.” He let out a soft ‘heh’, letting his mouth turn up into a smirk. “Just take my word for it then.”

Fushimi’s eyes narrowed, a tightening in his experience spelling out obvious irritation. “Not everyone can be as in tune with nature as a changeling,” he muttered back, and clicked his tongue a third time. “Demons specialize in human desires, not the feelings of rocks.”

Human desires. Yata took in a breath, bracing himself against the reminder. It probably didn’t just mean those kinds of desires, but he couldn’t help but be aware of how close they were sitting – and the fact that he hadn’t put his shirt back on, leaving his entire torso as well as his wings exposed. At the back of his mind, there was still a vivid memory of the slender, pale-skinned chest and shoulders that he couldn’t seem to shove down. When they were looking at each other like this, close enough to notice when their gazes started to wander with less than innocent intent, it was hard to ignore the familiar shiver that started in his belly and rose up to the back of his chest.

So fucking annoying…

The fact that Fushimi could probably feel all of that through him had his cheeks growing hot again. Yata turned his gaze to scowl down at his hand instead, focusing on the moonstone to avoid the embarrassing reveal and shifting awkwardly at the sharp awareness of eyes on his body. “Yeah, well, that’s why I’m the one in charge of this part, so just leave it to me.”

“I was already planning to do that anyway.” The words came out in a drawl. When Yata looked up again, it was in time to catch Fushimi’s eyelids lowering lazily over his eyes as he gave him another of those heated looks. “Just make sure you focus properly.”

More taunts. Sort of. Yata shoved back the rush of excitement that gaze generated. It's not worth it. Not fucking worth it. “Yeah, yeah.” His voice came out embarrassingly off; he cleared his throat and tried again. “I got this.”

“If you say so.” The corners of Fushimi's mouth edged up into another of those deadly little smirks.

Not worth it, Yata reminded himself one more time, and made a soft ‘ch’ through his teeth as he deliberately turned his gaze away.

Silence fell between them, thick and uncomfortable. Yata shifted in his seat, closing his eyes and turning his face up towards the sun in an effort to drown out that awkwardly charged mood. The stone in his palm felt strangely heavy for some reason, and he kind of wished he could put it down.

His instincts told him that would be a bad move – and it made sense, he had to grudgingly admit. Despite the fact that he was a being with a natural affinity for moonlight, his personal aspect was the sun, and Munakata was probably right that him carrying this stone around, having contact with it and all, was going to help with this whole charging business. Anything he could do to help it charge – to help it hold a charge – was a tiny step in the direction of breaking this shitty contract and getting the rude asshole it came with out of his life.

The sound of fingers rapidly typing broke him out of his thoughts. Yata glanced beside him, finding Fushimi bent over his laptop. “What’re you doing?”

The typing didn’t even slow. “Working.” Fushimi clicked his tongue. “Or, at least, tying up some loose ends, since I won’t be able to do much while I’m wasting time in this realm.”

Yata blinked at him. “Wait… you actually work? Like, a job?”

At that, Fushimi’s fingers stilled. “What do you imagine we do all the time between contracts?” He turned to meet Yata’s gaze, raising an eyebrow. “Lounge around on a divan being fed grapes by lesser demons? Don’t be stupid.”

“How the fuck would I know? Do I look like an expert on demons?” Yata scowled back at him, a little irritated by the attitude – but still curious enough to go on. “What kinda job is it?”

Fushimi regarded him silently for a brief but telling moment, as if assessing the question. “Our realm reflects this one,” he answered finally, “in more ways than you’d think. We have the same problems with those who don’t play by the rules – lesser or greater in power. The Captain represents order in the fourth sector, but he can’t enforce that by himself. That’s part of what I do.”

“Huh.” It made sense, even if it sounded... surprisingly normal. “So you're like cops or something?”

That earned him a soft, amused huff. “You could say that. We have more freedom than the police here. I'm sure you've noticed this, but the Captain doesn't have any objections to using underhanded methods to get results.”

The reminder had his frown deepening. “Yeah, I figured that out. Sneaky bastard...” Yata let out a sharp huff of breath, releasing his annoyance with the situation. “So you guys are like a special squad or something – that’s sorta cool.” As he turned the idea over in his head, something else occurred to him. “Oh yeah, Mikoto-san said you were high ranking, so does that mean you’ve got some kinda lackeys working under you?”

One corner of Fushimi’s mouth twitched, forming the beginnings of what looked like a reluctant smile. “Something like that.”

The expression had the odd effect of making Yata smile back, feeling a bit less alienated. “You gotta be the worst person to work for, huh? D’you call them idiots all the time, too?”

Fushimi raised another eyebrow. “Only when they act like it.”

“Yeah, right.” Yata huffed out a brief laugh. “Your standard for ‘not an idiot’ is too high; just ’cause someone doesn’t immediately figure shit out like you doesn’t make ’em stupid.” He met that arch look with a gradually widening smirk. “You gotta lighten up more.”

“Coming from the expert, huh?” Fushimi returned his gaze without flinching, the upward tilt of his lips matching the lazy way his eyelids drooped. “You have an ugly temper yourself; there’s a thing called moderation, you know.”

Yata felt his mouth twitch at the corner, but it was easy to fend back the impulse to scowl. Sure, the comment was sorta irritating, but the mood had shifted. It felt less charged somehow, in a way he couldn’t explain. “At least I don’t have a shitty ass attitude about everyone and everything.”

If this lasted, hopefully it meant a temporary truce. They had to get through this somehow, and it was gonna be hell if they kept sniping at each other.

“Some of us are realistic enough to recognize when things aren’t perfect,” Fushimi drawled back.

“Yeah? Well, who needs perfect?” Yata’s answering smile had teeth in it. “Anyway, what the hell does ‘perfect’ even mean?” Unbidden, an image of Munakata’s smugly knowing smile flashed across his mind, and he couldn’t help but let out a soft ‘ch’ in reaction. “Sounds like it’d be pretty annoying.”

Fushimi made another of those amused huffs. “For once, we agree. Not that it’s exactly what I meant.”

Yata snorted at that. “So? Just say what you mean, then. Not that hard.”

“I wonder about that,” Fushimi murmured, almost as if to himself. There was a slightly sardonic edge tipping up the corner of his smile.

“Whatever – suit yourself.” This wasn’t a conversation he felt like having anyway. Fushimi was intriguing – mysterious, kind of cool, more attractive than Yata felt like admitting – but trying to piece together what he meant half the time seemed like a headache and a half. Yata deliberately changed the subject instead of pushing it. “Anyway, what’s your realm even like? D’you live in houses and all? How ’bout shops and fun stuff?”

“Like I said, it’s a reflection of yours,” Fushimi answered him lazily, still meeting Yata’s gaze with lidded eyes. “Most of it’s going to be the same. Just without any kind of food products.” His smirk widened again. “That’s what we take contracts for, after all.”

There it was again – that immediate, uncomfortable sensation of white-hot attraction flaring to life in response to the mix of threat and interest in Fushimi’s gaze. He couldn’t deny that the combination was hitting pretty much all of his points.

Damnit. He really did like the allure of that mystery – that edge of danger, being unable to predict…

It was frustrating just the same – especially since he knew Fushimi could feel his uncontrolled reaction. Yata scowled back, jerking his eyes away from that tempting expression. “Fucking creepy bastard…”

Fushimi’s answering hum was a mix of amused and mocking, but he didn’t respond.

Not like Yata didn’t know exactly what he wasn’t saying. “I can tell that you’re lying, you know.” It didn’t even need to be voiced, and it still pissed him off. He let out his breath in a sharp rush, irritation seeping through in his brain. Fushimi was too damn good at pushing his buttons – in more ways than one.

Why the hell does he have to keep doing that? It’s fucking annoying.

He was still trying to settle that agitation when stone in his hand grew warm, and Yata felt his fingers twitch – a telltale warning. “Hey, so this is gonna be done pretty soon,” he pointed out, relieved to have a reason to steer back into neutral territory again. “For now, anyway – I mean, if we overcharge it, it’ll probably crack.”

“Of course it would.” The tone of that was sardonic. Fushimi waved a hand, the laptop disappearing from in front of him, and rose gracefully. “I’m assuming based on the information we have so far that coming back here and expecting to charge it again won’t work.”

Yata shut his eyes and raised his face to the sun for a moment, catching that strong energy. There was a particular feel to it – something that felt familiar. Something uniquely ‘Homra’, in a way. All the spots are gonna feel different, huh? It sorta made sense; you didn’t just cram a moonstone full of sunlight and hope it worked. There had to be a trick to it. “Yeah, probably.”

Fushimi clicked his tongue. “That would be too good to be true, wouldn’t it?” He spread his wings, as if stretching in preparation for the next stage. “Well, I wouldn’t have wasted my time mapping that strategy out if I really thought it’d be that easy.”

Yeah, he seemed like the kind of guy who’d get pissy about wasted time. Yata pushed himself to his feet, being careful to keep the moonstone in direct sunlight while it finished its charge. “So now what?”

“Find more charging points, obviously.” Fushimi’s voice was low and flat. “We’ll probably have to search the same areas over again depending on whether it’s day or night, because the opposing charge won’t be noticeable.” He narrowed his eyes, frown deepening. “For now, let’s comb through a few to see if we can locate at least one more that’s sunlight – then we can go back there tomorrow or whenever the stone is ready again.”

“Oh.” It seemed simple when he put it like that. Yata scratched his head. “Right, yeah.”

Fushimi clicked his tongue. “Unfortunately, unlike you, I’m not terribly good at ‘feeling’ moonlight.” The frown shifted almost to a scowl. “We’re probably going to have to spend more time at night making sure. What a pain…”

“Nah, it’s cool,” Yata cut in. When Fushimi turned to look at him, he shrugged. “I’m good with moonlight too. I’ll find the spots.”

The thin brows above Fushimi’s eyes furrowed. “How are you – ?” He stopped, eyes flickering briefly to the wings extending from Yata’s back. “Right. Of course you are.”

“Comes in handy sometimes.” Yata shot him a grin in response, feeling a bit smug about it. “Anyway, you got this strategy thing figured out – that’s your bit.” He straightened, making a fist with his free hand and pointing the thumb at his chest. “Leave the finding and the charging to me.”

Fushimi narrowed his eyes further, as if looking for holes in that assertion. “I’ll still have to be the one charging the sunstone,” he pointed out, after a brief pause.

“Yeah, I get it – moon aspect and all, right? Still, though.” Yata shrugged, fully confident. “I can help you out with the timing. That’s what I’m good at.”

There was another of those significant-seeming pauses, during which he could swear he saw wariness in the gaze that held his. Then Fushimi was clicking his tongue again, expression souring. “It’s not like I have a choice,” he muttered. “I don’t have that kind of so-called skill.”

“Heh.” Yata let his grin widen into a smirk. “So what you’re saying is I can do something you can’t, right?”

If anything, Fushimi’s expression grew even sourer at that. “I’m not sure why that makes you so proud of yourself.”

“What? Don’t like admitting you’re not the best at everything?” Yata let his grin show teeth. He was about to push further, but the stone in his hand suddenly grew hot, nearly burning. “Huh, seems like this one is done, anyway.” He closed his fingers around it, feeling the surface start to cool marginally as it pulled back from the breaking point. “That’s it for the first charge, I guess!”

“Only eleven more to go,” Fushimi remarked sardonically, clicking his tongue yet again. “At least it seems like a simple task once we actually find the charging points.” He unfolded his wings. “That spell you cast on us should last at least until dusk, right? Let’s go south first and work our way up and around.”

“Hey, don’t act like you’re in charge here.” Yata shot him a bit of a frown, tucking the moonstone into his pocket again. “At least ask me or something, c’mon!”

“You’re ridiculous.” Fushimi let out an impatient sigh; when he spoke again, his tone was flat. “Fine. What do you think about going south first and working our way up and around?”

Yata squashed the tiny bit of annoyance that came with the tone, repeating a mantra of ‘not worth it’ in his head. “Yeah, yeah.” He spread his own wings. “Fine – let’s go.”

 

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