Sano shouldn’t have been surprised at Chou’s presence in the bar; he hadn’t had enough to drink yet to overlook the logic that although he didn’t like Chou, Chou did live in Tokyo too and could show up at any bar he wanted to — but for whatever reason, Sano was surprised. Maybe it was because when he’d eyed the broom-head suspiciously, Chou had said in a mocking tone, “Whatcha starin’ at, tori-atama? You lookin’ to get laid?” Or maybe it was because Sano had then examined Chou’s pleasant slenderness and promising hands and replied casually, “Yeah.” Or it could have been because Chou, instead of laughing, had immediately returned Sano’s appraising scrutiny and said, “Me too.”
Now they were grinning at each other, both frankly surprised and amused at how quickly and easily they’d reached that agreement — possibly the first time they’d ever agreed on anything.
“Let’s go back to my place,” Sano started to say, but halfway through it changed into “Oh, shit” as he remembered why he was out drinking (and recklessly embarking upon a one-night stand with a rival) in the first place. “I got evicted.”
Chou echoed the “Shit,” chewing his lip. “An’ we can’t go to my place ’cause I got four roommates in one tiny rat-hole of an apartment, and” — he lowered his voice as if he were telling an incredibly dirty secret — “they’re all so inta women it’s scary.”
Sano grimaced. Then they looked at each other for several moments, baffled.
He wasn’t about to waste the price of a hotel room just to fuck someone he didn’t like, and he didn’t have the money anyway — he’d been planning on sleeping at the dojo himself, Kenshin’s guest notwithstanding, and… “Hey! We could go to the dojo!”
“That’s kinda kinky,” replied Chou, clearly not thinking much of this suggestion. “You plannin’ on an orgy or what?”
“Kenshin’s weird master’s in town,” Sano explained; “I dunno why. They’re taking him to dinner or something tonight, and the guy drinks like a fucking fish… they’ll be out forever, and when they do get back they’ll all be plastered.”
Chou grinned wickedly. “Le’s go, then.”
They didn’t really feel any need to talk on the way to the dojo; not only was the winter air too frigid for much conversation, they weren’t exactly friends and didn’t really care what was going on in each other’s life.
Sano had long since commandeered a key to the dojo’s outer doors, and he let them in without any trouble. He stopped short, however, forcing Chou to run into him, with an, “Oh!” at the sight of Kenshin in the yard. “Oh. Hey, Kenshin.” He knew that being surprised and at a loss for words made him look incredibly guilty, but there it was.
Kenshin raised an eyebrow. “Hello, Sano.” He looked from Sano’s reddening face to Chou and back, and said nothing more.
Sano cleared his throat. “Where’s the big guy? Thought you were all going out for dinner or something.”
Looking hard-pressed to conceal a sudden smile of understanding, Kenshin replied, “He disappeared hours ago and hasn’t come back. I didn’t think he had any friends in Tokyo, but…” He shrugged in an I’ve-never-really-understood-Hiko-despite-having-lived-with-him-for-seven-years gesture.
“Well, I was just… I mean, I ran into houki-atama here, and…” He could sense Chou’s mirth behind him, and that didn’t make it any easier not to blush.
Kenshin was evidently about to fail similarly in his effort not to smile, when suddenly Kaoru’s voice came floating out of the building: “Kenshin, dinner’s almost ready! Is that Sano I hear out there?”
“Shit, we gotta get out of here,” Sano said in a panic. “If she catches us, she’ll make us both eat.”
“Izzat bad?” Chou wondered, even as Kenshin turned away with a wave and a laugh toward the house.
“Like you would not believe,” Sano insisted, seizing the sword-collector’s gloved hand and pulling him out of the grounds and back into the street. Once the doors were safely closed behind him he gave a sigh of relief and leaned against the wall, only to stand straight again as the plaster was freezing cold. “Now where?” he wondered.
“Well…” Chou said slowly, “there’s Saitou’s house…”
“The fuck…?” It was Sano’s turn not to think much of the suggested locale. “Now who’s thinking kinky shit?”
“He’s got a date tonight.” Chou’s emphasis of the word and significant raise of eyebrow showed how very amusing he found that concept.
Sano guffawed his agreement with that sentiment. “You mean there’s someone in the world old cricket-face doesn’t hate?”
Chou grinned. “Anyway, so he shouldn’t be home…”
“I guess…” Sano agreed, still rather reluctant but unable to think of anyplace else.
Chou proceeded to lead the way; their only conversation this time was a brief query-and-explanation on the quality of Kaoru’s cooking.
Sano had never seen Saitou’s house before, but it was about what he would have expected of the man. He watched in mild admiration as Chou deftly picked the lock and let him inside.
But something was not right. “Hey, why’s there light down there?” He pointed to an open room at the end of the hall.
In alarm, Chou turned from closing the door to look where Sano indicated.
“I can’t think you’d be stupid enough to try to rob me,” came Saitou’s voice, sounding none too happy, from the room in question, “so what are you doing here?”
“Shit,” Chou muttered, and headed in that direction. Very hesitantly, Sano followed.
They found Saitou sitting alone in the room at the end looking more sour even than usual. Sano, who had never seen the officer out of uniform except for that long-ago first time they met, stared at the strangely normal-looking clothes the man was wearing. “Well?” Saitou wondered irritably.
“Thought you’d be out with what’s-‘is-name,” Chou mumbled.
“Well, obviously I’m not,” Saitou said acidly, “and that doesn’t explain what you were doing breaking into my house.”
Chou cleared his throat. “Well…”
Saitou looked up, practically for the first time, glancing at Sano; his expression, if possible, became even more annoyed. “If you ever,” he told Chou, “even consider using my house for that kind of thing again, I will cut your balls off.”
Chou blanched. “Well, we just…”
“Hey,” Sano broke in, completely unable to contain his raging curiosity for even half a moment longer, “so who’s your boyfriend, Saitou?”
Saitou stared at him, his expression not so much angry as incredulous. “I’d tell you it’s none of your business, ahou,” he said at last, “if I weren’t so amazed that you don’t know.”
“Like I keep tabs on your love life,” Sano snorted. “C’mon, who is it?”
With a mirthless laugh Saitou shook his head. “Do you mean to say that for all the time you spend at that dojo with Himura, you’re not aware of the reason his master is in town?”
Chou appeared startled; evidently he also had not connected the circumstances, though his realization was probably the converse of Sano’s.
“Wait… no way…” Sano stared at him, wide-eyed and flabbergasted. “You’re… no way… Hiko is your boyfriend?!”
Saitou merely rolled his eyes.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
“Why are you still in my house?”
“So, where is he? Kenshin said he’s been gone for hours… you two were supposed to go out tonight, right?” Though he had to wonder what ‘going out’ meant to a pair like that. “What happened, you get in an argument?”
Saitou looked away, and the very great irritation on his face confirmed this guess.
“All right, well, I just have one question and then we’ll let you mope,” Sano asked, making the same attempt that Kenshin had earlier to keep a straight face. “Do you ever suck him off?”
Chou choked, by all appearances nearly going into shock, and his disbelieving look seemed to inquire, ‘Did you really just ask Saitou if…’ No, even the facial expression could not complete that thought.
Saitou’s look was much the same, except that the unfinished half involved less admiration and a lot more potential drawn-out suffering for Sano.
“I just want to know if you can get drunk off his cum.”
Chou seemed about ready to pass out and possibly die.
“Or at least if it tastes like sake…”
Saitou’s hand moved to his sword.
Chou seized Sano’s arms from behind and dragged him a half-step backward. “We’ll jus’ get outta–” he began, but cut himself off as a noise from the front door seized everyone’s attention.
Sano, who was still facing Saitou, couldn’t help but see on the latter’s face something he never would have thought to find there: a pleased, hopeful look as of sudden happy surprise. It flickered only briefly, however, before being replaced by an even more dreadful scowl than before. He had to admit, in that moment, a little sympathy for Saitou — he couldn’t imagine trying to keep up that kind of relationship with Hiko. Putting the shoe on the other foot, though, he really couldn’t imagine trying to keep up that kind of relationship with Saitou, either.
Chou had put on a devious expression that matched the tone in which he now unexpectedly spoke, much more loudly than before: “Di’n’ want you to be lonely, so we thought we’d come see if you wanted any… you know… company for the night.”
Both Sano and Chou turned to face Hiko, who was traversing the hall swiftly from the front door. And if Sano had thought Saitou was good at looking fucking terrifying… He was glad it was mostly Chou at which the caped man’s glare was directed. Still, impressively, Chou managed a tolerable show of disdain as he said, “Oh, it’s you.”
Saitou had risen, murderous eyes also turned toward Chou. Hiko pushed past the two younger men into the room to face the police officer. “Are you in the habit of sharing ‘company’ like this?”
Chou answered before Saitou could say a word. “‘Scuse me,” he drawled in an offended tone, “I was jus’ offerin’ Saitou here a favor he obviously needed.”
Hiko looked Chou over briefly, though more meticulously than before, and snorted. “I thought you had better taste than this,” he remarked to Saitou.
“Of course I do,” Saitou replied, clearly irritated by Chou’s all-too-convincing playact but also a little uncertain as to where it was going.
“Hey, tori-atama here happens to be the best sex in Tokyo,” Chou protested, clapping Sano on the shoulder.
Hiko’s eyes shifted to Sano (who was again trying not to blush), took in every detail of his form from hair-tips to toes, and narrowed dangerously as they lingered about his lower half. He then put himself two steps closer to Saitou, a movement Sano thought was downright possessive — almost frighteningly so — despite the lack of physical contact between them. “You’re one of baka deshi’s friends, aren’t you?”
Sano nodded, not sure what to say.
“And the best sex in Tokyo?”
Sano knew even less what to say to that, but fortunately Chou jumped in with, “You can’t ask him that; how the fuck should he know? You’ll hafta take my word for it.”
“Well,” Hiko replied, his glare becoming closer and closer to lethal with every passing instant, “as far as I know, Saitou doesn’t settle for anything less than the best sex in the world, so unless you think you can provide that, I suggest you leave.”
“God, aren’t we fuckin’ pleased with ourselves,” Chou muttered as he turned away. “C’mon, tori-atama, le’s get outta here.”
Sano didn’t need any urging.
Chou managed to keep from laughing until they were out of Saitou’s yard. “Best sex in the world!” he kept repeating.
Sano couldn’t help joining him. “And he was serious about it, too!” And they wandered aimlessly up the street, still laughing, breathlessly predicting the outcome of that little exchange.
As they eventually calmed down, Sano remarked, “That was really sneaky, you know that?”
“Those big intense warrior-types!” Chou replied with a grin. “All you gotta do is make ’em a little jealous.”
“It was really nice, too,” Sano pursued.
Chou shrugged. “Happier the boss is, less shitty my job is.” But the self-satisfied expression did not leave his face, and Sano couldn’t help but think the con had been less self-serving than Chou implied.
Sano laughed again and then recalled the reason he was still freezing his ass off out here with Chou in the middle of the night. “Hey!” he said. “We could go to the clinic!”
“Could work,” Chou agreed, “long’s we’re quiet.” And he cast a slow look over at Sano, raking his body leisurely with one suggestive eye and unexpectedly making the former kenkaya’s skin tingle.
Shit, Sano thought in amazement, is it just me or did he just suddenly get hot?! Of course Chou had never been unattractive, but also had never called up that kind of reaction in Sano before. Probably because his annoying personality got in the way of any physical admiration.
They hurried toward Gensai’s.
No discernable lights burned in either clinic or house, though this time the prospective couple peered vigilantly at every window for several moments before hopping the gate and making their way across the yard. Chou once again demonstrated the cleverness of his fingers, and soon they were inside a shadowy room examining an uncomfortable-looking patient bed surrounded by equally unpleasant medical items.
“Well,” Sano said, scratching his head, “it’s not the best place in the world, but…”
Chou shrugged, glancing around. When he turned back to Sano, both his eyes were open and narrowed, and his slow smile drew Sano immediately to him. Their lips met and raged against each other, their tongues engaged in a more intense argument than they had ever conducted verbally; at first it still felt a little odd to be kissing Chou, of all people, but that was only before the grinding started.
After not too long, Sano was on the bed half-reclining, sucking on Chou’s neck with force proportionate to how insistently the back of the broom-head’s hand was running over his crotch. “Shit,” Chou said as he heaved himself up to straddle Sano and resume grinding, even harder this time, “why di’n’ I fuck you back in that jail cell?”
“With Saitou watching?” Sano replied, gasping mostly from sensation rather than shock at the idea.
“It’d be worth it,” Chou replied nearly unintelligibly, just before their mouths converged again.
Sano had never given much thought to the subject of Chou’s ass, but was finding it now not only to have a very pleasant texture through the red cloth but also very useful as a tool to increase pressure between their hardening groins. The blonde’s hands were tugging at the wrappings over Sano’s stomach with the interesting feeling of warmed leather against skin, and suddenly the door opened.
There was an extended moment of relative quiet in which Chou and Sano sluggishly shifted their attention from each other’s appendages and oral fluids to the figure in the entry.
“Oh my god…” Megumi murmured, her emotional state impossible for anyone not privy to her thoughts to define.
The young men freed their tongues and attempted somewhat frantically to disentangle, but only ended up on the floor with their limbs even more muddled.
The door closed.
Chou and Sano stared at each other, wide-eyed.
“This room doesn’t have everything I need,” they heard Megumi saying, and though she was doing her best to sound natural, at least Sano couldn’t help but catch the odd tone to her voice. “That one there.” Other voices sounded, worried and quick, and feet pounded toward another room.
“She jus’ covered for us!” Chou marveled.
Sano buried his face in writhing hands. “Oh, shit, I am never, never, never, never, never going to hear the fucking end of this one…”
“C’mon, le’s get the fuck outta here before she comes back.” Chou climbed to his feet and pulled Sano after him. This brought the rooster-head up against him abruptly, and at the contact of their bodies Chou shuddered briefly and added, “Damn shitty bad timing…”
Sano was still too overcome with horror to say anything.
They vacated the room and the property with all possible haste, setting out once again in no particular direction through the frigid night.
Presently, Chou began to laugh.
“It’s not funny!” Sano groaned.
“I won’t say I ain’t pissed,” Chou replied, “but didja see her face?”
“No,” said Sano, curious in spite of himself.
“She couldn’a been more surprised if it’d been Battousai with a harem of monkeys!”
Sano couldn’t help bursting into laughter of his own at this unexpected image. “She musta looked pretty damn surprised, then!” But the amusement could not long overcome the discomfort. “But, shit, man, I wasn’t telling her I only like guys because I think she likes me and I didn’t want to make her feel bad!”
It was Chou’s turn for a surprised laugh. “It was good timin’, then, after all, so you can stop leadin’ her on!”
“I wasn’t leading her on!” Sano protested. “I never did anything to make her think I liked her!”
“Sure, but long as you let her think y’might start to like her one of these days, that’s what we call leadin’ her on.” Chou smacked the back of Sano’s skull lightly as he said this.
Sano gave Chou’s head a blow in return. “Since when do you know so much about this kind of shit?”
“Hey,” Chou replied, jerking a thumb at his chest, “you’re lookin’ at an expert at leadin’ people on! It’s a great game when you’re bored… ‘cept she’s your friend, right?”
Chou shrugged. “Better not to fuck with’er head, then.”
They walked on — Sano contemplating Megumi as well as the surprising realization that Chou, in his own bizarre way, had a streak of maturity in him — until all of a sudden the broom-head cried, “Hey!” and pointed excitedly ahead of them.
“What?” Sano wondered in confusion, looking at the row of shops and seeing nothing to merit such an exclamation.
Chou quickened his pace. “That restaurant there… the owner was doin’ drug deals and all sortsa shit out his back door, so we arrested him’n’ shut the place down.”
“So… nobody’s gonna be there for days!” Chou threw Sano a leer over his shoulder. “Think a coupla days’ll be long enough for us to get finished?”
Sano mirrored the licentious expression and hurried to catch up.
The lock on this particular door gave Chou a little more trouble than the last two had, and standing still watching was both very cold, motionless in the winter air, and very hot, as Sano pictured being on the receiving end of Chou’s… lock-picking.
Once inside the building, they didn’t waste much time looking around as they had in the clinic, only chose a booth near the far side of the room to crawl into and went at each other’s clothes with determined frenzy.
They hadn’t really established who was going to be on top, but there wasn’t much need to discuss it — Chou’s ungloved, saliva-covered finger in Sano’s ass once the broom-head got the rooster-head’s pants halfway off, coupled with the memory of the lock-picking fantasy of minutes before, were enough to establish the order of things fairly quickly. Sano was moaning into Chou’s neck, trying to figure out the blonde’s somewhat complicated outfit, his hips twitching as Chou ran teasing fingers over his erection. The sword-collector cursed loudly as Sano finally found his way in and skin met skin. He latched onto Sano’s mouth and added a second finger as Sano stroked him hard, and they squirmed in lip-locked ‘silence’ for a few moments.
Suddenly, panting, Sano broke away from the kiss and looked around with a frown. “Is it getting really hot in here?”
“No shit, gorgeous,” Chou murmured before beginning to suck on Sano’s shoulder and giving more concentrated attention to his partner’s lower half.
“Oh, god,” Sano gasped, struggling to hold onto reason and not buck his hips. “Hey,” he whispered, “I think the restaurant’s on fire.”
“I don’t care,” growled the other.
Despite the implied compliment that Chou didn’t mind burning to death as long as Sano’s hand was on his cock, Sano could not be entirely satisfied with this reply. “Chou!” he tried again, giving the shaft in his hand a hard squeeze to get his attention.
“Oh, shit, Sano…” Chou groaned, arching into him.
Sano couldn’t help a heated moment’s reflection that his name, which he didn’t remember ever having heard Chou say before, sounded really nice like that. Still, “You weren’t supposed to enjoy that, asshole,” he hissed, releasing Chou’s member entirely.
No longer being groped, Chou seemed to regain a measure of his senses. “Huh?” Then his eyes widened. “Shit, the fuckin’ room’s on fire!”
“C’mon, let’s go!” Sano urged, not without some irritated disappointment. They scrambled up.
They had no clue whence the fire had come, but it was spreading rapidly; the building was not likely to survive. This fact, the already uncomfortable heat, and the increasingly unbreathable atmosphere induced them not to worry about their disarray of attire until they were safely across the street.
“What the fuck is going on?” Sano complained as he tied his pants. They were still distinctly bulging.
Chou, no less bulging but closer to fully dressed, was looking around with an irate, attentive eye for the answer to that question. “Hey!” he roared suddenly, startling Sano’s attention away from the rising flames, and took off down a nearby side-street. Being about decent by now (at least clothing-wise), Sano followed. It soon became evident what they were doing, but whether Chou thought the three figures they were chasing had something to do with the fire, or whether he was just taking out his frustration on random passersby at being interrupted, was more difficult to determine. Sano had no scruples left, however, once, emerging onto a brighter street, their prey became more visible and the matching kanji on their backs could be read.
“You didn’t say the guy had yakuza enemies,” Sano protested to Chou as they caught up with the strangers.
“Course he had yakuza enemies!” Chou replied as he caught one of the gangsters by the back of his gi and yanked him hard to the ground.
“So you just decided it would be a good idea to go get all off-guard in a place that had yakuza troubles and might get burned down any time??” Sano demanded, seizing the second of the men around the neck and pummeling him in the side.
“You weren’t comin’ up with any place!” Chou retorted as he drew a sword and attacked the third man, who’d stopped to support his comrades.
“It was your turn!” Sano yelled as he kicked the legs out from under his struggling opponent and rapped him unconscious.
“Only ’cause your stupid clinic idea fuckin’ sucked!” Chou growled back as one of his enemies hit the ground in a spray of blood.
Sano noted vaguely that there seemed suddenly to be more people involved in this little fight than the original five, but that hardly mattered. “Like yours was any better!” he bellowed as he drove his elbow into someone’s chest.
“I di’n’ suggest goin’ somewhere where we might get walked in on by someone who’s got a fuckin’ crush on me!” Chou returned as he whirled to slice three surrounding gangsters at once.
“No, only by the scariest man I know!” Sano cried , kicking someone in the face and punching someone else in the ribs.
“Don’ be such a fuckin’ pussy, tori!”
“Thought you didn’t like women, houki — if I’m such a pussy, why’d you want to fuck me?”
“You di’n have to take me seriously!”
“So you just go with anyone who’s willing to have sex with you?”
“Why the fuck not?”
“Always knew you were a fucking slut.”
“Well, then, why’d you want me to fuck you?”
It was at this moment that they realized they were shouting in each other’s faces, quite close together, which seemed to imply that their enemies were either defeated or in retreat. Glancing around, they found this to be true; except for quite a few less-than-sentient figures on the ground, they were alone. There was shouting not far off, apparently in the direction of the burning building; no smoke or flame was visible from here, so perhaps the fire was contained.
They each released the front of the other’s attire and brushed themselves off. Looking back, each gaze falling to immediately to the other’s crotch, they both scowled. The cold and the rush of blood in other directions during the fight had effectively taken care of the bulging. It was far from comfortable.
Chou gave a sigh of defeat. “Le’s go back to the bar,” he said, giving one of the fallen yakuza a frustrated kick.
Sano echoed the sigh, scratching the back of his head, and followed.
“We could jus’ break into random buildings ’til we found someplace empty,” Chou was grumbling as they walked, “but with our luck tonight, I think we might get struck by lightnin’ next. And I gotta be at work in the mornin’ anyway.”
Sano had been just about to suggest that they return to the dojo, wait until everyone there was asleep, and then sneak inside, but Chou’s last complaint shot that idea down and he had no others.
The bar was more crowded than it had been when they’d originally coincided there, and they practically had to fight for space and service. That was fine; they’d been fighting already anyway, and the faint smell of blood that hung about at least Chou warded off most of the smaller ones, letting them drink away what little money they had (and credit they could wrangle) in black, undisturbed silence.
It wasn’t the ending to the night that Sano would have liked, but at first it seemed it might be prove at least to be relatively acceptable. The drinks were good and with that, their moods began slowly to improve.
As if fate really did have something against them, though, there seemed to spread through the room an atmosphere of barely-controlled hormones. When the third couple in a row — male couple — stood to leave together, this one even managing a significant amount of on-their-feet groping before they got out the door, Sano slammed his jug down irritably and rose. “Gonna take a piss,” he grumbled. “Watch my shit.”
Chou acquiesced in a similar tone as Sano headed for the side exit.
Finished with his business and steeling himself for whatever further public displays of affection he would have to witness inside, the rooster-head found his return path unexpectedly blocked by an unfamiliar woman.
“Hey,” she said as she stepped in front of him, “you’re Sagara, right? I’ve been hearing about you ever since I got into town.”
“So?” Sano had very little patience for flirtatious females at this point.
“So, I was just wondering about you and Chou.” She lifted one of the flaps in the doorway and looked briefly inside. “Are you two lovers, or is this just a one-night stand?”
“If you can even call it that,” Sano muttered, though he was a bit curious at this out-of-the-blue question.
“Maybe you don’t need me to warn you after all,” she laughed at his dour expression.
“I’ve known since I met him that he’s a stupid jerk, if that’s what you mean.”
“You probably don’t know the half of it,” she replied with a shake of her head. “My name’s Kamatari; you may have heard of me.”
“Oh!” Sano exclaimed, understanding.
The cross-dresser nodded. “I’ve known Chou for years, and let me tell you, he’s worse than you think. He and I were interested in each other at one point — or so I thought — and when I finally got him over to my place, do you know what he did? He demanded a blow job before anything else! Can you believe it?”
“I can probably manage to,” Sano replied grimly. “What’d he do then?”
“Came and went,” Kamatari sniffed.
“I never even got to take my clothes off.” Judging by his tone, Kamatari was still somewhat bitter about this experience. “I decided to give him another chance, but I found out that the address he’d given me and claimed was his was actually a smelly fish shop down by the docks; it was creepy.”
During this last addition to the story, Sano took a turn peeking past one of the door flaps, and was not surprised to see Chou deep in serious flirtation with some very drunk-looking guy. “Fuck this,” he muttered, letting the flap fall to. “Shoulda known better in the first place.” Turning, he stalked away from the bar.
“Good night!” Kamatari called after him cheerfully.
Waving a hand without looking, Sano called back, “Thanks for the tip!”
He found himself more angry at these circumstances than was really logical. He’d never liked Chou, and shouldn’t be particularly shocked at hearing such a black account of him. Maybe it was just the coldness of the night and the blueness of his balls talking.
The Kamiya dojo was not a comforting prospect, but slamming the outer door on his way in was slightly and briefly mollifying. It proved to be more trouble than it was worth, though, as Kaoru emerged immediately from within one of the buildings with a cry of, “If you slam my doors like that again, I swear I will booby-trap it, Sanosuke, do you hear me?”
Sano, already making his way toward the room he usually slept in when he freeloaded here, was trying to ignore her.
“Sano!” She was following him. “You can’t just come onto someone’s property and just do whatever you want! Are you listening? Sano!!”
While he couldn’t but appreciate the irony of her admonition, given what he’d spent the last while attempting to do, he really wasn’t in the mood for her screeching lectures at the moment. “Look,” he said, stopping and turning around so abruptly that she nearly ran into him, “I’ve had a shitty night, and I’m already pissed as hell, so maybe you shouldn’t make it worse.”
She was obviously about to retort angrily, but looking into his face seemed to realize that what he said was true, and relented slightly “Well, what happened?” she asked, in a tone still less than entirely friendly but that implied she was giving him a chance.
There was no way Sano was going to elaborate on the events of the night, so all he said was, “Just a really stupid string of bad luck.” Though he had to consider, given what Kamatari had said, that perhaps it had actually been good luck that just didn’t seem like it to his frustrated body.
“Ohhh, you were out gambling, weren’t you?” Kaoru said icily. “You think that’s a good excuse for storming in here and just expecting to be allowed to freeload?”
“I wasn’t–” Sano began, but was cut off as their attention was drawn to the outer doors slamming open as violently as Sano had just closed them.
“Hey!” Kaoru protested.
“Sorry,” Chou replied, scratching his head and looking at the doors in surprise. “Di’n realize they weren’t locked…”
“What are you doing here?” Kaoru demanded next.
“Lookin’ for tori-atama,” Chou replied, pointing.
“Thought you had to be at work in four hours,” Sano said coldly, pointedly.
Kaoru was glancing back and forth between them. “Sanosuke, is he what you’re mad about?”
Chou approached from the doorway. “An’ what was with you just leavin’? Bartender took your sake back, even.”
“You two were drinking together?” Kaoru marveled.
“Looked to me like you’d found someone you liked better,” Sano answered. “Someone who maybe had a room you could go to.”
Kaoru’s eyes widened. “Were you guys going to…” She blushed.
“He started it,” Chou protested. “I practically hadda beat his head to get him off!”
“Isn’t that how it’s usually done?” Sano wondered caustically.
“Sano!” Kaoru cried in shock.
“Look, you may’ve decided I’m a slut–” Chou began, annoyed.
“You’re the one who said that leading people on’s a great game,” Sano broke in, angry. “Maybe I just got sick of that.”
“Were you leading Sano on?” Kaoru demanded of Chou.
“No!” Chou protested, by now as angry as Sano. “I wasn’t serious about that, you fuckin’ idiot!”
“That’s not what Kamatari said,” Sano retorted.
“Kamatari? In Tokyo?” Kaoru wondered, surprised.
“Oh, fuckin’ shit,” Chou said in exasperation. “All right, hit me — what’d that stupid bitch have to say about me?”
“Seems like you took that ‘stupid bitch’ for a real fun ride once upon a time,” Sano said. “That what you had planned for me too?”
“You guys were going to…” Kaoru blushed even more.
“Whatever he said’s complete bullshit,” Chou sneered. “He’s a fuckin’ cunt who can’t–”
“Yeah, you’re an expert on cunts,” Sano interrupted.
“Would you quit that?” Chou bellowed. “It’s justa fuckin’ word.”
“I find it offensive,” Kaoru sniffed.
“Would you stay out of this?!” Sano and Chou shouted at once.
Kaoru’s face darkened, and as she drew herself slowly up like a storm-cloud about to burst, the arguing couple took an inadvertent step back. “No, I will not stay out of this!” she roared at them. “You two can’t just burst into my home, probably ruin my front doors, start a yelling match right in front of me about one of my friends’ love lives, and expect me not to get involved! You’ve probably woken up half the neighborhood, and since you’re on my property I’m probably going to get blamed, and somebody’s got to stop your noise! Besides, I don’t even know what’s going on with you two, and still this situation is so obvious it’s hurting my head to listen to your stupid argument! You two must be the biggest morons in Tokyo, I swear! You really think I can keep from commenting on it? Why don’t you stop playing this idiotic he-said-he-said-he-said game and admit you like each other and just go have sex already and leave the rest of us in peace?!”
A very long silence followed this as the high color slowly faded from Kaoru’s face and she caught her breath, and Sano and Chou avoided looking at each other.
Finally the sword-collector cleared his throat. “What exactly did Kamatari claim I did?”
“Said you ran out on him after he blew you,” Sano replied concisely. “You led him on,” he added.
“Oh, my,” Kaoru said, recovered from her outburst but clearly not accustomed to having blow jobs discussed in front of her.
“Yeah, but did’e tell you why he was givin’ me head in the first place?”
“Said you demanded it before anything else.”
“That’s… rude…” Even Kaoru could see that this was a sexual faux pas.
“Fuckin’ liar!” Chou growled. “He offered, an’ you know why he offered? Because he was puttin’ on a fuckin’ show for fuckin’ Shishio who couldn’ get his own crispy dick up without watchin’ someone else get some first.”
“Eew!” Kaoru said.
Sano, who had actually seen Shishio, had to agree with and surpass that sentiment.
“It was the closest thing to sex that connivin’ little whore ever got outta Shishio, but did he bother tellin’ me first that we were doin’ a live shunga for the boss? Hell, no! Soon’s I realized what was goin’ on… um, and got my rocks off… I got the fuck outta there! Like I wanted to show off my shit like that to Shishio…”
Kaoru, wide-eyed, was nodding.
Sano, similarly disturbed and sympathetic, had by now about relented. The fact that Chou had followed him here, Kaoru’s… advice, and this not-unbelievable revision of Kamatari’s story were enough to have sapped his anger entirely. It didn’t mean he actually liked Chou, though — just that if they had managed to have sex, he wouldn’t be regretting it at this point. “Well, all right,” he said, a little stiffly.
“Yeah, so that’s… what really happened,” Chou replied, in much the same tone. “He’s been pissed at me ever since.”
The next silence was marked by Kaoru looking back and forth between them again, her eyebrows lowering.
“Shouldn’t you get home and go to bed?” Sano said quickly as he saw her face darkening once more. “You never know what mood Saitou’s gonna be in in the morning… if they had another fight, he’ll kill you if you’re late.”
“Or cut my balls off,” Chou agreed.
“And I don’t know that Megumi’d be too happy to treat that.”
“And y’know I’m gonna have all sortsa extra work to do tomorrow ’cause of all that yakuza-fire shit.”
They couldn’t help grinning at each other for a few moments.
“All right.” Chou backed away a few slow steps. Then, “G’night,” he said abruptly, and turned.
“Night,” Sano replied.
Kaoru was swelling again, and Sano was debating whether to grab her and see if he couldn’t cover her mouth with his hand when Chou suddenly stopped and turned back. “Hey, if you ever wanna… come over…” He shrugged. “I live in those shitty apartments behind the police station.”
Kaoru held her fire for the moment, looking wary.
“Thought you said your roommates were…” Sano trailed off.
“They are… I mean, just to hang out…”
“Well, if… sure, why not?”
“Great. See y’round.”
And then Chou was really gone.
“Sano!!” Kaoru protested, aghast and angry. “Sano, what is your problem?? I can’t believe you just let him leave like that!”
“Hey, you’re the one who didn’t want him on your property arguing with me,” Sano replied, a little absently. He was smiling. Stretching, he turned and began a languid walk toward the room he’d originally intended to borrow.
“But… you two could have…” She blushed again as she followed him. “I mean, it’s all right if you use one of my rooms every once in a while…”
He grinned over his shoulder at her. “That’s sweet of you, jou-chan, but he and I’ll figure something out; I know where he lives.”
“But, Sano,” she said worriedly, “I don’t think there are apartments behind the police station.”
This had been a momentary concern for Sano as well, given prior intelligence on the subject of Chou’s address. But having walked a mental path in that direction, he found he could actually picture the place; ‘rat-hole’ was too kind a term. “Hey, don’t worry about that,” he told her as he opened the door to where he’d be sleeping tonight — alone — stepped inside, and prepared to close it in her face. “He’s not big — well, yeah, he’s pretty damn big — but he’s not big on leading his friends on.”