Burning The Midnight Oil

Chapter 21

Arousing Appetites

~Ichika~

She would have left them alone. She didn't want to be involved in their childish affair. What good was done by turning this into a spectacle? Maybe she wanted to, somewhere deep down. Maybe she wanted to bring their misdeeds into the daylight and crush them with their shame like ants under a magnified sun. But she was better than that. She could let it be.

Or she could have. Except they kept throwing themselves in her face.

Maybe not directly. Nino, and even Futaro seemed to understand the delicate equilibrium that kept their world spinning. They were like a plate spinning on a stick. Two sides, separate and never to see the other, but spinning together nonetheless. How nice it would have been to spin ignorant of the equal world below. But action echoed easily in close halls, and so it did today.

"Oh my god, Nakano, you gotta hear this. I was heading back from the gym, right, but I was late because these girls used up all the hot water and this building is so old it took forever for it to come back, so, anyways, I was running up the stairs and I heard a noise from the top floor, and guess what I saw. Go ahead, guess. No, no, okay I'll just tell you. It was your sister making out with the class rep! Lips smacked together like out of a soap or something!"

And it was too much for her. She wanted to leave it alone, she did. But it just kept coming back. They couldn't even keep from face-fucking each other for a fucking school day! So why shouldn't she let off a little steam, she thought? If they insisted on airing their dirty laundry for the world, surely she was allowed to do the same. It was only fair.

"Oh, that's no surprise. Not with the way she talked about kissing before."

"Ooh, I sense a story in there."

"There might be, oh, it's nothing special. Just a little something that happened over break."

"Come on, Nakano, what happened? I gotta know!"

"Well my sister was already smitten with him, but you see, she was worried that he wouldn't like her if she wasn't a good kisser."

"Please, she was worried a guy like Uesugi wouldn't like her? For anything? Have you seen him?"

"I guess love does funny things to your head. But she had a plan to fix this. She wanted to practice."

"Ugh, seriously? Sounds Skanky. So, like, prpactice by up a guy?"

Ichika smiled, "No, with me."

"WHAT!? She wanted to make out with you!?"

"She said it was okay, since we're quintuplets."

"That is so. Freaking. Weird. So did you-"

"No, no. She tried, god, I was surprised how much she tried, but I got away."

"Freaking lecher! Who even does that!?" She turned, waving down a friend. "Emi! Come here! You gotta hear this!"

~Nino~

"Fuu, tell me a secret."

"No."

"Just tell me!"

"Why are you on about this all of a sudden?"

"What's the problem? Got something to hide?"

"Nothing in particular."

"A boyfriend shouldn't keep secrets from his girlfriend."

"Where's that written?"

"It doesn't need to be. I expect absolute honesty in my relationship."

"So what, you want a list or something?"

"You're making this so complicated! Just tell me a secret, something you never told anyone else."

"Why?"

"Because it's, ugh, it's supposed to be romantic."

"Huh. Okay, you go first."

"What? Why me?"

"You started it. Give me an example."

"No fair! I asked first!"

"Lead by example!"

"It feels weird!"

"That's equality."

"Hmph! Fine. But yours better be good! Let me think..."

"You ever drug anyone else?"

"What!? No!"

"Then why did you have it?"

"It's a sleeping aid dad gave me! I never used it on anyone else before, you were just so stubborn back then!"

"Ah, I see. So why did you need it?"

"I have nightmares. Sometimes. About mom, and stuff. It's hard to get back to sleep."

"I see."

"So go on, your turn."

"Fair's fair. There is something I wanted to tell you."

"Then you should've told me in the first place-"

"You might get mad. Really mad."

"Oh. What did you do?"

"Don't look at me like that, it wasn't me. Remember our trip to the hot springs? Well on the day we left, one of you ran up to me under that bell, tackled me, and kissed me."

"Oh, that's all? That was me."

"I thought so."

"How? You couldn't tell me apart back then."

"Yeah, but you were the only one I knew liked me that way, so I assumed. But then I found out Miku and Ichika liked me too, and I've been wondering about it for the past couple days."

"Well rest assured it was all me!"

"So why'd you do it?"

"Oh, well..."

"Go on. It was my first kiss. First you drug me, then the assault-"

"I didn't mean to! It was an accident!"

"An accident?"

"I just wanted to ring the bell with you, real quickly. They say that any couple who rings the bell will stay together forever. It's so romantic and I just had to do it! But then I tripped when I reached for it and it just kinda...happened. I was so stupid! Like, that was my first kiss, you know that? And it happened because of some dirty tree root sticking out of the ground!"

"Yeah, I'm aware," Futaro sighed and squeezed her hand. "You could've told me."

"I wanted to forget, so that it didn't count. I wanted my first kiss to be romantic."

"Why forget? It happened. Could've been worse," Futaro said.

Nino leaned in closer, grabbing his arm, "Did you hope it was me?"

"I remember thinking it better be, I couldn't handle more than one of you being into me like that."

Nino growled as they rounded the corner, approaching her home. "But you were hoping it was me, somewhere deep down, right?"

"I wasn't interested in anything like that, not then." Futaro paused, thinking back. "But looking back, I'm glad it worked out that way."

She grinned, "Good! Now, let's get inside."

The door opened with its usual groan of protest, like a child complaining of an evening chore. Futaro set the cleaning supplies at the entrance and called, "Yotsuba, we're back. How was the market?"

Nino listened for her cry as she took off her shoes. Nothing came, they were greeted by an empty home. Futaro asked, "She must've been held up."

"Lemme call." Nino checked her phone, finally noticing a string of missed texts. "Looks like she texted me. Lemme see..." She opened the text, the first thing to load was a string of pictures, the first a sign with a number carved in half and far too many exclamation marks. The sign's excitement was eclipsed only by Yotsuba's cheery face as she marked the sign as a prize. Her message read, Half off! Eggs half off! All we can eat, baby! Can I get some? Please plz plz plz plz pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease!?

She texted back, You're still at the shop?

Her reply was instantaneous, Ya! Can I buy some? Please!?

Nino mused what she could do with a few dozen eggs. It'd give her some flexibility with their shrinking food budget. She texted back, Five dozen, and be careful not to drop any!

WHOOOOOOOO!

"She's running late, there's a sale," she told Futaro.

"Oh," he replied lamely, like his brain tripped over a speed bump. He said, "How long did Itsuki say she'd be with Raiha?"

"It's your sister, shouldn't you know?"

"I forgot."

"Geez. She'll be here by dinner, after dropping Raiha off. Wonderful brothering, there."

"So it's just the two of us for now?"

"Looks like it."

In a flash the air was sucked out of the room and replaced with something, a gas, as charged as a rail gun ready to rock the world of warfare. She knew it. She knew he knew it. She could see it in the way he held himself, a little straighter, like a lion gazing across the savanna. She kept that reaction inside, giving no hint that she'd noticed.

After all, certain thoughts were inevitable when a boy and a girl were home alone.

It was a gift horse, the product of chance not likely repeated anytime soon. She saw this realization on Futaro's face. They'd taken what chances they could, they'd stolen into a corner between every few periods for a moment of bliss. Just hugging, some kissing, maybe venturing away from the lips once or twice, and it was glorious. It made her understand why all was fair in love and war, anything was worth those elated heights. And she saw it inside him, he knew it too. Ever since that night, something was coming alive inside him. And it was hungry, and each small feeding only made it realize how bottomless that hunger could be.

She caught Futaro looking at her as he stored the cleaning supplies under the sink. He watched her for a sign, a hint at reception that would be his excuse. He was used to it from her. She diligently ignored it and prepped ingredients for dinner. She knew what was coming. But she didn't want to be the one chasing it. How long had she been the trigger in their relationship? She was the pursuer, he the pursued. It happened ever since that night in the bakery, to the hot springs to the bell to beyond. Now it was his turn. She wanted him to chase her, then to dance away with a wink, only to be caught a moment later like a, well, like a princess in a castle, or a gazette taken down on the plains. If Futaro could get off his ass and make a move.

All but a week ago, she'd have been left disappointed. He'd had the romantic interest of a puddle of wet cement. But now he was a broken dam, a river reclaiming its natural shape. He closed the cabinet and leaned into her, "Nino, can you stop?"

"Hang on, I'm busy," she brushed him off as she chopped zucchini.

Futaro persisted, and she felt like a fisherwoman reeling in her catch. He said, "How long until you think Yotsuba gets back?"

"Hmm, twenty minutes?"

"So we have time."

"For what?"

Futaro sneered, "Don't play dumb."

Oh, but how she loved to play. Didn't Futaro learn anything about her? Nino looked at him and batted her eyes like an innocent sprite in a spring, "Whatever are you referring to?"

Futaro darkened, "Do I need to remind you?"

Nino put down her knife and turned, "Mayb-mmmph!"

He kissed her. He kissed her with a force of a wind lashing a mountain, like a fish struggling in her net and she wanted to cheer, yes! She caught him! She could make him move on her, she could make him want to kiss her like a cat chasing a shiny red dot.

They started heavy, at least heavy as they knew it. Lips pressed tight enough to survive in a vacuum, eagerly shifting against each other like waves lashing in a storm, tongues tentatively poking out like groundhogs fearful of shadows. But they were still amateurs, kissing was an art developed over time, and practice, from one person to the next. Each kiss was a unique piece, and like two artists collaborating, one piece was never the same as before. What moments they could steal before had been brief, and wrought with the fear of prying eyes. Now they had a space all to themselves, and they used it.

Nino fell into his lips, he fell into hers, and they memorized the feel of those soft, plump lines. She found he had a pattern, opening his mouth almost in a circle right before bringing out his tongue. She learned to read his movements and ride them like a ship on the wave, working together to bring about a marvelous voyage. And suddenly they were no longer kissing. These were not stolen pecks in the shadows, this was the spectacle made famous by the French. This was kissing evolved. This was making out. Time was lost in each others' lips. This was theWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH THAT'S A DICK! DEFINITELY A DICK! SWEET MOTHER OF MARY THERE WAS A DICK AGAINST HER BELLY!

Evolution was to thank for this wonderful phenomena. Not the dick of course, it was the female response. There was a sliver of brainpower dedicated to eternal vigilance, an alarm evolved for a single purpose. It possessed a total awareness of the body, and specifically, the presence of the male dick. Every female subject of the animal kingdom bound by this chromosomal divide possesses the ability to sense when a certain pressure, a specific poking, is in fact a male organ, as opposed to any other matter in the known universe, invading her personal space. This primal part of Nino's brain recognized this invasion, the first full on emergency of its kind in her living memory, and reacted accordingly: escape.

Nino intuitively thrust her hips back the instant she felt something poke her belly. Futaro shocked her and did the same, moving his hips away and never breaking lip lock. He continued pressing his lips against hers as if nothing had happened. Did he think she hadn't noticed? Who couldn't!? It was sticking out like a life buoy drawing all attention to itself on a dark and stormy night, screaming that without her attention, lives would be lost!

She couldn't blame Futaro, thought. Didn't those things have a mind of their own? She'd seen the occasional male victim present in front of class and pray their primal response went unnoticed, which of course it didn't. She thought it was funny. Why would evolution screw over half its population like this? Probably for the same reason it screwed over its other half with regular debilitating cramp attacks and a monthly river of blood. So this was a natural response. She wouldn't let it ruin their night.

But it was. They shifted to the living room, lips still sealed together like they were bound with superglue. But that thing in his pants was ever present, radiating like a mushroom cloud between them. And it wouldn't go away. Half her mind was focused away from the sensations of him and committed to avoiding him, and apparently he was doing the same, like he was afraid he'd scare her off if this thing got too close. Any pleasure of his lips and affection was marred by her desire keep away from that thing.

And she hated it. She hated that this thing had so much power to divide them. She wanted to kiss him without worrying about some stupid meat stick that refused to get out of the way. And unlike before, this was clearly a gap Futaro wasn't going to close himself, for fear of pushing her out of his reach. She had to make up her mind, she wanted him closer more than she wanted that thing of his to stay away. Because it was part of him, wasnt' it? Not even a part he could fully control. This was up to her to show him it was okay, even if she herself wasn't entirely sure. She knew there was only one way to settle this and to reclaim their night together.

She pulled away and breathed, "Lay down."

He took a breath himself and said, "Huh? Nino?"

"Just do it."

He got on the floor, his eyes never leaving hers, and those blue watery orbs set her on fire. No sooner had his bottom hit the floor that she climbed on top of him, settling into his lap. Futaro's eyes went wide as he realized what she was doing, too late to stop her. She pushed him down and leaned over his body, her legs straddling him like a horse on either side. Then she took a deep breath and kissed him, and then came the plunge. She lowered her hips down his body, gliding over his chest, his pelvis, and against the pressure rising from his trousers. She felt it pushing against the back of her pants, like a glacier blocking her mighty titanic. But tonight it would be the vessel to triumph over nature. She pushed it back, laying herself flat on his body, and kissed him without another care in the world. Fuck that dick for getting in her way, nothing was going to stop her from enjoying him like this.

Futaro moaned into her lips as she glided down his body, and she froze, wondering if that touch had sparked something inside him like dynamite shattering a cave. She counted the layers separating her from his…thing. Two pairs of pants, two pair of underwear and a single pad. Five layers. It felt like such a small number. What was he thinking from this contact? Did he want more? Was he going to press for more? She almost clamped up, she wasn't ready for him to push. She wasn't ready for what that would mean. It terrified her, even if she wasn't sure why. It was just a barrier too far, one she wasn't ready to cross. It would be like leaping into a freezing lake without knowing how to swim.

Her worries calmed like a magnesium flare settling into a warm flame. Futaro kissed her without restraint, his full force on her once again, and she rose to match his passion with her own. He didn't push for more, he pushed for what they had, he pushed for her lips and her touch and she readily fell into him. She wanted his lips. She wanted to feel them and to taste them and his tongue and oh, it was all so good. She watched her hair falling in a veil around their faces, trapping them in a little world she made. She probed deeper, pushing her tongue into his mouth to circle his, and her hips fell lower to press her body closer into his. That thing moved against her under mounting pressure, a pressure noticed through five layers.

And suddenly she realized where that pressure was from: he wanted her, as all men want women. But this was the first time she'd ever noticed him wanting any girl, in that way. She could make that part of him, long frozen and dormant, awake and alive. That primal part that he'd held down for so long, it wanted her. He wanted her. He saw her as a woman worth wanting and having. She could feel him, a heat pressing against the space between her legs like a hot pack penetrating the layers. And she, well, she could handle that pressure, couldn't she? It was part of him. And she loved all of him. She'd take this part of him with the rest. And while she was nowhere near ready for what it meant, or what might follow, she could handle this, and maybe, she could enjoy it herself. Just a little. Just to herself.

"Oh my god!"

Itsuki's voice was a fog horn blowing away their wonderful mood, and bringing them into a world of danger. Nino and Futaro broke apart with a small, audible pop, and looked behind them, for their lower halves were facing the door, because luck was never on their side. If it were just Itsuki, she could have survived with her dignity intact. Same if it were Yotsuba, who was also there. But there was no coming back when she saw Futaro's father and sister in tow. Her sisters looked positively abashed. His father was shaking his head in amusement, as if chastizing himself for not seeing this coming. And her sister had her phone out, wearing a smile like a kitten with a well-rubbed head as her phone made a sharp click.

Raiha said, "Wow, bro. You move fast, do you?"

Nino made a sound she'd never made in her life, a high-pitched squeak that sounded like a dying rat. She was off Futaro and on her feet so quickly that if you blinked, you'd wonder if there were missing frames. She clasped her hands in front of her and bowed, "Mister Uesugi! I, ah, this isn't what it, I mean, we didn't do anything improper!"

Mister Uesugi rubbed his chin, saying, "I'm curious what you consider improper." Nino flushed and her dignity burned away.

Raiha beamed, "Oh, this is totally going on instagram. Itsuki, what's your wifi password?"

Futaro glared death, "Raiha, you'll do no such thing."

She rolled her eyes, "Please, you don't even know what instagram is." Oh, but he did. Nino had shown him. Her profile had recently exploded with pictures of the two of them, and she'd made sure he knew. But this was one she definitely wanted to exclude. And she wondered, given the angle, would she see a bulge riding against her rear?

Yotsuba lamely held up a bag, "I brought the eggs."

Futaro asked, "And who brought them?"

Itsuki sighed, "That'd be me, not that I meant to...interrupt."

"Uh-huh. And why?"

His father raised a toolbox in response, grinning, "House call!"

~Futaro~

Itsuki, your intentions were so good. After a wonderful play date with Raiha, and yes, she called it that, she fully intended to drop Raiha off and come straight home to study. Her heart couldn't have been more pure. But Mister Uesugi was a gregarious man and invited her inside, where he told her all about what a wonderful time he'd had meeting her sister and welcoming her into their little fold. He started asking how things were at home, and Itsuki said things were being handled as well as they could be, considering the ongoing family feud. She mentioned how she'd been excited to move back into a home with working appliances. And then Mister Uesugi had grinned, for there was a problem he was certain he could solve. In that way, he wasn't so different from his son.

"Pass me the phillips, will ya son?"

"What's a phillips?

"Cross-head screwdriver."

"Uh, hold on..." Futaro rummaged through the bag, searching in vain for the screwdriver the task required.

His father flexed his hand with his head behind the washing machine, "Anytime, buddy."

"I'm looking."

Yotsuba peered inside, "Hey, everything alright?"

Futaro said, "Yeah, yeah, looking for the phillips."

"It's right here," Yotsuba said as she picked a screwdriver up off the floor, "Here you go, Mister Uesugi."

He gripped it and cheered, "Good work Yotsuba, you're a natural!"

"Thanks!" she beamed, then asked, "Do you do this a lot?"

"I learned how to make old gear keep ticking long after most people would give up. Waste of good appliances and money, I say. All it takes is a little elbow grease. You see a long flathead out there?"

Futaro muttered flathead to himself like a mantra as he scanned for it. Yotsuba picked it up from under his nose. "Here you go!"

His dad took it and said, "Futaro, you should consider having her tutor you. She's got a knack for this."

"I prefer book learning," Futaro grumbled.

Yotsuba asked, "How's it looking, Mister Uesugi? Can you fix it?"

"Already fixed the dryer, just needed to clear out the lint in the air ducts. And the washing machine has a loose panel, that's why it's been rattling every time it starts up. Should be good in a few more turns...there! Should be quiet as a, well, as a washing machine now."

"Wow, that's amazing! Hey Nino, did you hear that?" There was no response, just the sound of a busy kitchen echoing through the door.

His father emerged from behind the machine and rubbed his head, "She doesn't need to do all this cooking on our account."

Yotsuba said, "That won't stop her, she'd feel bad if she didn't do something to thank you."

"Heh, that's part'a why I like her," his father looked at him and winked, and Futaro cringed. He said, "Come on, let's see how your lady friend is doing. Yotsuba, you're coming too. I'm promoting you to first assistant!"

"Wow, first assistant! Thank you! I'll do my best!"

"It's not that great," Futaro huffed. He hefted his father's toolbox and followed the cheery pair into the kitchen, where Nino was hard at work preparing a much expanded dinner. Was it really that much harder cooking for six over four? Nino hadn't complained, in fact she'd insisted that she offer some sort of thanks for their work. But he'd seen her looking into her fridge and pondering, how could she use the ingredients she had so that everyone would be full and they'd have enough to make it to payday?

But picking a recipe was nothing compared to working with an assistant. A very unwilling assistant who wouldn't go away no matter how much she asked. And one who was less interested in cooking than in a scathing criticism.

"You should add more pepper," Raiha said.

Nino hid her sneer for the hundredth time in a vain attempt to win Raiha over, "It's chicken and eggs, it doesn't need pepper."

"Needs more pepper," Raiha insisted.

"How about you give me a minute and I'll let you taste test it? Then you'll see-"

"Big bro loves peppers," Raiha lamented and glanced away in boredom, eyeing Itsuki who was busy with self-study. He wish he could do the same.

He had to pity his girlfriend. Raiha was stubbornly hard to win over once she'd made up her mind, and all she looked for were flaws she could expose like tossing dirty laundry onto the streets. She could see Nino's patience wearing thin like a rubber band stretched to tearing. He hoped they settled down before someone snapped.

His father settled in next to the dishwasher and said, "Alright Nino, stay clear of my territory and I'll return the favor. I'll have this thing up and running in a jiffy, count on it."

Nino brightened, "Oh! Thank you, mister Uesugi!"

He chucked, "It's no problem," he said as he opened the washer door.

Raiha scoffed and said, just low enough for her father to miss, "Kiss-ass." Nino flinched, and renewed her efforts on her cooking.

"Futaro, help me out here," his father said. He had one hand on the inside of the washer and motioned to the other. Futaro got up and stood opposite, pulling on his command. But all Yotsuba's cheers, and there were many, couldn't make his muscles move this monstrous chunk of metal and mass.

"First assistant, take over!" His father called. Yotsuba tagged Futaro out and together she pulled the machine with his father. It creaked on the floor and crept out of its cave like a bear after a long hibernation. Yotsuba dusted her hands off and said, "That wasn't so bad."

Futaro wondered how many more push-ups, how many miles and gallons of sweat were required to make it look so easy.

His father knelt inside the opening and muttered, "Okay, let's see here-oh."

Futaro asked, "Dad?"

His father picked up the power cord and plugged it into the socket. The washing machine chirped and its buttons lit up with life. "Done, I think," he finished lamely.

Futaro wondered how much it would cost to hire someone to figure that out.

Yotsuba asked, "Mister Uesugi, would it've cost a lot if we hired someone to fix it, and that's all it took?"

Huh. Great minds think alike?

His father told them to pack up the tools and scrub the floor, the dishwasher left marks after they'd pushed it back inside. Futaro collected a few scattered wrenches they'd never used. By chance, something caught his eye and he looked up, noticing Nino cracking eggs to pan-fry for their meal. Of all the sides his girlfriend showcased, this was one of his favorites. Not cooking, it wasn't something so basic as that, but the act of so completely caring for those she loved.

And then there was another side, one he never paid attention to before, but suddenly drew him in like too much shampoo circling the drain. His eyes fell like a boulder from a cliff down her body. Her waist was a valley he tumbled into and beyond, climbing her hips like a slingshot, and then he lingered, the space between like a lantern drawing his eyes in the night. Nino reached for the skillet sauteing the chicken and shook it, and Futaro was...delighted? Delighted, at the subtle trembling in her form through pristine white skinny jeans. He realized how tightly they hugged her hips and her thighs and how tightly the pockets would cling to his hands if he squeezed one inside.

He suddenly realized what he was doing, he was leering at his girlfriend like a mutt to a meaty t-bone steak. What the hell was wrong with him? Had he lost so much control that a body part was distracting him? Where was the result of all that hard-won focus? He admitted he was open to change, to people and to relationships, and even to admitting he might have been a bit off the mark on the topic of love, but he wasn't ready to abandon those ideas wholesale.

So why was he still staring?

It was just a butt. A collection of fat and muscles guided by strips of DNA into a round, aesthetically pleasing shape. Nothing more. Everyone had one, only subject to minor variations in contouring and composition. Its purpose was cushioning, posture and motion, waste expulsion and a sign of fertility, the latter two being and odd combination, he mused. This one was only interesting because it belonged to the woman he loved. But it was only a butt. Now that he was conscious of it, he could push it aside and regain his control. He'd been momentarily distracted by that primal recognition, he would end it-

Nino shifted her weight from one leg to the other, her hips as rounded hills rolling like pistons expanding, compressing, as she returned to the eggs.

Futaro's higher brain went on a short, sweet vacation. An older, more primitive part of him, the man inside, was in a trance at those lovely, feminine hips, and everything they subtly promised with their curvy delights. And his body remembered the feeling of those curves grinding on him, teasing his senses. And that tiny space between her legs, the end goal of man, pressing so promisingly against his erection like a hard, heavy kiss.

Someone snickered, Futaro blinked and turned, seeing Yotsuba as a dam straining to contain a man-made lake of laughter. His father sighed, shaking his head, and put away the last of his tools. Futaro sneered and looked away. He chastised himself for being so blatant. Ten seconds and that thing was all it took to undo years of effort!

Itsuki, standing in the hall, coughed and said, "You, uh, might wanna wash up. Dinner looks like it's almost ready." Futaro saw her blushing as she returned to the table. Had the whole world seen his moment of weakness?

Yotsuba turned to finish cleaning the floor, then squealed like a bat in the dark. She looked over her shoulder, realized which side of herself was facing Futaro on hands and knees, and hastily shifted direction. Futaro rolled his eyes and left to wash up first.

The rest of the night couldn't have passed quickly enough, and so it appeared an ordeal to survive. He could be happy that his father and girlfriend were getting along so well. But when all you want is for the night to end, everything precluding it seems a burden. So when the plates were cleaned and thank yous were said, he couldn't wait to rush to the door.

Yotsuba said, "Huh? What about studying?"

Futaro grumbled, "We're out of time, thanks to the housework Consider it a day off."

Nino hugged him, making him tense. She glared, "What's with you? You're acting weird."

Futaro brushed her off, "Just feeling weird, after, you know. See you tomorrow?"

She kissed him quickly after checking Raiha wasn't looking, "Yeah, see you then. Text me."

Raiha, after father ripped her away from Itsuki and Yotsuba, skipped along the road home. "That was great! We should do it again!"

"I think we might've overstayed our welcome," his father laughed.

Futaro checked his phone and saw a missed text. It was from Takeda. He was wondering when he'd be able to meet up tonight to go over the lesson plans. He texted back that he'd be there in an hour, after seeing his family home. Then he saw his father looking to him. He said to Futaro, "Hey, come here. I have something for you."

Futaro rolled his eyes, "Please hold off on the lecture, I don't need it."

"No lecture, just this," he said as he pulled a thin, square package from his wallet. Futaro didn't need to read the branding to know what it was.

He waved his hand, "Save it, that isn't happening."

"Keep it, just in case."

"What case?"

"You know what I'm talking about."

"Is it too late for a lecture instead?"

"Definitely, so take it. I want you prepared if something happens.

"If this is about earlier, it wasn't what it looked like."

Raiha turned and grinned, "Just take the condom, you lecherous perv."

Futaro groaned. "Did everyone see that?"

"As closely as you saw her, yeah." Raiha smiled innocently.

Futaro sighed as he took the proffered protection. He stuffed it into the deepest depths of his wallet next to all of the change he could never seem to get rid of. So it would stay, never to be used. So he told himself.

And then he wondered, what was his dad doing with this thing in his wallet in the first place?

~Nino~

"He did what!?" Nino screamed.

Yotsuba cupped one hand and held it to her eye, "I told you! Like a microscope! Zoooooooooooooom!"

Itsuki leaned against the wall, watching Yotsuba's display and said, "Yup, that about covers it."

"Zoooooooooom! Zooooooooooom! Zooooooooooom into that ass!" Yotsuba laughed, twirling in a circle, "His eyes were on your butt like stretchy underwear. He was under a spell."

Nino shook her head, blushing and holding her legs to her chest, "Nuh-uh, no way he, like, I would've noticed!"

Itsuki said, "I'm surprised you didn't, he was hardly subtle. I think his brain broke." Then she laughed, " Your ass broke his brain!"

Yotsuba said, "And his jaw, it fell like a curtain call, like this!" she demonstrated, looking like a dead fish.

Nino couldn't resist a chuckle, "Seriously? Like that?"

Yotsuba checked her expression in a mirror, and nodded, "Yup, like this."

Itsuki grinned, "It looked like he was hypnotized."

"By your ass!" Yotsuba laughed.

Nino covered her face in embarrassment. She could feel the heat on her cheeks like sparklers glittering in the night, like furnaces in a cabin in the woods. She'd been ogled before, all she had to do was walk down the street if she wanted someone eyeing her like a ham at a holiday feast. It was violating and made her feel like bundling inside a cocoon. But the thought of Futaro doing the same, staring at her like, well, a piece of attractive meat, it was disturbing, and maybe...intriguing? Sometimes it takes the right face to make an activity go from disgusting and humiliating to desirable. And this was Futaro, an automaton just learning to be human, the man with all the sexual energy of a dead battery. Only today, she proved he still had some juice stored away. It was her he couldn't take his eyes off of, it was her body that put him in a trance without even trying. And it was her that got him hard. He didn't do that for any other girl, not from school, or even her identical sisters. She did this to him, because he saw her as someone special. A real woman, in every way. She remembered feeling the proof grinding against her as she slid against his body, a bulge pressing against the seat of her pants. Five layers. She pressed her thighs together, feeling a heat that felt familiar. And then she realized it hadn't been from him, this heat, whatever it was, was from her. She had a fire of her own.

She whipped out her phone and started texting. Itsuki asked, "Futaro?"

"Yup!" She said merrily as she sent the message.

Like what you saw?

Itsuki laughed, "I wonder what he'll say."

She only had to wait a few seconds before he answered, but not to her. Yotsuba checked her buzzing phone, frowning. "Uh-oh. He thinks I tattled."

"You did," Nino pointed out.

"He wants to know if you're mad."

Nino nodded, then sent another message,

I better not catch you checking anyone else. Got it?

Moments later he replied, Sorry.

No problem, perv ;P

She paused, remembering that warmth she'd felt inside her, a little hunger of her own. She texted again, But you're my perv. Remember that.

Yes, mine, she thought. And just like on the floor, she accepted him for what he was. A man. Just a man, with all the bells and whistles that came with that Y chromosome. And so long as it stayed that way, as long as it was all focused on her, she could accept that.

Nino slumped against the wall and thought about how far they'd come, from squabbling tutor and unwilling student to near-groping on the floor. She wanted to talk with him, she wanted to ask him what he thought of feeling her so close, pressed together by their weight. What did he feel when she pressed that space inside the seat of her pants against him? She wanted to know, but knew she was too embarrassed to ask. Maybe someday. Was this the way things proceeded? Baby steps into desire? This was what couples did together, it was what men and women had done since before evolution brought them up on two feet. She used to daydream about dating, romance and weddings, all those girly things. She never daydreamed about a guy poking her with his erection. She never thought about penis at all. They were just an attachment in the package, and a weird, unwelcome one at that. But tonight she encountered it suddenly, like an animal in the wild, and found it wasn't so terrifying after all. Not with him, not after she got used to it. In the heat of the moment, at least from what she could recall, it was all shrouded in haze and heat, she hadn't hated it. She'd wanted it to continue. Not further, just continue as they were. Pressed against each other. Her body on his. Feeling his want, and this strange heat that felt like a steam engine. She wasn't sure if she could dive right into it again. But if it happened again, if this night repeated itself, if they weren't interrupted, maybe she'd find what she forgot in the heat of the moment, she though. And maybe more. Someday.

For now she could settle herself with the most important lesson of the night: the knowledge that Futaro Uesugi was a genius, a savant, and definitely an ass man.

A/N

I warned last chapter that the rating would increase. This is why. It isn't much, all things considered. A little light grinding and discovery, nothing overly sexual. But this story centers around a couple, and sex is so closely tied with romantic coupling that it would be a disservice to not include it. I'm still torn about whether there will be full blown sex scenes in the future, for one this site does not allow that to be published and I'd risk a take down, and secondly I'd only do it in service of character, not to write sex for titillation sake. So there will be more touching, grinding, maybe more. They're two teenagers fumbling towards ecstasy.

The story as we know it is coming to an end. Not this one, this story has a long way to go yet. But the canon that we've all shared will be finalized soon enough. I wonder how it will conclude, we knew it would end with a wedding and a so-called happily ever after. But I find myself becoming more and more curious about the four endings we haven't talked about: the four sisters. I'm sure there will be an ending for everyone, after all we've seen them grow as people and will see them divide along the road of life. Those, unlike the bride and groom, are largely unknowns, and I hope they get the attention they deserve.

For anyone who hasn't caught up with the manga, I'm going to speak with who will (most likely) be the bride based on what we know now, so stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled. From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense for Yotsuba to be the bride at this point. Her personal development is largely incomplete at this point, whereas most of the other sisters have had full character arcs that don't necessitate having Futaro fall in love with them. This was a natural conclusion to Yotsuba's arc, and Futaro's as well, and while not everyone can be satisfied with it, it makes sense from a pure storytelling perspective.

There's one more thing I wish to address in regards to this story's canon: the birth father, the bald bearded man. His inclusion in the canon struck me as a ham-fisted play to create conflict for Itsuki, it's literally his only reason for appearing, and disappearing as quickly as he appeared. He's deus ex machina personified. And he has no place in this story. I repeat: in this story, he is not the quintuplets' father. He does not exist. He is a poorly crafted character and has no place in this story.

Thank you everyone for your support, and for bothering to read to the end just to see what I have to say. Two weeks until the next update, and let's carry this story on past the canon's conclusion. Please continue to comment and review, and I'll write again soon.

Chapter published: January 9th, 2020.