What a day. His legs ached as though he'd been dragged nearly everywhere around town. Was it his fault his employees wanted to get him better acquainted with some of the young men in town? Absolutely not. They were unruly at times and he'd been exposed to their antics enough in the past few years he should have known what to expect by now. They were attempting to find him a date despite his insistence he was fine remaining single.
He ran a hand through his mussed hair as he opened his bedroom door and flipped on the light. There was a short hall spilling into the main area, much like an entryway to a home, and despite how out of place it seemed for a bedroom he liked the initial privacy it granted the area. He stopped in this area and looked into the large oval mirror on the wall.
His reflection gazed back with a heavy sort of exhaustion telling him he needed more sleep. He wondered how long a person could live on an hour of sleep a day before collapsing. Apparently more than a few months, if he were any proof. His red bandanna remained as vibrant as ever, but his overall expression seemed lifeless. His eyelids drooped halfway and his auburn eyes lacked their shine. No wonder his legs ached. He was run down.
"Yes, this is what makes success, Sanosuke Sagara." His spitfire sarcasm was diluted. He studied his reflection for a few more moments, the bags under his eyes fierce, before turning to hang his jacket. Removing the heavy coat found him too tired to bother stowing it properly and he dumped it on a chair then padded barefoot to his desk.
Sliding his white button up shirt from his shoulders was like shedding a burden and the cool air on his heated skin felt nice. He sighed, looking down at his clean white tank top that draped loosely over his bony body. His arms were still muscular but his rib cage was obviously lacking in substance. Thinking twice, he put the shirt back on. If anyone saw him without it they'd be sure to harass him about eating. He received enough of that as it was.
A shade of light blue caught his eye and brought his attention to a small shirt placed messily on his desk. Beneath it was a pair of black slacks, folded much neater than the shirt. On the floor were two shoes, small, looking as though they were almost a child's size. In those shoes were maroon socks. These things did not belong in his bedroom.
"Not mine." Sanosuke said, blinking to focus his eyes as he lifted the shirt to find a small pair of tan boxer briefs, "Definitely not mine."
He looked up and examined his room. Nothing appeared out of place by the television. He stepped into the middle of his room and looked at his collection of fine stones behind the glass of a hutch. His eyes scanned the room as he turned, catching a glimpse of a pale... a pale something around the corner of the room where his bed was. He carefully walked closer, more of his bed and the object coming into view. It was...
Sanosuke moved a bit quicker, finding the foot to be, thankfully, attached to a body. A small and thin body, but a body nonetheless. The figure moved, turning its head and looking up at Sanosuke with fearful violet eyes. The eyes struck a powerful chord in his chest; they looked terrified.
A deer in headlights... Sanosuke thought as he watched in stunned silence as the figure curled into the bed and tucked bare legs closer for protection. Long red hair spooled around thin shoulders, tightly bound by a black string serving as a tie. There was no mistaking him for a man in his state of undress despite the at-a-glance feminine traits. His ankles and wrists were tied with thin rope. Something like paracord, his subconscious provided.
Sanosuke was frozen in a state of confusion and sleep-deprivation. A part of his mind yelled for him to hurry and move because the poor guy obviously needed help, but his legs felt locked. Was this real? Was he dreaming? He couldn't decide.
"Sanosuke... who is that?"
Sanosuke quarter-turned to look at Katsu, who had managed to sneak up on him. Looking helpless, he shrugged his shoulders as though at a loss for words.
"I see. While this is a bit disturbing it does explain some things. Hiru and the others have been acting rather strange as of late. I've been suspicious all day and this concretes my worries." Katsu looked at him apologetically, "I should have said something earlier about my suspicions."
Sanosuke gestured toward the naked man, "Any theories you'd like to share? Because I'm all ears and would like to avoid jail time."
"I wouldn't say theories, as I am an artist, not a scientist, but you did say Joys the other day and that you wanted them. My suspicion is that your words were interpreted as boys, considering how the crew has been going on about them since. You were also talking with your mouth full. Annnnd here we are. You might want to clear up the misunderstanding with your boy. Soon." Katsu smiled in that commiserating way he often did, gesturing with his pen toward the bound figure on the bed, "We can get to the papers later."
Sanosuke nodded to him, an agreement as well as a dismissal. He watched his employee/best friend/sanity preserver leave. He envied the grace of those long strides. Katsu had many traits Sanosuke desired; the smooth demeanor, the reasoning personality, and even the attractive looks.
A muffled voice and the swish of skin against silk met Sanosuke's ears, snatching his attention. With steady movements, he began to untie the restraints around the thin ankles.
"I am so, so, so sorry and I promise I am not going to hurt you. This is some demented, weird-ass misunderstanding. Please don't sue me."
Sanosuke was as gentle as possible as he undid the knots starting with those at his wrists. Halfway through the man stiffened, curling a little inward.
"Did I hurt you?" Sanosuke looked up, concerned, and saw those eyes fixed beyond him. They were broad for a moment before narrowing into a bold, challenging glare.
"And all that work they put me through." The voice was a deep rumble from behind. It gave Sanosuke the willies at the same time it ignited anger.
"Saitou." Sanosuke snapped, "How the hell many times do I have to tell you to knock?"
"He is pretty though." The man took a long drag off his cigarette, dark eyes ignoring Sanosuke, "But not as pretty as Katsu." A stream of smoke whizzed past parted lips, cloaking his face in an ashen cloud.
"Dammit, Saitou." Sanosuke stood and stormed over, snatching the cigarette from his mouth and crushing it, "This house is full of priceless art. If I catch you smoking in here or in my museum one more time I will fire you. I'm sick of your lackadaisical attitude."
"Your new friend seems upset, if you haven't noticed."
Sanosuke stopped, registered the words, and turned to see the scared yet angered look on his guest's face.
"You tied him, didn't you?" Sanosuke turned to Saitou yet again.
"Hiru said he needed a graceful and beautiful boy, so I found one and did what he told me to do with him. He's quite feisty, if you were interested in knowing."
"First of all, I wanted graceful and beautiful Joys, as in the artist's work, not a man! Second, what the hell were you thinking? Picking a random person up and restraining him? Kidnapping him? You do realize that's a fucking crime, don't you?"
"I'm only following orders." Saitou pulled another cigarette from the pack in his pocket, flipping it through his fingers.
"Light that cancer stick and I'll kick you out on your ass. You got me? You can find a new job for all I care."
"Come on now," Katsu, who had reentered upon hearing the yelling, sighed as he walked behind his fuming best friend, "sit down."
"I don't believe this." Sanosuke mumbled as Katsu put pressure on his shoulders, forcing him to sit.
"Saitou, go on downstairs and help them unload the new paintings, please." Katsu smiled as the man gave him a mock salute and walked off.
"Why does he listen to you and rarely me, his boss?"
"Never mind that, you have more important things on your hands."
Knowing he was right, Sanosuke turned around on the bed, looking apologetic as he returned to untying the man.
"His clothes have a bit of dirt on them. I'll start a wash and get him something clean to wear."
"Thanks Katsu, you're a lifesaver."
"It's what you pay me for," Katsu made his way out of sight, "and I'll get some ice for that ankle of his."
Sanosuke blinked, looking down at the pair of feet. One of the legs ended with a swollen and pink ankle.
Sanosuke nearly cussed. Glancing at the injury made him wince. He couldn't imagine how much it must have hurt.
"Saitou!" Katsu jumped, spinning around to face him, "You scared me."
"That was the point of sneaking behind you." Saitou lurked closer, as though on a prowl.
"I thought you were helping the boys unload."
"They can handle it." He leaned in as he lifted one of Katsu's hands and pressed a kiss to the back of it. Like a predator he went for the vulnerable neckline next.
"Is that so?" Katsu exhaled, amused, as kisses were planted from below his ear all the way to his collar.
"They're big boys now. We've broken them in well."
"You mean you have broken them in well," Katsu pinched his nose between two of his knuckles, "Anyone lacking self esteem would listen to you, you big bully."
Saitou took the man's wrist gently in his hand, chuckling darkly, "I'm just that sexy."
"Intimidating is more like it."
"Nearly the same thing, love." Saitou licked the inside of the captive wrist.
Katsu bumped into the counter, "I need to get upstairs."
"What's the hurry?" Saitou placed a hand on either side of Katsu's hips, locking him in, "It's been a long time, you know."
"I..." Katsu lost his breath as teeth nipped his neck, "Um..."
"I thought so." Smirking wolfishly, Saitou eased to his knees and lifted the hem of Katsu's shirt to press a kiss to his abdomen. His fingers, long and deft, thumbed open the button to well-worn jeans.
"Saitou... not here..." Katsu exhaled shakily, pushing his fingers into a mass of black hair. He began sliding down the cabinets, descending to the tile of the kitchen floor.
"Not here... Saitou... Not... here."
"Here," Sanosuke shook his button-up shirt out and covered the bare man with it, "It's not much, but Katsu should be back soon."
"Thank you." His voice was soft, shy, as he accepted the shirt and wrapped it tighter around his frame.
"I'm sorry about this. I knew my employees were weird and a little over the top, but I had no idea they were this crazy."
The man emitted a shaken laugh, "It's alright. For a bit there I thought I was going to end up like those unfortunate victims you hear about on the news. The ones who are raped, killed and found weeks later in a field mutilated. Thank you for not being a psychopath."
"I can honestly say I never expected to be thanked for not being a murdering nutjob."
That seemed to garner a smile, albeit small.
"But you hardly need to be thanking me. I've done nothing to deserve it. This is pretty much entirely my fault. I guess I need tighter restrictions on my employees. They get away with too much already, but this is ridiculous."
He looked cold and exhausted.
Sanosuke pulled his comforter from under him and covered him up to his waist, "You can stay here for the night until your clothes are clean, if you'd like. It's the least I can do, but I understand if you'd rather skip out and get a hotel. Saitou is a pretty creepy guy without having to try, so I get it if you don't want to be within ten miles of the jerk. He gives me the willies now and again and I'm the guy who hired him." He paused for a moment, "I'm starting to rethink that decision."
A soft laugh made him smile, "I don't want to impose."
"You won't. Ask me for anything you need. I don't care what it is. If nothing else, you staying would allow me the opportunity to at least try to make this up to you, and prove to you I'm not a colossal creeper and jerkwad."
"Honestly, that's not necessary. I'm sure you're very busy."
Sanosuke laughed as though he'd just seen an extinct species prance in front of his eyes, "You have got to be the most forgiving, humble, and modest man alive."
They fell silent as a loud noise reverberated off the walls and up through the flooring. It sounded as though someone had struck a microwave with a metal baseball bat.
Sanosuke, as if recognizing the sound, held up his hands palms out and admitted, "I'm not going to defend any of them. They're crazy."
"You're a hornball and deserved that." Katsu splashed his face with cold water to sober himself.
Saitou sat at the kitchen table, holding an icepack to his head where his lover had struck him with a small baking sheet.
"I don't see what the problem was. You were enjoying yourself." Saitou leaned back in his chair, eyes half closed thanks to his forming headache.
"A little too much if you ask me." He drew a gulp of air to regulate his breathing as he snatched his pants off the floor and began to pull them on.
"This is coming out of your salary, not mine." Saitou held up the dented pan, "You should have used something less... impressionable."
"I'm sorry," Katsu stepped over to his lover, draping his arms around broad shoulders and resting his chin against warm skin, "but I don't get out of here until late and I really don't want to be discussing business with Sanosuke while smelling like sweat, sex and Saitou."
"Oh, and how do I smell?" Saitou looked engaged now, scratching his fingers into Katsu's thick hair.
"Mmm," Katsu inhaled, "laundry fresh from the dryer and cigarettes. Oh yes, you smell sexy." Saitou tilted his head back and smirked as Katsu chuckled lightly into his neck.
"Hmmm," Katsu nosed a kiss against Saitou's cheek, "it's a good thing you're tough. I love you."
"You can love this old man?"
"Fifteen years between us can't change how I feel about you. Besides, for a 42 year old man you're a sexy bastard."
"Am I? If I'm a sexy bastard that must make you a young, beautiful, submissive man."
"I don't mind. I enjoy the bottom."
"And I enjoy your bottom." Saitou closed his eyes when thin fingers scratched up his chest as Katsu rose.
"Pervert. Here," He took the ice from his lover, "you shouldn't have this directly on your skin."
"Yes, mother." Saitou released a pleasant sigh. Katsu pulled a dish towel from a cabinet and wrapped the bag of ice.
"Hold the ice there for ten minutes, no longer." He instructed, handing the bundle back.
"I love you, mother." Saitou allowed his head to fall back against the chair and his narrow eyes looked up at the only man he'd ever allowed into his life.
"I love you too, ya big baby. But..." Katsu smiled, bending down and kissing warm lips, enjoying their soft feel and taste of afternoon coffee mingled with cigarettes.
"I am seriously questioning your actions today. What is going on and what has gotten into you?"
Saitou sobered, "I was getting tired of you doting on Sagara. I hardly see you and we work together. Figured I'd take some initiative and find him a man since he has been disinclined to do so himself."
"And this was your solution?" Katsu gave him an unimpressed look, one eyebrow arching.
"What if he presses charges?"
"I doubt he will. My actions were done on an instinctual whim. You know how those are for me."
"Ah." Katsu headed for the door, "Right. Those."
"They've never led me astray before. Figured it was safe."
"I sincerely hope it is. For all our sake."
Saitou's smirk returned, "An instinctual whim led me to you."
Katsu rolled his eyes, "And I've been paying for it ever since."
"Is there anything else I can get you?" Katsu asked, helping their guest stand as they fought with one of Sanosuke's spare white robes to tame and secure it properly.
"No, thank you, I'm fine." He sighed, pulling his ponytail out of the white collar and relaxing into the large pillows.
"What's your name?"
"Me?" Those violet eyes were almost alien they appeared so unique.
"No, the pillow behind you. I want to know it's name. Kidding," he nudged him playfully, "yes you."
Smiling at his own anxiety, he answered, "It's Kenshin. Kenshin Himura."
"I've never heard that name before. Sounds strong." Brushing his hair over a shoulder, Katsu pressed a towel-wrapped bag of ice against Kenshin's injured ankle.
"My father was Japanese and wanted a strong name for a strong son. But I didn't exactly turn out to resemble the description."
"I bet your father thinks differently." Katsu gave Kenshin a bright smile.
"If he's anything like yours, love, I'm sure he does." Saitou eased onto the bed beside Katsu, exhaling as he leaned on one hand and used his other to brush back his slightly ruffled hair.
"I thought you were nursing your wound." Katsu gave him a look.
"No one stays injured with you around- I'm cured."
"What can I say? It's a gift."
"Where's the boss-man?" Saitou looked around.
"He's on his balcony." Katsu shifted off the bed, "I need to talk to him. Could you hold this here?"
Saitou moved over and held the ice, surprising Kenshin with how gentle his touch was.
"Thank you, I'll be back." Katsu assured, brushing a hand over Saitou's shoulder and back as he passed.
"I'll miss you." Saitou said, his grin playful.
"How will I survive a few minutes without your forward attempts?" Katsu responded dramatically, mock-fainting as he walked off. Both men remaining on the bed watched him leave before either spoke.
"You two have a close relationship." Kenshin observed, watching as narrow but calm eyes turned to him.
"Lovers usually do."
"How long have you been with him?" Kenshin tilted his head and Saitou saw it for the analyzing motion it was.
"Hm, I met him when he was twenty-one so... six years." Saitou smiled, closing his eyes and remembering a young Katsu, "He's just as beautiful as ever."
"He's… beautiful." Kenshin looked down at the soft material of the robe in his hand, biting his lower lip.
A hand covered Kenshin's, turning it over and holding thin fingers in a firm grip.
"Don't take me for someone shallow. Yes, Katsu is beautiful on the outside, but there's more to be found. His beauty of personality surpasses any other trait he has. That's the reason why I love him." Cold eyes locked onto Kenshin's, "Not all men are heartless fucks that tear out hearts. I'll be damned to hell if I ever turn into one."
"I'm," Kenshin smiled weakly, "I'm glad to hear that."
Here, Saitou lowered his voice to a near whisper, "Know that my intentions were never to terrify or harm you. I brought you here because something told me it's what you needed. I would appreciate it if you refrained from thinking too deeply into my psyche as I am not a sociopath or anything of the like."
Kenshin felt some of his tension lessen, "Then what are you?"
Saitou sat straighter, "Someone who wants more time with the man he loves. I was hoping you could help me since you struck me as someone in desperate need of a change of scenery."
"Well," Kenshin sighed, "you're not wrong there."
"Sanosuke, I know this is possibly the most un-intellectual question I have asked in a few years, but... what's wrong?" Katsu studied the bent over form in the chair with a sympathetic eye, rubbing strong cords of muscle in a tense neck.
"This - all of it. Kenshin probably thinks I'm some pervert or another." Sanosuke sighed, leaning back in the chair and closing his eyes as practiced hands worked.
"I asked him his name, too. I can see he's shy at first and has to be asked questions, but he is curious. Did you see his eyes? I bet he believes you're a good person. Can probably see right into that heart of gold of yours." Katsu moved closer and seated himself on the open lap.
"You sound sure of your analysis." Sanosuke pressed his nose to Katsu's neck, inhaling slowly and taking in the sweet smell of shampoo.
"I am sure." Katsu squeaked when Sanosuke hugged him firmly, "And I think you should talk to him. We can get to those papers some other time. Right now I want you to relax. You deserve it after all the work you've been doing the past few months. A little vacation would do you some good."
"Gods," Sanosuke sighed as though decompressing, "I can see every damn reason why Saitou loves you. You're perfect for each other. You balance him out."
"That brings up another topic. You need someone. You've never been on a date, or in a relationship other than friendly. At least you've had sex. It will be easier to get someone in bed that way."
"Hey, hey." Sanosuke scowled but it lacked sincerity, "When did my personal life become any of your business?"
"Since I met you. The night you took my virginity is the night your personal life became all my business."
"You shouldn't have gotten drunk that night." He teased.
"Ass. You shouldn't have taken me out for New Years. If I recall correctly, we were drunk off our asses, laughing like hyenas and wandering the streets looking for our dorm."
"And then?" Sanosuke smiled.
"I think one of us got a little horny. Not sure which one though. It was probably me." Katsu smiled, kissing Sanosuke's temple.
"Probably. And it was more like a lot of horny. Remember what Chou did?"
Katsu began laughing, "Yes. I still have it."
"What? Are you serious?"
"Yeah," Katsu began combing his fingers through the hair at the nape of Sanosuke's neck, "I was thinking about putting that picture in my scrapbook."
"Hm, maybe I could put it on display in the museum. We'd make headlines for how scandalous it'd be."
"It is actually a nice picture." Katsu leaned forward, one arm around Sanosuke's neck to keep him balanced as he reached into his back pocket for his wallet.
"Saitou found it one day." Katsu was practically giggling, "He seemed quite interested."
"You keep it with you?" Sanosuke's eyebrows raised, concerned and curious.
"All my best or most interesting memories are in here."
"You little weasel." Sanosuke growled, nipping Katsu's collar.
"Ow. I hope you've had your rabies shots. Now stop playing or we'll end up like we did in this picture, minus the alcohol." Katsu produced the picture, leaning against Sanosuke and twisting brown strands of hair along his slender fingers.
"That is nice." Sanosuke smirked, taking the slightly wrinkled picture and examining it, "I especially like that lost expression on your face.
"Saitou said nearly the same thing. After staring at it for awhile he wanted me to ask you a question, but there was never the right moment until now."
"The question would be?"
"He wants to know if you'd like to join us sometime."
"You've got to be kidding me."
"You, yes. Him? Never."
"He said he'd be happy to watch and not participate beyond that. I think he has some voyeurism fantasies or something. It's quite fascinating."
"He also said he would like to know what kind of secrets you've been hiding."
"Secrets, huh? He should probably know there are few to none."
"Are you telling me that night you took my virginity was also your first time?" Katsu teased, pinning Sanosuke to the chair as he moved to get up.
"No, it was my second."
"Really? You never talk much about your sex life so I can't help but ask."
Sanosuke looked up at him, perplexed, "What were we talking about before we degenerated into all this?"
Katsu paused and blinked several times, "I don't remember."
"Ah, then I'm off the hook."
"Not so fast," Katsu pressed his hands to a broad chest to keep him seated, "my memory's back-up generator just kicked in."
"And what do you remember? Are you going to tell me my fortune?"
"Maybe later, but I wanted to touch on the subject of your love life."
"What love life?"
"That's the point I'm trying to make, Sanosuke. To give you a bit of a flashback here you need someone."
"I seem to recall those words." Sanosuke averted his gaze, unable to meet the knowing eyes of the guy who knew him better than anyone.
"It's true. You do need someone."
"What makes you say that?"
"I know you, Sanosuke Sagara." Katsu leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to his lips.
"I won't deny that." Sanosuke pushed his fingers through a silken mane and drew him in for another kiss, making sure he received more than a sample.
"Sah-" Katsu breathed, cut off.
Sanosuke's lips covered his, parting them easily and slipping his tongue inside. Katsu melted into the attentions, large hands running down his spine and rubbing at the edge of his belt. Sanosuke's kisses had always been an addiction of his; saying no to them was never really an option he stopped to consider.
Katsu wished Saitou were watching, knowing his lover would have appreciated the sight. He loved that about the man; he didn't have a jealous bone in his body. Protective, yes, but not jealous. It made kissing Sanosuke that much better, because kissing had always been something friendly between them. And Katsu knew most people wouldn't understand that. But Sanosuke had no one else and this was something both Katsu and Saitou felt he needed on occasion.
A click sounded beside them, bringing their startled eyes over to identify the origin of the shutter.
"Whoo hoo! You two have some of thee worst timing ee-mag-in-able!" The accented voice disintegrated into a boisterous bark of laughter.
"Chou!" Katsu registered, eyes blinking back their focus.
"Cheese and rice! You should've seen the look on your faces!" Chou, all southern born American accent and wild gesticulation, laughed and placed his hands on his hips. His broad grin was fitting of the Wild West.
"Y-you..." Katsu tried to find his breath, a blush staining his cheeks.
"That's right, pretty-boy, the great Chou has returned with his trusty camera all polished and ready for shootin'! You're a pair in a pod! Always seem to be a kissin' or doin' somethin' when I run by! How could I resist such an opportunity?"
"Hey, broom-head," Sanosuke snapped angrily, "don't you think it's a little early to be celebrating?"
"Why, Sanosuke Sagara, I do believe you're right. You two haven't even got the wine. Should I have brought condoms?"
"You're dead, chicken legs." Sanosuke stood, intent on revenge for all the college stunts and tricks Chou had pulled on him.
"Hot damn, this'll be fun!" Chou bolted into the bedroom with Sanosuke on his heels.
Katsu shook his head, chuckling, as he heard the yelp of Chou's concerned exclamations over his camera's safety.
From the bed, Kenshin watched in fascinated curiosity as Sanosuke wrestled Chou into submission within ten seconds.