Disclaimer: I do not own Junjou Romantica. That honor belongs to Shungiku Nakamura.

Throughout the scorching, summer day, Kamijou Hiroki's temper flared in sync with the rising temperature. Nearly all of his novelists were late meeting their deadline. As the executive editor of one of the most successful publishing companies in Japan, he knew this was simply not acceptable. He had spent the entire day calling the frightened novelists one by one into his office, bringing most of them (male and female alike) to tears by his acerbic reprimands. By now, at the end of a very long day, all Hiro wanted to do was to go home, eat a quiet meal, take a nice hot shower, and go to bed, but his senior editor, Inoue Takeshita had other plans.

"You must be worn out after bullying most of our staff today," Inoue purred seductively into Hiro's ear as he wrapped his arms around his superior's waist. "Let me take you to the pub for a nice, relaxing dinner and a few drinks."

"And then what do you intend to do," Hiro asked warily his face turning an attractive shade of pink.

"Whatever you want me to do," Inoue whispered quietly in his ear.

"How many rejections is it going to take to get it through your thick head that I'm not interested?" He yelled as he shoved Inoue forcefully across the room. "I have neither the time nor the energy to deal with the likes of you!"

"Don't be so cold Kamijou-senpai. I was just teasing," he said smiling in an attempt to hide his disappointment and pain.

Hiro inwardly winced at the expression on his face. In reality, he was attracted to Inoue, but the young senior editor's personality was just too much like Daisuke, his former lover. Please don't look at me with those eyes, Hiro thought helplessly. Taking a deep breath to swallow his pain and fear, he begrudgingly said, "Alright, I'll eat dinner with you, but that is all…you got that?"

"Sure thing boss," Inoue answered with a sly smile as he opened the door for Hiro.

They walked in the sultry heat of the evening through the crowded streets. Inoue glanced furtively at Hiro. If he were with anyone else, he would have already struck up a light-hearted conversation to improve his companion's foul mood, but he knew better than to try that with Hiro. He'd tried that once the first time Hiro had agreed to go to dinner with him. Inoue couldn't even remember what he'd said at the time, but whatever it was, it had made Hiro so mad, he turned abruptly and left without a word. Inoue nearly chuckled at the memory. It had hurt him so badly at the time, but he'd gotten over it by now. His temperamental superior was such a mysterious beauty, he would do anything, bear any kind of abuse as long as he could someday make Hiro his lover.

There weren't many people in the pub, which Inoue found both surprising and welcome. It gave the place a more soothing atmosphere, which in turn would make this dinner more relaxing. Maybe I'll be able to get him to agree to come over to my place for a nightcap after dinner! If I can get him to relax enough, maybe we could…

"What'll it be tonight gentlemen?" The waiter asked pulling Inoue unwillingly from his fantasy as he handed them their menus.

"I'll take a martini." Inoue answered nervously glancing at his companion as he scanned the contents of the menu.

"Whiskey on the rocks," Hiro said curtly. He didn't even bother to pick up his menu. Whenever he came here, he always ordered the same meal, but Inoue was different. He never ate the same meal twice in a row. Just like Daisuke. He was always so adventurous and so full of life. It's no wonder he ran off with another man. He must have gotten bored with someone as conservative as me, Hiro thought in despair.

"Kamijou-senpai, are you alright?"

"Huh, oh…I'm sorry," Hiro answered embarrassed to be caught drifting off in such a manner.

"You really spaced out for a while there," Inoue teased trying to hide his own insecurities. He knew there must be a reason Hiro had been so adamant about keeping their relationship strictly professional, and he suspected it had something to do with a bad breakup from a former lover. Throughout the past several months, ever since he'd become the senior editor under Hiro, he'd been slowly working his way into Hiro's personal life. Eating dinner with Hiro like this was the fruit of his arduous labor.

The waiter brought their drinks and took their order. As soon as he left, Inoue looked at Hiro mischievously. "What had you so distracted a moment ago?"

Hiro blushed in embarrassment. "It's none of your damn business!" He took a generous swig of his drink and welcomed the sensation as it burned a path to his stomach. Althoughhe knew the alcohol would only take the pain away temporarily, he longed for the few hours of relief it would give him. If only there was something that would permanently remove this pain from my heart.

Inoue was surprised by Hiro's sudden outburst. He had never seen his senpai lose his composure quite like this. He had seen Hiro lose his temper plenty of times, but this time it was different. This time Inoue could tell it was deeply personal. Who was it that hurt you so badly? He wondered sympathetically.

"Senpai," Inoue began hesitantly as his compassionate eyes bore into Hiro's tormented soul. "Whatever is troubling you…if it would help…you know you can always confide in me, don't you?"

Hiro could feel himself becoming lost in Inoue's sincere eyes. Honest emotions washed over him with a warmth that would have completely thawed any frozen heart, but Hiro's heart wasn't merely frozen. It had been turned to stone by Daisuke's cruel betrayal. Panic seized him by the throat as he struggled against the emotions churning within him. NO! I swore I'd never let myself get close to anyone again! DAMN IT!

"Just leave me alone," Hiro spat at him. He picked up his drink and swallowed the rest of its contents. This time not even the burn of the alcohol could penetrate the anguish in his soul.

The waiter arrived with their dinner, and Hiro was grateful for the distraction. He dug eagerly into his food completely ignoring Inoue's concerned gaze. Throughout the meal, Inoue doggedly tried to get Hiro to open up to him. But every time the conversation drifted toward his personal life, Hiro would abruptly drag the conversation back to work related issues. Half-way through the meal, Inoue finally gave up and struck up a conversation about Hiro's favorite soccer team. It wasn't exactly what he wanted to talk about, but at least it was more personal than work.

For the most part, the shift in conversation seemed to be working. Hiro began to relax and even smiled a couple of times. Maybe he really will want to come home with me tonight, Inoue speculated hopefully.

"Hey Inoue-san, aren't you listening to me at all?" Hiro said raising his voice in irritation.

"Sorry Kamijou-senpai, what did you say?" He answered sheepishly.

"Ah, never mind," Hiro waived him off casually. "It wasn't important." He wiped off his mouth with his napkin, tossed it on his empty plate and pushed it away. "I can't eat another bite."

Inoue pushed his plate away as well. "W..would you like to come back to my place…" the look on Hiro's face made him hastily add, "you know…for a nightcap?"

The sincere longing in Inoue's eyes was beginning to have an effect on Hiro in spite of all his misgivings. The thought of being held again was excruciatingly tempting, but once again Hiro's fear reigned supreme. "I told you before we left the office that I was only willing to eat dinner with you. If you're ready to leave, then leave. I'm going to have a couple of drinks at the bar." With that, Hiro got up abruptly and pulled enough money out of his wallet to cover their dinner and leave a generous tip. After depositing it in the middle of the table, he walked nonchalantly toward the bar.

"Wait just a minute!" Inoue exclaimed heatedly following in his wake. "Who asked you to pay for my dinner?"

"Don't worry about it," he answered with a maddeningly calm smile. "I'll pay for this one. You can pay the next time you attempt to seduce me!" Hiro was pleased to see the deep shade of red that flashed across Inoue's face. It wasn't wise to tease him like this, but Hiro couldn't resist making him suffer just a little. After all, it was Inoue's fault for making it impossible for him to forget about his ex-lover.

An enormous smile suddenly broke across Inoue's face. "If I buy dinner next time, you'll have to come back to my apartment for a nightcap afterward." After making that comment, he quickly retreated from the restaurant with a triumphant grin on his face. I did it! The next time Hiro and I have dinner together, he will have to come to my place afterward!

Hiro sat at the bar in stunned silence. I can't believe I allowed myself to be manipulated like that. How could I let such a thing happen? Deep in his heart he knew the answer. He'd been so lonely since Daisuke walked out of his life.

"What'll it be mister?" The bartender asked pulling Hiro from his dark musings.

"Bring me a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass," he asked numbly. It's going to take more than just a couple of drinks to anesthetize the pain in my heart this time! As the bartender poured his first shot of whiskey, a tall, handsome man entered the restaurant. He smiled at Hiro as the waitress beckoned him to follow. Whoa! Who is that? Hiro wondered as he watched the stranger surreptitiously through the mirror behind the bar. The waitress led him to the table directly behind Hiro, but instead of sitting where she set his placemat and cutlery, he took the chair opposite giving him a clear view of Hiro's reflection. Clearly irritated, the waitress handed him his menu and walked hastily away. Setting the menu aside casually, he glanced into the mirror as he pulled the placemat toward him and smiled warmly at Hiro's reflection.

Damn it! What am I doing, Hiro questioned his sanity as his face flushed in embarrassment. He gulped down his drink and averted his eyes. As he poured himself another shot, he tried to resist the urge to look once again at the attractive man sitting behind him. First Inoue-san and now this, he grumbled angrily to himself. But try as he might, Hiro could stop himself from glancing back into that person's face. The stranger was still looking into Hiro's reflection as if he'd been appraising a work of art. When their eyes met, he winked at Hiro playfully.

Looking down into his shot glass and the inviting amber liquid within, Hiro's face turned deep crimson and his heart began beating wildly out of control. Not again, he chastised himself, as memories of Daisuke flooded into his mind making his racing heart throb painfully. So help me, I'm never going to fall in love again! He downed the entire shot and looked pointedly away from the striking reflection in the mirror. As the heat of the alcohol seared his throat, he poured himself another shot and prayed that oblivion would reach him swiftly.

Even though Hiro downed shot after shot of whiskey, the pain in his heart refused to abate. "Don't you think you've had enough?" The bartender asked as Hiro drained the last of the bottle's contents unsteadily into his glass spilling a large portion of it in the process.

"I'm jus' fine." Hiro slurred as he attempted to focus his gaze on the bartender's blurry face. "I wanna 'nother bottle." He downed the shot he'd just poured nearly toppling off his barstool in the process.

"I'm sorry sir," the bartender answered apologetically. "I think you've had enough."

"Is none o' yer business!" He argued sloppily. "I wanna 'nother drink!"

"Don't worry; I'll take care of him." Hiro looked up into the face of the handsome mad he'd been trying unsuccessfully to ignore all night. With a firm yet tender grip, he maneuvered Hiro out of the restaurant.

"Getchyer hanz off me," Hiro protested blearily. "I… wanna… go back... an' get... another dri…" He mumbled weakly promptly passing out in the startled strangers arms.