Title: Pen and Ink
Sanada, Yukimura
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immoveable object?
Part of the Pen & Ink AUverse, in which some of the tennis boys are yakuza and some are not. Reposted from my journal.

Pen and Ink

He caught one of the waiters flipping his wrist up surreptitiously to glance at the time; when the boy looked up again and caught Genichirou staring at him, he blushed.

Genichirou plucked a flute of champagne off the boy's tray and leaned close. "What time is it?" he asked, voice pitched for the boy's ears only.

The waiter's eyes were wide. "Just after nine, sir."

"Ah. Thank you." Genichirou let him scurry away, and regarded his champagne. Three more hours, then, until things would break up and he could escape. Two hours, if he begged off for the sake of his schedule, and happened to be very, very lucky--

"There you are! I've been trying to find you." His publicist swooped down on him, closing a hand on his elbow, and began to propel him away from the potted plants he'd been lurking in. Her smile was broad and fixed. "I know you hate parties, Sanada-sensei, but this one is yours, so for pity's sake, be gracious about it."

"I am being gracious," Genichirou muttered.

"By whose definition?" Osakada retorted, steering him towards a knot of men. "Hello, gentlemen," she chirped, and gave Genichirou a look that said, Smile, or you'll be sorry. "I trust you all know our guest of honor?"

Genichirou smiled dutifully, exchanging bows with the men as she introduced them. They owned bookstores, if he recalled correctly, chains of them across the city and the country, and it was no wonder that Osakada wanted him to make a good impression on them. "Very pleased to meet you," he murmured to one, and to another, "I hope you enjoy it," and to the third, who had secured a copy of the new book from the stack by the door, "Would you like me to personalize that for you?"

Osakada produced a pen from somewhere about her person, and Genichirou flipped the cover open, and scribbled a short note for Fujiwara, and handed it back to the man, whose eyes were bright. "My wife is going to be thrilled," he confided. "She loves your books."

Women always seemed to, for some reason. Genichirou didn't know why, and had long since given up trying to figure it out. He didn't need Osakada's elbow nudging him to ask, "Ah? And is your wife here tonight?"

Fujiwara shook his head. "She couldn't make it; our daughter is ill."

"That's too bad. Tell her I hope she feels better soon," Genichirou said.

Osakada let the small talk continue on for a few minutes longer before she steered him away. "That was brilliant," she hissed, eyes gleaming with triumph. "The way to Fujiwara's heart is through his family. You'll have a good display in his stores, I guarantee it." She gave him an almost-affectionate smile. "There's hope for you yet."

Genichirou hadn't particularly cared to win Fujiwara's heart, or a better display in his stores, but anything that kept Osakada from being shrill at him was good.

She steered him through several more conversations, murmuring instructions to him from the corner of her mouth while her smile never wavered. Genichirou smiled obediently at each new set of faces, chatting about the new book ("What happens in Unseen as Shadow? Oh, you'll have to read it and find out.") and his plans for the final book of the series ("It's coming along nicely. I'll have it wrapped up before too long.") until his mouth was dry and his face was stiff from smiling so much, and he wanted nothing more than to retreat to his apartment and let Osakada be the one to deal with all of them. At least she seemed to enjoy the chatter.

"Now, can I trust you to stay out of trouble for a few minutes, while I go and freshen up?" she asked after whisking him away from a group of magazine editors.

"I am an adult," Genichirou said, and didn't bother to keep his irritation out of his voice. "I even managed to get to adulthood without you to hold my hand."

Osakada sniffed; she clearly didn't see how he'd managed it. "Stay out of trouble," she ordered. "And don't forget to smile."

She flounced off, and Genichirou immediately let his face relax into its normal expression.

"She puts me in mind of a very small duck, trying to scold a tiger," someone said, close to his ear. Genichirou jumped. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I startle you?"

Genichirou turned, and found himself nearly nose-to-nose with a slender man he was sure he hadn't met yet. He'd have remembered that smile, which was soft enough to fool a casual observer into thinking it was gentle. "I don't believe you're sorry at all," Genichirou said, taking half a step back, out of the man's space.

The man's eyes danced as Genichirou stepped back. "No? Don't I look sorry to you?"

Genichirou looked him over--dark suit, impeccably tailored and probably very expensive; hair that waved softly around the man's face; very handsome, and well aware of the fact. Television, he decided, since the man was too old to be an idol. Perhaps he was an actor. "Not particularly."

The man laughed, and the sound was bright enough to turn a few heads their way. "You're a blunt one, aren't you?" he asked. "No wonder the duck scolds you."

"I think of her as more of a small dog--the kind that never stops barking," Genichirou said. He tipped his head. "You have the advantage of me."

The man's smile widened. "Do I?" He looked entirely too pleased with himself.

"You do," Genichirou said, and waited. When the man just continued to smile, he frowned. "It would be polite to introduce yourself."

"And are you a man who places that much value on politeness?" The man's grey eyes danced with mischief. "Reading your books gave me a different impression of you."

Genichirou shrugged. "I like knowing who I'm talking to," he said.

"Really? You didn't seem so interested before," the man said.

Genichirou met the challenge in those eyes. "That," he said, deliberately, "was because I wasn't."

"I'm flattered." The man brushed a lock of hair out of his eyes, and smiled. "I'm Yukimura Seiichi."

"Pleased to meet you," Genichirou said, with the feeling that he'd just passed some sort of test.

"Indeed." Yukimura glanced away. "Your duck is on her way back. I think she wants to rescue you."

Osakada was indeed bearing down on them, moving fast and face red. "Pity," Genichirou said.

One corner of Yukimura's mouth curved up. "Indeed. Perhaps we'll meet again."

"I'd like that," Genichirou said.

Yukimura smiled and drifted away, as Osakada nearly pounced on Genichirou. "Five minutes!" she sputtered, as soon as Yukimura was safely out of hearing distance. "I left you alone for five minutes!"

Really, Genichirou thought, watching the flapping of her hands, the duck comparison wasn't all that far off. "I was mingling," he said. "You like it when I mingle."

"Not with him!" Osakada gesticulated. "Don't you know who that was?"

Genichirou shrugged. "Yukimura Seiichi. Is he an actor?"

Osakada looked at him, eyes wide. After a moment of gaping, she said, "Tell me you're joking."

Genichirou shook his head. "Okay, not an actor. A singer, maybe?"

Osakada looked like she dearly wanted to smack her own forehead in disbelief. "Don't you ever get out of your apartment?"

"Of course I do." On reflection, he added, "I don't follow pop trends very well, though."

At that, she rested two fingers on her forehead, massaging it. "You are going to give me grey hairs." Osakada peeked at him from between her fingers. "He's not an actor, or a singer, you idiot. He's yakuza."

"He's what?" Genichirou blinked. "He doesn't look like he is."

Osakada sighed. "Well, he is. Rikkai. I trust that you have heard of them?"

Of course he had; he didn't keep up with pop culture, but he did read the newspapers, and it wasn't as though Rikkai wasn't one of the largest yakuza groups in the country. "What's he doing here?" he demanded, as Osakada took his arm again and began to steer him along.

Osakada shrugged. "How on earth should I know? Maybe he's a fan." She leveled a look at him. "Promise me you won't talk to anyone else without me."

"I'll be good," he said.

"Mm, I hope so. Now, back to business. I'm going to introduce you to some actual television people..."

Genichirou stopped listening, looking through the room until he found the tall, slim figure of Yukimura, standing near the refreshments. Yukimura seemed to have been waiting for him to look, and lifted his glass of champagne to Genichirou with a tiny smile.

After a moment, Genichirou smiled back.

The next month was a whirlwind of book signings, readings, and interviews that left Genichirou exhausted at the end of it and giving thanks that all he really had to do was show up when Osakada told him to show up. She never had trouble remembering what city they were in or what he was supposed to be doing next, and had no qualms about bullying the venues they visited into providing fresh coffee and sandwiches, and badgering hotels into giving him better rooms. She was useful--more than useful--and Genichirou would have put up with her hysterics for the sake of the coffee alone.

Still, he was glad that this was the last event, and he'd be allowed to go home to his peaceful apartment soon.

"Last one," Osakada told him, as they watched the bookstore staff set up the card table where Genichirou would be signing for the next few hours.

"Thank goodness," Genichirou said, cradling a cup of hot coffee to his chest, letting the heat of it sink into the joints of his fingers.

Osakada grinned at him. "What, are you saying you don't want us to extend the tour for another few weeks? We could, you know. The book's doing really well."

Genichirou didn't know what his face looked like, but it sent her off into a peal of laughter. "Bite your tongue," he growled.

"Aw, it hasn't been that bad." Osakada patted his shoulder. "I like working with you. You don't give me any trouble." She made a face. "They had me assigned to Oshitari-sensei before you, and let me tell you, that man is an absolute prima donna. You have no idea what he put me through..."

Genichirou stopped listening as she prattled on, since he'd learned that all Osakada really cared about was the excuse to chatter, and didn't really expect him to contribute. Instead he concentrated on the coffee, and hoped that no one decided to present sensitive bits of anatomy for him to sign, like the young lady had done last week--had it been last week? It seemed like it had.

Once this signing was over, he promised himself, he was going to go home and sleep for days. A week. Sleeping in his own bed was going to feel so good...

"All right, we're just about ready," Osakada said, nudging his shoulder and breaking up his reverie about soft pillows and cozy blankets. "Go ahead and have a seat, and we'll let the fans in." She plucked the cup of cooling coffee out of his hands. "There's a fresh pot brewing for you."

The woman had her moments. Genichirou sat, and shook out his signing hand, and watched the first burst of people make their way to his table through the maze of ropes. He put on his Osakada-approved polite smile at the first woman, who was pink-cheeked and giggled behind her hand as she offered her copy of Shadow to him. "Who should I make this out to?" he asked, as he reached for a pen.

It could be worse, really. It'd be embarrassing to have a signing that no one attended.

A couple of hours, and who knew how many scrawled notes and cups of coffee later, the queue had finally begun to dwindle, his hand and arm felt like they were on fire, and he was in desperate need of a bathroom break, but (and he counted himself fortunate) no one had asked him to sign her breasts.

"There you go," he said, after blowing on the ink to dry it, and handed the book he'd just signed back to "Make it out to Wakabayashi, please"-san.

"Thank you," she breathed, eyes shining, and shuffled off, glancing over her shoulder the whole way.

Just a few more, and they'd be done. The doors had been locked an hour ago, and there were just a couple of more bodies moving through the line.

Thank God.

Genichirou smiled and signed another book, listened thoughtfully to the next man's praise for Shadow and thanked him for it, signed two more books, and then, finally, was looking at the stomach of the last person in line, who slid two books across the table. "Who should I make this--" he started to ask, and then looked up to see Yukimura Seiichi. "--you."

"You remember me." Yukimura smiled. "I'm flattered."

"What are you doing here?" Genichirou asked, as Osakada did a little dance behind Yukimura's back, waving her hands and shaking her head.

"Getting my books signed, I hope," Yukimura said, voice as smooth as silk slipping over steel. "I brought two. I checked the posted rules, and they said that was acceptable."

"Of course it is," Genichirou said, picking up the copy of Shadow on autopilot, as his mouth kept going without consulting him on the matter. "We mostly have that rule so people don't show up with their entire library for me to sign. It would take too long if I had to go through that with everyone in line."

"Oh, I have no doubt that the rules have their reasons." Yukimura's eyes were dancing. He nodded at the book in Genichirou's hands. "You can just make that out to me, of course."

"Ah. Thank you." Genichirou signed the flyleaf with as much care as he could, given how cramped his hand was, and flipped the book closed. He stopped short as he saw the cover of the second book Yukimura had brought. "I'll be damned," he said, and touched a fingertip to the title. "I thought all of these had been pulped by now." How long had it been since he'd seen a copy of his first book anywhere but on his own shelf? Two Swords, One Heaven had had a print run of a thousand copies, and they'd barely managed to sell a hundred copies--and most of those had gone to his friends and family.

"Since I was limited to two books, I thought that I should bring your first book and your latest book," Yukimura said. "It seemed... symmetrical."

"Very symmetrical," Genichirou agreed, stroking the plain blue cover. "I can't even imagine where you might have found a copy of this." He'd written other books since, books that had been more successful than he'd imagined they could be, but none of them were quite as special to him as this one had been.

"On the new releases table at the bookstore, of course," Yukimura said, which made Genichirou look up. This time, Yukimura's smile seemed to be as gentle as it looked. "I thought it was a bit rough, but it showed a great deal of promise." Yukimura rested his fingertips on Shadow. "It pleases me that I was correct."

"Now I'm the one who's flattered," Genichirou managed, after a moment. "Very flattered."

Yukimura's mouth curved. "It's a rare man who can be flattered with the truth."

"Not that rare," Genichirou told him, and recalled himself to what he was supposed to be doing. He opened the cover, noting that it was worn and a bit battered around the corners--this was a book that had been read, and hadn't just sat on a shelf.

"Mm, I think I disagree." Yukimura leaned over the table to watch him write. "I noticed that your rules also said that your fans shouldn't ask you to dinner, since you're very busy."

"Generally I am," Genichirou said, looking up at Yukimura's face, close to his. Yukimura was wearing cologne. The scent of it faint and spicy, and there was no logical reason for it to make him dizzy. Genichirou ran his tongue over dry lips. "Generally my schedule is too tight to permit me to accept invitations, unless they come weeks in advance." He closed the book and laid a hand on top of it to slide it back to Yukimura.

Yukimura reached out for it, and set his fingers on top of Genichirou's. They were cool, and made him think of things like lightning leaping from the clouds. "This signing is the last item on your itinerary, isn't it?" he asked, fingers lingering over Genichirou's.

"Yes," Genichirou said, and added, "There's nothing left for me to do but make the trip home."

"The trains run all the time," Yukimura murmured.

"So they do," Genichirou agreed, neutral.

Yukimura's smile was triumphant, as if Genichirou had conceded a point. "Since that's the case, would you care to join me for dinner, Sanada-san?"

Behind Yukimura, Osakada shook her head No, frantically, until Yukimura shifted his weight just a bit and blocked her from Genichirou's sight.

Genichirou wanted to smile and tell him that he hadn't needed to do that, really. Instead, he nodded, and capped his pen, since Osakada only managed his professional life and didn't get a say in his personal one. Now that the last book had been signed, he was on his own time. "I'd love to," he said.

As interesting as talking books with Yukimura was (and it was very interesting; it'd been a while since he'd talked to anyone so widely-read), by the time they were lingering over dessert, Genichirou couldn't stifle his yawns any more. "I'm sorry," he said, after yawning so hard that his jaw popped. "You must think I'm very rude."

Yukimura shook his head. "I think you must be very tired," he said. "You certainly look more worn than the last time I saw you." He tipped his head. "Does the publicity tour keep you that busy?"

"Yes," Genichirou said. "It's exhausting." He stopped, and shook his head; that was too honest. "I don't want to sound ungrateful. It's good that I get to do these tours, and that I have so many fans who want to come see me."

"I understand. It must get wearing." Yukimura seemed sympathetic, and Genichirou's bluntness hadn't seemed to offend him. He glanced at his watch. "It's late. We should start back to your hotel, so you can get some rest." He raised a hand to catch the eye of their waiter, who hurried over with the check. Genichirou reached for his wallet, but Yukimura shook his head. "No, please, let me," he said. "It would be my pleasure."

"If you insist," Genichirou said.

Yukimura's teeth flashed white and sharp. "I'm afraid I do."

Genichirou nodded, and let him pay, and they walked out of the restaurant in a companionable sort of silence. "You know," Genichirou said, once he was in Yukimura's car, "we don't have to go back to my hotel."

Yukimura glanced at him, eyebrows lifted. "No?"

Genichirou shrugged, fastening his seatbelt. "My apartment is here in Tokyo. It seems silly to make you drive back to Gunma, if you don't have to." The clock on Yukimura's console was blinking 11:23; there were much better things they could do with the time it would take to drive back.

"Mm." Yukimura put the car in gear. "That's true. Where's your apartment?"

Genichirou gave him the address and leaned his head against the headrest. Osakada was likely to be livid, but then, she overreacted to everything, and this way, at least, he wouldn't have to worry about her barging into his room to check on him at just the wrong moment.

He studied Yukimura's profile from the corner of his eye as he drove, wondering a little about him. Yukimura must have felt him looking, but didn't say anything, and before Genichirou quite knew it, they had pulled up to the curb in front of Genichirou's apartment building. Yukimura smiled at him. "Thank you for a lovely evening," he said, as if it hadn't all been his idea. "I don't know when I've had a better time."

"Neither do I," Genichirou agreed.

"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself." Yukimura chuckled. "But I shouldn't take up any more of your time. Sleep well."

The invitation up to his apartment died unspoken at that gentle dismissal. Genichirou stared at Yukimura for a moment, nonplussed. "I'm... sure that I will," he managed, and quashed the urge to add, I'd like to do it again. "Thank you for dinner."

"You're quite welcome," Yukimura said. "Maybe we can do it again."

"I'd like that," Genichirou said, and let pride be damned. He hesitated a moment longer, but when Yukimura didn't say anymore, there didn't seem to be anything else to do but say goodnight and get out of the car.

He watched Yukimura pull away, baffled by how the evening had turned out after all, before scowling and turning his feet towards his apartment. He'd sleep better for not having to share his bed, he told himself.

Genichirou only wished he could make himself believe that.

Genichirou woke up much, much earlier than he'd wanted to when his cell phone began ringing. He groped for it on the bedside table and answered, voice still furred with sleep. "Hello?"

"Genichirou, why is Osakada-kun having hysterics in my office?" his editor inquired, sounding faintly exasperated, which meant that Renji was very annoyed.

Genichirou rubbed some of the sleep from his eyes and sat up, stiff muscles protesting--had he even moved once he'd collapsed in bed last night? It didn't feel like it. "She's having hysterics?" he asked, trying to wake up. "What on earth for?"

"That's what I'd like you to tell me."

He could hear another voice behind Renji's, female, and loud, and mostly unintelligible, and there came a handful of scuffling noises that led into Osakada shrieking into the phone. "Sanada-sensei? Is that you? Are you alive?"

Genichirou winced and held the phone away from his ear until the breathless stream of questions had ended. "I'm fine."

"Where the hell are you?" she demanded. "You never came back to the hotel, and you didn't call, and--" She stopped. "You're with him, aren't you?"

"No, Osakada-kun," Genichirou said, wrestling a pillow up and leaning back against his headboard. "I'm at home."

"At home? What are you doing there?" Osakada sounded bewildered.

"I was sleeping," Genichirou told her, too tired to keep himself from sounding peevish.

"But--but--" Osakada sputtered.

Genichirou supposed he couldn't blame her for her confusion. "We drove to Tokyo for dinner, ate, and then he dropped me off at home. I'm not dead in a ditch. Happy now?"

"He knows where you live?" She started off low and ended up yelling. "Sanada-sensei, you moron, you--"

Genichirou put the phone down to let the tinny shouting go on without interruption, and massaged his forehead, trying to ease the incipient headache away. Osakada was probably imagining things much, much worse than the reality: a long drive into Tokyo and a late dinner at a nice restaurant, and a long conversation about books and little else.

The yelling from the phone had stopped, and he picked it up to hear Renji saying, "--irou? Genichirou, are you there?"

"I'm still here. I just put the phone down for a moment."

Renji snorted. "Imagine that. Just what have you done to get her so wound up?"

"Nothing. I went to dinner after the signing last night, and I went home instead of back to the hotel." Perhaps all Yukimura had wanted was someone to talk literature with, after all. He supposed that if he were honest, that nothing was the real source of his irritation. Genichirou wasn't used to misreading someone so thoroughly, but he'd been exhausted, after all, and not at his best.

"And just who was your date, an axe-murderer?" Renji sounded less exasperated and more amused now.

"Not an axe-murderer," Genichirou said. "Yukimura Seiichi. Osakada-kun insists that he's yakuza." Genichirou wasn't convinced, yet; Yukimura was sharp, but he acted more like a high-powered businessman who loved books.

Renji made a choked sound that startled Genichirou out of his thoughts. "You went out to dinner with Yukimura Seiichi?"

"Mm. Yes." Whimsy made him add, "Would you like me to tell you what he had to eat?"

"...no wonder Osakada-kun showed up to have hysterics at me," Renji said, voice a little strained.

"Nothing happened," Genichirou said, and raked a hand through his hair. "We talked about books and publishing the entire time." He didn't like it when Renji sounded upset; a little worm of unease was beginning to niggle at him. "He was very pleasant."

"He's also one of the youngest yakuza heads ever," Renji said, after a moment. "I doubt he got there by being pleasant."

"Mm. He has good tastes in books, whatever he is." Genichirou traced his finger over the edge of a blanket. "So he really is yakuza?"

"Yes," Renji said. "Very much so." He stopped. "I don't know what you're planning on doing, but please be careful, Genichirou."

"I'm always careful," Genichirou said, indignant.

"Really careful," Renji said. "Please."

Genichirou took a breath. "I will be." He shifted the phone to his other ear. "I don't suppose Osakada-kun brought my luggage with her when she came storming in?"

"She did. You can stop by and pick it up any time," Renji said.

"I'll come by later," Genichirou said. "Was there anything else you needed?"

"No. Sorry for waking you up."

"Don't worry about it. I'll talk to you later," Genichirou said. Renji murmured the same, and Genichirou closed the phone and set it down.

So. Renji thought he should be careful. That carried more weight than all of Osakada's hysterics put together.

Genichirou scowled at his ceiling. "Nothing happened," he said. "It's fine."

And since he was wide awake now, there was nothing for it but to get up and see whether there was anything edible in the apartment, and ignore the fact that he'd never gone wrong trusting Renji's advice before.

It took a couple of days of napping and cleaning his apartment to feel like himself again, which was normal for the aftermath of a publicity tour. The process of settling back into his routine soothed his wounded ego over the Yukimura matter, and within a few days life was back to normal: mornings spent writing and tending to his correspondence, afternoons spent reading or at the library, tracking down errant bits of trivia about the Sengoku era, and then an hour or two in the evening at his grandfather's dojo, letting the kata and the atmosphere there calm him and clear his mind.

By the time a week was out, he was able to tell Osakada that no, he hadn't heard anything else from Yukimura, and was very nearly cheerful about it.

"Well, good," she said. "You really don't need that kind of complication, Sanada-san, not with all the projects you have going right now."

Genichirou crushed the half-wistful thought that he really wouldn't mind a complication or two. Osakada was absolutely right; he was on a deadline for Strike Like Lightning and had story requests from half a dozen anthologies on top of that. He didn't have time for complications.

Not that he let that stop him from saying yes two days later, when he came out of the library late one afternoon and bumped into Yukimura, who promptly asked him out for coffee.

"I didn't expect to run into you again so soon," Genichirou told him, when they had their coffee and had retired to a booth in the corner of the cafe just down the street from the library.

Yukimura shrugged. "I happened to be in the area," he said. His eyes gleamed over the rim of his coffee cup. "Lucky for me that you were, too."

"Indeed," Genichirou said. "Were you on business?" Was that the sort of thing you could ask someone who headed his own yakuza group?

Yukimura's face didn't give anything away. "Yes," he said, and glanced at Genichirou's notebook, resting next to his saucer. "The same for you?"

"If you can call doing research for something that is a dead end business," Genichirou said, and scowled at the notebook.

"Oh?" When he looked up again, Yukimura was licking a bit of foamed milk from his upper lip, and he had to tell himself not to stare. "What were you looking at?"

"It doesn't matter, really," Genichirou said, and collected his wits. Yukimura probably wouldn't have asked if he weren't curious, or at least trying to make conversation. "Cloth-dying. I thought that I needed it, but I don't after all."

"Maybe you'll need it later," Yukimura suggested, smiling like he knew what sort of an effect he had on Genichirou.

Genichirou laughed, rueful. "I wish." He tapped the notebook. "I have dozen of these full of things I haven't found a use for."

"Yet," Yukimura said, and rested his chin in one slender hand. "I'm sure that if you give yourself enough time, you'll find something."

"I hope so," Genichirou said. "I'm not a terribly patient man."

Yukimura threw his head back and laughed. "No? I'll have to remember that." He turned serious just as suddenly as he laughed. "One of the things I've always liked about your books is how well-grounded they are. They feel very... thorough."

Yukimura's eyes were intent; Genichirou had to cover the way they disconcerted him with a sip of coffee. "Thank you," he said. "It's good to know that the work I do on my research doesn't go completely to waste."

That earned him a slow, hot smile that sent a curl of something down Genichirou's spine in response. "I suspect that very little you do ever goes to waste, Sanada-san." He hadn't misread Yukimura after all, which was both comforting and very promising. "You seem remarkably--"

Whatever Yukimura thought he was remarkable at got lost in the sudden jingle of a cell phone. The smile vanished from Yukimura's face and all the easy grace of his body tightened up as he answered it. "What?" he snapped, and then, "They did what?" and finally, "Keep things under control. I'll be there soon."

It was like watching an unexpected killing frost sweep down on a garden, Genichirou thought, as Yukimura tucked the phone away. "Is everything all right?" he asked.

"It will be," Yukimura said, and not even his mouth was smiling now. "I apologize, but I'm afraid I need to leave."

"There's nothing to apologize for," Genichirou said. Yukimura began to slide out of the booth. "Wait." He dug for a pen, and scrabbled for his notebook, ripping a sheet of paper out. He scribbled his phone numbers down on it. "I owe you a meal," he said, and offered it to Yukimura.

Yukimura's expression was unreadable. "I don't believe you owe me anything," he said, but he plucked the phone numbers out of Genichirou's fingers anyway and slid them into his pocket.

"Good luck with your--business," Genichirou told him.

One corner of Yukimura's mouth turned up. "Thank you." He tucked his head into a short bow, and stood. "See you around, Sanada-san."

"Later," Sanada murmured, watching him go, and consoled himself with the remainder of his coffee.

It was a few days later that Renji forwarded an article to him. Renji didn't bother to include a note with it, but reading through the story (which talked about an outbreak of violence in a club downtown, and implied that it was due to tensions between the rival yakuza groups Rikkai and Higa), Genichirou concluded that Renji must have thought that the article would speak for itself.

He checked the dates in the article, and wondered what Renji would have say if Genichirou told him about having coffee with Yukimura the afternoon of the day that fight had happened.

Nothing kind, he decided, and deleted the email without replying to it. There was no point in letting Renji repeat what his own common sense was already telling him.

"There's something bothering you," Ojiisama said later, after their sparring match, when they'd retired to the garden behind his dojo to drink tea.

"Why do you say that?" Genichirou asked.

"Don't ask such stupid questions." Ojiisama turned the teacup in his hands. "Don't you think I can see it in your kendo?"

"Mm." Genichirou looked out over the small garden.

"Is it the book?" Ojiisama asked, and gave him a sly look. "I have a class of beginners starting up next week, if you need the distraction."

Genichirou snorted. "You just don't want to have deal with them yourself."

"If that was the case, I'd give them to your brother to handle." His grandfather chuckled. "The book is fine, then?"

"It's coming along nicely," Genichirou allowed.

"At least your publisher will be happy," Ojiisama said.

"Renji doesn't care what I have to do, as long as I get the book done on time." And if that meant submerging himself in kendo until his writer's block dissolved like he'd had to do for Wind, so be it.

"He always did strike me as a practical boy."

"He's very practical, yes," Genichirou agreed.

Ojiisama glanced at him, and for all that he liked to complain that his eyes were going bad on him, they were so sharp that they still made Genichirou feel pinned. "There something wrong with being practical?"

Only when you want something foolish, Genichirou thought, and didn't say. "Not at all."

Ojiisama turned his eyes back to his tea. "Just as well you're not having problems with the book," he said. "You're not in the right frame of mind to teach."

Unsettled as he was, Genichirou couldn't argue with that. "No," he said, and sipped his tea. "I'm not."

"Guess it's up to me to handle the new students after all." Ojiisama shrugged. "Straighten your head out, boy, before your kendo starts to suffer."

"Yes, Ojiisama," Genichirou said, and wished it were that easy.

He was in the middle of trying to write a scene that had been giving him fits all morning when the phone rang for the fourth time and derailed his train of thought once again. Genichirou groaned as he reached for the phone. "This had better be good," he announced when he answered, without preamble, "because I swear, if I get interrupted one more time--"

"Have I called at a bad time, Sanada-san?"

There was no mistaking the sound of Yukimura's voice, even if it sounded startled.

Genichirou sucked in a breath. "No, of course not, sorry, I didn't know it was you--" He stopped himself, and gave thanks that at least Yukimura couldn't see his face. "What can I do for you?"

"I can call back, if this is a bad time." There was an undercurrent of laughter in Yukimura's voice now.

"No, it's not, I just thought you might be Osakada-kun again." Genichirou saved his work, and settled back in his chair.

"Ah, I see." Yukimura chuckled. "I was calling to see whether you were still interested in dinner."

He thought, briefly, of Renji's emailed article, and dismissed it. "Of course I am," he said. "Very interested."

"Wonderful." Yukimura sounded pleased enough. "I have this evening free--or is that too soon?"

"Not at all," Genichirou said, feeling a smile starting to creep over his face, and not caring to stop it. "Where would you like to go?"

"Why don't you decide? I picked last time."

"Ah..." Genichirou cast about. "How about... are you familiar with the Pomegranate?" It was small and quiet, and good for an intimate sort of meal.

"I know of it, yes. It'll be fine." Yukimura paused. "Let's meet there... around seven, perhaps?"

"Seven's fine with me." Meeting there wasn't quite so promising, but he supposed it wasn't as if Yukimura didn't know where his apartment was. "I'll call and make reservations."

"Sounds lovely. See you then."

"See you tonight," Sanada agreed, and sat the phone down.

He didn't care if he was being foolish, he decided, and went to look up the phone number of the restaurant, smiling all the way.

"So," Yukimura said, over dinner, "just what did I interrupt when I called?" He smiled. "It sounded terribly important."

"It wasn't, really," Genichirou said, and cleared his throat. He probably deserved to be reminded of his rudeness; and it certainly wasn't the first time his temper had embarrassed him. That didn't mean he had to enjoy it.

"Oh?" Yukimura leaned forward, eyes dancing. "Are you sure?"

"Quite sure." It wasn't impossible to salvage the situation. "I was in the middle of a difficult scene, and Osakada-kun kept calling about an itinerary she's putting together every time I got unstuck." The most irritating part about those calls was that each one had been legitimately important; she wouldn't have called during his writing hours if they hadn't.

"An itinerary?" Yukimura blinked. "Are you going on another publicity tour so soon?"

"Not for a few weeks. I have to finish Lightning first." Genichirou relaxed; Yukimura wasn't going to ask him where he'd bogged down. Good. "But I get scheduled a while in advance."

"I had no idea a writer's life could be so busy," Yukimura murmured.

"It'd be busier if I had to work to support myself." Genichirou smiled, wry. "That's how I used to do it." Even then he'd been lucky enough to work flexible hours teaching in his grandfather's dojo, doing something he enjoyed instead working in an office. "I've been very fortunate."

"It's no less than you deserve," Yukimura said, and then he cocked his head, eyes bright with curiosity. "So what were you having trouble writing?"

There were times when he wondered about his luck, and this was turning into one of them. "Ah." Genichirou cleared his throat. "A love scene."

That earned him two beats of silence, and then a peal of laughter that made heads around the restaurant turn.

Genichirou cleared his throat, and ignored the heat creeping up his neck. "It's not that funny."

"Oh, I think it is," Yukimura said, eyes bright. "Since when do your books have love scenes in them?"

"Since the story demanded them," Genichirou told him. "They're not as easy as they look, either. Battle scenes are a lot easier to choreograph--" That set Yukimura off again. "I really don't see what's so funny."

Yukimura wiped his eyes. "That's because you can't see your own face," he wheezed. "And you don't know how cranky you sounded when I called."

"I was--irritable. You would be too, if you'd barely managed to get a thousand words down." And that didn't include the things he'd written and erased and rewritten and then scrapped in disgust. "It was a wasted morning."

"It can't have been a waste," Yukimura said, reasonable. "You have a thousand words that you didn't have before."

Genichirou shrugged. "It felt like a waste," he said. "And I hate every one of them, too."

Yukimura snorted. "I'm sure your fans will love them." He sounded sincere enough, but his mouth was twitching.

Ah, the fans. "Some of them will," he said, dry. "Some of them won't."

Yukimura settled back in his seat. "Finally resolving the love triangle?"

"Of course. It's the last book in the series. All of my fans would hate me if I left it hanging." Not that he hadn't considered it.

Yukimura waited, and when he didn't add anything more, prompted, "So... in whose favor?"

"I can't tell you," Genichirou said.

"Not even a hint?" Yukimura coaxed.

Genichirou scowled at him. "Absolutely not. You'll have to find out when you read the book."

"So strict," Yukimura said, but he was smiling like he hadn't really expected Genichirou to tell him. "So much for that."

"If you're nice, I'll let you help me go over the galleys," Genichirou offered. Maybe Yukimura would still be around by then. Maybe they would be close enough for that to be okay. "It'll be a few months, but maybe you're more patient than I am."

"Would you?" Yukimura's expression shifted from teasing to something still and remote, and then back to a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, all so fast that Genichirou would have missed it if he hadn't been looking. "I'll have to remember that."

"I can remind you," Genichirou said, baffled by the sudden change in his mood.

"We'll see," Yukimura said, and as quickly as that, the easy camaraderie of the meal had dissipated. Genichirou tried, but Yukimura had retreated just a bit, as if Genichirou had somehow offended him. When the check came, he looked at his watch. "It's been a lovely evening, Sanada-san. Thank you."

"I enjoyed it, too," Genichirou said, and took a breath. "Do you have to go home?"

Yukimura's smile seemed almost brittle. "I do. I have a meeting at seven tomorrow morning."

Genichirou bit back his disappointment. "What an awful time to schedule a meeting," he said, and smiled. "It'll be your turn to treat, next time."

For a moment, as he held Yukimura's eyes, he thought that Yukimura was going to say that there wasn't going to be a next time. Then his smile relaxed, just a bit. "Of course," he said. "That's only fair."

"I look forward to it," Genichirou told him.

Yukimura's mouth softened a bit more. "So do I," he said, and tipped his head. "Good night."

"You're acting like a love-sick girl," Genichirou told his reflection later, after he'd turned all the conversations he'd had with Yukimura inside-out, trying to find something that would tell him what was going on and coming up with nothing. "He's yakuza, and he's not interested in anything but talking about books. Get over him."

His reflection just scowled back at him.

Genichirou sighed and gave up, and tried not to hate his bed for being empty when he'd hoped to have someone to share it with.

Genichirou knew exactly one way to deal with disappointment, and that was to work, so he did. He plunged himself into a short story that he'd promised to finish by the end of the month, and hammered on it for two days straight before he sent it off to the surprised editor, ten days early. He spent hours in his grandfather's dojo, doing kata until his arms and legs ached and Ojiisama peered at him in concern, and at night, he slept like the dead--which was the point, because more than anything else, he didn't want to dream.

When a week went by and he didn't hear from Yukimura again, he told himself that it only proved that he'd been right, and threw himself into finishing the first draft of Lightning.

Renji sent him a few more news stories while he worked on the last chapter; when Genichirou read them dutifully, following Rikkai's ongoing war with Higa, and then deleted them. He could have told Renji that there was no longer any need to send them, but Renji would have asked why and was too perceptive for Genichirou to be comfortable with that prospect.

He wrote the closing paragraph for Lightning on a Friday afternoon, saved his work and backed it up in three different places, and then sat back in his chair to savor the accomplishment.

The phone chose that moment to ring.

He reached for it, glad that Osakada had waited that last five minutes, and answered. "Sanada speaking."

"You sound cheerful," Yukimura said. "I trust I'm not interrupting a crucial love scene this time?"

Genichirou let out his breath, slowly. "No, not at all," he said. Yukimura sounded pleasant and warm. "I just finished the book, actually."

"You did? That's wonderful!" Yukimura exclaimed. "Congratulations."

"Thank you," Genichirou said, and rubbed his chin. "What can I do for you?"

If Yukimura noticed the wariness in his voice, he didn't let on. "I was calling to see whether you might like to get dinner," he said, and chuckled. "I have good timing, it seems--or would you like to celebrate some other way?" He very nearly purred the last few words, and Genichirou's stomach clenched in response. He took so long to answer that Yukimura laughed again. "Well?"

"Just what are we doing here, Yukimura?" Genichirou asked, quiet even in his own ears.

"I thought I was asking you to dinner," Yukimura said; Genichirou imagined that if he could see Yukimura's face just then, it would have been still and shuttered.

"Why? So you can flirt with me and then send me home alone, again?" Genichirou asked. "If that's what you want to do, I'll pass. I don't care to be toyed with." There. He couldn't get any clearer than that.

"Do you think that's what I've been doing?" Yukimura asked, voice gone cool.

"If it hasn't been, then I don't know what you're doing," Genichirou told him, the month's worth of confusion and frustration pouring out. "I haven't been anything like subtle. Since you haven't cared to take me up on any of my offers, all I can do is assume that you're playing with me." He drew a breath. "Or do you want to tell me that I've misunderstood everything?"

"You're an impatient man, aren't you?"

"I told you I was," Genichirou said.

"So you did." Yukimura's laugh was short. "I'll pick you up for dinner at six-thirty. I don't want to do this over the phone."

That wasn't an invitation. That was an order. "Fine," Genichirou said. "I'll see you then."

The knock on his door came promptly at six-thirty. Genichirou took a breath to steel himself, and answered--and stared, a little blankly, at the stranger standing on his doorstep. "I'm sorry, can I help you?" he asked the man.

If he'd had trouble imagining that Yukimura was a member of the yakuza, this man--bleached hair, expensive sunglasses, tacky suit, and insolent grin--left him with no doubts that he could be anything else.

"Sure you can. Boss sent me to pick you up, Sanada-sensei." The man looked him over, not bothering to hide that he was appraising Genichirou. "Hmph."

Genichirou got the distinct impression that he'd been found wanting. "And you are?"

"The errand boy." The man's smile was wolfish. "You coming or not? The boss doesn't like to be kept waiting."

"...how do I know Yukimura-san sent you?" Genichirou hedged.

Something like surprise flickered behind the sunglasses. "You don't."

"I see." Genichirou frowned--what was this, a test? "He said he was going to pick me up. I think I'll wait for him, if you don't mind."

"You've gotta be kidding me." The man raked his hair back. "Look, pal, I don't know who you think you are, but you don't get to order him around like that."

Genichirou folded his arms. "And I don't know who you think you are, but I don't tend to take the word of total strangers."

The man's hands flexed for a moment, until his pocket rang. He answered his phone, gaze never leaving Genichirou's face. "It's me." He paused. "He's being stubborn." Another pause. "Won't leave without the boss, that's why." Another pause, and a grimace. "Yeah, sure--ah. Hello, Yukimura-sama." Pause. "No, I'm not antagonizing him." He made another face. "Says he's going to wait for you." He paused again. "Sure thing, Boss. Here he is." He held the phone out to Genichirou. "He wants to talk to you, Sensei."

Genichirou took the phone. "This is Sanada."

"I suppose you have some survival instincts after all," Yukimura said, and his voice was crisp. "Niou-kun is my bodyguard. You can trust him to walk you down to the car, Sanada-san."

"Ah. Thank you for--"

Yukimura hung up.

Genichirou hesitated, and then handed the phone back to Niou, who was grinning at him, toothy and dangerous. "Better now?"

"Yes," Genichirou said, and locked the apartment behind him.

Niou led him down to a car with tinted windows, and opened the rear door for him, still wearing that mocking grin.

Genichirou got in, and Yukimura looked at him, expression pleasant. "Good evening, Sanada-san."

"Yukimura-san," Genichirou said. So, they were back to distant and pleasant? He could play that game, too.

"Congratulations again," Yukimura said. "You must be excited to have finished the book."

"I am, a little." The car dipped under Niou's weight as he got in, and the car shifted into gear. He could just see the shapes of the heads in the front seat through the tinted screen that divided it from the back seat. "It's not really finished. All that's done is the first draft." Shop talk was easy enough, and familiar.

"Oh? What comes next?"

"I'll put it away for a week and forget about it, and then I'll read it and start making edits." A bodyguard, and a driver, and an expensive car with thick windows--Yukimura didn't pull punches when he wanted to send a message, did he?

"Ah, of course." Yukimura waited a moment. "How does it feel to be nearly done with the series?" He sounded as cool and professional as a reporter, and only half as interested.

"I don't think it's sunk in that I'm nearly done, yet," Genichirou said, and looked at Yukimura directly. "If you don't want to see me any more, you could have just said so while we were on the phone."

Yukimura was silent, and his face was still. Eventually he said, carefully, "I wish that you would stop deciding what I think for me."

"I wouldn't have to do it if you'd give me a few hints," Genichirou retorted. No, that wasn't quite accurate, was it? "Or if you could make up your mind which set of hints you want to use."

Yukimura's mouth tightened, but he looked out the window. "I suppose I earned that."

"Just a little bit," Genichirou said. He turned his eyes out his own window. Yukimura hadn't said that he didn't want to see Genichirou anymore. Did that mean--he told himself to stop being foolish. "Where are we going?"

"To my home," Yukimura said, which made him look away from the passing seat to stare. Yukimura carried on, unperturbed. "I'd meant to take you out, but I don't believe this is a conversation that belongs in public."

"No," Genichirou said. "I don't think it does."

A corner of Yukimura's mouth turned up at that, but he didn't reply.

They didn't speak again until the car had stopped at the front door of a large house that was surrounded by traditional gardens. The driver was out of the car and opening the door for Yukimura almost before the car had come to a complete stop. Niou was slower about letting Genichirou out. Something about the cast of his smile said that it was deliberate.

So be it.

"Will you require anything else this evening, Yukimura-sama?" the driver asked. He was like Yukimura, in a way--all neat hair and neater suit, so proper that had Genichirou passed him in the street, he never would have guessed yakuza.

"No, Yagyuu-kun. Your shift ended an hour ago." Yukimura was relaxed with his driver, even a bit wry; Genichirou filed that away for further consideration as he came around the side of the car to join Yukimura. "I won't keep you any longer. Enjoy your evening."

Yagyuu bowed; Niou flicked his fingers in a lazy salute. "You too, Boss." He flashed one last grin before he and Yagyuu got back into the car and it purred away.

Genichirou watched it go, and cast his eyes around. The grounds were lush and immaculate, a spread of green and color and shape that filled the space between the house and the wall that closed it off from the street perfectly. Ojiisama would have died of envy, if he'd been there to see it.

"Do you like them?" Yukimura asked, interrupting his thoughts.

"It's a beautiful garden," Genichirou said, not sure that he wasn't a bit envious himself, come to think of it.

Yukimura's smile shifted to something with actual warmth behind it. "Thank you." He looked at the careful jumble of trees and flowers and water. "I designed it myself."

Extensively-read, breathtakingly handsome, a master gardener... was there anything that Yukimura Seiichi didn't do well? "Ah," Genichirou said. "You're very gifted."

Yukimura lifted a shoulder. "I'm very determined about the things that interest me," he said. "Come inside. They'll have dinner waiting for us." He turned for the house. Genichirou followed.

It was on the tip of his tongue to ask who they were, but he refrained as he slipped out of his shoes and into a pair of guest slippers. When he looked up, a third man had joined them. "Dinner's ready, sir," he said. "They can have it on the table whenever you like."

"Thank you, Jackal-kun," Yukimura said. He cast an eye at Genichirou, and then looked back at him. "I think we're ready now. Tell them to lay the meal out. We'll fend for ourselves after that."

Jackal nodded and slipped away.

"Your butler?" Genichirou ventured, when he'd gone.

Yukimura laughed. "Hardly. My bodyguard."

"I thought you said Niou-san was your bodyguard," Genichirou said, following Yukimura deeper into the house. He glanced into the rooms they passed, wondering what they would say about their owner. The glimpses he caught were of restrained furnishings, and scattered pieces of art. Everything was understated and elegant.

He might have guessed as much.

"I have more than one bodyguard." Yukimura's back was to him, but he sounded tired all the same. "Jackal-kun is the second shift, as it were."

That implied a third shift, and-- "You've never had a bodyguard with you before."

Yukimura looked back at him. "That you noticed," he said, and shrugged. "We'll eat in here tonight." He opened a door and gestured Genichirou inside.

The room was full of books, and had an overstuffed armchair placed in clear view of a pair of French doors that opened onto a porch and another garden. Two women were setting a table; one lifted the last covered dish from a tray and placed it on the crowded table while the other lit the pair of tapers. They both looked up and giggled when they caught Genichirou staring.

They sobered again when Yukimura came in after him. "It looks like we have good timing," he said.

The women bowed. "Everything is as you requested, Yukimura-sama," one murmured. "Is there anything else that you require?"

"No, nothing else," Yukimura told them. "You may go."

They bowed again and filed out. Genichirou caught a stifled titter from one as she passed.

Yukimura shut the door behind them, and crossed the room to open the doors onto the garden. "The air coming off the garden is lovely in the evening," he said, as the candles bobbed in the sudden draft. He turned back to Genichirou. "Please, sit down."

Genichirou took the closest seat, and looked around him. "Is this the library you told me about?" he said. Yukimura nodded as he shrugged his jacket off, draping it over the back of the armchair. "You never mentioned how--extensive--it is."

"I wasn't aware that you wanted the floor plan," Yukimura told him, undoing his tie. He dropped it on top of the coat, and undid the button at his collar before he sat.

There was a flash of color where Yukimura's shirt gapped open, bright against the sober grey, and it caught Genichirou's eye. He looked closer, and then stared--that was a tattoo, moving with Yukimura's skin, catching the candlelight.

Genichirou jerked his eyes away, feeling as guilty as he would have been to be caught trespassing.

Yukimura's smile was almost kind. "Shall we eat?" he asked, and took the cover off the first dish.

Afterwards, he never was able to recall what they ate that night. He was sure that the food and the wine were excellent, but he didn't taste any of it. The silence between them was too heavy to allow for that, and the color that winked at Genichirou with every move Yukimura made kept him too distracted to make polite conversation. Peculiar, how having concrete knowledge that Yukimura really was yakuza was so startling. He'd thought he'd made up his mind weeks ago that it didn't matter.

Yukimura didn't try to draw him out until Genichirou put his chopsticks down for the last time. "I'm sorry that it wasn't much," Yukimura said. "I gave my cook very short notice."

"No, it was a feast," Genichirou said, the response coming automatically. It was Yukimura, he decided, and his name was in half of the news articles Renji had sent him. He'd known intellectually. Now he knew viscerally. Nothing had actually changed. "Thank you for it."

"Mm." Yukimura folded his hands under his chin and looked at Genichirou. "Well," he said, while the light from the candles played across his face and cast odd shadows in his eyes. "Would you like me to have someone drive you home?"

It was gracious of him to offer an escape like that, now that Yukimura was sure that Genichirou was seeing him clearly, without the haze of lust to distract him from the truth. Genichirou's common sense, sounding remarkably like Renji, said that he should accept the offer, and not look back.

Genichirou laid his palms on the table. "So," he said. "You're going to send me home by myself again after all?"

He hadn't listened to common sense when it concerned Yukimura Seiichi before. There was no sense in starting now.

Yukimura blinked, and blinked again, and it was so long before he replied that Genichirou realized that he was seeing Yukimura surprised for the first time. "Don't you want to leave?"

"Not particularly," Genichirou said, and that only seemed to disconcert Yukimura more.

"Sanada-san," Yukimura said, quietly, "you're not stupid." He sat up straighter, and his fingers went to the cuff of his sleeve, undoing the buttons. His eyes stayed on Genichirou's as he rolled the sleeve up, and extended his arm. "You know what these mean, don't you?"

Genichirou looked at the striations of color that ran up Yukimura's forearm, and then back up at Yukimura's face. "Yes," he said. "As you say--I'm not stupid. I know what they are. And what they mean."

"And you still want to stay?" Yukimura asked, tone changing almost imperceptibly as he rolled his sleeve back down.

Genichirou sucked in a breath. No wonder Yukimura was surprised. Yukimura expected him to leave, now that he'd seen the tattoos. "Yukimura," he said, slow and deliberate, "Osakada-kun told me that you were yakuza the first time we met." No matter that he hadn't believed it until Renji had confirmed it. He'd known from the start, and had walked into this with open eyes.

"You knew?" Yukimura paused in the act of buttoning his cuff. Genichirou suspected that Yukimura was almost never this discombobulated, and that he should enjoy the phenomenon of having the upper hand while he could. "You didn't say anything."

"You didn't seem to want to talk about it." How many times had Yukimura steered their conversations away from his business, and how many times had he been vague when Genichirou asked him direct questions? Too many to count, really. He looked at Yukimura, who looked as thought he couldn't decide whether he ought to be outraged or relieved by this admission. "You thought it would bother me enough that I'd stop seeing you if I knew," he said. "Didn't you?"

Yukimura's mouth went tight. "That tends to be the usual reaction," he said.

That was interesting, and prompted another thought. "Was that why you kept holding back with me?"

Yukimura's mouth tightened even more, lips pressed together so firmly that they were nearly white. "That's part of it."

"And the other part?" Genichirou prompted, when Yukimura wasn't forthcoming.

"Do you read the newspapers?" Yukimura asked, abrupt.

Genichirou thought of the articles Renji had sent so conscientiously, the lurid headlines and the occasional body counts. "You mean the thing with Higa?" he hazarded. "The turf war?"

"That, yes." Yukimura steepled his fingers in front of his chin, and when he spoke again, his voice was hard and cold. "Higa was a group of upstarts who had no business calling themselves yakuza. For all that, they were very good at causing trouble. They had a leader, Kite, and he was entirely too ambitious. He was also a ruthless bastard, and he had a bad habit of not respecting neutral figures. If he thought that killing someone's child, someone's mother, someone's lover--someone who had nothing to do with business--might give him an edge on an opponent, he did it."

Genichirou swallowed. "You keep saying 'was' and 'were'," he said, carefully.

Yukimura's eyes glittered. "We've broken Higa," he said. "I've been meaning to do it for some time, because they were starting to annoy me."

"Why now?" Genichirou asked, even though the weight in his stomach said that he knew why.

"Someone told him about you," Yukimura said, slow and precise. "I suspect that they saw me with you the last time we had dinner."

Genichirou couldn't quite stop the reflexive shiver. Yukimura saw that, and plowed on anyway. "Thank you for staying so close to home for the past few weeks," he said. "It made protecting you much easier."

"My pleasure," Genichirou managed, through the tightness in his throat. Nothing had happened. He repeated that to himself. Nothing had happened. He was safe, and nothing had happened. "I take it you're not worried about anyone seeing that I came here tonight?" he managed, after a moment, almost normally.

"Not particularly," Yukimura said. Even though all his teeth were showing, Genichirou thought, that expression couldn't possibly be considered a smile. "I made an example of Higa, and Kite is dead. I executed him myself."

Genichirou swallowed. "I... see." What was the etiquette for these situations? Was he supposed to thank Yukimura for that service?

The satisfaction slipped out of Yukimura's face, and the cold followed after it. "Shall I call for that ride now?" he asked, gently. He moved to stand, obviously expecting Genichirou to say yes.

Now was not the time to think about near-misses and brushes with death. Genichirou shook himself. "Why were you even seeing me if you only planned on letting me go?"

Yukimura froze. "Did I ever say I planned that?"

"You're the one who keeps suggesting that I should go home," Genichirou said. He gestured at the table and the candles. "You ask me to dinner, and send your bodyguard to pick me up. You have an intimate meal waiting for me, and then you tell me to go home. You come on strong, and then you push me away while you back off. Do you have any idea how frustrating you're being?"

Yukimura stared at him for a long moment, and then shook his head. "You did hear me say that I killed a man, didn't you?" he inquired, tone bone-dry.

"I did." Genichirou lifted his chin a bit. "I also heard you say that he would have killed me just for being close to you."

"That's what you can expect," Yukimura said, going cold again. "The rules are changing, and people don't worry about crossing lines that shouldn't be crossed anymore. If you are known to be close to me, your life will be in danger." He smiled, teeth glittering sharp and white. "And I'll have to destroy anyone who even thinks about trying to hurt you." He stopped, and tucked his edges away again. "Be reasonable, Sanada. That's no kind of life for a respectable novelist."

He wondered whether Yukimura had any idea how much of his passion had showed just then. Possibly he didn't, judging by how hot his eyes were, even now. Genichirou took a breath, and damned his common sense. "Maybe it's not." He shrugged. "So what?" Another hypothesis presented itself to him. "If Kite hadn't interfered, what were you going to do with me? Court me slowly, and hope that by the time you told me the whole truth, or I figured it out, I'd be too besotted with you to care?" That made as much sense out of Yukimura's erratic behavior as anything else.

Yukimura blinked. "I'd swear that you weren't even listening to me," he said, somewhere between exasperated and wondering.

"I'm listening." Genichirou sat back and folded his arms. "I'm not stupid, remember? I've known what you are since the beginning of this." Perhaps he hadn't known about being targeted, but--that was hardly any creepier than the occasional deranged fan could be. "If all you wanted from me was sex, you could have had that and been gone by now, with no one the wiser." He paused. "But if you wanted more than that, why are you having such a hard time accepting that you have it?"

Yukimura stared at him for a moment, and then laughed. It was a bitter sound. "Would it surprise you very much to hear that I never have before?"

Oh. Genichirou took a breath. "Only that there could be so many fools in the world."

"Sometimes I think that the fool is me." Yukimura looked away. "Really, you should go. It's getting late, and you don't want to do this."

Genichirou reached across the table, careful of the empty dishes and the candles, and caught one of Yukimura's wrists. It flexed in his grip, and Yukimura's gaze whipped back to him. "My name is Genichirou," he said, softly, "and I don't want to go." He paused, and added, "I want to stay, Seiichi."

They stayed frozen like that as the seconds ticked by, until Seiichi said, hoarse, "You can't say that I didn't warn you. When you regret this later, it's not my fault."

"I'm not going to regret anything," Genichirou told him, sliding his fingers up and tangling them with Seiichi's. "I promise."

Seiichi smiled, but his eyes said he'd believe that when he saw it. "Would you like to see the rest of the house, Genichirou?" he asked, voice husky.

"I'd love to," Genichirou told him.

The tour, if it could be called that, was a brief one--down a hall, and then a turn, down another, and through another door into Seiichi's bedroom. Genichirou glanced at the bed, which had the covers turned down invitingly, and the handful of stubby candles that were already burning, and then raised an eyebrow at Seiichi. "Are you sure that you weren't planning on seducing me tonight?"

"I wasn't exactly," Yukimura said, slowly. He looked up with a smile. "But it's good to be ready for any contingency." He paused. "Even if it's an unlikely one."

"I should have known," Genichirou said, and stepped toward him.

Seiichi met him halfway, arms sliding around Genichirou's shoulders and facing tilting up to his. It was such a relief to finally be able to cover Seiichi's mouth with his own that Genichirou nearly shivered, and he wondered briefly whether this wasn't just another foolish dream. The slim back under his hands felt solid enough, though, and Seiichi's mouth was too eager to mistake for anything but reality.

When they parted, Seiichi was smiling, something warmer and softer than he'd seen before. "I've been waiting to do that," he said, long fingers ruffling through Genichirou's hair.

"I noticed," Genichirou said, and kept his face as straight as he could.

"Oh did you?" Funny, how all of Seiichi's uncertainty had vanished again, now that they were here. He looped Genichirou's tie around his hand and tugged him back into a kiss. "What else did you notice?" he asked, lips and breath hot against Genichirou's mouth.

"That we're here, and the bed is over there," Genichirou said, and took a step backwards.

Seiichi came with him. "So it is," he said. "That's no good." He stepped into Genichirou, pushing against him hard enough that Genichirou had to move or risk being knocked over, and walked him backwards to the bed. "There," Seiichi said, and gave Genichirou another new smile, this one full of mischief. "Bed."

And he planted his palms in the center of Genichirou's chest and pushed him over.

The mattress was firm enough that Genichirou bounced, and when the brief disorientation passed, he looked up at Seiichi, who was laughing. "You could have just told me to lie down," he said.

"And miss out on the look on your face?" Seiichi slid between his legs and leaned down. "That would have been a shame." He balanced himself on one hand and kissed Genichirou again, and for all of his laughter, this one felt more serious.

Seiichi had a wicked streak. Genichirou filed that away for later consideration, and busied himself with the tongue stroking against his, and the slender body leaning over him. Seiichi's free hand was unknotting his tie and tossing it aside. Genichirou waited until it wasn't likely that Seiichi could strangle him, and then twisted his leg around Seiichi's, knocking him off-balance and pulling him down. "That's better," he wheezed; lithe as he was, Seiichi was built solidly.

"That's cheating," Seiichi accused him, and raised himself up on an elbow to survey them. "If we go on like this, we're going to slide off the bed."

"You were the one who started it," Genichirou told him, but obeyed the hands pulling at him, squirming around so that he was lying lengthwise instead of crosswise. "Better?"

"Much," Seiichi said, smiling, and straddled his hips. "Now I can get at you properly."

Properly meant that Seiichi's mouth descended on his the very next instant, demanding enough to steal Genichirou's breath. Genichirou closed his hands on Seiichi's shoulders to brace himself against the surge of heat that answered Seiichi's demand. "Seiichi," he breathed, as Seiichi's hands worked down his shirt, undoing the buttons and sweeping it off Genichirou's shoulders. Seiichi's eyes roved over him as he tossed the shirt aside. Genichirou stretched for his benefit, and raised his eyebrows. "Well?"

"As magnificent as the rest of you, I trust," Seiichi murmured. If the weight of his gaze had felt like a caress, it was nothing compared to the actual feel of Seiichi's hands stroking down his chest, or the kisses that followed them, burning his skin like brands.

Genichirou heard himself groan as he arched against Seiichi's hands, and didn't care to stop himself, if stopping were even possible after waiting and wanting for so long. Instead he dug his fingers into Seiichi's shoulders, feeling the muscles of them shifting under Seiichi's shirt, and lifted his hips when Seiichi undid his belt and pants. He kicked them away when Seiichi pushed them down, and looked at Seiichi, kneeling between his legs, flushed and still dressed.

Seiichi ran his tongue over his lips. "Oh yes," he said, practically purring, and stroked his hands back up Genichirou's thighs. "Very magnificent."

"Thank you," Genichirou said, breathless, and reached for Seiichi. "What about--ahh!" He arched, the words catching in his throat as Seiichi ran a fingertip up his cock and teased it over the head.

"What was that?" Seiichi murmured as that delicate touch sent sparks skittering up Genichirou's spine.

"Don't I get to see how magnificent you are?" Genichirou asked, gulping in deep breaths as Seiichi teased him. He reached for Seiichi again.

"In a while," Seiichi said, batting Genichirou's hands away, and slipped down the bed, out of his reach. "I have something else in mind first."

"And what's that--ah!" Genichirou groaned, hips lifting as Seiichi's mouth closed over him, soft and wet, and heat lanced up his spine.

Seiichi's eyes were hazy, looking up at him, and his hands were firm as they pressed Genichirou's hips back down. "Patience," he murmured, and lapped at Genichirou's head.

"I told you that I'm not patient," Genichirou groaned, one hand catching at Seiichi's shoulder again, the other fisting in a handful of blankets as Seiichi's mouth sent heat rolling through him, soft and diffuse. "Damn it, Seiichi--!"

Seiichi laughed and closed his mouth around Genichirou, sucking slowly, and only the weight of his arm over Genichirou's hips kept Genichirou from rocking into his mouth.

He didn't know how long Seiichi kept him there, mouth coaxing him to the edge of pleasure and then backing away to kiss his thighs or nip at his hips, but Genichirou's throat was dry with panting and he'd gone through all the invective he knew, twice. He was reduced to trembling and groaning incoherent pleas by the time Seiichi's fingers, cool and slick, slid under him. "Genichirou?" Seiichi asked, softly, fingers circling over his entrance.

Genichirou groaned, spreading his legs further apart. "Please," he gasped. Seiichi's smile was feline and triumphant as he pressed those slender fingers in. Genichirou groaned, long and low, shuddering at the sensation--so definite, after the softness of Seiichi's mouth. "Yes!"

"You really are magnificent," Seiichi murmured, fingers stroking slowly, still not enough, even with the thicker heat they sent braiding up his spine.

"I'm glad you think so," Genichirou rasped between gasps for breath. "Oh, please..."

Seiichi twisted his fingers and Genichirou saw stars at the resulting shock of pleasure. "Please what?"

"Fuck me," Genichirou groaned, beyond caring about his dignity.

Seiichi's chuckle was barely audible. "Since you asked so nicely..."

Genichirou moaned as Seiichi's fingers eased out of him, and he shuddered as Seiichi's hands slid over oversensitive skin, coaxing him to turn over and draping him over a pillow. "Be patient just a little bit longer," Seiichi murmured, hands stroking down the backs of Genichirou's legs, spreading them wider, and then Genichirou heard the sound of Seiichi undoing his belt and the rasp of his zipper. The bed shifted as Seiichi peeled out of his pants, and then finally--finally--Seiichi leaned over him and his cock nudged between Genichirou's cheeks, thick and hot.

"I can't be patient for very much longer," Genichirou growled, and rocked back against him.

Seiichi gasped, and closed a hand on his hip. "You don't have to be," he said, and pushed into Genichirou, hard and fast.

Genichirou cried out at the rush of heat, muscles coming completely unstrung at the overwhelming sensation as Seiichi groaned in his ear. All of the nerve endings of his skin had multiplied and were hypersensitive; he could feel every wrinkle of the sheets under his chest, and count every button of Seiichi's shirt pressed against his back, and the softness of the pillowcase as Seiichi's hard thrusts drove his hips and his cock against it.

Seiichi had teased him so thoroughly and for so long that he could only gasp for breath as the heat coiled in his stomach, tightening further with every little catch and slide of Seiichi's cock moving inside him, until Seiichi's teeth closed on his shoulder. That unexpected sharpness whipped through him like a scythe, and Genichirou shouted as his world exploded, pleasure shaking his body mercilessly and leaving him limp and completely dazed.

He floated in the aftermath, barely able to shiver as Seiichi moaned in his ear and the feel of Seiichi's cock pounding into him sent aftershocks of heat rippling through him. He closed his eyes when Seiichi tensed and groaned, body shaking against Genichirou's, and let himself drift as Seiichi came to rest, draped against his back.

He might have dozed off, because the next thing he remembered was gentle hands easing him over onto his back and cleaning him off with a damp cloth, and then tucking him under the covers. Genichirou considered opening his eyes and saying something, but then the acrid smell of extinguished candles filled the air, and the bed dipped under Seiichi's weight.

Saying something could wait till the morning, he decided. When Seiichi had settled, he reached out and hooked an arm around him and slid closer, until Seiichi's body was a long line of warmth pressed against his.

Seiichi took a startled breath, and then relaxed against him.

Genichirou smiled into the darkness and let himself fall asleep again.

Genichirou woke up early, as dawn began to flood the room with light, and was confused for a moment by the unfamiliar ceiling--was he on tour again? what city was this? how long did he have before his alarm would go off?--until the warm body next to his shifted and sighed, and memory came rushing back. This wasn't a hotel. He was in Seiichi's bed.

Osakada was going to have a stroke when she found out about this.

Genichirou smiled complacently at the thought, and turned on his side to look at Seiichi, still asleep, breathing deep and slow. His face was unguarded, so much so that he looked years younger. The difference was startling, and Genichirou wondered if sleep was the only time Seiichi ever relaxed all the way.

Probably it was, given what he knew of the man.

He propped himself up on an elbow to get a better look at Seiichi while he could, and the blankets slipped down. The splash of vivid color at Seiichi's throat caught his eye instead--Seiichi's tattoos. Genichirou leaned closer, fascinated. There wasn't much he could see. Seiichi had changed into pajamas before coming to bed, and there wasn't much of his chest on view. Those were--waves, perhaps? Or clouds, maybe, and then the back of something scaly. He'd be willing to guess a dragon. It seemed Seiichi's style.

"It's not polite to stare."

Genichirou flinched, guilty, and looked at Seiichi's face. Seiichi was glaring at him from beneath slitted eyelids. "Sorry," he said. "Did I wake you up?"

"Yes," Seiichi said, and lifted his head to look at the clock on the bedside table. He dropped his head back against the pillow with a groan, and covered his eyes with one arm. "It's not even seven yet."

"I guess it's too late to warn you that I'm a morning person." The sleeve was riding up Seiichi's arm, showing more edges of his tattoos. That looked like a tail, curling around Seiichi's forearm, and those were definitely waves.

Seiichi groaned again. "Tell me you're joking."

"I'm afraid not," Genichirou said, a trifle absently. Almost certainly a dragon, then...

"You're staring again." Seiichi moved his arm and tugged the sleeve back into place, mouth turned down at the corners.

"A little," Genichirou admitted.

Seiichi folded his arms across his chest and looked at the ceiling. "That's rude of you, don't you think?"

"Are you this prickly with everyone you take to bed?" Genichirou asked, irritated. "Or am I just special?" He flopped back down, stung by Seiichi's attitude, and glared at the ceiling too.

"Most of the people I take to bed have the common sense not to poke their noses where they don't belong," Seiichi told him.

"Where they don't--Seiichi, I don't have any idea what you're talking about." Except that he had an idea, one that hinged on the way Seiichi hadn't undressed until Genichirou couldn't see him, and on the pajamas. "Are you going to keep your clothes on every time we go to bed?" he demanded, and turned on his side to stare at Seiichi, incredulous. "How am I supposed to touch you like that?"

The sound Seiichi made was choked. It might have been a laugh, or a snort, or something else entirely. Genichirou wasn't sure which it was, but Seiichi took his eyes from the ceiling and looked at him. "I don't think I've ever met anyone like you before," he said, slowly, like he couldn't quite believe Genichirou was real. "What do you do when you meet an immoveable object?"

Genichirou blinked, a little bemused by this. "Well... there's always a way around. Or over. Or through. Why?"

This time it was definitely a laugh. "I should have known." Seiichi turned his face away again. "You're very strange."

"How am I strange?" Genichirou asked, since the meditative quality of Seiichi's voice precluded being offended by that.

When Seiichi answered, his voice was so soft that Genichirou had to lean closer to hear him. "I don't believe I've ever met someone as willfully transparent as you," he murmured, eyes shifting to look at Genichirou. "I wonder if you realize how rare honesty like that is in my world."

"Is it that difficult to find?"

"I'd given up on it," Seiichi whispered, and turned onto his side. He touched Genichirou's cheek lightly. "You don't belong here," he said, serious. "The sooner you realize that, the easier this will be."

Genichirou covered Seiichi's fingers. "Do you give up on everything this easily?" he asked, as gently as he could. Seiichi's eyes went wide and indignant. "Stop trying to make my decisions for me, Seiichi. I don't need to be protected."

"That's what you think," Seiichi said. "You don't really want--" He gasped, mid-word, as Genichirou turned Seiichi's palm over and kissed it, tongue darting out to trace over the creases.

"Don't decide what I want for me," Genichirou murmured. "I know my own mind." He brushed his mouth over the inside of Seiichi's wrists, tongue following the faint lines of his veins, blue under pale skin.

A fine tremor went through Seiichi's frame. "Genichirou--"

"Shh," he said, and pushed Seiichi's sleeve up, baring the intricate design that ended just a little above his wrist. Genichirou looked at it, and then up at Seiichi's face, which was blank and still. "It's all right," he said, and pressed his lips against the soft skin of Seiichi's inner arm, over the last curl of the probably-a-dragon's tail.

Seiichi made a soft sound; when Genichirou flicked his eyes up again, Seiichi's eyes were squeezed closed. "Ah," he said, and shuddered as Genichirou ran his tongue along the curve of an inked wave.

"I know what I want," he said, and rubbed his thumb over Seiichi's palm. "What do you want?"

Seiichi opened his eyes. They were so dark that they were nearly black. "You," he said, hoarse. "I want you."

Genichirou slid himself closer, fitting himself against Seiichi's body and slipping his fingers into Seiichi's sleep-tangled hair, and kissed him. Seiichi stilled next to him, and then, slowly, his arms stole around Genichirou. Genichirou smiled into his mouth, and whispered, "You already have me."

Seiichi's hands tightened on his back. "You make it sound so easy."

"And I think you're probably making it too hard," Genichirou told him, and kissed him again, and again, taking his time about it, until Seiichi loosened his grip and slid his palms over Genichirou's back. "There, that's better," he whispered, and tipped his head to taste the corner of Seiichi's jaw.

Seiichi tipped his head back. "I don't even know how you did this to me," he sighed, and followed that with a moan as Genichirou ran his tongue down the side of Seiichi's neck. "Mmm..."

"I don't think I've done anything at all," Genichirou murmured against his throat. He slid a hand down Seiichi's back to slip under the top of his pajamas, and wondered what sorts of images his fingers were roaming over as he stroked Seiichi's warm skin.

Seiichi stiffened. "Genichirou..." he said, low and warning.

"I can't see anything," Genichirou told him, tracing the bumps of his spine. He kissed Seiichi's pulse. "If you don't want me to see them, fine, but I want to be able to touch you." He lifted his head and gave Seiichi a wry smile. "I'll wear a blindfold, if that's what it takes."

Seiichi stared at him. "Over, or around, or through?" he said, after a moment.

"Whatever it takes," Genichirou said, hand sliding over the slim breadth of Seiichi's back and smoothing along his ribs, and felt the hitch in Seiichi's breath under his palm. "What will it take, Seiichi?"

"Or maybe you're the immoveable object," Seiichi said, with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. His mouth thinned, and then he pulled away, leaving Genichirou with the feeling of a hard abdomen sliding under his palm, and then nothing but warm sheets under his hand.

That had been a spectacular failure, he decided, dismayed. "I'm--"

"Shut up." Seiichi rolled out of bed, and stepped back, looking down at him. "If you want to look, look." He yanked the pajamas off and kicked them away, and stood with his arms crossed and the morning light playing off his tattooed chest and arms and thighs.

Genichirou sat up, slowly, so he could almost meet Seiichi's eyes evenly. "Looking is nice," he said, "but what I want is to touch." He reached out. "Please, Seiichi?"

"Are you even looking at me?" Seiichi demanded. He gestured at himself. "Look."

Genichirou looked.

He'd been right; that was a dragon on Seiichi's chest, or at least part of one. The tail wound down Seiichi's right arm, and its hindquarters curved over Seiichi's chest and disappeared over his left shoulder, down Seiichi's back. Below that there was a fleet of ships, beached on a mudflat, and a tidal wave washed them away, down Seiichi's legs. "Ryujin and the tide jewels?" he ventured, after a moment. "The art is amazing." He paused, and smiled. "And the canvas is magnificent."

He was looking, so he saw the shudder run through Seiichi, bringing the tattoos to life for a split second as his muscles jumped and his skin shivered. "That's all you have to say about it?"

Genichirou looked away from the way the muscles of Seiichi's stomach moved. "Should I have anything else to say?" he asked, and decided that if Seiichi wasn't going to come to him, then he would have to go to Seiichi. He slid out of bed and wound his arms around Seiichi's rigid frame. "There," he said, and smoothed his palms down Seiichi's back.

After a moment, Seiichi put his head down on Genichirou's shoulder. "You're the strangest man I've ever known," he said, muffled.

"Thank you," Genichirou said, hands moving up and down Seiichi's back, chasing the tension in his muscles.

"You really don't mind them?" Seiichi asked him, face still turned into Genichirou's shoulder.

"I don't," Genichirou said. "I don't mind what they mean, either."

Seiichi shivered again, and then relaxed against him. "They must have broken the mold when they made you," he whispered.

"Hmph." Genichirou stepped back, and caught one of Seiichi's hands. "Come back to bed," he said, and smiled when Seiichi nodded and stepped closer with barely any hesitation at all.

The blankets felt warm after standing in the cool air, and Seiichi's skin was even warmer. Genichirou murmured his pleasure at the long bare line of Seiichi's body pressed tight against his, and Seiichi arched and sighed against him as Genichirou's hands made slow passes over his body. "Feels good," Seiichi murmured.

"Good," Genichirou whispered, and drew Seiichi's mouth to his. Seiichi made a soft sound as Genichirou coaxed his lips to part, and the tautness began to ease out of him as Genichirou continued to stroke his body, hands moving over his skin slowly.

When Seiichi was relaxed in his arms, Genichirou kissed the corner of his mouth and smoothed his lips along the line of his jaw. "You feel as good as I'd hoped you would," he murmured, hands ghosting over Seiichi's chest. He lapped at Seiichi's earlobe and smiled at the sharp intake of breath that provoked.

"I'm so glad that you approve." But there wasn't very much real acid in Seiichi's voice, and it all melted on a moan when Genichirou closed his mouth on Seiichi's earlobe and sucked. "Genichirou..."

"Mm..." He spread his hands against Seiichi's chest and whispered, "Let me touch more?"

Seiichi shivered. "All right," he said, and let Genichirou press him back against the tangle of sheets. His eyes were dark when Genichirou leaned over him. "You can touch all you want."

"Thank you," Genichirou breathed, and ran his fingertips over the sinuous curve of the dragon twisting along Seiichi's collarbones. He followed his fingertips with his tongue, lapping at scales and claws that were only ink on skin, and heard Seiichi's breath catch. He paused, lips brushing against Seiichi's chest, but Seiichi didn't say anything.

He kept on, fingers skimming over the beached ships and the tiny figures leaping out of them. When he traced the tip of his tongue along the crisp line of a spar, Seiichi gasped and started to make a short movement. Genichirou paused again, but Seiichi didn't offer to continue the aborted movement, and let him continue on.

He ran his fingers over a nipple and followed them with his tongue. Seiichi moaned softly, and when Genichirou looked at him, his lips were parted as he breathed faster, and his eyes were closed. "Seiichi?"

"Don't stop," Seiichi said, and kept his eyes closed. He added, softer, almost dreamy, "It's been so long..."

"Ah..." Genichirou swallowed, and spread his fingers against Seiichi's stomach, splaying them over the tide rushing back in.

Seiichi's muscles jumped under his fingers, and he closed a hand on the blankets. "Yes," he said, and said it again as Genichirou tracked wet kisses down that sweep of water, and then he moaned when Genichirou's hands stroked down his thighs, spreading them apart. "Yes, please..." And he arched up, groaning, when Genichirou ran his mouth up the length of Seiichi's cock and took it in his mouth.

Genichirou let him, humming at the feeling of it sliding between his lips, sleek and heavy. He kneaded his fingers over Seiichi's thighs, men and ships being swept away to destruction under his palms, and watched the pleasure as it danced over Seiichi's face. Perhaps Seiichi could let himself relax in this, too; the thought pleased him. He hummed again and bent his head to take Seiichi deeper, sucking harder, and was surprised when Seiichi's fingers plucked at his shoulders. "Seiichi?" he asked, softly.

Seiichi's face was flushed and gleaming. "Touch me everywhere," he said, groping a hand under a pillow. He found a tube, and dropped it next to his hips, in easy reach of Genichirou's hands. "Feel me everywhere. Please."

Genichirou's breath caught in his throat. "If that's what you'd like," he said, and picked the tube up.

The gel was cool on his fingers, but Seiichi didn't seem to mind it when he slipped his fingers under Seiichi's hips, stroking over skin that was hot and soft. "Yes," he whispered, and spread his legs further apart as Genichirou stroked him. "Oh yes..." He sighed as Genichirou pressed his fingers against the tight muscles, leaning his head back against the pillows, and he moaned when Genichirou's fingers finally slipped inside him. "Yes."

Genichirou moaned, too, at the tight grip of Seiichi's body around his fingers, and he muffled it against Seiichi's thigh, tracing his mouth over the curved prow of a sinking ship, and then closing his teeth over the tendon underneath it, delicately.

Seiichi's body jerked, and he moaned again. "Genichirou!" He caught at Genichirou's shoulders, hands tight on them, hips lifting with each shallow thrust of Genichirou's fingers. "Oh yes!" Genichirou twisted his fingers, slowly, and Seiichi's back came off the bed. The sound that he made didn't have words in it, but his pleasure was bright on his face.

He was beautiful, and Genichirou silently cursed whichever past lover it had been who had made Seiichi so reluctant to show this part of himself to another.

He twisted his fingers again, and Seiichi groaned. "Genichirou..." He reached for Genichirou, fingers ghosting over his face. "Now," he said, voice husky. "Please."

Genichirou pressed another kiss to Seiichi's hip, and then his stomach and chest, tracking his way up Seiichi's body until he reached Seiichi's mouth again. Seiichi met him eagerly, mouth hot and demanding, and he reached for the tube before Genichirou could, shockingly deft at getting it open and his fingers slick. Genichirou groaned when Seiichi's fingers closed around him, slick with the cool gel.

"Now," Seiichi said, into his mouth, and wound a leg around Genichirou's hip.

Genichirou kissed him again as he settled over Seiichi, hands sliding down his back and lifting him, and they both groaned as he drove into Seiichi's body. Seiichi arched against him, every muscle in his body tense, and Genichirou gasped for breath at the white-hot tightness of his body. "Seiichi... oh..."

Seiichi wrapped his arms around Genichirou, pulling him down and kissing him again. "Yes," he said, "yes, please..." His words broke apart in another moan as Genichirou thrust into him again, and he rocked up, arms and legs wrapping around Genichirou, coaxing him deeper.

One part of Genichirou wanted to go slow, to savor every shift of Seiichi's body and every expression that rippled over Seiichi's face, and each spasm of heat that wracked him. That part was overruled by the fast-rising heat, and the demand of Seiichi's hands locked tight on his hips, and the wildness of Seiichi's kisses. Genichirou let the heat carry him along, groaning into Seiichi's mouth as he rocked against Seiichi, hard and fast. Seiichi answered each thrust with a throaty moan, each one more wanton than the last, until Genichirou fumbled a hand between them. He'd only just wrapped his fingers around Seiichi when Seiichi bucked up against him, voice gone hoarse as he cried out and came, body shaking and fingers digging into Genichirou's back hard enough to bruise.

Genichirou had an instant to drink in the abandon on Seiichi's face before the heat crested and pleasure crashed down on him like a wave, sweeping him under and buffeting him with shudders of heat that went on and on until he thought he'd drown in it.

When he came back to himself, surfacing from his daze, he was draped over Seiichi, face tucked into Seiichi's shoulder, and there were fingers sifting through his hair. Genichirou stirred himself just enough to kiss the side of Seiichi's neck.

"I'm not sure I understand why you have trouble writing love scenes," Seiichi said, gravely, although there was a laugh lurking under the serious tone. "You're a demon in bed."

"Doing is different than writing," Genichirou said, not sure whether he ought to be gratified or embarrassed.

Seiichi's laughter, tinged with just a bit of euphoria, shook them both. "Oh, is it? I see."

"It is," Genichirou said, with as much dignity as he could muster. Wrung out and still tingling from pleasure as he was, it wasn't much. He raised his head and smiled at Seiichi anyway.

Seiichi was still flushed, and his eyes were gleaming. He caught Genichirou's chin and kissed him. The fierceness of it was enough to steal Genichirou's breath away again. "Thank you," he whispered into Genichirou's mouth.

He was tempted to ask What for? or to shrug it off with My pleasure, but both were too facile, especially when Seiichi's smile was still edged with relief. Instead, he slid a hand down Seiichi's arm to find his hand and tangle their fingers together. "You're welcome," he said, and kissed Seiichi again.

Seiichi coaxed him back down, and Genichirou went willingly, resting his head against Seiichi's shoulder and sighing.

They stayed like that for a long time, until Genichirou's curiosity began pricking him too vigorously to ignore. "Seiichi?"


Genichirou hesitated, wary of upsetting Seiichi's hard-won relaxation. "Why..." Why had he come to the release party for Shadow? And the book signing? Why had he reached out when he'd been so afraid of being rejected? There were too many things to ask, too many places that might be too tender to be examined, so he settled on something vague. "Why me?"

Perhaps Seiichi could hear all the unasked questions behind that anyway, because he sighed. Genichirou thought that he wasn't going to answer when he didn't say anything for several minutes. Then he sighed again, and stroked his fingers over Genichirou's shoulder. "Because," he said. "You talked to me like I was a real human being." He took a breath. "I only meant to go to that release party. I never expected that you would be--what you are--on top of being a good writer." His voice turned softer, pensive. "I wanted more, for as long as I could get it. I'm very greedy, you know."

"That doesn't sound greedy to me," Genichirou said, tightening his grip on Seiichi's hand.

"That's because you're not normal," Seiichi told him. He gathered himself and turned them, and cupped his hands around Genichirou's face. "I don't know what you are," he said softly, eyes serious, "but normal isn't it."

Genichirou laced his hands together behind Seiichi's back. "I guess I don't care about that, as long as you don't mind."

"Why on earth would I mind?" Seiichi whispered, and pressed closer, setting his forehead against Genichirou's.

Genichirou tightened his arms around Seiichi, and it was a while before they moved again.


Osakada was talking so fast that her words bled together into a buzzing sound as her hands fluttered, illustrating each of her vital points. Genichirou mostly ignored her, catching only scraps of what she was saying. "--and be sure to be extra polite to Miyamoto-san, he's the--" but he never did catch what was so important about Miyamoto-san.

Kirihara, lounging against the wall behind Osakada, yawned, slow and deliberate.

Osakada caught the flick of Genichirou's eyes in his direction, and said, "Whatever you do, make sure your pet watchdog doesn't get underfoot, either."

Kirihara stuck his tongue out at her. Genichirou carefully didn't smile. Osakada was too tightly wound to appreciate the humor, and it was two weeks too early for her monthly session of hysterics (which, these days, were generally provided courtesy of Kirihara's teasing).

"Sanada-sensei!" Osakada's raised voice snapped his attention back to the present. "Could you at least pretend to listen to me?"

"Sorry, Osakada-kun." He ignored Kirihara's silent laughter.

She sighed. "Tonight's important, Sanada-sensei! Now that Lightning's done, you'll be up for awards! Movies, maybe. Definitely television! You can't slack off!"

Kirihara was mouthing her speech along with her. Genichirou bit down on the inside of his cheek and nodded dutifully. "I know, Osakada-kun."

Osakada raised her eyes to the heavens. "I should go back to Oshitari-sensei," she declared. "At least he's sensible!" She looked back down and checked the time. "All right, the party's going to start soon. We might as well get out there." She clapped her hands together and shooed Genichirou forward. "Remember to smile!"

"Are you sure I can't do something permanent to her, Sanada-sensei?" Kirihara lilted, once they were out in the main hall and Osakada had flounced over to adjust the display copies of Strike Like Lightning. "No one'll ever pin it on us, I promise."

"No. We've been through this." Genichirou pasted a smile on his face as the first of the people his publisher had invited began trickling in, and Osakada swooped back down on them.

The next few hours were a blur of congratulations and polite chit-chat. Osakada steered him through the room, weaving him in and out of conversations skillfully and hissing instructions and names as necessary. Kirihara, in his guise as Genichirou's personal assistant, shadowed them, charm turned to full force. Genichirou was sure that he was leaving a trail of broken hearts behind them. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" he asked, in a brief lull as Osakada scouted the room for the next conversation they should join.

Kirihara grinned at him. "What for?" he asked. "I have seven phone numbers." He paused. "Three of them belong to married ladies."

"You're a monster, you know that?" Genichirou told him. Kirihara just laughed.

The night wore on, crawling closer to the time when the party would end and he'd be able to slip away for a last few hours with Seiichi before he'd have to embark on the marathon publicity tour that Osakada had lined up. He signed copies of Lightning and made small-talk until he was ready to beg Osakada for a break.

He didn't need to. She stopped in the middle of telling him about the movie producer she was going to introduce him to next, and said, "Oh. I suppose you'll want some time, then."

"If you don't mind," Seiichi said, right in his ear.

"Not too long," she said, "he's working." And then she scuttled away while Kirihara snickered.

Genichirou forgot about Osakada and Kirihara both, turning to look at Seiichi. "I thought you weren't going to be able to make it," he said, delighted. "What about your meeting?"

Seiichi smiled. "I made sure it ended early. I couldn't miss the entire party, after all." He held out a copy of Lightning and raised an eyebrow. "Can I get this one signed, too? So my collection will be complete?"

Genichirou hesitated, and then shook his head. "Later," he said. "When I can sit down and do it properly."

Seiichi blinked, and shrugged, and tucked the book under his arm. "All right, if that's what you want," he said, looking a little puzzled. He looked around. "Big crowd," he observed.

Genichirou grimaced. "I know. I think I've probably shaken half the hands in this room." And if Osakada had her way, he'd shake the other half before the night was done.

Seiichi smiled. "The gods didn't make you to mingle," he said, chuckling. "Why can't you be a recluse, and avoid these things?"

"Believe me, I've asked myself that more than once," Genichirou told him.

Kirihara cleared his throat. "She's coming back," he announced.

Genichirou sighed. "Later," he told Seiichi, who nodded as Osakada descended, trilling something about how Fujiwara wanted to talk to him.

Genichirou let Osakada steer him away, and greeted Fujiwara and his wife politely. "Of course I'll sign your book," he said to her, graciously, because anything less would be rude when faced with the woman's obvious delight. He accepted the book and scribbled a short note to her. When he handed it back, and they exchanged a few more pleasantries before Osakada whisked him along.

He could see Seiichi standing back, flanked by Yagyuu and Niou, sipping a glass of champagne and watching him and waiting. Genichirou caught his eye and smiled. Seiichi lifted his champagne and smiled back, and Genichirou carried the warmth of it with him for the rest of the night, until the last of Osakada's producers and stars had gone away.

"Now, I'll need you at the station at seven sharp," she said, producing a planner from heaven-only-knew-where and looking at it. "We need to be on the train to Osaka as soon as we can--"

Kirihara interrupted her. "Osakada-san," he said. "I think Sanada-sensei knows. And if he doesn't, I do. Why don't we let him call it a night?"

Osakada blinked. "Oh, well--you're sure you know--"

Kirihara nodded. "I think you can trust me to get him to the station on time," he said, firmly. "Good night, Osakada-san."

She wavered, and then gave in when Kirihara flashed his most appealing smile at her. "Oh, well, all right then, go on. I'll see you in the morning, Sanada-sensei."

"Good night," Genichirou murmured, and started walking before she could change her mind.

Kirihara fell into step next to him. "I think I want a raise," he said, thoughtfully.

"You've certainly earned it," Genichirou agreed as they collected their coats. "I'll mention it to Seiichi."

"Good as done, then," Kirihara said, satisfied, and then they were outside, and that was Seiichi's car pulled up to the curb, waiting for him. "Don't oversleep, now. I'll be there bright and early to get you."

Genichirou snorted, and got into the door that Niou was holding open for him, and settled into his seat with a sigh.

"Tired?" Seiichi murmured, sliding over and curling a hand around his.

"A little," Genichirou said, as Yagyuu put the car into gear. He leaned his head back against the headrest. "I'll be fine once I get some sleep."

"I'm not sure I like the thought of you doing this for a month," Seiichi muttered. "Remind me to tell Akaya-kun to make sure that woman lets you get enough sleep."

Genichirou chuckled. "I will." He leaned against Seiichi. "It'll be fine."

"It had better be," Seiichi muttered, and they lapsed into silence until Yagyuu pulled up in front of the house and let them out, and they went inside.

"Did you want to sign my copy for me now?" Seiichi asked, as Genichirou stripped off his jacket and tie and dropped them over a chair. "Or maybe I should come to one of your signings and have you do it then?"

Genichirou chuckled. "I wouldn't mind if you came by," he said, and reached out for the book. "Here."

Seiichi handed it to him, and Genichirou found a pen before sitting on the bed, balancing the book on his knee. Seiichi watched him flip to the dedication page. "Don't you normally sign the title page?" he asked, as Genichirou wrote.

Genichirou blew on the ink to dry it, and handed the open book back to Seiichi. "Not this time."

Seiichi looked at the page, reading the two-word dedication that Renji had sworn was giving him ulcers, To Seiichi, and the four-word addition that Genichirou had scrawled beneath, With all my heart. Then he looked up again, and Genichirou got to see him shocked for the second time since they'd met. "Genichirou..." he said, softly.

"You like it?" he asked, a little anxious. If Seiichi didn't, he was going to feel like a damn fool.

Seiichi looked down and touched the dedication with a fingertip. "I love it," he said, softly.

Genichirou relaxed again, and smiled. "I'm glad."

Seiichi's mouth curved up. "Are you?" He closed the book and laid it on his dresser like it was made of glass, and then he prowled towards Genichirou. "What time do you have to go in the morning?" he asked, voice low and velvety.

"I have to be at the station at seven," Genichirou said.

Seiichi glanced at the bedside clock and raised his eyebrows. "That doesn't leave us very much time," he said, just before he tackled Genichirou into the bed. He grinned down at Genichirou. "I guess I'll have to be efficient about showing you how much I'm going to miss you."

Genichirou smiled. "Yeah, you will," he said, and pulled Seiichi the rest of the way down. "Give me something to look forward to coming home to," he said, against Seiichi's lips.

"Of course," Seiichi murmured, and did.

- end -

As always, comments are wonderful and much-appreciated.