NB: You don't have to read 'Wingmen' first, but you'll like this story better if you do.

Hey guys, I'm in thoughtless fangirl mode. When in said mode, I am decidedly less mindful of the ways in which I stretch characters. Please read with an eye to OOC tendencies and let me know if you find any. I can fix such errors. Actually, I can even delete stories – I like these characters too much to do them the disservice of rendering them inaccurately.

This story is for Faikitty, who writes these guys better than I ever could. You should check her out if you haven't.

Akari was a smart man. Actually, to be precise, Akari had a dazzling intellect, a super-collider brain that whirred along at preternatural speeds. His mind apprehended all the data he encountered in the world and automatically analyzed, classified, and integrated it into an encyclopedic knowledge base. Some scientists might claim that his thought processes bordered on precognition. Even the physician himself often arrived at conclusions without being aware of the various deductions he'd made along the way.

Truly, he was a genius. So why, praytell, was he seated at Hirato's dining table in the captain's quarters of Airship Two waiting for said captain to grace him with his insufferable presence? An ink pen tapped impatiently against glass as he considered the question. Hirato had forced his hand, naturally. There was an incident in which the blond acted rather boldly and turned the commander's fetish for torment against him. He had kissed Hirato. And not delicately. No, he had slanted his lips against the other's daringly, passionately, fiercely, and in a manner demonstrating intent. Still, that would not have happened if the captain hadn't been so unbearably smug about catching him off his guard.

Akari rarely indulged in humor, but the corner of his mouth turned up slightly as he recalled how Hirato struggled to come to grips what had happened. Perhaps the two airship commanders expected him to be largely uninitiated in matters of carnality. He understood perfectly why they would. He was not a social creature, nor amicable by any imaginative stretch. But avoiding romantic entanglements was not the same as being wholly inexperienced. And while he was certain that both Tsukitachi and Hirato had far more experience, he did derive a small trill of satisfaction from the way he felt the second captain's heart rate speed slightly when pressed against him.

Akari was a genius doctor, after all. Physiology was par for the course.

But even he couldn't fathom what prompted him to abandon his usual program of avoiding the black-haired, shifty-eyed devil to actively seeking him out. The blame was Hirato's, of course. Of that he was certain. And he'd come to confront him and force him to acknowledge his fault. Yes. Yes, that's precisely why he was here.

He accepted that answer even while recognizing its absurdity. This is the problem with genius. Genius cannot apprehend that which is irrational.

Three weeks had passed and Hirato had done nothing in requital. The captain had not interrogated his motivations. He'd not humiliated him by publicizing the events of that night. It seemed even that useless layabout Tsukitachi was unaware of what had transpired between them. Hirato's comportment was no different from before. The brunet still bowed in mock politesse, still brought the doctor brown sugar coral calcium, still interacted with him professionally and courteously (even if his courtesy was little more than pretended posturing), still called him "my dear Akari-san," and still smiled all the goddamned time. Absolutely nothing had changed. As a result, Akari felt a bit like a coiled spring, ready to snap at the slightest hint of retribution. Because Hirato would have revenge. That had never been in doubt, not even as Akari had executed the first move with devastating result. The only question was the form in which this revenge would manifest. And after several weeks of waiting for some catastrophic event to bring all of Research Tower crashing to ruin, he finally decided to take the initiative and accost the manipulative bastard. A researcher couldn't allow his work to suffer because some idiot in a silk hat had the mentality of an ill-behaved adolescent, after all.

The pen tapped rhythmically, echoing with a series of metallic clinks. Akari's ruby gaze swept the room. It was spacious, exceedingly well-appointed, and inordinately tidy. Dark colors and sharp angles imbued it with a modern, minimalist aesthetic that seemed quite suited to Hirato. He wasn't surprised. The second ship's commander was the regimented sort. But even so, there were slight hints of the man who lived here. Nothing deeply personal, no doubt. Hirato would never betray himself voluntarily. A wooden-handled umbrella stood at the ready next to the door—black, of course, and likely concealing a weapon. A potted orchid bloomed brightly atop the coffee table. The doctor wondered idly if it was a gift and ignored the resultant feeling of jealously that arose at the very thought. A half-empty coffee cup shared his table. It was the only item that seemed to be out of its place. He could have guessed that the commander took his coffee black. A sincere smile lit his face then, but he wasn't at all conscious of it. Before he could stop himself, he reached out and ran his finger across the cup's rim, imagining the feel of the lips that had last been there. He considered whether or not the other's taste still lingered on the porcelain and swallowed the desperate urge to find out.

When he realized how far afield he'd strayed from the task at hand, Akari's buoyant mood dissipated. He reminded himself once again of his purpose and forced a scowl in compensation.

Perhaps luck was with him that evening, because the door slid open just as he'd resumed reading. There was no limit to the torture he'd endure for staring wistfully at a coffee cup. Not one whit of surprise flitted across Hirato's features at finding the physician in his private quarters. He only tipped his hat in a cheerful greeting. Akari refrained from flinging the cold coffee at his pristinely-starched shirt.

"Doctor," the captain bowed deeply as was his wont, "I hope you'll pardon me for being such a poor host. Had I known to expect you, I'd have welcomed you personally." He paused, awaiting a response probably. The physician didn't take the bait, so he continued, "but I'm glad to see you've made yourself comfortable." The brunet removed his hat, gloves, and overcoat in an unhurried, methodical manner that should not have been nearly as mesmerizing as it was. Opaline eyes watched in observant silence as the captain tugged at each finger before sliding the gloves off. He placed them with his coat on the back of the sofa before attending to his unexpected house guest. "To what do I owe the honor?"

Akari stood and sighed wearily, massaging the bridge of his nose. Of course he won't make this easy. "Oh, stop it. You know why I'm here."

Hirato chuckled lightly. "I can certainly guess. But if you've come to apologize for your indiscreet behavior several weeks ago, I can assure you that it's unnecessary. I've already put it from my mind." He brushed past the dining table and collected the cup, emptying it in the sink with another set of slow, deliberate movements. And then he spun round and leaned against the countertop while dark, inscrutable eyes darkened further as they were leveled at Akari (who'd never intended to apologize). "But it appears that you've been unsuccessful at putting it from your mind."

A breath's length passed as amethyst scrutinized coral.

"Fuck you." Akari didn't typically resort to such coarseness. Or rather, he never had need with interlocutors more civilized than Tsukitachi or Hirato. The researcher possessed an extensive and refined vocabulary—in several languages. The second captain had the unfortunate tendency to bring out the worst in him. He regretted the outburst immediately, but the damage had already been wrought.

A dark brow arched, more in amusement than affront. "Yes, I'm beginning to think that you'd like to."

Oh, how the doctor longed to upend the dining table and fume ceaselessly then, but doing so would only be interpreted as confirmation of the charge. The degenerate before him possessed the psychological sophistication of a teenager, after all. So he closed his eyes and took a deep breath before replying. "Keep telling yourself that."

"No? Then why are you here?" The commander took a step forward, compelling Akari to instinctively step back in an effort to maintain the distance between them.

A not-so-subtle current of derision undergirded his next words. "You've been invading my personal space for years and you have the audacity to ask me why I've finally retaliated?"

"Hmm," Hirato feigned contemplation, "and yet my incessant incursion has never brought you running before. Why so?" He stalked in the manner of a predator circling his prey. In service of maintaining separation, the blond continued to retreat, eventually backing awkwardly into the sofa. This prompted another snicker from his aggressor. "Goodness. Am I that frightening?"

"Of course not," Akari spat, "I just don't like breathing the same air as you. It's toxic."

"Your recent actions must have been terribly detrimental then."

The physician huffed and crossed his arms over his chest, leaning against the back of the couch and glaring in a manner that would have reduced half his staff to fearful trembling. "I want to know what you're up to. And don't try to deny anything, because we both know I'm not stupid enough to believe your lies."

Hirato canted his head and regarded his accuser with a closed expression that revealed nothing of his thoughts. "I understand why you'd worry about requital. But I hadn't thought about it, really. Believe it or not, doctor, my thoughts are not monopolized by you."

It was probable that he only intended to taunt or instigate a playful banter even. He still spoke in the same jovial lilt that had typified the tenor of their exchange, but something about the words themselves stole the breath from Akari's lungs and scraped against him like innumerable sands caught in a tempest. His anger morphed into something heavier, something nebulous and creeping, something that felt uncannily like pain. Hirato had resorted to cruelty, apparently. And Akari had no intention of subjecting himself to anything else that might cause his heart to twist in such an aching fashion. It never occurred to him to investigate precisely why these words cut to the quick when so many others had failed to hit their mark. Or perhaps he was afraid of whatever it was that precipitated the chill settling in his chest. He only nodded brusquely and righted himself, intending very much to take his leave. "Nevermind then. I see I've wasted my time."

Graceful fingers closed around his wrist as he stepped towards the door. "But now that you mention it, I do have a debt to collect, don't I?" And while the captain's cadence had softened considerably, an unmistakable deviltry sparkled in indigo irises.

"What do you want?" Akari inquired in the most officious tone he could manage, trying in vain to ignore the unexpected affection in the brush of Hirato's thumb along his wrist.

"I want what you stole from me."

"Absolutely not. That's preposterous." The doctor extricated himself, even as a trace of disappointment flared in the pit of his stomach. He was perceptive enough to recognize when something seemed entirely too simple to be feasible. Hirato would never be satisfied with equal recompense, and he had no intention of humoring the man's scheming longer than necessary.

Said schemer only sighed in resignation. "What a shame. We could have settled this in a manner of seconds, but you insist on complicating things needlessly."

And Akari knew that he shouldn't acquiesce. Accepting this bargain was tantamount to signing a demonic contract. But the captain had issued a thinly veiled threat, and if the blond was certain of anything, it was the efficacy with which Hirato executed his threats. So he relented. "Fine. But I want your hands where I can see them. I'll not have you molesting me."

"I wouldn't dream of putting my hands on SSS-ranked personnel in an impertinent manner," the brunet quipped, intimating that he would most definitely dream of it, and if afforded the opportunity, he would avail himself of much more than dreams. He bowed again and displayed his hands before settling them lightly on Akari's hips and walking him backwards towards the living room.

"Hirato—" a voice sliced as clean and sharp as a razor's edge in warning.

"Where you can see them, right?" he repeated politely as Akari's back came into contact with the far wall. Immediately, Hirato removed his hands and placed them on either side of the doctor, trapping him in place. The two were of similar build, and while the commander was no doubt the more able combatant, Akari could definitely hold his own long enough to secure an escape. At the moment, however, he felt incredibly like a moth caught in a spider's web. That Hirato's eyes positively glimmered in delight offered nothing in the way of reassurance. Finding this predacious leer to be far too intense for his liking, he looked away. The captain gradually closed the distance between them, causing a wary researcher to settle resisting hands low on his chest. Taut muscles rippled under fabric and heat emanated from under those clothes—a searing and unyielding fever that clouded Akari's vision and sped his pulse. In that instant, he realized that he'd made a series of very poorly reasoned decisions as Hirato slid against him, nearly suffocating him in a dizzy delirium.

The doctor stiffened automatically at the contact, shoulders rising as tension was strung tight enough to snap. Hirato only leaned past him and whispered, "Relax." A soft laugh sent a rush of air tingling across suddenly flushed skin. Softer lips skimmed along Akari's neck, and again it was the tenderness of the gesture that obliged his attention. In fact, he forgot completely that he'd not permitted such liberties. "I don't bite, doctor." But then Hirato did just that, taking the lobe of the physician's ear in his teeth and nipping at it once. "Not often, anyway."

Akari gasped involuntarily as pressure pinched sensitive skin. Blood rushed in his ears. A blush worked its way along pale skin that could ill provide an effectual disguise. Why had his body betrayed him so thoroughly with the slightest provocation? Their proximity was sending an incandescence coursing through his limbs that temporarily reduced his thoughts to an amorphous hum of white noise and suffused his senses with the smell of cologne and cloves. He managed somehow to retain a modicum of composure. "Our deal was for a—"

"A kiss. Yes. And I intend to collect." Hirato pulled away and trained his gaze at his captive, taking in the pink now spreading across Akari's cheeks. "I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself. You're so cute, after all." That wasn't playfulness in the commander's tone. No, that was hunger. The blond's scientific mind could sense as much without having to make any attendant calculations.

"Just get it over with," he countered crossly, keenly aware that things had spiraled out of control. The sooner he could leave, the sooner he could get back to work and consign this whole disastrous mess to oblivion.

Hirato reclaimed all but a few millimeters of the space between them and then he stilled, seemingly vacillating about whether or not to claim his due. Coral eyes were drawn to the quirk of his mouth, its closeness. The ghost of his taste bloomed on the doctor's tongue. And unthinkingly, or perhaps because he was thinking too much, Akari leaned in without further prompting. There was the barest touch of lips before Hirato purred, "Checkmate, doctor." And then the brunet withdrew, beaming victoriously and giving the other man a moment to process this latest turn of events.

Fury flooded Akari's system. He was equally irate with himself for this momentary lapse in sanity and with Hirato for manipulating him into revealing desires that would undoubtedly serve as inexhaustible fodder for teasing. "You conniving jerk!" he roared as his fingers curled against the commander's sides in instinctive reprisal. "I know you hate to lose, you self-important, spoiled little child, but even I can't believe you would play with—"

And he would have continued raging had Hirato not inhaled sharply and clutched his side. The doctor made inferences with unnatural quickness and his anger ebbed away, only to be overcome by apprehension tempered with a touch of guilt. "Hirato?" He reached out, intuiting with a healer's knowledge that something had gone horribly wrong.

The brunet only retreated further, one hand still at his abdomen and the other held up in a gesture of placation. "I'm fine. I got caught by one of Yogi's swords when I tried to pull him from a fight he couldn't win." He offered a conciliatory expression that looked entirely too much like a pained grimace. "It's a scratch. Nothing worth troubling an SSS rank."

"I'll be the judge of that," Akari said tersely, finely-tuned professionalism taking over with trademark swiftness, "although I'm sure this your comeuppance for spoiling him." He guided Hirato back across the room. "Don't move." Even Circus' second captain rarely challenged the doctor when he was this imperious and commanding. He leaned against the countertop without fuss, knowing better than to antagonize someone who had unquestioned oversight vis-a-vis his health. Akari hooked a finger through his tie knot and slid it loose with practiced expertise. Skilled hands unbuttoned his shirt, gently pushing the garment off his shoulders and completely disregarding the lean body that had been so captivating only moments earlier. The blond removed the dressing that Hirato had hastily applied and proceeded with an impromptu examination.

"If you were this desperate to get me out of my clothes, all you had to do was say so." The commander hissed as he was prodded with more sharpness than necessary.

"Do you ever shut up?" Akari was clinical and detached. He concentrated intently on the injury before him and not on the crafty fiend whose triumphant grin ought to have been telling. "You don't need any further medical attention, but I should dress this. Where's your first aid kit?"

"I think I've seen enough injuries to tend to a scrape."

"I thought so too, but clearly my faith was misplaced. I can't have you wasting my time with infections resulting from improper care of such trifles." He huffed in exasperation, arms crossed authoritatively over his chest, crystalline irises flashing. "Your first aid kit. Where?"

The brunet inclined his head in the direction of the hallway. "Bathroom. Under the sink."

If possible, Akari returned looking more nettled than he had all evening. "I suppose this will suffice," he muttered in annoyance. Technically, it was Hirato's personal responsibility to have on hand proper medical supplies. Captains ought to be prepared for every eventuality, after all. Akari tutted impatiently. Even so, there was a gentleness to the sure, capable hands that cleaned and re-dressed the commander's wound with expert proficiency. "I'll have someone send up some real antiseptic in the morning, but this should do for now."

As the blond started collecting his things, a hand closed around his wrist for what felt like the thousandth time. This is getting tiresome. He rubbed his temple, noting the nascent migraine forming just under his fingertips. "Let me go. We're finished here." He had done his duty. In fact, he'd exceeded the call of duty, and so he felt no remorse whatsoever in abandoning their erstwhile game. Hirato had won anyway; Akari did indeed want him, and now the cunning devil possessed evidence of that fact.

"I'm not finished, doctor." The brunet slipped strong arms around him and pulled him closer. Akari opened his mouth in protest, armed with a litany of curses on the tip of his tongue, only for them to be crushed against very determined lips. He struggled. Freeing himself would likely result in a number of injuries. He considered attacking Hirato's extant cut, but the thought was discarded when clever hands slipped surreptitiously under his shirt and commenced a tentative exploration of the curvature of his spine. The blond leaned into that touch, his super-collider brain stilling momentarily before whirring to life again. How can someone so cruel and contriving be this warm? Truly, the man was a beautiful menace, a pretty poison that siphoned your life even while overwhelming your senses with heady ecstasy. As if in confirmation of that assessment, Hirato murmured seductively, his fingers etching fire into Akari's back. "Stay."

"No." He might be as susceptible to desire as any man, but genius has its advantages. Even at a diminished capacity, Akari's mind could deliver some semblance of coherence.

The captain licked across pursed lips, clearly hoping to coax them open again. Unsurprisingly, he made little headway. "Stay," he repeated, pitching his voice in a manner that might have convinced someone unfamiliar with his particular brand of duplicity. But the physician in his arms was not so easily beguiled by sweet words or pretty poisons even.

"No. I'm done playing your games."

"I'm not playing." And then, lips that had very lately been so demanding settled against the doctor's mouth, no longer bent in the shape of a smirk or quirked in irony. "I'm asking," Hirato breathed, slipping uncharacteristically hesitant fingers through strawberry blond hair. "Will you spend the night, Akari?"

Akari. Not "my dear Akari-san" or "doctor." No superficial politeness, no self-satisfied mockery. No clever maneuvering and astonishingly enough, no indication of malevolent designs. And if having Second Commander Hirato whisper his name like that - like those three syllables could illumine even one of the mysteries contained in the lithe form now wrapped around him - if that wasn't enough to effect a surrender then no amount of enticement would suffice.

So he stayed.

Akari didn't know what waking to a manipulative bastard would entail, but whatever he'd imagined, this was certainly not amongst the range of possibilities. In the course of last night's events, clothes had been haphazardly strewn from the living room to the bed. They were abandoned where they fell in their owners' desperate pursuit of skin against skin. The doctor managed to sort and retrieve his own as dawn broke through the ship's high windows. The captain still slept. And frankly, Akari was downright staggered by how normal Hirato looked, his face half-buried in a pillow, a tousled mess of inky hair and unnaturally long eyelashes lending him an innocence that only fools would believe he actually possessed. He relished the sight of an unguarded Hirato, but he knew well that the commander's mask would be firmly in place when his eyes opened.

Even more surprising, however, was the fact that Hirato wasn't some perfectly-formed specimen free of blemish. Akari hadn't noticed during superficial medical examinations or even last night (indisposed as he was), but in the sunlight he could see quite clearly several thin, raised scars traversing porcelain flesh. Marks borne from many battles, no doubt. Another part of the commander that was never on display. These are mine—just like his touch, his taste. A rare, genuine smile tugged at mouth as he bent forth to trace one such scar along the sleeping man's collarbone. Hirato's grip snapped around him before he got close enough to touch. He'd been caught thusly before, of course. But the brunet hadn't interlaced their fingers the last time. He hadn't joined their hands. The doctor was no uninitiated novice. He knew that those hands were powerful, forceful, had killed, and would likely do so again. But they had also traveled over his body with the sort of care reserved for inordinately fragile objects fabricated from the most rare and delicate materials. The irony was fascinating.

Hirato arched an accusatory brow at his offender. "I'd think a man of your caliber would learn. Isn't this how you ended up in this position in the first place?"

"No. That implies last night was my doing. I ended up here because I was sure that you were going to avenge yourself."

Ten seconds. That was the time required for the captain to metamorphose from bedmate to trickster. Akari kept count. "Are you certain that I haven't avenged myself?"

And then all the pieces snapped neatly into place, prompting a blaze to burn under his skin that had very little to do with the allure of the half-naked brunet at his side and much more to do with fantasies of permanently maiming him. Akari wrenched himself free, his jewel-toned eyes now clouded over in wrath. "You didn't. You couldn't have. Even you."

The captain only laughed at his companion's acute inability to articulate himself. "I know you've a whirlwind intellect, but even so, it's no easy thing to hack the security aboard this ship. I'm afraid I knew the second you stepped into my quarters. Do you think I'd risk that sort of exposure?"

The doctor nearly choked. "But the sheep. I—"

"—momentarily disabled the sheep. Or so you thought. But they have some pretty useful functions. Stealth mode, for example." Hirato grinned in that smug way of his.

"And if I never showed?" Akari had taken on a murderous affect. Research Tower was in for an uncommonly difficult workday.

Deft fingers inched along the doctor's clothed thigh in an attempt at rapprochement, but they were slapped away. "I knew that if I did nothing, your curiosity would compel you to seek me out." Hirato sat up, shifting towards the physician and snipping teasingly at a tense jaw. "You're a researcher. It's in your nature to discover things." His curved mouth slid against the blond's neck, gently dragging the point of a canine in its wake. "And believe me, I am delighted to have satisfied that inquisitiveness."

If that deceitful devil thought such tricks would retain any efficacy, he was sorely mistaken. Akari pushed him down and wondered if smothering the man with his own bedding would be worth the ensuing paperwork. "I didn't have to stay, you know. The only reason I didn't leave earlier was because you were hurt—" and then he stopped abruptly, feeling altogether too reluctant to follow that particular line of reasoning to its logical conclusion.

The commander's expression was indecipherable.

"No," Akari breathed, "I don't believe you."

"You don't have to." The brunet snickered yet again and lightly pulled at an immaculately-knotted necktie. He took immense enjoyment in stoking the researcher's irritation, it seemed.

The irritated researcher in question broke away. Irritatedly. "Get away from me, you protozoan jerk." He threw a pillow at a temptingly disheveled Hirato, putting all his vehemence into the act even though he knew it would simply bounce off. That manipulative bastard was forged from treachery and steel. Nothing would break his skin. But Akari was nothing if not a genius, and he'd certainly put his inimitable mind to the task. "I hate you."

"The marks on your neck suggest otherwise, doctor."

The last thing he caught before straightening his tie and slamming the door was rich, mellifluous laughter trailing behind him and setting his teeth on edge.