Synopsis: Trouble in InuKai paradise! And apparently Hazue is the Ultimate Shotakon Dream of perverted males ages 14-55... ^_^; InuKai, with some HazuKai too.
Inui was about to knock on the front door of the small palace which Kaidou called a home, when it was flung open by Kaidou himself.
"Ittekimasu," he bit out to whoever was behind him, not looking back. His hand yanked hard at the knob to slam the door, but a small hand caught it.
"Itterasshai, Niisan," said Hazue pleasantly, peering out at them from behind the door, Kaidou in miniature. His eyes flicked over to Inui. With just the slightest decrease in enthusiasm, the tiniest little reminder of his dislike, Hazue said, "Konnichiwa, Inui-san." Then he disappeared into the darkness of the house, and the door closed with the barest click.
Inui liked him immensely. It was unfortunate that Kaidou's little brother did not feel the same about him. He wanted to be liked by all of Kaidou's family, not necessarily because it gave him easier access to Kaidou's bedroom, but because he was genuinely fond of them all.
Inui supposed he derived some sort of vicarious enjoyment from the tightly-knit family... A mother in an apron standing at the kitchen counter, making onigiri with quick well-practiced motions of her hands. Her house is beautiful, and she is too. Somehow she makes both seem effortless. A father in his suit and tie, smelling warmly of cologne. He kisses the mother and pats the sons on their heads, glad to come home to them all after his day at the office. These were the images that Inui remembered of Kaidou's family. He was always welcome there now. They called him "Sadaharu-kun" and they adored him. Except for Hazue. Hazue called him "Inui-san" and was always dropping hints that he did not adore him in the least. Inui found it cute that Hazue was putting up such a fight. Kaidou's brother didn't know who he was up against.
"Senpai. Sorry to keep you waiting," said Kaidou, a little more gruff than usual.
"I just arrived, actually... Shall we set off for the park, then?"
"Ah." Kaidou didn't want to look at him. He knew Inui was assessing his state of mind. He could feel his gaze on him, but Kaidou steadfastly refused to acknowledge it. If they could only make it to the park, he could swallow up the stupid anger that making his jaw clench, channel that adrenaline into his training. Hazue was just so fucking...
"Is something wrong, Kaidou?"
He hated knowing that Inui's brain was working hard at figuring out exactly what "nothing" meant. He hated how Inui just couldn't leave things alone, badgering him somehow, even though he wasn't saying anything. Kaidou felt tight all over. His head began a dull ache. Inui was walking next to him, hands in the pockets of his sweatpants, not even looking at him. Still he was driving Kaidou crazy.
"My brother... he was nagging me about something stupid."
"Oh?" Now Inui was looking at him, attentive. Like some freaking psychiatrist.
"Everyone thinks he's a little angel, but they don't know his other side."
"He seems determined to make me know he doesn't like me very much."
"Really?" Kaidou was genuinely surprised. They'd had one of their rare arguments that morning, indirectly about Inui, Kaidou realized now. Hazue had implied that Kaidou was going out too much, that he'd irresponsibly missed several family dinners, and why would he be so selfish as to forget to call and make their parents worry? Hazue always phrased things so impeccably, Kaidou could never argue properly with him, which just caused his temper to flare. It was maddening trying to argue with someone so calm and collected. He'd ended up storming out just as Inui had arrived on his doorstep.
"Did you know he always serves me lukewarm tea whenever he brings in the tray from your mom?"
"But mine is always hot..." Was Hazue doing things behind his back? Kaidou hadn't realized his little brother could be so sneaky.
"That's the thing, he must put ice in mine before he brings it in. And not enough ice so that it's actually cold, but just enough so that it's room-temperature."
"I'll talk to him about it." A side of Kaidou was offended by Hazue's lack of respect. They'd both been raised so well, but he wondered if his younger brother was losing his values in the chaos of modern Japanese pop culture. Another side of Kaidou was worried. What was making Hazue lash out like that? It was very unlike him, and did that mean something was wrong...?
"There's no need to make a fuss about it," Inui told him, chuckling. "I find it rather adorable that he'd think to do a thing like that. Perhaps I've unintentionally angered him somehow."
"He shouldn't think he can get away with something like that. My parents have already spoiled him enough."
"It might make it more difficult for him to get along with me if he gets in trouble for it, don't you think?"
"That might be true..." admitted Kaidou, cheeks a tiny bit flushed. It was silly, and he felt really stupid even thinking it, but he did want Hazue to like Inui-senpai...
"Let's leave it alone for now. I have a feeling he might be changing his opinion of me soon."
"Why do you say that?"
"Ah, we're here."
Maybe Inui-senpai hadn't heard him.
Hazue watched Inui through the eyehole as he left with Kaidou. Inui didn't waste any time putting a hand on Kaidou's shoulder, but Kaidou was angry and didn't respond to him. Hazue smiled a little. Would things turn sour between Inui-san and Niisan? It was Inui-san's fault for being all possessive like that. Then a pang of guilt hit him. It was wrong to wish ill upon Niisan. He'd probably be sad if Inui-san wasn't around anymore.
Hazue hugged his arms, leaning back against the door. He wished he could fill that gap somehow, so that Niisan would realize he didn't really need Inui-san. If only I was the older one, thought Hazue, I could guide him better.
Inui had done quite a bit of data-gathering in the neighborhood park. Some days he'd taken sunny walks through it, soaking in all the activity around him, weights strapped to his ankles underneath his pants. It wasn't quite training on the sly, but it amused Inui be a little secretive, an unassuming bystander.
There had been other days, later on, when he'd come here to watch Kaidou. A solitary person like Inui himself was, Kaidou would isolate himself in a secluded portion of the park, and set to work with the utmost seriousness on doubling whatever training menu Inui had written up for the week. It had been quite touching the first time Inui had seen Kaidou do this. Unfortunately Inui's thrilling campaign of voyeurism had to be ceased when Kaidou noticed he'd run into Inui twice during one of his jogs. Fond memories, regardless.
Inui found another sort of enjoyment in training with Kaidou. They worked naturally well together. With anyone else, they both would have found a partner intrusive, but with each other they didn't mind so much. Inui kinda enjoyed the tease of Kaidou's body when they stretched together. Kaidou was lovely when the passion was in his eyes, unaware of anything but the goal ahead of him. Sometimes Inui was driven to distraction, but that was fine too.
Kaidou didn't mind training with Inui-senpai because he gave excellent advice, and was always ready -perhaps a little eager- to spot him, if needed. He'd help Kaidou perfect himself because he understood that constant drive for something more, something better. There was something so pure about physical exertion. Kaidou would work just a little past his breaking point so that he improved himself by tiny increments each time. It was serious business. Companionship had nothing to do with it.
And what if companionship had something to do with it? Hazue didn't have any business judging him either way. If he wanted to go have dinner at Inui-senpai's place, he should be able to do so without his little brother suggesting that he just might be tearing the family apart. When had Hazue gotten so dramatic? He'd even cried that one time, and so the next day Kaidou had taken him to the movies and that had seemed to fix things but now Hazue was being rude to Inui-senpai behind his back which made Kaidou mad and worried at the same time and it seemed like a movie wasn't going to fix things this time so what the hell did his brother want from him?!
Hazue wandered through the house. There was a newspaper on the coffee table in the living room, but he put it down after a few minutes, not finding interest in any of the stories. He looked out the window. Hazue pulled off his socks as he slid open the glass door that led to the backyard. The soles of his feet stepped pleasantly across sun-warmed stones.
"What are you planting, Okaasan?"
His mother smiled up at him from beneath her sun bonnet. "Oh, just a little weeding. It's good to get rid of them before their roots get too deep."
"Yes, I suppose it would be," answered Hazue, cryptic.
"What are you up to, looking so glum?"
"I look glum? I didn't realize."
Hozumi laughed. "Hazue! What in the world is wrong?"
"Maybe it's just an off-day."
His mother looked at him like she didn't believe him, and Hazue couldn't blame her. She didn't nag him about it, though. "It might help if you get some fresh air. You could go see if your brother and Sadaharu-kun are still at the park?"
"Hmm," said Hazue, before he skulked away. He could feel that his mother wanted to say something else to him, but she resisted. She returned to her weeding with a sigh as he stepped back into the house.
Upstairs, Hazue walked past the open door of his parents' room. His father's gaze was transfixed on the enormous plasma television mounted on one wall. A baseball game. Hazue didn't care too much for baseball, or tennis, for that matter. Shibuki was grumbling to himself, upset over some sort of play they were showing again in slow motion.
"Did you know, Hazue, that America is slowly sucking up all of our baseball talent?" demanded Shibuki, still staring at the screen.
Hazue jumped a little, returning to the doorway he'd just walked past. He didn't realize his father had seen him. "Ah, I hadn't noticed, Otousan..." He started to walk away again, but Shibuki continued.
"It's damn sneaky, if you ask me. We're supposed to be proud of them making a name for themselves over there, but meanwhile they get replaced with idiots like this!" His father shook his head in disgust.
"I wouldn't want to leave my family, just to go to America to play sports."
"That's a good boy," nodded his father, but for a moment Hazue thought he was talking to the tv. At last his father turned away from the screen. Commercial break. "A man should have pride in his country."
"Yes indeed, Otousan."
"You don't have to pretend you agree with me."
Hazue leaned his head against the door frame, smiling a little, amused. "I'm sorry Otousan, I think my national pride just isn't as fervent as yours."
"No shame in it. There's such a thing as being too fervent. Just look at that brother of yours with his tennis and his jogging and all that. He's probably out doing one or the other right now, isn't he?"
"Perhaps. He left with Inui-san this morning."
"That Sadaharu's a good kid. Now he'd play a good game of baseball. A pitcher... or maybe a catcher..."
Hazue cringed, but Shibuki's attention had drifted back to the game as the commercial break ended.
Down the hall, Hazue pushed his own door open. He owned a healthy collection of books, 2 rows deep on the floor to ceiling bookshelves at either side of his entertainment center. For awhile he stood at each shelf, scanning the spines for the few he hadn't yet read. At last he chose a novel, one that he'd read before but of which he was particularly fond. Hazue curled up on his sofa chair, letting his legs dangle over the arm. He realized belatedly that he'd forgotten his socks by the sliding glass door downstairs. He'd pick them up a little later.
It was 15 minutes before Hazue realized he'd been reading words without digesting what they meant. Clutching his book to his chest, he stepped out of his room again. At the end of the hall he turned the knob to Kaidou's room. Hazue stopped in front of the expanse of mirror in the corner, where his brother's weight bench was, looking at his face. It was kind of glum. Okaasan had been right. Turning away, Hazue put his book on the floor, not wanting to touch the pristine glass table which never had fingerprints on it. He lay down on Kaidou's couch, pressing his face to one of the cushions.
Did Inui-san love Niisan? Were they in love? If Niisan was a girl would Inui-san marry him when they got older?
Then a thought occurred to Hazue. Was Niisan... the "Girl"?! How did those things work, anyway? There was the pitcher and the- Nonono... One guy was the "Girl" and one guy was the "Boy" right? Did they switch it up every once and awhile for variety? Hazue looked up to his brother. Niisan was strong and masculine and cool, he'd never let himself be the "Girl," would he?? And yet somehow Hazue couldn't really see Inui-san in that role either.
There was alot he didn't know about this. Hazue decided he needed some new reading material on the subject. And if he just happened to run into Niisan and Inui-san on his way to the bookstore, then that was just fate, and Hazue couldn't help that.
And so it was that Hazue contemplated his Niisan, and his Niisan contemplated him, and they were both troubled. Inui saw this quite clearly, his role in causing the rift between the two brothers. And he had an idea as to why Hazue had decided so readily to hate him...
Kaidou and Hazue were... 3 years apart? If they were this close now, they'd probably been extremely close when they were younger. Inui thought about chibi-Kaidou and chibi-Hazue... taking baths together, running around in shortpants playing imaginary games with each other, slipping into Kaidou's futon and whispering stories to each other far past their bedtime. And perhaps, just perhaps, in the darkness of Kaidou's room... an innocent brushing of matching boyish lips... Was it wrong for Inui to let himself think slashy thoughts? Was it completely evil of him to wander into Kaidou x Kaidou land, and to like what he saw?
Such kink. Inui smiled like a pervert, and it was kinda funny, because that was exactly what Hazue had said he was.
Hazue took the scenic route to the bookstore. There was a bus which would have taken him almost to the very doorstep of the shop, but it was a nice day, and Hazue didn't mind the walk. Neither did Hazue mind a roundabout detour through the park, not looking for Niisan and Inui-san. (Whom he didn't find, by the way.)
Hazue went to this particular bookstore often enough for several of the clerks to know him. He was somewhat concerned by this, considering the nature of his mission today. It had the best selection, however. Hazue took a breath before entering.
It was calm and cool inside. Hazue's sneakers barely made a sound as he walked along the carpeted aisles, on his pervert's quest. Where would they keep "those" kinds of books anyway? Sociology? The ever-ambiguous "Special Interest"? ..."Ecchi"...?
The Ecchi section wasn't really labeled as such, rather it was discreetly tucked away on the second floor. There were the usual volumes upon volumes of photobooks of AV models: in bikinis, in kimono, in sailor fuku... there were a few where it looked like the girl was dressed like a boy... What was that all about? Hazue walked slowly past them, not quite having the nerve to stop, much less pick up a book and actually look at it.
He found himself in the Literature section several aisles away. Mishima Yukio, Japan's treasured homosexual writer. Confessions of a Mask. Hazue had read that one before. It was gay, but freaky sorta S+M gay, and hadn't Mishima himself and his lover died by seppuku? ...Maybe that wasn't quite what he was looking for. Saikaku Ihara. Nanshoku Okagami (The Great Mirror of Male Love). That sounded kinda interesting. Hazue opened the book, careful to hold it in such a way that his hands obscured the title. The 17th century Japanese was prettier than the much more modern Mishima, but the stories all seemed to be about samurai, priests, or oyaji screwing boys around Hazue's age. That was kinda gross. He'd never want to be an acolyte to some old wrinkly priest. Someone around maybe Niisan's age wouldn't be so bad, though...
Hazue's face began to burn. He shouldn't have been thinking of his brother like that.
"Are you lost, little boy?" rasped a kindly little obaasan, shorter than Hazue. She put a shaky hand on his shoulder and spoke to him as though she were imparting secret knowledge from the world of adults. "You wouldn't like anything up here. They're for old people like me!"
The ecchi ones too, granny? thought Hazue acidly. "Oh, I must have lost my way. Thank you very much, obaasan." He bowed. Behind his back, he pushed Nanshoku Okagami back into its spot on the shelf. Hazue turned to the stairs, slipping behind the man who was browsing further down the aisle, hoping he hadn't caught sight of the book Hazue had been flipping through. The obaasan smiled after him, probably charmed by his good manners. Hazue was used to it. Sometimes, it seemed like being adorable was a curse rather than a blessing.
Downstairs, Hazue tried the Sociology section. What he really needed was the basics. None of that flowery romanticized man-boy love stuff. First Hazue pulled out Hiro-kun wa Otousan O-futari Iru! In the cover illustration a cheerful little boy clutched the hand of either father, a little upside-down "U" for each eye, such was his happiness in having gay dads. Yeah right. What the hell kind of book was this? Hazue read the blurb on the strip of paper wrapped around the cover. "Loosely adapted" from some American book? Hazue didn't think things were quite the same over in Japan.
Next Hazue found one with an intriging title: Gay Style. His eyes shifted to the left, then the right. The coast was clear. Now where was that freaking obaasan? Hazue looked around, then spotted her near the front, at the cashier. Perfect. Gliding over to the comic weeklies, Hazue grabbed a copy of a Shonen Jump shuukan. The psychotic, grinning face of Monkey D. Luffy shielded the world from Hazue's secret reading selection as he ascended the stairs to the second floor again.
The Travel section seemed to be the safest, less-frequented section. Hazue stood in the middle of the row. Even if someone walked by, they'd be too far away to see what he was reading. Indeed, he was being brilliantly discreet. Hazue opened to the table of contents. Hmm... "First Love"... "Shower"...? Was there some sort of technique to a "gay" shower...? Did they have to... wash themselves differently? In different places? "One Night Lover"... That sounded rather sordid. Maybe he should skip that chapter. "Male Body"... It seemed like a good place to start for the basics. Hazue turned to the section.
Before his eyes, spread across two pages, was a crisply-reproduced black and white photo of two utterly naked male bodies entwined in some sort of obscene embrace. Hazue's hands nearly went limp and dropped the book. He slammed it closed with a sound louder than he would have liked. Ack, not good, not good... Hazue breathed deeply, calming himself. On the back cover, the description called the book a "photo essay," noting that it was "chotto ecchi". Hazue made a face. Porn masquerading as a Sociology book?! He looked down at it, his fingers slipping into the pages. Quickly he opened the book to another picture and then closed it again. That one had shown one body bent over the other, kinda like animals or something. It looked uncomfortable. One more, thought Hazue, and then I'll put this filth back where it belongs... He opened to a rather beautiful picture, a kiss between two men, their faces going out of frame so that you could only see their interlocked tongues. A hand was reaching down into the darkness where their bodies were pressed together. Oh. The one guy was touching the other guy's...
"That's very clever of you, hiding up here with that." It was the man from before, who'd been down the aisle from him in the Literature section.
"Eh? Ah, e-eto...." Any sort of smooth, polite thing Hazue could've said simply slipped out of his head. Luffy was back shielding the cover of "Gay Style" but it was too late. Hazue wished he had some sort of gomu-gomu power to escape his embarassment. His cheeks blushed a brilliant pink.
"You've been looking at some interesting reading selections," the man leaned in, pushing aside the Shonen Jump shuukan. "Do you like looking at that?"
"N-no sir... I'm doing... a report for school...." Hazue looked away shamefully, wishing desperately to disappear from the face of the Earth.
"How old are you, boy?"
"You're very cute." The man was looming over him now. "But I don't think you're doing a report. Why don't you come play with Oniisan and I'll buy you some comics instead? Hmm?"
"I have to go home!" Hazue said, turning quickly away.
"If you want to know about the things in that book..." The man's hand slid across Hazue's bottom. "Don't be shy..."
Hazue jumped. He turned and swiftly kneed the man in the crotch. "Ah, please don't touch me, sir. Sometimes I'm very clumsy and accidentally knock into perverted men. Sumimasen!" He left the man groaning on the floor, escaping downstairs.
Back in the Sociology section, Hazue sighed. He was just way too adorable for his own good. And he should put Gay Style back. But he was still curious. He kinda wanted to see more of the pictures... Hazue browsed the spines, and after a few minutes he found Queer Studies: Thought Frontier. Maybe he could get both Queer Studies and Gay Style? Certainly having these two books would give him some expertise in the area. And he should probably leave before that man recovered from Hazue's attack and tried to follow him home.
Ok, it was time to be brave. Hazue set his books on the cashier's counter, the Shonen Jump shuukan on top.
"Hello Hazue-kun, how are you today?" One of the younger clerks, a college girl, who was particulary fond of him.
Hazue tried his best to act normal, like he wasn't buying books with "Queer" and "Gay" in their titles. "I'm doing very well, thank you."
"You're so cute, Hazue-kun. Always reading so many books. I bet you're the top in your class!"
Hazue watched her scan the books without even looking at them, smiling at him. Being adorable had its advantages too, he supposed. "Well, I try my best..." he answered modestly, placing a crisp bill on the counter.
"Waa, so cute! I wish you were my little brother!" the girl gushed. Her manager gave her a look, and then the cashier cleared her throat and tried to return to her proper self.
"Arigato gozaimashita!" chimed the girl, and then winking she added, "Hazue-kun."
Hazue bowed a little, returning the girl's smile, then made his getaway with his pervert's loot.
Kaidou's body was feeling a nice buzz as he jogged alongside Inui, just a little ahead of him. They'd been jogging together for a while now since they'd left the park, and Kaidou was wondering which of them would slow down first. Which of them had more stamina? Kaidou glanced back at Inui, but he couldn't detect any signs of exhaustion. There was even a strange smile on Inui-senpai's face.
"What's that look for?"
"Hmm? Oh, it's nothing... I was just... thinking of your brother," answered Inui between breaths.
"Why are you thinking of Hazue?" Kaidou gritted his teeth. Hazue was nosing into his business all kinds of ways.
"He fascinates me. His level of intelligence.... is quite impressive... for someone his age."
"So I've heard... Numerous times... From numerous people."
"And he really is adorable... the way he speaks so politely. All the obaasans... in the neighborhood must love-"
"You're going to fall off pace... if you talk too much." Kaidou's annoyance gave him more energy. He picked up his speed a bit and broke into a full run.
Inui matched him so that they were running shoulder to shoulder. Had Inui-senpai been holding back before...? "You're sensitive about him."
"It's always..." huffed Kaidou, slowing until his limbs swung loosely in a cool-down walk. There was a succession of hisses.
Inui stopped a few paces ahead, stooping with his hands on his knees, catching his breath. He looked over his shoulder. "It's always what?"
"Nothing," Kaidou answered, swiping at his face with a towel, shaking away the feeling that was trying to settle over him.
"Here." Suddenly Inui took his hand and was pulling him down towards the riverbank. Automatically Kaidou glanced around but there was no one else, just cars going past them. So he didn't pull his hand away. The grass was cool and just a little damp in the shade beneath the overpass. Kaidou closed his eyes, letting the breeze cool him off, calming him. He felt the back of Inui's hand on his cheek. Kaidou's eyes opened again, slightly moist.
"It's always been that way with him. People can't help but..."
"Coo over him?"
"Most of the time I can deal with being second, even though I'm the first son." He'd said it at last. He would always be second to Hazue. Kaidou couldn't remember the first time it had occurred to him, the first time he'd realized he was clearly inferior to his younger brother. He had never been as cute, would never give his parents as much pride, would never be as smart or as charming as Hazue. Everyone loved his brother, but people were scared of Kaidou.
It must have happened when he was maybe 6 or 7. He'd been playing in the park with Niisan, but their ball had rolled away. Niisan hadn't thrown it hard, but Hazue's legs were small and he couldn't catch up with it until it had rolled a long way. Someone had picked it up for him, they were stooping down to hand it to him. Then the stranger was holding Hazue's hand, and they were going away somewhere, out of the park and away from Niisan. Hazue had dropped his ball. He'd had a vague sense that maybe he shouldn't be talking to strangers even if they were in the park, even if they were friendly and smiling like this man was. Hazue had turned back, thinking he would call out to Niisan, but Niisan was there already.
"What are you doing?!" Niisan had said angrily, running up to them.
"Oniichan..." Hazue's mouth had trembled a little. He'd thought Niisan was mad at him, but his brother's eyes were on the stranger. Niisan had come between them and he'd pushed Hazue back, away from the man.
"Don't touch him!" Hazue watched as Niisan kicked the man right in the naughty bits. "Kusojiji!!" Niisan was very strong. It must have hurt.
Then Niisan was holding Hazue's hand and Hazue was sniffling. "I'm sorry Oniichan, I'm sorry!"
"Don't ever do that again!" Niisan had said.
He'd looked so mad, it made the tears well up in Hazue's eyes. "U-uuu~"
Niisan had squeezed his hand, looking so warm the way he smiled, Hazue's tears dried up. "I'll protect you, Hazue."
"You kicked him really hard, didn't you, Oniichan?"
"Mm," Niisan nodded, and Hazue had thought he'd looked noble and cool, like the Kamen Fighters on tv.
It made Hazue feel very nostalgic, looking back on the memory of his dashing rescue from the pervert in the park. Niisan had always been such a responsible older brother, looking after him all the time. Hazue tightened his grip on the bag from the bookstore. And now Hazue wanted to protect his Niisan from a pervert too.
Inui stretched his legs out to their full length, leaning back on his arms. He thought of Kaidou practicing his swing down in the river before them. Inui had waded out to him and felt the ki emanating from Kaidou's body, like he was being drawn there without Kaidou doing anything, without even being aware of it, perhaps. How could someone with such obvious fervor and incredible devotion think so lowly of himself? Where was that nearly arrogant self-confidence he'd seen on the tennis court? Inui could have said all of that out loud, but that wasn't the way to talk to Kaidou. "He's not perfect, Kaidou," he chose to say instead.
"Close to it."
"It's harder for you to see his faults because you love him and you've grown to accept them."
"..." Kaidou's silence could have been quiet reflection or quietly stubborn disbelief, but Inui had faith he was making some headway.
"By the same token, it's harder for you to see your personal efforts as exceptional." Inui tickled his fingertips on the grass blades next to Kaidou. Then his fingers had traversed that narrow space between them and his hand was pressing warmly on top of Kaidou's, not insistent, just resting there.
Inui leaned over to Kaidou's ear, eyes downcast, a little modest for once. "I find you perfect in your imperfection."
Ah, Inui saw such conflict in Kaidou after he'd said that. Kaidou wanted to believe him. His face turned a little, and his eyes said, Do you really think that, Senpai? It caught him off guard, and for a moment Inui couldn't breathe. That look overwhelmed him. Their noses brushed and then Inui kissed Kaidou's mouth, drawn to him again.
Hazue turned onto the sidewalk that ran along the river. This was another place Niisan liked to train, but he didn't see him or Inui-san here either. The water in the river was turning a pretty blood orange color as the sun was setting. Hazue sat down on the grass, watching the glow. His head turned suddenly at the sound of voices, and there, beneath the overpass, was Niisan and Inui-san. Hazue's mouth hardened. What were they doing down there? Resting?
He thought about walking down to the edge of the river, and then feigning surprise when Niisan called out to him. He thought too about throwing pebbles at Inui-san's head. But Hazue was also curious. He wanted to watch how they acted with one another when they thought they were alone.
Inui-san was getting closer and closer, touching Niisan more boldly than Hazue had seen him do before. His face was close to Niisan's ear, and then Niisan's face was turning, and Inui-san was leaning in, and then... and then...
Hazue looked away. Seeing two boys kissing like that... his Niisan getting kissed by some boy like that... it made him feel really strange. His stomach was getting twisty, and he was sorta sad and sorta angry too... Hazue grabbed his books, turning quickly to go home.
"Senpai..." breathed Kaidou, his lips slightly parted.
"I'm sorry." Inui went back to leaning on his arms again. "I know how you feel about public displays of affection."
"I..." began Kaidou, but he couldn't find any words but the one.
"But when you look at me with that face... I don't know what I might do." Inui's gaze held Kaidou, scaring him a little. Inui-senpai looked like he wanted to push him down into the grass and just fuck him right there. Kaidou's face was hot with embarassment.
"I don't believe that, any of it," said Kaidou. That wasn't what he'd meant, though. He'd wanted to say, I don't know how to believe you. But he couldn't say that out loud.
"Kaidou," sighed Inui. "I told you before that I would never look down on you. I meant what I said."
Kaidou stared at his sneakers, pressing together his lips which tasted faintly of Inui. What scared him most was how much Kaidou found that he needed him. He'd never wanted to rely on others, had even believed it was a sign of weakness, but an attachment had formed between them. There was something wonderful in this, even if it was indeed a weakness, but it hurt a little too. "Thank you... Senpai."
Queer Studies was a little dry, but that's what Hazue needed. Bare, dry facts. Hmm... so okama aren't necessarily gay, huh? Hazue compiled a long list of random facts as he flipped through the pages. He sat on his sofa chair, legs crossed, hunched over the book resting in his lap, absorbed.
After a time he heard the faint sound of the front door closing, and footsteps upstairs. The door to Niisan's bedroom opened and closed. Hazue slid a bookmark into the section he'd been reading and crept up to the wall. Both Niisan and Inui-san had deep voices, so sometimes he could hear them if he was very quiet.
Hazue thought about the pictures in his other book. He wondered if Niisan and Inui-san had done those very same things. He hadn't even thought of them kissing, but now he'd seen it, and it opened up floodgate of possibilities in Hazue's mind. For the first time he began to associate the idea of his brother with the idea of sex. The real thing, not just vague ideas of girls and boys, birds and bees.
...Had Niisan had sex with Inui-san?
Hazue's eyes widened.
"Are you staying for dinner, Senpai?"
Kaidou had never, to Inui's recollection, actually asked him to stay for dinner. He'd been invited by Kaidou's mother, and Kaidou's father too, on several occasions. And his first dinner at the Kaidou household he'd basically invited himself to, Inui supposed.
"Are you asking me?" said Inui, studying Kaidou in the mirror by the weight bench. Just once, he'd like to use that mirror for something other than "form-check." Inui knew there were androgenic hormones at work in his body, chemicals in his brain, making him a little crazy. Was that the part of him that wanted Kaidou to invite him to dinner instead of acting like it didn't matter either way?
"It's fine if you don't want to." Kaidou was toweling away sweat that still clung to his body. His skin would probably taste both tangy and salty.
"I'll stay but only if you want me to." Do you want me to? Does it make any difference to you whether I'm here or not?
"You should take a shower before dinner's ready, then."
"Ah. Thanks." Inui's heart sank. He wasn't even sure what he was looking for. Acknowledgement, perhaps? Something that he didn't have to initiate, something he didn't have to coerce Kaidou into doing?
Inui set his glasses on the edge of the sink, discarding his clothes and stepping into the shower.
For some reason Kaidou didn't have to be coerced into letting Momo hump him in the clubhouse the other day, did he? Inui wasn't really jealous that Momo had some sort of dire need to screw Kaidou, and he wouldn't have minded if they had done so. But there was something in the way Kaidou interacted with Momo, the way he just let loose with him, that made Inui a little envious. Then he imagined Momo screwing Kaidou on the floor of the clubhouse, and that must have been his hormones calling again, so Inui answered them.
Hazue frowned at the ceiling with suspicion when he heard the water from the shower upstairs. Inui-san better not be taking a shower with Niisan... He turned back to the plates he was setting. His mother was adding more ingredients to the nabe on the stove.
"It's as though I don't need to ask anymore, whether to set a place for Inui-san," commented Hazue.
"Sadaharu-kun's parents keep difficult hours, Hazue. He shouldn't have to eat by himself all the time," Hozumi turned away from the stove, wiping her hands on her apron. "Think if it was you."
"What is it that they do, anyway?" Hazue went over to the stove, his face hovering over the pot. The smell of Okaasan's homemade dashi filled his nostrils.
"You know, come to think of it, I haven't met them yet..." Hozumi looked thoughtful for a moment, a lemon in hand for ponzu.
"Maybe he's an orphan."
"Hazue!" His mother admonished him, but she smiled after a moment, shaking her head.
"You never know..." said Hazue as he walked out of the kitchen and into the living room.
He flipped on the tv, lying down along the full length of the sofa -almost, he wasn't quite tall enough yet. The shower water stopped upstairs, footsteps, talking, then someone was coming downstairs.
"Ah, Sadaharu-kun! Dinner willl be ready shortly!" said Okaasan brightly, poking her head into the living room.
"Thank you for letting me intrude so often," responded Inui, standing somewhere behind the sofa. He was probably bowing, because he was a kiss-ass, and Hazue's parents totally fell for it every freaking time.
"Oh, no no! I've told you before there's no need for all of that, Sadaharu-kun," giggled Hozumi, disappearing into the kitchen again. Hazue could've sworn Inui-san was flirting with his mother in some way he was not picking up on.
He decided not to move from his spot on the sofa. His eyes fixed on the mecha anime on tv, ignoring Inui's presence. The cushioning shifted a little, and he felt Inui leaning on the back of the sofa, watching the anime with him. Hazue made a face and switched the channel. Inui didn't move. Then Hazue switched the television off altogether. A single drop of water hit his back, and Hazue's body jerked from the coldness of it. Inui laughed quietly with an annoying little "Nfu" sound. Hazue realized the sweet smell that was emanating from Inui-san was shampoo. Hazue's shampoo. A few more drops of water on his back. At last Hazue sat up, and Inui seated himself next to him.
"Ojama shimasu ne, Hazue-kun," Inui teased.
Hazue crossed his arms, responding in emotionless keigo. "How peculiar that I didn't notice your presence there, Inui-san. I'm the one to be excused. Please accept my heartfelt apologies."
"Not at all. I'm intruding upon your family dinner, and now I've inadvertently intruded upon your television-watching. I'm the one that owes you a heartfelt apology."
Hazue gave an agitated sigh. He stared at the blank tv. Was Inui-san going to sit there and just stare at him until dinner? And then Hazue realized that this was the same thing he'd done to Inui-san when he'd come to dinner the first time. Was Inui-san doing this intentionally?! It made him furious, to think that a trick was being played on him like that. He wasn't just some easily-fooled little kid. Kaidou Hazue wo namecha ikemasen yo!! Hazue decided to fight back.
"I was having a lovely walk a little earlier. The river's very pretty when the sun begins to set, don't you think, Inui-san?" Hazue eyed him slyly. I saw you down there by the river. Slobbering all over Niisan in public like that! Didn't think anyone saw you, did you?
"Do you mean to say, Hazue-kun," Inui responded in mock shock. "that you were spying on your elder brother and myself this afternoon? Forgive me, but that seems rather unlike you."
"I was thinking to myself that I might unburden my mind with what I saw to my mother," threatened Hazue casually, casting his eyes thoughtfully around the room and then returning to Inui. I'm gonna tell my mom so you'd better get down on your knees and beg me not to!
"Again, I must ask that you forgive me, Hazue-kun... but it's unlike you to be so unperceptive."
"Whatever could you mean?" What the fuck are you talking about?!
"Ah, now you're simply toying with me. Surely you've realized that your wonderful mother has been aware of the relationship between myself and your brother for quite some time now."
"If indeed you're not mistaken, how might you have come upon such a conclusion?" That's bullshit, why the hell would you think that?!
"Mothers are often particularly keen to many sorts of things which happen in their households. Would you disagree?"
"...I suppose so." Fuck no, I don't believe it.
He could see that this new knowledge was blowing Hazue's mind. The poor boy... it was as though he'd just found out his dear Okaasan had aligned herself with the Devil. Inui knew this lapse in defense was the time to really start talking to Hazue, to break through that wall of keigo. "You know, Hazue-kun... I've never heard of anyone being keigoed to death before."
"I couldn't imagine what you'd be referring to, Inui-san," Hazue responded. Keigo again.
Inui sighed. Stubborn... like your brother. He tried again. "You're lucky, you know. You get to see a side of him I'll never see."
"Doubtless, you've seen every bit of him there is to see," said Hazue cattily, quirking an eyebrow.
"Let's not be crass... Does the idea of me having feelings for him make you uncomfortable?"
Hazue frowned at him, childish all of the sudden. "Why should I care if you want to be gay with him? It he wants to be a pervert, that's his business."
"It's obvious that you care for him very much. Enough to feel the need to protect him from me. Don't you think it's important to consider his happiness, though?"
"I don't see how he could be happy with a person like you."
"I'm not so bad, really."
"I don't like you."
"Your brother does."
"Niisan... gets tricked pretty easily."
Inui had to laugh at that. "You mean he's naive. I suppose you could call it that. He's a straightforward person. He sees something, then he acts on it. I think it's a very pure way of living." Inui looked away, wistful. "Then there's that shy, sensitive part of him at the very core, deep down beneath the tough exterior." The part that always draws me in, catches me off guard. An unknown variable in the data.
Hazue's face had changed when Inui looked back at him. "No one knows about that part. They think he's mean and scary, but there are so many layers to him..." His eyes had gone a little distant, but they focused again. "That's why he shouldn't be with just anyone. Someone sneaky like you."
Inui was madly taking notes in his head. Absolute adoration from younger brother. Incredible slash potential. "I wonder, Hazue-kun, could it be that you're simply jealous?"
Hazue was a clever boy, and he didn't give much pause before he answered, "Don't be stupid." Nevertheless the pause was there, and Inui noted that too. "He's my brother."
Inui shrugged. "It must have slipped my mind."
"What are you, some kind of shotakon?" Hazue pulled his knees up to his chest, not caring if Inui saw his discomfort. He was getting extremely irked by this line of questioning.
Inui laughed a little at him, and Hazue wanted to wring his neck. "I hate to disappoint you, but I'm afraid that your brother and I..."
Inui-san trailed off. Hazue turned to look at him, and then he caught sight of Niisan.
"Dinner's almost ready," Kaidou said, in a way which could have meant that he'd overheard the entire conversation, but perhaps not.
"I know," said Hazue, looking down at his socks.
"Did you help Kaasan set the table?" Ok, maybe he hadn't overheard anything. Or maybe Niisan was just dense. Perhaps the latter.
"Of course," Hazue answered, a disinterested look on his face. He cocked his head to the side, studying his socks in minute detail. "I'm never quite sure whether to set a place for you nowadays. How fortunate you were able to join us for dinner tonight, Niisan."
Hazue couldn't help himself. He was still a little mad at his brother.
"Stop it, Hazue," responded Kaidou in a low voice. It looked like they were both still angry at each other, unable to help the friction between them.
"I apologize, Niisan. I must have forgotten we once again have company." Hazue got up and left the room .
The weird vibes were in full force tonight. As Inui chatted with the Kaidou parents over nabe, the Kaidou brothers were sitting in weighted silence at the other end of the table. It was interesting to watch. They went through staring sessions, where it seemed almost as though they were having arguments with their eyes. Something was passing between them. Inui wished he could peek into their heads and see exactly what was going on.
Then amazingly, like a miracle, Kaidou was smiling a little. After a moment Hazue was smiling too, looking down into his bowl of nabe. Kaidou poured some more ponzu into Hazue's saucer.
"Here," said Kaidou, voice soft.
"Thank you, Niisan," said Hazue, brattiness evaporated.
It was almost too sweet. Suddenly it seemed like everything was ok between Kaidou and Hazue. They'd made up somehow without words. Such was the magic of their mother's homemade ponzu, perhaps.
After dinner Hazue even resisted giving Inui a dirty look when he went upstairs with Kaidou. Alas, even the delicious food of Kaidou Hozumi was not enough to give Kaidou a Clue when it came to Inui's heartache.
Most of the time he was fine with the way things were. Maybe his impending graduation was just making him anxious. It wasn't the end of the world. They'd still be able to see each other. The year after that Kaidou would graduate too, and maybe he'd go to Inui's school. Inui wondered if Kaidou had thought about that. Probably not.
"Is there something wrong, Senpai?"
"Mmm... I'm sorry, I must have slipped into some sort of brooding self-reflection," Inui answered wryly.
"You're training too hard."
"That must be it. I should relax a bit, shouldn't I?"
"You've told me before about overdoing it. Keeping a balance is the wisest way."
"Do you think I'm wise, Kaidou?"
The question embarassed him. "Well... you know... you're..." Kaidou coughed. "...much smarter than me."
"I don't know if that's true, but that's very flattering for you to say." And it was. Kaidou didn't readily give out compliments.
"Hm..." Kaidou answered uncomfortably, looking away.
"I make plenty of mistakes, though."
"Mistakes are ok. It's how you learn, and grow."
"And I do plenty of unwise things... Like this afternoon."
"I told you it was fine. No one saw."
Inui smiled. Would it kill him if he knew? "It would be unwise of me to kiss you now, wouldn't it?"
Kaidou's hands clenched where they lay on his thighs. Inui leaned in.
"...Something like that would lead to other unwise things, and with your parents and your brother in the house, no less. What would little Hazue think?"
Kaidou looked at him. It seemed as though he wasn't sure if Inui was serious or not. Inui wasn't sure either, but he was getting closer and closer, his body was getting warmer. He liked the urgency of a furtive act, the idea of Kaidou muffling himself in a pillow, both of them a little fearful of being caught but not quite able to stop. Inui had several fantasies along those lines. The position of his body was beginning to overwhelm Kaidou's, poised over him a little. Inui spoke to him in a low voice.
"I'd like to have you under the trees in a bed of cherry blossoms.... I imagine the petals sticking to your sweaty skin... your legs, your arms, in your hair... in the folds of your kimono. You'd be embarassed because you didn't like wearing it, you feel awkward the way the kimono restricts your movement... The way I can just pull the fabric away, loosen the obi wound tight around your hips..." Inui's fingers crept along Kaidou's hip bones.
"Don't do that. Don't talk like that."
"Y-You don't like it?"
"I didn't say that. But you can't stay over," Kaidou sat up straight again. "I need to talk with Hazue."
Sometimes Inui wondered whether Kaidou was made of iron. His will was, at least. It took Inui a little time to realize that when he got Kaidou to do something naughty, there was always a tiny part of Kaidou that wanted to do it too, otherwise he couldn't be coerced into it. Inui sighed, doubting his mighty powers of seduction just a little.