Chapter 19

Fuji did his best to ignore the intense stare Inui was giving him, not liking the feeling he got when someone was trying so hard to read him. He focused his attention on eating the strawberry ice cream he’d ordered, clenching Ryoma’s hand so tightly under the table he was sure he was leaving moon-shaped indents behind.

Ryoma was eating chocolate ice cream, trying to ignore the moment Fuji started digging his nails into the back of his hand. It was only slightly painful and he wondered idly if he could somehow find a way to get Fuji to press down harder. He discarded the idea the moment he realized it would be a bit rude to do so in front of Inui.

Inui had ordered aojiru ice cream and Fuji had to suppress a shudder. Inui’s juices were good because they were spicy. Aojiru, on the other hand, was one of the bitterest drinks Fuji’d ever tasted. It just wasn’t right that it was an ice cream flavor.

“How can you eat that?” Ryoma asked, nose wrinkling in displeasure.

Inui glanced at him. “It’s healthy.”

“I don’t care how healthy it is. You couldn’t pay me to eat that.”

Inui shrugged, digging in his bowl for another spoonful.

Fuji considered Ryoma. He had yet to pay him back for the trick outside, exposing him so thoroughly to Inui without thinking through the consequences it might have had. Still, what he was envisioning seemed slightly cruel. With a mental shrug, he picked up his spoon. “Inui, might I have a bite?”

Inui titled his head. “Sure.” He pushed the bowl towards Fuji.

Fuji dipped his spoon into the wheat-colored ice cream, bringing up a good-sized chunk. He turned to Ryoma, smiling.

Ryoma’s eyes widened as he took in the look on Fuji’s face. He’d learned to read what was behind that smile in the last few weeks. Right now, he wanted to be as far away from Fuji as he could get. His arms tensed against the bench they were sitting on. “No,” he said, his voice coming out strangled. There was nothing he wanted to do less than put that ice cream in his mouth.

Fuji scooted as close to Ryoma as he was physically able, leaning down to whisper in his ear. “It’s this bite or I’ll order a bowl of it for you to enjoy.”

Ryoma swallowed hard. He’d learned the hard way that refusing the first option Fuji gave him when it came to punishment was always a bad idea. Even in the cases where the second seemed less severe than the first, it was only an illusion. He ducked his head in submission. Better to get this over with and only have to suffer through a spoonful than argue and have to deal with an entire bowl.

Fuji handed Ryoma his spoon, watching as the freshman put it in his mouth. Ryoma’s eyes closed and he shuddered in disgust, his lips twisting into a grimace. For a moment, Fuji was almost certain he was going to spit it out, but he didn’t. Ryoma swallowed it and began shoveling his chocolate ice cream into his mouth, trying to eradicate the aftertaste of the aojiru. Fuji shook his head in amusement and stole the spoon Ryoma had originally been using. In his haste to get rid of the taste, Ryoma had inadvertently kept Fuji’s spoon for his own use.

Inui watched the exchange without speaking, but once it was over, his silence ended with it. “You said no one could pay you to eat this,” he said to Ryoma, tapping the side of his bowl.

Ryoma didn’t respond until he’d devoured eery last bite of the chocolate in front of him. “They couldn’t. That stuff is disgusting.”

“You ate a spoonful of your own volition,” Inui said, his disbelief almost palpable.

“Che. I didn’t have a choice,” Ryoma said.

Inui looked from Fuji to Ryoma and back. After a few minutes of intense studying, he sighed. “I don’t understand.”

Fuji smiled. He always felt calmer after he’d done something to remind Ryoma that he was in charge. “Our relationship is non-traditional.”

“How so?”

“I believe we’ve already established that I’m a sadist,” Fuji said, coming to the end of his own bowl. He sighed wistfully down at it.

“We have,” Inui said.

“Ryoma’s a masochist.”

Ryoma didn’t protest at the announcement this time. The bitter taste of the aojiru was still fresh in his mind. There was no way he was giving Fuji ammunition right now.

Inui pushed his glasses up on his face. “I haven’t seen evidence of that in his tennis.”

Ryoma snorted. “Injuries aren’t an enjoyable type of pain.”

“He doesn’t play to injure himself, but surely you’ve noticed his tenacity when he’s injured,” Fuji said.

“Ah. Like with the eye.”

Fuji nodded. His phone vibrated in his pocket, which made him frown. Who could possibly be calling him? He pulled it out and almost blanched at the number on the caller id. It was absurd to think that he could be needed this soon. “Hello?” he said, flipping it open.

“Fuji. My dog ran away,” Sora said.

Fuji nearly flinched at the news, but turned his panic into pain as he dug his nails harder into Ryoma’s skin. The freshman gave a nearly inaudible yelp. “When?”

“Last night. I think he may have come into your neighborhood.”

Fuji fought the urge to groan. Tony had gotten caught. Sora didn’t have a dog. She didn’t own any pets, as far as he knew. The news Tony was in jail was bad enough, but knowing that someone could potentially be following him around was worse. “I’ll look around. I’ll call you if I see him.”


He flipped the phone shut. Telling Ryoma anything was going to have to wait until he got this situation sorted out. Tony had promised not to get caught and the man almost never failed to keep his promises. So something had gone horribly, horribly wrong. A frizzle of fear passed through him, but he stifled it quickly. “I have to go,” he said, standing up abruptly.

Ryoma looked up at him. There was a tense set to Fuji’s shoulders that he’d never seen before. He didn’t know or understand why Fuji was upset, and it bothered him more than he could put into words. “I’ll come with you,” he said, standing up alongside him.

Fuji considered telling Ryoma that it wasn’t safe for him, that it was better that he go home to his father, but something in him just wouldn’t let him do it. He couldn’t bear the thought of hurting Ryoma by declining the unconditional support he was offering. He wasn’t sure he would be able to handle everything that was going on without some sort of support himself. Fuji didn’t trust himself to speak, so he nodded once.

Inui was the only one still seated at the table. “I take it something’s come up?”

Fuji composed himself. He couldn’t fall apart in front of Inui. “My friend lost her dog. She thinks it may have wandered into my neighborhood.”

Inui’s face softened. “I hope you find him.”

“Me too.” Fuji walked briskly out of the shop, not bothering to see if Ryoma was following him. Once they’d walked a short distance, he fished his phone out and dialed his father’s emergency number.

“Syuusuke, what do I owe this pleasure?”

Fuji couldn’t afford to waste time on niceties. “Father, Sora seems to have misplaced her dog and thinks he may be running around in our neighborhood.”

“You called me to talk to be about a dog.” His father’s voice was flat with disbelief.

Fuji fought to keep himself from yelling. He knew it was a necessary act, but the panic thrumming inside him didn’t seem inclined to care. He took a deep breath, simultaneously gripping Ryoma’s arm hard enough that there were sure to be bruises in the morning. “He got loose last night but no one seems to know how he slipped his leash. I was hoping you might have some ideas so we can prevent it from happening again.”

His father sighed. “I have more important things to worry about than a runaway dog.” He paused. “I’ll call you if I think of anything.”

Fuji frowned as the phone clicked of. His father didn’t know why Tony was in jail. That didn’t surprise him, considering Tony had nothing to do with his dad. The fact that the entire conversation with his father had been conducted in code was what worried him. What could possibly be going on to make his father act cautiously on a secured line? Ryoma tugged on his shirt, drawing him away from his thoughts. “Hm?”

“Not that I mind,” Ryoma said, “but you’re starting to draw blood.”

Fuji peered down at where his nails had embedded themselves in Ryoma’s skin. He was right; there were small beads of blood pooling at his fingertips. Carefully, he relaxed his fingers. Once he’d done that, he slung his tennis bag off his shoulder and started rummaging through it in the middle of the sidewalk. If his father was being careful, it meant he’d been bugged and there was a very high possibility someone had also bugged Fuji. Especially if they’d worked out any connection between him and Tony. The thought made him dig harder. He worried the seams of the bag once it was empty, checking to make sure no one had ripped them open and sewn in a bug

He sat back on his heels with a sigh of relief. No bugs. He packed everything back into the bag, ignoring the disgruntled look on Ryoma’s face. No doubt the freshman thought he was having some sort of mental breakdown. Come to think of it, he probably was. He spotted a convenience store on the corner and began walking, noting that Ryoma was following him out of his peripheral vision. Once inside, he made his way to the restroom and shut himself inside, reassured by the knowledge Ryoma was waiting right outside. Ignoring his distaste for public restrooms, he stripped himself of all of his clothing and checked for bugs there as well as within his phone. Nothing.

When he’d finished, he pulled open the door and grabbed Ryoma’s arm, pulling the freshman inside the bathroom with him. Ryoma raised an eyebrow at him, then glanced disdainfully around the room they were standing in. Fuji agreed with the sentiment, but he couldn’t afford to be delicate right now. “Take your clothes off.”

“In this dump? You’ve got to be-”

Fuji pressed himself against Ryoma’s body, forcing the freshman against the door. He leaned in close, each of his hands on the door beside Ryoma’s shoulders. “Take them off or I will rip them off you.”

Ryoma fought to keep himself still as he stared at Fuji. The look in his boyfriend’s eyes was wild, almost feral. With a jolt, he realized that Fuji was afraid. “Che. Fine,” he said, doing his best not to add to whatever had Fuji so spooked.

Fuji moved away, allowing Ryoma to undress. Once the freshman was finished, he snatched the clothes out of Ryoma’s hand and combed over them with the same intense scrutiny he’d used while going over his own. They were clean. He handed them back, too distraught to appreciate the sight of Ryoma standing naked before him. Fuji spotted Ryoma’s tennis bag and up-ended it on the floor, rifling through it almost frantically. When it came up clean, he fell boneless against the wall, dizzy with relief..

“Care to tell me what all that was about?” Ryoma asked, once again fully clothed.

Fuji considered him seriously. This was probably the only chance he would get in the next little while to tell him the truth. “Yeah. I’ll tell you.”

“I’m listening,” Ryoma said, tapping a foot impatiently.

Fuji took a deep breath. It was now or never. “My father is an executive of a Fortune 500 company in America.”

“I know that.”

“He’s also a black market dealer.”

Ryoma’s face lit up the way it did when he’d seen someone use a tennis technique he’d never seen before. “Oh? What kind?”

“Stolen goods, mostly electronics,” Fuji said. He hadn’t expected Ryoma to be intrigued by the idea. Disgusted, maybe.

“So you’re part of the black market, too.”

“Mm. Not as a dealer, though.”

Ryoma raised an eyebrow. “Then what do you do?”

“I’m an information specialist and a contractor.” Fuji had to fight to keep the fear out of his voice. If Ryoma knew what he’d ordered done to Rick, surely he would leave. There was almost no doubt in his mind about that, despite the fact he’d told Sora he was confident in Ryoma’s ability to handle the truth.

“What does a black market contractor do?”

“I plan operations and hire people to carry them out,” Fuji said flatly.


“Just oh?”


“You don’t want to know what kinds of operations?”

“Not particularly.”

Fuji blinked up at him. “You’re okay with not knowing?”

Ryoma shrugged. “Isn’t it safer for me to not know?”

Fuji laughed. He stood and drew Ryoma into a tight hug, feeling a bit like Christmas had come early. He had expected questions and maybe even a tantrum, but this…this simple acceptance was so much more than he’d ever dreamed.

“So did your friend really lose a dog?” Ryoma asked.

Fuji shook his head no. “Someone I hired is in trouble.”

“That certainly explains all of this,” Ryoma said, motioning to the bathroom they were still standing in.

Fuji laughed a little. “I had to make sure we weren’t bugged.”

Ryoma scowled. “I thought that only happened in spy movies.”

“Welcome to my life,” Fuji said, smirking.

Ryoma rolled his eyes. “Whatever.” He exited the bathroom, Fuji following close behind him. As he went to step out of the door of the store, he said, “If it’s dangerous to stay at your place right now, you should just stay with me.”

Fuji titled his head as he considered the offer. “I’m not sure your dad will approve.”

“I really don’t care.”

“I care.”

That stopped Ryoma in his tracks. “Che. He’s just a perverted monk. But if it bothers you so much, you can ask him when we get to my place.”

Fuji set his hand on Ryoma’s shoulder. “And if he says no?”

Ryoma shrugged. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Fuji smiled. Maybe there was still something salvageable in all this mess. At least Inui hadn’t freaked on him. That was a good sign, right? He sighed. Getting Tony out of jail for a second time was going to be more trouble than it was worth. But he was the one who’d contracted him and Fuji couldn’t just let Tony hang himself in good faith. He just couldn’t be that ruthless.

Chapter 18     Chapter Index     Chapter 20

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