Chapter 12

Fuji paced across the living room as he waited for his lovers. Ryoma had sprung an unwelcome surprise on him when he’d confided that Saeki had been willing to share Fuji’s secrets.

He wanted to be angry, but he understood Saeki’s motivations. Saeki was the unknown factor in their relationship. Saeki didn’t understand how he fit in, so he’d seen offering Fuji’s secrets as a way to gracefully withdraw from a confusing situation.

Still. If Saeki had told him…But he didn’t, Fuji forcefully reminded himself. Still, Saeki should have had more common sense. It was glaringly obvious that Fuji wasn’t ready to reveal the darker parts of his past with Ryoma. So Fuji had assumed that Saeki would respect that.

It was a foolish assumption to make, of course. Fuji’s usual forethought had deserted him. Or rather, I focused it on dealing with this new project Sora has me working on. If he’d kept himself together, Fuji would have made sure that Saeki understood that his past wasn’t to be shared, except on the terms he dictated.

Ryoma’s principles had kept a close call from becoming more than that. They hadn’t kept the freshman from adopting a bad attitude, of course, but Fuji expected that by now. Ryoma’s mouth tended to run away with him at the most inopportune times. It gave Fuji a thrill of satisfaction because a relationship with Ryoma could never be boring.

Fuji walked to the window and pulled the curtain back, gathering his composure as he spotted his lovers coming up the drive. Ryoma’s transgression would be easy enough to deal with, but he needed to have a serious conversation with Saeki.

A couple minutes later, Saeki and Ryoma were walking through the door. Both of them looked ill at ease.

“Syuusuke-san,” Saeki said, acknowledging Fuji’s presence.

Fuji noted the tightness of Saeki’s voice and the way the silver-haired man met his eyes, then bounced off, and kept repeating the pattern. The fact that Saeki felt unsettled helped calm Fuji. He needed that level of control in order to deal with the two of them.

“Ryoma-chan,”Fuji said, turning to his errant lover. “Aren’t you going to greet me?” Ryoma gave a full-body flinch at the implication that he’d ignored Fuji on purpose. Fuji found that interesting, because Ryoma rarely ever greeted him properly upon entering his home. Fuji wondered if he’d exchanged words with Saeki about respect.

And then he didn’t have to wonder, because Ryoma stepped in front of him and fell to his knees so gracefully it could have been orchestrated. “Fuji-sama,” he said, pressing his forehead against the ground directly in front of Fuji’s feet.

The act of submission took Fuji’s breath away. Ryoma had never fallen into submission so easily before. He exchanged glances with Saeki over Ryoma’s head and noted the small smirk of satisfaction that graced Saeki’s lips.

Fuji raised his eyebrows at Saeki, who mouthed, Later, at him. Amused, and thus willing to wait for an explanation, he wound a hand through Ryoma’s hair. “As pretty as this is,” he said, pulling on the strands hard enough to make his lover gasp, “I think we should continue our discussion in my room.” He guided Ryoma to his feet through the grasp he had on his hair and the three of them went upstairs to his room.

Once ensconced in his bedroom, Fuji shut the door and took a seat on his bed. Ryoma knelt in front of him, forehead pressed to the ground. Saeki, for his part, leaned against the door and watched the sight unfold in front of him.

Fuji nodded at the bag in Saeki’s hand. “That’s the soap I asked him to buy?”

“It is,” Saeki said, leaning forward and tossing the bag to Fuji.

Fuji turned his attention to Ryoma. “Kneel up,” he said. Ryoma instantly went from kneeling with his head on the ground to sitting on his ankles, looking straight ahead into Fuji’s stomach. “What did I tell you this morning?” he asked.

Ryoma swallowed, but didn’t hesitate as he replied, “You told me if I used a disrespectful tone with you again that you would wash my mouth out with soap, Fuji-sama.”

“And what did you do after that?” Fuji asked.

Ryoma gritted his teeth. He hated this part of punishment more than anything else. “I disrespected you over the phone, Fuji-sama.”

“Aa. So how do you propose to remedy the situation, Ryoma?” Fuji asked. Usually, when punishment was warranted, he just meted it out. But when he’d given a clear warning and then been ignored, he added a mental component. Ryoma was going to have to ask for punishment.

“I…” Ryoma started, but his mouth went dry as soon as he started to speak. His hands tightened into fists where he held them on his knees.

“I’m waiting,” Fuji said.

Ryoma flinched. If he made Fuji wait too long, then it would increase the duration as well as the severity of the punishment. “Gomen nasai, Fuji-sama. Please punish me for disobeying you,” he said, voice a whisper.

“Hmm?” Fuji asked. “I can’t hear you.”

Ryoma shuddered. Sometimes he resented Fuji’s vindictive streak. This was one of those times, but if he wasn’t careful to conceal it, he would find himself with more than a mouthful of soap. “Gomen,” he said, forcing himself to speak at a normal volume. “Please punish me for disobeying you.” He closed his eyes in shame as the words left his lips; knowing that he deserved this humiliation made it harder to bear.

“Aa,” Fuji said. “And how will this remedy the situation? You are consistently disrespectful, no matter what I do. So how is this going to help, when you will end up doing it again so that I am forced to punish you again?”

Ryoma slumped. He didn’t know how to answer the onslaught of Fuji’s questions. He never did; they were designed to take the place of a lecture because Fuji knew that he would beat himself up far worse than any lecture could. Tears threatened to fall, but he forced them back. “I can only promise to try harder, Fuji-sama,” he said. “Please allow me that chance.”

Fuji smiled. “Very well,” he said. He pulled the soap out of the bag and unwrapped the plastic. “Open your mouth.”

Ryoma obeyed instantly, his hands trembling, and Fuji slid the soap inside. Ryoma grimaced at the foul taste, longing to spit it out, but kept a firm hold on the soap. After all, he’d asked for the punishment. He’d asked for a second chance. If he didn’t accept it now, then he would betray the trust Fuji was putting in him.

Fuji watched the psychological aspect of the punishment grip Ryoma and nodded to himself. “Two hours,” he said. “Then I’ll take it out.”

Ryoma closed his eyes in despair, but gave a shallow nod of his own. He moved to sit against a wall, keeping his hands folded firmly in his lap. And if he needed to clasp them tightly together to keep from wrenching the soap out of his mouth, no one commented on it. His strength of will was formidable.

That settled, Fuji turned his attention on Saeki. “You had no right,” he said.

Saeki’s face lost its color and he ducked his head in acknowledgment. “I know,” he said, managing to keep his words above a whisper.

“I should kick you out now,” Fuji said, watching Saeki carefully. “Before you can reveal things about my past I don’t want known or before you decide my enemies are the ones you should be trading in information with.”

Saeki’s shoulders hunched as he bore the accusations, but his eyes drew tight with rage. “I would never betray you like that,” he said, his voice almost a hiss. “I offered to tell Ryoma only because I’m afraid that you risk losing more by keeping your past secret than by telling him the truth. I would never—

“You should trust me to know my own mind,” Fuji said, glaring at the silver-haired man in front of him.

“You should trust Ryoma enough to let him make his own decisions about your past,” Saeki countered, lightning-fast. “Instead, you assume that he will run in fear from you but you don’t give him the choice to choose.”

“How dare you—

“No,” Saeki said, voice almost a snarl. “How dare you assume Ryoma can’t handle your past, when I can, and I am nowhere near as strong as him? How dare you treat him like he’s made of glass, when he can stand in front of you and take a whipping that would fell lesser men just for the sake of keeping your secrets safe?”

Fuji stared at Saeki, lost for words. It wasn’t a feeling he had often. Saeki met his gaze unflinchingly and the anger in them was almost enough to make Fuji break away first. Almost, but not quite. He let silence fill the room, let it stretch taut until it felt like it would break, and refused to be the first to speak. Because while Saeki could make good points—did make good points—the truth was that he’d acted against Fuji’s wishes.

Five minutes of silence passed before Saeki forced himself away from the door and stood in front of Fuji, staring down at him. The two of them met each other’s eyes until Saeki closed his. Without a word, Saeki lowered himself into a kneel and rested his head on Fuji’s knee.

Fuji hesitated for a second, then let himself be honest. He ran a hand through Saeki’s hair. “I will tell him when I’m ready,” he said. “I am not worried about his ability to handle the truth.”

Saeki started at that, pulling his head back so that he could meet Fuji’s eyes. “Then what are you worried about, Syu?” he asked, the question a whisper.

“My ability to face it,” Fuji said, breaking eye contact first for the first time in his life. He’d never admitted the fear he felt towards his own past before. He waited for recrimination that never came.

“Oh,” Saeki said, the word breathed with a level of understanding that could only be achieved by someone who had felt the same fear and overcome it. “Oh, Syuusuke,” he said. “With us by your side, what can’t you face?”

Fuji said nothing, but his grip on Saeki’s hair tightened almost imperceptibly.

Chapter 11     Chapter Index     Chapter 13

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