Rated: E – NSFW
Ango felt the bruise for hours and hours.
His fingers stung with the need to reach and touch, to feel the skin at the back of his neck and check for a difference in texture, in depth. His nape felt as though it ought to be branded now, no matter how controlled Nakahara Chuuya’s force had been; and Ango experienced it again, that strength, in the hours that followed. Night and day and night again came as he filled his stomach with coffee and controlled the damage brought by Shibusawa’s scheme. Every breath he took from his work, every glance away from the painful glow of his computer’s screen, materialized the image of Nakahara standing there with fury in his eyes. Growling murder at him and lifting him by collar with the strength of one arm.
There had been no glow of power on him when he had done that. Air had sizzled around him when he broke into the room, and again when he punched the wall in, but not when he had taken hold of Ango.
Ango was still sitting behind the same desk. His feet caught onto rubble when he moved his chair around for a second of fruitless stretching. His head was pounding, his neck and shoulders ached, his glasses were smudged with fingerprints. Darkness was preferable to light in this underground room where every ceiling lamp only served to hurt his retinas, but he was not alone, not always. People went away, people came back, and they needed to see around. He sent Tsujimura home when morning came so she could rest. She was here now as the second day ended, bruises under her eyes and collar all askew from having been slept in.
Tsujimura’s voice was bright for all that it was serious, determined. Stuck as they all were within these concrete walls, there was no way for Ango to avoid hearing her speak of Nakahara.
He understood, he did—Corruption was a phenomenon not meant to be witnessed by man. Ango had only ever seen recordings of it himself, and those were enough; those showed enough destruction, enough of Nakahara losing his hard-earned control and willing his life away in a show of godly fury.
Enough of Dazai running through rubble and ruin to catch him in time.
No one could blame Tsujimura for wanting to share her awe. Nor could they blame her for what Ango guessed to be the inklings of a crush, though some laughed; and he laughed too, in the confines of his mind, for what he knew of Nakahara that he did not wish to.
He grunted when his stomach gave a tug of pained hunger. Too much coffee had turned all of these into nausea. He felt very little like eating.
Tsujimura left before him again that evening. By then Ango had reached the stage of sleep deprivation where his own movements felt foreign to him, where any blink of his eyes meant that the screen of his vision had to light up again gradually until sight there could be. He did blink when she approached his desk, fluttering in and out of darkness until he was sure enough that he could carry a conversation.
“You should go home,” she told him immediately, placing a mug next to his keyboard. Herbal tea this time. “It’s no use working this much if you can’t do it properly.”
“I can do it properly,” Ango replied.
His back ran with shivers. Cold sweat was gathering where the line of his collar had dug into his skin, days ago, when Nakahara had lifted him as though he weight nothing.
His fingers tapped over his knee.
Tsujimura shrugged. She looked exhausted as well. “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Thank you, Tsujimura-kun.”
She waved an awkward hand his way before leaving. The quick once-over she gave him told him all he needed to know about his current state of hygiene.
Soon enough, Ango was alone again. Alone with the bright wall of his computer screen and the never-ending screech of his cellphone. Alone with his thoughts and with the world.
He tried valiantly to rise. Three attempts and a new bruise on his forearm from catching himself against the corner of his desk later, he managed a trembling walk to the nearest bathroom. The bunker was equipped with enough shower stalls to keep a small army clean, so Ango made use of them; he sat on a plastic stool under the spray of the showerhead and abused the vast reserves of hot water for a hope of pain relief. He washed himself with shaking arms. He didn’t touch his hair, though it was wet enough.
There was a knot in his throat that he knew well the reason for. This, he did not wash away.
What work remained could be dealt with before morning came. He was in the last stretch of this, in the last hours before he could go home and fill his empty stomach with sleeping pills. Part of him hoped that he would never wake up afterward; part of him found the idea stressful, for his failure to stay alive would only hinder all of his colleagues’ work.
Ango sat behind his desk again.
He finished all that he could do as the clock struck three. For a moment he dared not move or look away from the email he had drafted, some irrational fear or another striking him and making him believe that he must have forgotten or overlooked something, that one file must be lost or erroneous, that surely his phone would ring again and he would hear a representative yell at him to finally ‘lock away all those freaks’.
But nothing came. One minute turned into two, into ten, and nothing came. Ango’s inbox remained empty. His cellphone stayed silent. Only then did he lift a hand and rub it over his face, the feeling of his own skin as foreign as if it was another’s.
The hollow of his palm stopped around his chin. He drew it down again over his throat, into the loosened collar of his shirt. He dug his fingers into the hard, tense line of his left shoulder, right where tension pain burst under his fingertips and jolted him into wakefulness.
He touched the edge of the bruise.
“You’ll pay with your life,” Nakahara had threatened, holding him up with more determination, it seemed, than physical strength.
How very bright his eyes had been then. How very pure his anger and grief, that he should still be able to call upon them in a moment’s notice and sentence a man to death. How great his resolve, to be able to forgive as he jumped to his death.
Entering his boss’s password into the masterkey of the special ability department felt to Ango like the oddest thing to have happened since mist covered Yohokama. So was typing Nakahara’s number into the search bar and opening for the first time in years the terabyte of information gathered about him.
He bypassed everything to do with Nakahara’s childhood, with the port mafia, with Dazai Osamu. Hours and hours of video footage of a wide underground hall and a tank as tall as a ceiling flashed before his eyes; thousands of pictures, reports, of Nakahara pricked with needles and feeding tubes, of Nakahara tagging after a group of lost children left to their violent devices, of Dazai dragging Nakahara home bleeding and unconscious. Ango had no interest in those.
When he did reach what he was interested in, he paused.
He had always known this folder to exist. Dazai had one of his own as well, full of speculation rather than evidence, and Ango had no doubt that someone somewhere had gathered one for him too. He wondered bitterly at the faces he would see in it. But Nakahara Chuuya’s folder was heavier than Dazai’s and heavier than Ango’s could possibly be. Ango opened it now with shame curling up his belly.
At least very few people had access to this, he thought in futile attempt to absolve himself. He once more flew over the oldest files to focus only on the recent, the latest of which was several months old: a picture of Nakahara seated with his back to the counter of a bar, elbows spread so that silk clung to the front of his chest and outlined the shape of his shoulders, speaking with his head bowed to the man next to him.
Ango almost closed out of the tab right there and then. Warmth choked up his airways and made the skin of his nape burn where Nakahara had bruised him, and the shame within him twisted like a knife in enemy hands, the darkness around thickening till he felt smothered by cloth rather than air.
But he didn’t close out. His eyes lingered upon Nakahara’s posture and openness, on the evident goal that his body language carried, on the flush of warmth or alcohol on his face.
There were more. So many more. Pictures snapped and sold as Nakahara spoke, laughed, seduced. Borderline voyeuristic shots of him leaning close to someone’s ear or brushing fingers down veiny wrists—men, always men, always taller than him and with a quirk in their smiles that made Ango’s heart shake with misery; always men, for as long as Nakahara Chuuya had been sexually active and the government had decided to rob him of even this much freedom.
Actual voyeuristic shots of Nakahara kissing or touching which Ango could not bear to look at and wanted nothing more than to delete.
He could not. Doing it for Dazai had almost cost him his life already.
“Chuuya’s off with company,” Dazai would sometimes say in those tepid hours of night they all spent at Lupin. Childish and disgusted and obviously upset, though he had not the means then to understand why. “He’s so gross.”
Ango remembered exchanging glances with Oda above Dazai’s head when those words floated between them. He remembered the lukewarm glass that his clammy hand slid against, the smell of whiskey and cigarette clinging to all of his nicer suits for days afterward. The weight of Oda’s gaze on him like the barest of pressure, like an invitation he did not, could not, accept.
Ango watched Nakahara Chuuya lean against walls or bar stools and speak to men already half-drunk off of the idea of touching him. He looked at the shape of his body and smile. He saw his hands around drinks and around hands; his hands which could for a second bear the weight of true fury and crack open the earth, and the next slide up the wrist of a stranger to leave only the faintest impression of themselves.
Later, perhaps, much more than that.
Ango watched and watched and, like seldom before, wanted.
It wasn’t hard to track down Nakahara Chuuya. Ango knew the places he favored to hole himself in while recovering from Corruption. Considering the length and scale of the combat he had to use it for this time, Nakahara would prefer the lower-priced places around his home to the fancy salons farther into the heart of the city. He would avoid the port mafia as well.
Avoid Dazai most of all.
So Ango called a few people, asked a few questions, got a few answers. He rode a taxi to the western side of town with his hands shaking in his lap, making no conversation with his driver or any of the people he crossed paths with as he left the bunker. He slithered out of the destruction zone under the pale sky of early morning, cool air nipping him everywhere he was exposed and thinking nothing of it. He paid for his trip and stood haggardly in front of a family restaurant, eyeing its bright green sign, eyeing the silhouettes of early-risers inside ordering coffee and breakfast.
No bell rang when he entered, though the patron behind the counter called his welcome loudly enough for all to hear. A few heads turned his way and then away at once. Nakahara did not move from his slouching position at the counter. An untouched glass of wine stood between his bruised hands. Ango walked toward and then around him, catching his first glimpse of Nakahara’s face since it had looked at him from below and promised to have his life.
Nakahara only reacted when Ango sat tentatively two stools away from him. He looked sideways through the limp hair covering his forehead and blinked. “Specs,” he said tiredly. “You look like you haven’t slept since the last time I saw you.”
So do you, Ango thought.
And suddenly he was struck with the enormity of his presence, of his reason for coming, and his tongue locked inside his mouth. He forgot the impulse which had driven him across the city. He forgot how to think.
Nakahara did not seem to notice. His eyes found the glass in front of him; his fingers pushed its foot around to make the wine jostle and cling to the sides, leaving behind faint, pink sheens. He grunted, dissatisfied, and took a sip.
“If you’re here for work, you can get lost,” Nakahara muttered, grimacing at the cheap wine, completely unaware of Ango’s paralysis. “I took three days off and I’m going to enjoy them to the fullest.”
“I’m not here for work,” Ango replied.
“If you’re here to reminisce you can get lost as well.”
There was nothing for Nakahara and Ango to reminisce about. Nothing they could have done or shared together over the years to commemorate. Even when Ango had been part of the port mafia, he had barely ever seen Nakahara, and mostly heard of him through Dazai’s drunk rambling.
Nakahara must think he was there for Dazai, then. Ango wondered if he suspected all of the people who sought his company to do so in relation to his once-partner.
Crisp daylight creeped over the tables and walls of the dining room. Wide glass windows gave out to the street where already people walked, carrying bags this way and that, breathing in the cold sea air. The washed-out light rendered every other client of the place ghostly, made the sight of them pouring over newspapers or emails akin to a painting paled by time.
Nakahara, for all of his black clothes and bright red hair, felt like a little less of himself too.
“I’m not here to talk about Dazai-kun,” Ango said tightly.
Nakahara’s hand twitched around the foot of his wine glass. The dark bruises left by Corruption looked even darker now, as if he had stained his fingers with paint and not managed to get the color out.
“Good,” he said, “because I don’t want to talk about him. Not today.”
“Then I won’t bother you.”
“You’re already bothering me by being here,” Nakahara retorted, shooting him an angry glance. “Might as well go all the way so you can fuck off home and sleep. What do you want?”
Ango knew what he wanted: Nakahara’s hands which brushed the hands of other men, which tore holes into the fabric of gravity, which almost two days ago had gripped Ango’s collar and left a bruise at his nape.
Ango knew what he wanted, truly; just as he knew that he could never have it, and that Nakahara’s hands would only make for short-lived relief.
The man behind the counter was eyeing him impatiently, waiting for his order. Ango clenched his fists in his lap.
“I can’t sleep,” he said. Swallowed.
Nakahara’s eyes widened ever-so-slightly.
The familiar acidity of anxiousness burned now in Ango’s chest and throat. He gestured awkwardly toward the untouched glass, declared, “A bit early to drink, isn’t it?”
“I don’t care what you think,” Nakahara replied scathingly. “You can’t sleep?”
“The expected result of three days spent working without pause. Too much coffee. Insomnia has set in, I’m afraid.”
“And what am I supposed to do about it?” Nakahara asked, his eyebrows tense with confusion. “Knock you out and tuck you in? Just get some pills—”
Nakahara needed no outside interruption to stop his own words.
His grey eyes stopped looking into Ango’s, lowered somewhere around his nose or mouth. Took in Ango’s posture, the tongue wetting his dry lips, the ceaseless ache of stress keeping his shoulders high. The proposition which Ango held wordlessly.
Disbelief came before anger, but not for long.
“You have to be shitting me,” Nakahara almost whispered; his fist upon the table tightened and shone, digging deep into the cheap material, bending it around the shape of his hand. When Ango failed to answer—failed to deny his assumption—his voice became a growl: “You fucking bastard. You—”
The server from before came back out of the kitchen, stopping Nakahara before he could allow himself to become loud, or destructive, or both.
Ango would have deserved either.
To any onlooker, they would have looked like acquaintances exchanging pleasantries. Nakahara leaned his head toward Ango’s to speak in a lower voice, the picture of discretion or friendliness, but Ango felt each of his whispers like a knife’s edge between his ribs.
“You think I’m so fucking easy,” he said, fury hot on every line of him, on every shared glance. “What, it’s not enough to have your monkeys follow me around when I’m trying to have a good time? Now you want first-hand experience as well?”
No, Ango thought, exhaustion and horror poured into a single word that he had no right to say now.
“You thought I wouldn’t notice the guys you send after me, Sakaguchi? You thought I was so fucking blind? The only reason I’m allowing them around is because I know you people will send worse if I actually do something.”
“I have never—”
Ango’s mouth closed of its own volition.
Nakahara looked at him with disgust, with anger. With betrayal so well-hid that Ango felt every bit the traitor he was. “How desperate are you?” he murmured. “How fucking desperate do you have to be, to seek me out for this? Did you imagine I’d say yes just like that?”
“I never imagined so,” Ango replied almost inaudibly. “I know—I know how selfish this is. You have every right to refuse. I…”
Nakahara did not wait for him to finish speaking. He leaned away, elbow on the counter and fingers rubbing his forehead painfully.
“This is the worst week of my life,” he muttered into his hand. “Do you never go out? Am I the only other gay guy you know? There’s a club outside of town where you can find what you want very easily.”
Ango was aware of it. Many of the obscene photographs inside Nakahara’s records were taken there. He told him, “I can’t get involved with outsiders without risking their lives.”
“But my life is no matter, is it.”
Ango would not insult Nakahara by trying to defend himself.
Silence shrouded the space they shared. Ango felt even worse now than the day before; light blinked in and out of his eyes; the shapes of people and furniture around him softened and moved like living things with every breath he took. And yet the more he stayed and waited for Nakahara’s silence to give way to decision, the less he wanted to leave. The more he watched those bruised hands and swallowed past his dry tongue and hoped.
“I gave up on having privacy when I joined the port mafia,” Nakahara said lowly. His arm lowered onto the countertop, bracing his chest against the edge of it. “I’m fine with that. I have a purpose and a life there, I have authority and choice. I wouldn’t give that up just for the freedom to go out without government agents following me.” He pushed away his wineglass and added, bitter, “I hope whoever’s doing it is having fun.”
“I never approved,” Ango said thinly. “Never. You may not believe me, but I never approved of people doing this to you or anyone.”
“Of course you don’t,” Nakahara replied. “Dazai would never have befriended you if you were the type of person to get off to that shit.”
This was, somehow, the worst thing Nakahara had said so far.
Nakahara grunted and leaned forward again. He sighed loudly, looking distantly at his own hand on the wood-like panel.
“You really are desperate, aren’t you,” he said.
“I trust you,” Ango replied.
As little as he should considering their respective positions, as little sympathy as he should extend to Nakahara, who was essentially a time bomb, he did trust him. He trusted in Nakahara’s straightforwardness and efficiency. He trusted in this man’s oddly firm moral fiber.
He trusted in Dazai’s trust.
Nakahara smiled twistedly. “Ah,” he said, his voice weeping sarcasm. “The magic words.”
But he gestured to the server. He grabbed bills out of a leather wallet and gave them over without counting. He turned around atop the old bar stool and dropped to his feet.
“Fine, then,” he said. He put his hat on without looking once at Ango. “I’ll take you home.”
Home was not Ango’s, but Nakahara’s. Ango followed him almost sheepishly through the few streets separating Nakahara’s building from the cheap restaurant they had just left. Neither of them said anything on the way; not Nakahara, who took out a cigarette, looked at Ango, and decided against smoking it; not Ango, whose legs threatened to buckle under the weight of his own relief.
Ango knew what the inside of Nakahara’s home looked like, though he had never before set foot there. He recognized the upholstered chairs and the clutter of books and games under the flat-screen TV; he saw the plants strewn this way and that by the floor-to-ceiling windows, bigger and greener now than they looked in the most recent pictures.
“Do you want to drink something?” Nakahara asked, dropping his keys inside a platter by the entrance. “You’re a whiskey guy, right?”
“I’m fine,” Ango replied.
Only now was nervousness making itself known to him. With shame and fear gone from his mind, he felt very much like a teenager about to leave for a first date.
Nakahara gave him a curt glance. “Suit yourself,” he said. “Bathroom’s through the bedroom, if you need to clean yourself up.”
Ango blushed hotly. “That won’t be necessary,” he let out.
He didn’t know if Nakahara took his coming prepared for more arrogance; Nakahara simply shrugged his coat off and said, “Well, I need to wash up. Do whatever you want in the meantime, but don’t touch the wine.”
So Ango was left alone in the wide and luminous apartment that Nakahara Chuuya called home.
He discovered then that it was not enough to have pictures or to know the price of a place, when it had been rented and then bought, what changes it had gone through. It wasn’t enough to know the faces of the rare few people whom Nakahara Chuuya had brought here. There were smells and lights, fruits ripening in a bowl of the kitchen, a woolen sweater bundled into a corner of the couch. Signs of life and age in the feeling of it all.
Nakahara did not take long to shower. Ango used none of that time to explore or search around, though part of him said that he should, that the opportunity may never present itself again; but he stayed right where he stood by the entrance of the living-room, listening to the faint sound of running water and the fainter noise that wind made against the tall side of the building. It shook the leaves of the stronger plants which Nakahara had placed around his balcony.
Ango breathed in when he heard the shower stop. He breathed again when a door opened in the distance, and then when Nakahara himself emerged into the frame of his bedroom door.
He was dressed, thankfully, though the sweatpants and T-shirt he had put on almost seemed like nakedness compared to his usual attire. His hair was up so as not to get wet. He gave an almost-smile at the sight of Ango standing where he had left him and said, “Come on in.”
Ango obeyed wordlessly.
Nakahara’s bedroom was bigger than it looked in the pictures. The tall bed was pushed into a corner of it to make enough room to move in, and two rolled-up mats were pushed against the door of what looked like a walk-in closet. Nakahara himself took a moment to check his cellphone before doing anything, looking quickly over messages before turning it off.
He set it atop a redwood desk and turned to face Ango.
Whatever he saw then brought another sideways smile out of him. “Relax,” he said. “Aren’t you the one who wanted this?”
“I was,” Ango managed.
There was no way for him to change his mind now. Not with the shivers running up and down his back under the weight of Nakahara’s studying gaze.
“Relax,” Nakahara said again, approaching with slow steps. Ango stood as rigid as stone before him, unable to even loosen his jaw when Nakahara’s hand briefly touched his elbow. Nakahara frowned at him the way one frowned at a puzzle, as if wondering which way to start.
“Why me?” he asked.
Ango should have thought of a better way to answer this question than with the truth; but he had not, and so the truth was what came out. “The other day, I… you made an impression. I knew you were attractive, but not, ah, not to me. Not like this.”
Nakahara’s lips quirked, amused. “Thanks, i suppose. You don’t look half-bad yourself.”
Ango’s face burned.
“So a little manhandling gets your blood pumping, huh.” Nakahara’s hand found his elbow again. He left it there, stroking briefly with his thumb, bracing but not restraining. “I can do that, but if you’re looking for hardcore stuff, you should look somewhere else. Not my thing.”
“That, um.” Ango swallowed. “That won’t be necessary.”
“Speaking of ground rules,” Nakahara went on more softly, “while you’re here, you don’t call me by my last name. You don’t fucking call me by that number either. Just Chuuya, got it?”
“Say it. I want to hear it.”
Ango’s teeth dug into his bottom lip. “Chuuya,” he allowed.
Nakahara’s hand squeezed his upper arm as if to reward him. “Anything else I should know?” he asked. “I can guess what you want from me and I’m amenable to it, but anything you don’t like? Any turn-offs?”
It would be clinical, this questioning, if only Nakahara hadn’t rid himself of fatigue while he showered. If only his face and eyes did not betray the smouldering promise they did.
“No,” Ango said.
He felt like the iron skirt of a church bell, left to ring through a stone nave until either his own sound died or someone forced it silent.
“Just make me feel—”
He couldn’t finish his words, but it didn’t matter. Chuuya hooked his fingers into the windsor of his tie and repeated, “I can do that,” in devastating confidence.
Ango experienced every shade that the spectrum of need had to offer in the second before their lips met, and then every shade of envy, of lust; he would have sagged into the contact if only Nakahara Chuuya’s hands were not holding him up, and scoffed at himself for a long while of thinking that Nakahara would ever allow this to remain cold or professional.
Nakahara kissed with the same energy he did anything else: as if the next moment could very well be his last, and defiance were driving him.
As if to tell the world, Try me.
A thought came to Ango as responsibility lifted from his shoulders for the first time in days. He hung on to Nakahara’s solid shoulders for lack of knowing where else to touch, pressing into the hard line of his lips, feeling Nakahara’s hand slide from collar to shoulder, to nape; and he thought of Dazai. He thought of Dazai at eighteen ravaged with depression, drinking himself stupid in a shady bar in the company of men too young to recognize their own doing in his addiction, talking of his too-short and too-short-tempered partner in blatant jealousy. He thought of Dazai wasting his life away trying to hate what he wanted.
How silly and childish, to fixate on Nakahara’s height as a defect. How utterly meaningless when Ango could now feel with his hands the solidity of Nakahara’s body and will, the firmness of his hold, his certainty of movement. He found himself kissing him back as he had seldom allowed even on the rare occasion he indulged in intimacy. He found himself leaning down and leaning in, crushing his nose into Nakahara’s cheek so as to better taste his mouth, so as to better feel his skin. The rim of his glasses dug into his skin, into Nakahara’s. He forgot how to breathe under the feeling of Nakahara’s hand dragging shivers out of his neck and scalp.
He thought, selfishly: I am so glad to have never known him as a child.
Nakahara gave meaning to everything he did. After a moment more he pushed Ango backward, forcing him to stumble back till his legs hit the edge of his bed. He pulled Ango down and climbed over his knees, grabbing his face with both hands and looking into his eyes before kissing him again.
Ango did not make a move when those hands started unclothing him. He let Nakahara widen the loop of his tie as if tearing away a hanging rope. He breathed painfully when Nakahara unbuttoned his shirt and then pulled it over his head with his undershirt in tow, dislodging his glasses and sending the whole lot flying to the other side of the room.
“Better,” Nakahara grunted.
Ango’s chest flushed with heat.
“What about you?” he stuttered when Nakahara took it upon himself to unbuckle his belt and pull away his slacks. “Is there… Is there anything I shouldn’t…”
Nakahara paused to look at him again. Ango could imagine what he looked like now, half-naked and blushing bright red, his unfocused eyes blinking ceaselessly; but Nakahara’s chuckle was not at all mocking, and he said, “Don’t you worry about it.”
He was so selfless in this, it was almost selfish.
Nakahara allowed him to remain in his underwear and socks for now. He rose up with his knees on either side of Ango’s thighs and caressed his torso. Those very same hands Ango had not stopped thinking about now brushed over his skin, digging in here and there as if to test the fabric of him, the solidity. His thumb nail scratched over a nipple lightly.
Nakahara grabbed him around the nape. His thumb and middle finger pressed into the corners of his jaw until the very edge of painful and kept him from moving his head.
“You don’t want this soft and slow, do you,” he said.
Early daylight bathed his profile and turned one of his eyes as clear as water. When Ango failed to answer, struggling to make sense of thought through the heavy and tense breaths leaving his lungs, Nakahara made his hold into an ache.
“No,” Ango forced out.
“I told you, Specs. If you’re looking for pain, you’re looking the wrong way.”
“I’m not, not looking for pain.” Ango’s whole skin felt afire, burned hot by Nakahara’s weight above him and slickening where his arms and legs folded over the silk-like sheets. “Please.”
Blurry eyesight was not enough not to notice the dip of Nakahara’s own shirt collar, the swell of collarbones under his skin, the powerful lines of his neck. Ango fisted his hands into the bedspread.
Nakahara rolled his eyes. “I do enjoy when I’m not just fucking a starfish,” he said. “You’re allowed to touch me. I’m not made of glass.”
And so Ango reached out and took hold of Nakahara’s clothes. Nakahara let him lift the shirt up to his armpits and then bent slightly forward to allow him to pull it over his head. When he emerged again, bare-chested, his own face was flushed. Some of his shorter hair escaped the tie he had gathered it in with the friction and brushed over his forehead.
Ango had no idea where to begin touching; he put his hands over Nakahara’s shoulders again.
“Fine,” Nakahara sighed.
He bent down to kiss him. Ango only hesitated for a brief second before allowing his fingers to roam a bit further, to dip down the solid planes of Nakahara’s back and scratch into his skin. Nakahara’s mouth twisted into a smile against his.
He was rid of his underwear within the next minute. He made no move to hide or pretend; his cock was hard against his thigh, the skin of it almost too sensitive for touch. When Nakahara grabbed for it dry-handed and made to jerk it, he whimpered, “Please.”
“Don’t worry,” Nakahara murmured, tightening his grip.
Ango lost count of how many times he had said it.
He let himself go. He barely touched Nakahara in return despite the man’s invitation, barely made to move in spite of the ache pulling at him every way. He jerked Nakahara’s hand with his own and lay there with his breath tight in his chest. He spread his legs sluggishly when Nakahara pushed a dry thumb into him and pushed upward insistently.
“Yeah,” Nakahara muttered, encouraging. “Come on, Specs.”
Every one of his muscles felt as tense as a bow. Ango arched off the bedsheets to better push into that pressure, that pull. Nakahara continued to jerk him with his other hands, continued to rub inside of him with that single finger. Heat tightened between his legs and shot feeling up his spine, toeing the line of painful and painless, of pleasurable. Little sounds escaped his throat with each drag of Nakahara’s thumb in him. Nakahara’s own breathing had grown louder, heavier. When Ango blinked and looked down from the off-white ceiling, Nakahara was looking back.
Slowly, ever-so-slowly, Nakahara pulled out of him. His hand came to rest upon Ango’s hip as he watched him.
“You’re pretty like this, Sakaguchi,” he said. “You should know that.”
He moved before Ango could find any way to answer. Ango felt himself be pulled forward by the hip till his feet hung off the edge of the mattress and Nakahara could kneel up between his open thighs. He pulled something out of the pocket of his grey sweatpants and tore it open. Ango watched with little shame as Nakahara tugged the waistline down to mid-thigh, freeing his own pelvis to view. He looked as Nakahara slid the condom down onto himself, jerking himself quickly, silently.
He rubbed the fingers of his hand into the foil to collect leftover slickness; he crawled closer and stroked them into Ango again, quickly enough to jab pressure up his tense back again and retire immediately. Then he leaned down with one hand by the side of Ango’s head, lined himself up, and pushed in.
Nakahara’s face relaxed, his mouth opened on a sigh. For a moment he didn’t watch Ango or focus on anything but his own pleasure, his own satisfaction. Ango had not realized till then just how much he wanted this as well: Nakahara’s pleasure, Nakahara’s loosened self, the sight of a man so powerful losing himself to base humanity in the cradle of Ango’s thighs. It was more than enough to turn the stretch of him into mind-numbing pleasure.
But Nakahara did not stay lost for long—he opened his eyes, looked down at Ango beneath him, and moved.
He was not slow. He was not sweet. Though as promised his movements never turned painful, they were quick and almost too-much, hot and sharp through Ango’s hips and back and tense legs. Nakahara didn’t lie down over him or tenderly brush his face; he grabbed his waist with one of his wide hands and leaned upon the other with his weight, fisted as it was into the sheets by Ango’s head. He rocked into Ango’s body with that same core of strength he seemed to carry in each step, in each word. He fucked Ango as Ango longed to be fucked by him.
And in that motion Ango’s mind quieted. He took himself in shaking hand and jerked himself quickly, the heel of his palm hitting Nakahara’s hipbone with each of the man’s thrusts forward. He brought himself to the edge of orgasm with closed eyes, full to bursting with the weight and width of Nakahara Chuuya’s cock in him, heart and lungs dried by hot air, by shattered groans. In the distant confines of his mind he was not here today, but there; not now, but then. It wasn’t his own hands squeezing round his slickened cock. It wasn’t such thin hips jabbing into his open legs as he rocked back onto the sheets.
In the distant confined of his mine, he felt warm and wet air color the nightly air. He felt a hand differently callused roaming over his crotch and belly and chest. He felt a different weight into the fold of his body, heard a different voice grunted above his own. He imagined the body of another plastered against his front in messy lovemaking, damp lips and a damp tongue moving against his and filling his mouth with the heady tang of whiskey.
Odasaku would have called him like this in-between lazy breaths. Ango.
Ango jerked back his head when he felt something touch his cheek. His eyes opened brusquely.
Nakahara had stopped moving. He still sat tight within him, and his chest had grown damp, his hand more slippery. He looked down at Ango and called, “Sakaguchi,” moving his fingers back from Ango’s face.
“Why did you stop?” Ango breathed, accusative.
For the first time since they had met at the bar, Nakahara hesitated.
Ango released his hold onto the sheet. He brought his own hand up to touch his face, finding his cheeks wet with tears.
“Just fatigue,” he declared once he was able to speak. Nakahara still had not moved in or out of him. “Do go on.”
“Don’t talk so proper while I have my dick in you,” Nakahara replied.
But he did move, although a little slower.
It was no matter. Ango had brought himself so close to completion that a shiver felt like enough to push him over the edge. He allowed Nakahara to tug himself out of him, all but whimpering at the feeling of openness he left behind. Nakahara squeezed himself into a curt and voiceless orgasm between his legs, rid himself of the used condom, and once more slid his thumb into Ango’s body.
This time he did not bother slowly pushing Ango to wakefulness. He rubbed his prostate and his cock in tandem, unwilling to let Ango deal with his own finish himself, until Ango shook and panted over the bed, spread-eagle and useless between Nakahara’s skilled fingers. He came with an embarrassingly loud moan. He sagged onto the sheets with the breath knocked out of him.
Every single tension point in him had loosened.
It took him a long while to work his lungs again. Nakahara did not move from his side, though his own bearings were regained much quicker. He wasn’t touching Ango anymore in any way.
Ango sucked in a breath and said, “Nakahara.”
“No,” Nakahara interrupted. “I told you not to call me that.”
Subject A5158, Nakahara C.
“Chuuya,” Ango said. He sighed, drowsy with sleep already. “Thank you.”
And perhaps Ango would have missed it if it had happened a second or so later. Perhaps he wouldn’t have noticed, were he not Sakaguchi Ango, were Nakahara Chuuya not who he was.
“Yeah,” Chuuya replied, a joyless smile at his lips. “Don’t mention it.”
He looked desperate too.
Ango slept for over fifteen hours.
He woke up in Nakahara’s bed a few minutes past three o’clock. The room around was as black as ink, and the bed was empty but for a second rumpled-up pillow Ango had squeezed during his sleep. He woke with the memories of the morning intact, with the knowledge of what he had asked and done as present on his tongue as taste.
Ango slid out of the bed slowly. All the pains of the previous day were gone, replaced with languor and a familiar soreness in the hips. It was not unwelcome. He found his discarded clothes hung on the back of Nakahara’s desk chair, not folded but put aside all the same where Ango would easily find them. Nakahara had closed the blinds as well; he had not, in fact, kicked Ango out as soon as the deed was done.
He dressed himself again with an odd mix of guilt and gratefulness squirming in his belly. Nakahara’s courtesy did not extend to washing him up post-coitus; Ango’s come had dried into the fold of hip and thigh and was starting to itch fiercely.
The living-room outside the door was unlit but for the TV playing on very low volume. Ango paid no mind at all to the chatter of the weatherman on it, looking instead for Nakahara’s silhouette on a couch or armchair, perhaps even at his dining table.
His nose picked up the smell of tobacco before he could see him.
Nakahara had taken a seat on the floor of his balcony. He had put back the shirt that Ango had taken off of him hours earlier and let his hair down from its failing tie. He did not acknowledge Ango’s presence in anyway, though he must have heard him come, and continued to suck the smoke out of his half-consumed cigarette. The ember at its end glowed almost in the same color as his ability.
Ango decided to breach the silence before it could swallow him up. “Nakahara,” he called.
This time, he was not told to use a different name.
Nakahara turned his head around to look at him. “Sleep well?” he asked mildly.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Then get lost. I need to change the sheets and pass out.”
Nakahara’s knee rose toward his curved chest. He rested his elbow upon it, smoking tranquilly, bathed in the grey glow of the city.
Most would see it as a show of negligence, of arrogance, Ango thought. He could only see it as a show of loneliness.
So he made an effort and called, “Chuuya-kun.”
Chuuya huffed a short laugh. He put out his cigarette into a little clay cup on the ground and said, “Now you want to call me by my name?”
“I apologize,” Ango went on, “for bothering you like this—I do realize how rude and unacceptable of me that was, and I…”
Chuuya leaned his back against the barrier, one knee still loosely held to his chest. “It’s not like fucking you is a chore,” he said. “I meant what I said. You don’t look half-bad. If I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t have done it, so spare me the guilt trip.”
Ango swallowed. “Very well,” he conceded.
“And tell your baboons to stop following me around when I’m having fun.”
There was nothing Ango could say to that. Would that he could; would that he were allowed to have a say in this, to sway the ministry’s fear of gifted individuals, to quench their thirst for intelligence and control all by himself.
He didn’t know whether Chuuya understood his silence as refusal or powerlessness. Either way Chuuya nodded, looking out to the night-lit city, and declared, “They won’t be finding much stuff to photograph anyway. I’m done sleeping around, I think.”
“Please do not believe that I think badly of you for—”
“This has nothing at all to do with you, Specs. You can relax.”
Chuuya took a pack of Winstons out of his pocket and slid another cigarette out. He held it between his fingers for a moment, pensive, weighing and pros and cons of smoking again so soon.
“I can’t deny that it’s fun,” he said. “The flirting. The sex, too. It used to give me a lot of confidence at a time when I needed it. I just feel like it’s not what I want anymore. Like some things—well. Some things are different now.”
There was a picture in Ango’s database, one of many of Shibusawa’s invasion days ago: the small and blurry figure of Nakahara Chuuya and Dazai Osamu on the ground in the middle of ruin, their bodies slumped together in shapeless black-and-white.
“So no need to wait for me in the usual corners,” Chuuya went on, his voice weighed up with what sounded like hope. “I won’t be there.”
“I understand,” Ango replied.
He couldn’t do anything about the following—those were Taneda’s men—but he could spread the information just subtly enough for it to take hold.
He could promise never to go to Chuuya for sex again.
Chuuya nodded, solemn. “Good, then.”
Ango’s coat was still stres across the back of one of the two couches, right where he had left it the day before in a haze of lust and exhaustion. He grabbed it and put it on, making sure out of habit that his wallet and keys were still there.
It would be embarrassing for Chuuya to have robbed him after fucking him into a rare good night of sleep.
Perhaps because he felt guilty for the thought, he looked at Chuuya again. He seemed to have decided against smoking a second cigarette in a row, and the small papery stick rested loosely between his bare fingers.
The bruises on them were still dark and deep.
“Dazai-kun seems in good health,” Ango declared.
Chuuya shoved the cigarette between his lips in something like clumsiness and replied, “Leave!”
Ango could not help a small smile as he obeyed.
Some things from the past, at least, could still be saved.