By the way, the first five volumes of Loveless manga are uploaded somewhere. >_> Just so we're all on the same page.
This chapter was running a little long, so it's split into two parts...which would be fine, except that nothing happens in this part. Some conversation.
Title: Call Me Anytime **
Characters: Soubi, Ritsuka, Kio, Zero
Genre, this chapter: SET-UP
Genre, whole fic: Looks likes it's going to be fairly plotty, actually. With occasional sidetrips into excess.
** offer of eternal gratitude for a title that doesn't sound like a bad pickup line STILL STANDS.
Ritsuka stood in the entranceway, more unsure than ever. "So..." he began, then trailed off. He avoided eye contact, but kept sneaking glances at Soubi's hands or chest or feet. His back was a mess of tension, while his ears twitched forward in nervous suspicion.
As if he expects that in the next second, I'll jump him, Soubi observed. The thought was tempting; but Ritsuka also looked like he might, in the second after that, fall over.
He's had a long night, Soubi thought generously. I'll let him sleep it off.
Soubi wasn't inconsiderate.
"I'll make tea," he offered. "Which way is the kitchen?"
"You don't know?" Ritsuka asked. A tiny bit of confidence returned to his posture.
Soubi didn't know, but he could guess: it wasn't a large house, and there were only two doors leading away from the front hall. Ritsuka looked happy to have found an advantage, though, even if it was only knowing where the kitchen was when Soubi didn't. Soubi decided to let him have it.
"This is my first time seeing the ground floor of your house," he said.
"...kitchen's through here," Ritsuka said, and turned to lead the way. "Should I show you where the tea things are?"
"Please." Ritsuka's pajama top rose up when he reached for the topmost shelf. Setting a dusty tea tray next to the pot and kettle on the counter, he swayed slightly.
Soubi reached out from behind to steady him, a hand curled around either shoulder. "You should get some sleep," he said, bending forward to whisper in Ritsuka's ear. "You must be very tired." He turned his cheek to brush the fine hair on the back of Ritsuka's neck.
Ritsuka shuddered. "But I haven't gotten out the tea yet," he said.
"I'll manage," Soubi breathed, and steered him to the futon in the living room. He wrapped an arm around Ritsuka laying him down, then moved a hand to cup his cheek. Ritsuka batted it away. "Don't get any funny ideas," he warned.
"I'll be good."
"You'd better be. If you do anything while I'm asleep, I'll know."
Soubi doubted it. "Yes, Ritsuka."
"As long as we're clear." Ritsuka settled down into the futon, his tail wrapping around his legs. Curled up into himself like that, he looked smaller than ever. He was asleep in moments.
Soubi virtuously returned to the kitchen. He looked at the tea tray with a critical eye. It was covered in dust. Ritsuka's never had company over before, he realized. I'm the first. Suddenly much more cheerful, he filled the kettle and set it to boil; then he dumped the tray in the sink and reached for the detergent, humming a little.
Ritsuka couldn't say at first what woke him. It wasn't the sun -- the curtains were drawn as they always were, with the shades pulled down besides. In the deep gloom, Ritsuka couldn't tell what time of the day it was. He guessed around noon: with Soubi in the house, no way he'd have been comfortable enough to sleep longer than that. It would be mid-afternoon at the latest.
As his eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness, he picked out Soubi silhouetted against the front window, a patch of lighter grey on grey. Or no: Soubi had just pulled back the curtains, and was pulling down one slot of the Venetian blinds to peer outside. Now he was a patch of darker grey, outlined by the edges of the light coming through the blinds, parallel lines of brightness that cut off in the shape of Soubi.
He was speaking softly into his cellphone. Soubi glanced towards the couch, and Ritsuka hastily shut his eyes and ducked his head. Then, to mask the movement, he pretended to turn over on his side, until he was facing the back of the futon. He forced himself to relax, so that it would look like he was still asleep.
There was a pause, and then Soubi resumed his conversation. Good, he'd bought it. Ritsuka strained to listen. He could just barely make out...
"Mmm. No. I'm not. ...Why?"
Pretending to be asleep, Ritsuka actually did fall back asleep.
"You aren't doing anything to him, are you?" Kio asked.
"Mmm." Soubi said. He was looking at the couch, where a slight movement had caught his eye just a moment ago. Turning to look, he'd seen Ritsuka duck his head, then turn over. Now he was trying to feign sleep, but he couldn't hide his cat ears, which were swiveling back and forth, straining to catch Soubi's voice.
He's so cute.
"Soubi! Are you listening to me?"
"No," Soubi said.
"Ah, Sou-chan, you're so mean!"
"I'm not." He was watching the tip of Ritsuka's tail as it flipped, first one way, then another. Adorable.
"You are! I bet he feels safe there, a big strong guy like you around. His white in knight in a borrowed car -- and when are you going to return it, anyway? -- come to save him from the wicked witch, and now he's back in his own home, nothing to be afraid of...well, he should be afraid!"
"What do you mean, why! Because you're there! It's a false sense of security! Every second he spends only with you, he's in danger! If the worst thing that happens is that he loses his ears, he'll be lucky!"
"Don't exaggerate," Soubi said.
"It's not exaggeration, it's the truth! ...by the way, why are you being so short with your answers? Is he listening? Don't you want him to know what you're really like?"
"I always talk like this," Soubi said. Actually, Ritsuka had fallen back asleep several lines ago, but telling Kio that would only encourage him.
"Liar!" Kio screeched, and Soubi changed the volume on his cellphone from "soft" to "barely audible". Now that Ritsuka was asleep again, it would be a shame for Kio to wake him up.
Soubi would be the one to do that.
He hung up.
"Liar!" Kio screeched. "...well, okay, maybe it is true, a little. But seriously, Sou-chan, you shouldn't take advantage of him when he's like this. Even ignoring the part where he's still in elementary school -- which I don't forget for second, by the way, and you shouldn't either -- consider the situation. You said his mother left him there? I know it's summer, but it gets cold in the mountains at night, and he was outside for more than an hour waiting for you. He's gotta be feeling vulnerable right now. I bet he only let you in because he didn't want to be alone -- yeah, that has to be it, why else would he invite a pervert like you into his house? I bet he was afraid you'd abandon him! Listen, Sou-chan, if you do anything to him when he's like this, it won't count as consensual. It'll just be manipulation. Okay?"
The other end of the line was silent.
Kio checked his cellphone to see if the call was still connected. "Call ended 00:05:02" blinked innocently on the display screen.
"You bastard, Soubi!" Kio kicked the wall in frustration. After a minute's thought, he bent to wipe away the mark: Soubi's apartment didn't deserve his anger, Soubi did. It was nice appartment, very tastefully decorated. Soubi was not nice at all, although he did have good taste... in everything but the people he chose to keep company with.
Kio excluded, of course.
"Soubi hung up on him!" a voice crowed.
Another voice joined in. "He did! But he didn't even notice, and kept talking anyway! Isn't that funny?"
Zero laughed. Where had they come from? Kio felt himself blushing. Damn, being hung up on was embarrassing enough without these two around to make fun of him for it. Who were they to Soubi, anyway?
"You guys..." he said.
"If it had been us, we'd have noticed right away" Youji said.
"Because we're connected," Natsuo said.
"Right, because we're Fighter and Sacrifice."
"You guys are awful!" Kio said, stormed away. He gave the apartment door a vicious slam on his way out -- he'd been stupid to be careful before, after all these days Soubi's place was their place as well. Zero looked at each other curiously.
"Why was he so upset?"
"We were only being honest."
"Maybe he was jealous."
"Of Ritsuka and Soubi? He shouldn't be."
"Right, because Ritsuka and Soubi aren't a real Fighter/Sacrifice pair."
Natsuo and Youji took each other's hand, then leaned forward to press their foreheads together. "So there's no way they'd have the same kind of connection," they said.