"Are you okay, Gotou-san?" Masayoshi asked in that inquisitive, almost cheeky fashion as he leaned over Gotou. "You didn't hit your head, right?"
Gotou had not, in fact, hit his head - but he had had the wind knocked out of him and that was almost worse, tryin(more)g to suck oxygen back into lungs battered to stillness by the sudden shock of impact. "What," he managed when things began working the way they were supposed to again, "the fuck just happened?"
"I flipped you," Masayoshi said brightly, and without remorse.
The order of events, as Gotou remembered them, were simple - Masayoshi was flailing his arms around again attempting to parrot the moves on the television. Gotou, being cranky after a bad shift and having not yet acquired the proper alcohol to bloodstream ratio to put up with Masayoshi's nonsense tonight, had made a snarky comment about Masayoshi's capabilities.
Masayoshi had said - with trademarked earnestness - "Master praised my technique!"
"He doesn't even know your name," Gotou had said into his beer, and Masayoshi stomped his foot like a schoolgirl, then struck a pose.
"I'll make you take that back!" he announced dramatically, and, well.
Here Gotou was on his back in Masayoshi's living room, currently rethinking his entire life.
Masayoshi's face had shifted now from triumphant to worried. "Are you really okay, Gotou-san?" he said. "Do you need a drink of water? I'll get some water."
He sat up finally and waved his arm futilely at Masayoshi's back, and then rubbed his neck and sighed, glancing at the show on the screen, still paused with Harakiri Sunshine striking his famous pose.
Then he smiled despite himself, and shook his head. Wait, why was he /smiling/, Masayoshi almost gave him a concussion.
The television was the only source of light in the room. Lance closed the door quietly because Shiro was stretched out in the bed and he didn't want to disturb him, but Shiro lifted his head and raised himself up on one elbow, looking to the door for confirmation.(more) "Hey," Lance said gently, and Shiro's exhausted expression softened in recognition. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."
"Wasn't asleep," Shiro said, voice hoarse. Lance paused at the visitor's chairs to deposit his bag, before climbing up onto the bed with Shiro. Shiro went to raise his arm and blanched, looked at the stump and then quickly to Lance's face to gauge his reaction. Lance didn't blink, settling against his right side.
"How do you feel?" Lance said, chin resting on Shiro's chest.
"Weak," Shiro said after a moment. "But, better," he added. "I'm alive."
"Yeah," Lance said softly. His blue eyes caught the dim light. "I don't know what I would have done if you died, Shiro."
Shiro smiled. "It'll take a lot more than an enchantress to kill me," he said, and scratched his nose sheepishly.
"That's what Keith said too," Lance didn't look convinced.
"Keith knows me well," Shiro tousled Lance's hair with his left hand. "No kiss for your ailing husband?"
"Jackass," Lance leaned up to kiss him chastely. He settled back down against Shiro, glancing at the old black-and-white on the television for a moment. "What are you watching?"
Shiro stroked his fingers through Lance's hair, attention drawn now to something far more important than the background noise of the tv. "You," he said softly, and Lance flushed red, glancing back at Shiro.
"Missed you," Lance said finally, as Shiro caught his chin and tugged him back in for another kiss.
In my mind, when I see myself, I'm a little girl, standing at the window, waiting to see headlights in the driveway. Heart racing, hands shaking, waiting. But the car never comes.
As a grown woman, I don't literally stand at the window, but my heart does. Even(more) as I sit on the couch watching Law and Order, or make myself a salad, I'm waiting.
I know he's not coming back. But just like that child who never gives up hope because life hasn't crushed their soul enough, I can't give up the thought that there was just a glitch in the system. He was too young and inexperienced. Too afraid to face his true feelings. He was so jaded from watching his parents fail. His mom married three times, so he clearly never saw an example of love.
I could give you 25 more excuses, and they'd all sound the same. You'd look at me with your adult eyes, feeling sorry for me. You wouldn't see me as the child that I am, shouting out the door, as his car drove away, "Please come back!"
I'd cry myself to sleep as the headlights slowly faded to black, waking up the next day and looking out the window, just in case.(less)
Shiro was a wolf again, unconscious, when Lance finally stopped the Jeep and hopped out, and he made to crawl into the back with him until Keith caught his arm and kept his feet on the ground. "Let me go," Lance said, through too-sharp teeth, and Keith said calmly,(more) "you're not strong enough to move him."
"Yeah, let's fight," Keith said, as Lance yanked his arm free. "That's the most productive thing we can do right now is fucking fight each other, Lance." Lance snarled wordlessly and turned away, attention on Shiro's unconscious form.
"So what do we do?" Lance said finally, looking around.
"We wait," Keith said.
He didn't like that. Lance crawled back into the Jeep and settled beside Shiro, running his hand through the matted fur down the back of his neck, relieved at his strong, steady heartbeat. Keith remained outside the vehicle, and after a while he stepped away, out of sight. "Lance," he called, and Lance didn't move.
A man larger than Lance had ever seen leaned into the back of the Jeep, and put his hand on Shiro's haunch. Lance /hissed/, flashing his teeth but the man didn't startle, met his eye and said, in an even tone, "I'm here to help him. We can't do anything if he remains here."
"Lance," Keith said again, appearing beside the man and absolutely dwarfed by him. "It's okay, I promise."
Lance wrapped his arms around Shiro's head and buried his face against his fur, kissing the top of his head before releasing him. That allowed the solid wall of a man to gently pull Shiro from the bed and hoist him over his shoulders as if he weighed nothing at all.
The best nights, James decided, were the ones they didn't spend in a cheap motel or sleeping piled on Shiro's couch.
They were the warm spring nights where he stacked firewood and Keith hunted their dinner down, fresh and bloody, and they'd spend the twilight sitting beside the(more) fire, side by side, in companionable silence.
It wasn't that they didn't have anything to talk about - they had plenty, often, but there was something about that twilit time where the conversation ceased and they just leaned in to each other, watching the crackling flame. It was comfortable, this space they existed in, and James had never really imagined anything like it.
When the light faded from the sky, Keith turned his head in toward James, and kissed the beating pulse in his neck. James tilted his head back as Keith's hand slid up under his shirt, palm familiar and rough. They did this so often it was rote memory for him but it never got old, the pinpricks of pleasure under his skin making him shiver.
He caught Keith's jaw in his hand as Keith leaned over him, palm pressed into the thin blanket by James's ear, and Keith stilled, panting loud against the crackle of the fire. "Okay?" Keith asked, eyes reflecting the firelight.
He was better than okay, he was practically floating, Keith's body the only thing keeping him anchored to the ground. But that wasn't the thought he was chasing in his fevered mind. He swiped his thumb over Keith's lips, thought about it and finally captured the tail end of his inspiration.
"Ride me," James said, half-delirious.
Keith laughed without derision. "You," he said, and jogged his hips. "Have my knot right now. How do you expect that to work?"
Masayoshi laid on his back on the futon shelf, phone held above his face as he scrolled his newsfeed. Gotou had been dozing on his bed when he arrived, and Masayoshi endeavored to put himself to bed as quietly at possible so as not to disturb him - although(more) he had lingered, sitting on the shelf with the door open for a moment, watching the soft rise and fall of Gotou's chest.
It was comforting, that Gotou was so close.
He still wasn't prepared when Gotou slammed the closet door aside, one hand on the doorframe and clearly fit to be tied. Masayoshi dropped his phone square on his face, startled, as Gotou shook his finger at him. "You," Gotou said, slightly out of breath, "are a MODEL."
Masayoshi rubbed his forehead tenderly. "Yes...?" he said, squinting at Gotou's outline, framed by the reflected light of the television. "I am, why?" Masayoshi flailed himself upright, eyes wide. "Did something happen?" He looked down at his phone, but didn't see anything.
"No, I just-" Gotou's voice had shifted, and settled into his normal tones. "Why are you here, Masayoshi?"
"You said I could stay here until I found an apartment!"
"You're a /model/. You make good money." Gotou leaned his weight against his hand on the door and was clearly trying to work through something that he wasn't quite grasping. "You can afford so much more than this."
Masayoshi said, his voice wavering slightly, "do you want me to leave, Gotou-san?"
Gotou blinked once, twice. He rubbed his forehead and straightened. "No, I was afr..." His voice stuttered, stopped. "Nevermind. You're fine. It's fine." He let out a small huff and shuffled backward, apologetic. "Sorry I woke you."
Masayoshi leaned slightly out of the closet. "Gotou-san?"
"Bored," Dazai said, his chin resting on his desk and attention fixed on nothing in particular. Atsushi leaned forward a little but didn't look his direction, instead staring diligently at the open laptop screen before him and at least attempting to be productive.
(more) The office was quiet, which was only a little bit unnerving because it meant that there was no one else for Dazai to fixate his attention on and Atsushi was supposed to be finishing his write-up on their last case.
"Bo-oo-oored," Dazai announced again and Atsushi gritted his teeth. He lolled his head to one side and pulled out his phone, holding it at arms length, in Atsushi's direction. Atsushi flinched slightly as the flash went off and then he straightened in his chair.
"Why did you just take a picture of me?"
"Mm," Dazai didn't lift his chin from the desk, arm still outstretched as he typed something with his thumb. "No reason."
"What are you typing, Dazai-san?"
"Nothing." He clicked a few more things, then pulled his arm in and stared at the screen, grinning in that off-putting way that set every single hair on Atsushi's neck upright. "Nothing for you to worry about." Still grinning, Dazai disappeared his phone before Atsushi could even begin to think about trying to take it away (not that he would ever succeed, of course).
"Don't sign me up for any weird websites," Atsushi said.
Dazai sat up finally, one hand to his chest, clearly offended. "I would NEVER."
"You sign Kunikida-san up for every mailing list you can."
"Ah." Dazai froze for a moment, as if caught. "You know about that, do you?"
"Ranpo-san told me you like watching Kunikida-san blow his stack over it." Atsushi frowned at Dazai, who was attempting to look innocent and, naturally, failing.(less)
At another time, we'd be so impressed by a machine taking a man's job that even the man would shake his head and say, "Well, goddamn. Only in America."
What I do isn't poetry. It's engineering. But the receptionists and dispatchers that I replaced with a $12 pe(more)r month licencing fee seem to think of me like the Marquis de Sade, a blood-dripping vampire licking wounds, corrupting noble purity with lascivious art.
But it's not art. It's a Notepad++ document with functions and definitions in a certain order, stacked like rough-cut lumber, and when I commanded it "Go!" you became less valuable to your boss.
Art has heart, as filthy as it may be. This machine has no heart. There is no love in automation, just as there is no God in an empty church.
The saboteurs were shoe-throwers, you may know. "Sabo," the wooden clog, hurled by the new jobless into the churning gears. Ironically, those were shoe-making machines, overcoming the siege to make more ammunition for their own destruction.
But you can't break my machine. It lives in the wires. The "cloud" is a fairytale we tell our superstitious, the religious illiterate in our temple of tech, those who think their phones are common magic.
The truth is, we are building our future atop a rat's nest, billions of miles of wire tangled through our medical histories, bank accounts, nude photos. Whisper-thin tentacles burrow through out lives, their barbed suckers dripping with anaesthetic ("Remember my password! Remember my phone number! Remember my name!"), and the tentacle-ribbons slice us into infinite pieces, and they nibble away at our independence, and in the end, we are a Gordian Knot, unsolvable except when cleft in twain.
And when that happens, when the password is not autofilled, we are finally, totally alone.(less)
"Stupid question," Shiro croaked out as the Jeep bounced along the unpaved road. Keith was sitting with his back to the coolers braced behind the driver's seat, using his body as a cushion for Shiro to rest against while his body fought to heal itself.
(more) "Shh," Keith said, brushing his fingers through Shiro's newly-short hair. They'd had to cut it pretty close to get the worst of the blood and tangles out, and then used clippers to even it so it looked something like an actual hairstyle and not a fifteen-minute hack job with a hunting knife. It wasn't unlike the sort of haircut he'd had when he first met Keith, too many years ago ... although now, instead of ebony black his hair was a soft, silvery white. "Don't talk, Shiro. Rest."
Shiro grunted a little as the Jeep hit a hole, and Lance cursed from the driver's seat.
There was a pause, and Shiro said, strangled, "/Lance/ is driving?"
"Lance is driving," Keith confirmed. "We're headed toward the Marmora base."
"No, no-" Shiro tried to push himself up from Keith's lap but he was weak as a newborn foal and Keith was many, many times stronger at the moment. "Hit the side of the house," he mumbled, and Keith remembered the proud new dent in the front panel of the battered Jeep and tried not to think about the fact that they weren't wearing seatbelts.
"It's fine, he's fine," he soothed Shiro, arms locked tight over his shoulders. Without thinking he kissed the top of Shiro's head, felt him still and smiled against the crown of silver hair. "Lance has got this."
Lance gripped the wheel tight with both hands, and tried not to dwell on the fact that it was Keith cradling his husband, and not him.(less)
I’ll leave it blank for the sale of the children. You can only charge so much before the inspector starts drilling down. Next to the station, a woman drinks from a can.
“Can we please just keep it down?” I bounce my knee in disgust. There is simply no w(more)ay you’re going to get me to speak badly of anyone on the cabinet. Greetings: the passage of time in human increments. Like dawn, but foreboding.
Claws rake the throat of the statue. It’s the godess herself, but you can’t leave the store with it. Not until I’ve paid you. Big fat pussy meat.
Three-sixty-eight. That’s the sound of a hint concerning our little meeting together. Please don’t put anything in the jar. It’s meant to stay full.
Get on the plane. Right. Now. If you don’t, I’m coming with you and I mean it this time. The ceiling fan whirrs its shadows across the gleaming countertops, but no one is there to respond. How much do I owe you, wolf-man of Dark Moon?
Keep that sort of thing to yourself. It’s only too easy to give up, but he’s come all this way, the juicy twat. Be nice, be nice. Go finger the palm of her hand. She won’t respect you for it, but it will help.
The seats are upholstered in the green leaves of ancient memory. Honk. Let me start again. The ancients are memorialized sitting down on the green. A boulder field of doves. No two ways about it.
Goodnight, Eugenia. The work is done. The work is just begun. Pouring out of the rock like slaves in agony. A frog’s leg, a twining snake. Pass me a napkin, I need to wipe.(less)
The soft creak of a floorboard woke Gotou. He lifted his head to peer at the other side of the bed, since Masayoshi wasn't pressed to his side. Masayoshi was sleeping almost face-down in the pillow, dead to the world.
(more) Gotou smiled sleepily, fond of his idiot husband, and squinted at the doorway. There were no tiny figures hovering there waiting to be acknowledged, so no nightmares to be had - but then, distantly, he heard the washing machine kick on.
He yawned again, steeled his resolve not to look at the clock, and shuffled out of bed.
The lights were on in the kitchen, their dimness as bright as the sun to his sleep-filled eyes. The kids were sitting on the floor, backs to the washing machine; Keiko's arm over Masanori's shoulder and both of their eyes closed.
Gotou crouched in front of them when Keiko's eyes snapped open and she whipped her stuffed cat like a weapon, smacking Gotou square in the face. He let a gruff yelp and promptly fell on his ass, and Keiko's eyes went wide as she scrambled to her feet.
"I take it someone had an another accident?" Gotou said, rubbing between his eyes. Masanori, startled awake by the commotion, nodded silently, reddened eyes filling with tears.
"I did," Keiko said, "I'm cleaning it up." She shuffled in place, cat clutched to her chest. "Sorry I hit you, daddy."
"I should know better than to startle anyone in this family," Gotou said, amused. He held out his hands to Masanori, who climbed into his arms without hesitation. "Let's go back to bed."
"But the sheets," Keiko protested.
"They aren't going anywhere," Gotou said, putting his hand on his daughter's head to steer her toward the bedroom. "You both can sleep with us tonight."(less)
James was sitting across from Keith, chin in his hand as he watched the pedestrian traffic with a distant expression. Keith chewed on a french fry and watched James silently - he'd stopped talking a full minute prior because James was gone, and he didn't know why.
(more) Abruptly, James blinked and looked at Keith. "Sorry, what?" he said, and Keith took a drink.
"What's gotten into you today?" Keith asked, and James sighed, tapped his fingers on the table and then shifted so he wasn't looking out the window any longer. "You're weirdly quiet."
"You're weird," James retorted. Keith gave a shrug, popping another fry in his mouth.
"No arguments there. You okay?"
"Yes," James said, in that automatic tone that Keith knew well. "I'm fine, it's fine." He waved his hand in the air before him. "What were you saying?"
"You're worried about something." Keith cocked his head and studied James intently. "Us?"
At that, James's mouth quirked into a soft smile. "Nah," he said. "Not exactly." He tapped his fingers against his face, chin in hand, before sighing. "More, me."
"Yeah, I'm-" James winced for a moment, then soldiered on. "I'm a liability, Keith, maybe I should take a step back-"
Keith straightened in the booth so suddenly it caused the flatware to clatter. That made James lift his head sharply and stare at him, eyes wide.
"A /liability/?" Keith said, and there wasn't anger in his tone, just disbelief. "Why would you think that?"
"I'm human," James said, and shrugged, before putting both arms on the table before him. "Maybe..." he struggled for a moment, gaze distant. "Maybe you'd be better off if I wasn't."
Keith stared at him, and then sighed. "Griffin, you fucking idiot," he said. "I love you just the way you are."(less)
"You know," Matt said, swiping the bar idly with his rag, "if anyone else decided to fuck off for two weeks with no notice whatsoever they'd find themselves well acquainted with my foot in their ass."
"You know you love me," Shiro said lightly, carrying the ice bin.(more)
"More importantly, my father loves you," Matt said pointedly, and Shiro grinned at him. "You can do no wrong in his eyes, he even /said/ if you were gone it was for a good reason and you'd be back as soon as you could be."
"Yeah, well, Sam knows me like that." Shiro dumped the ice, a loud noise in the relative quiet of the bar at midafternoon. "Besides, I figure you'd put me on punishment detail for the rest of my natural life so I figured Sam was the route to take."
Matt glowered at him. "So why'd you ghost? Better be a damn good reason."
Shiro chewed on his lip and grinned again, a little distantly and in a way Matt hadn't really seen before. "Had something important to do."
"Something important, yeah, yeah. Doesn't have anything at all to do with that Lothario who was chatting you up here? The one you've been eating breakfast with every day this past week at the diner?"
"Stalker," Shiro called as he disappeared in the back.
"Concerned friend," Matt yelled back. "You're acting goofy, man, don't let him get his claws in you..." he paused, and said, calmly, "Shiro, did you fuck a selkie?"
"You're a terrible fucking liar, don't let the fin folk get you all twisted up, you know they're related to sirens, right?"
"First off, I've been informed that's a myth," Shiro said, leaning out the door, "and secondly, YOU SET ME UP WITH HIM."
"So," Shiro said, mock-casually, leaning one shoulder against the frame of the bedroom door. "You don't talk about your family much."
There was something in his voice that made Lance pause what he was doing and look over at Shiro questioningly. "My family is a bunch of seals,(more)" he said slowly, because while he knew Shiro wasn't stupid, Shiro WAS human.
"Not all the time, though," Shiro said, and there was that same fake-casual lilt to his tone. He hadn't moved from the doorway, hair still damp from the shower he'd taken immediately upon coming home. "They're selkies, aren't they? Like you?"
"Why are you asking?"
"No reason." Shiro still didn't move, to come take his favorite seat on the couch beside Lance. The silence between them stretched heavy, until Shiro let out a small sigh. "Was Matt dating your sister?"
"Oh /no/," Lance said, and slapped a hand over his eyes.
"That's a yes, then."
Lance lifted his hand, looking to Shiro. "Ronnie didn't see you, did she? Did you tell her who you were? No, you didn't, you're still here." He got to his feet. "We gotta go /now/."
"Go? Where?" Shiro said, his voice tilting toward amused as Lance pulled Shiro out of the doorway.
"/Anywhere/, she will /kill/ you, Shiro-"
"Wait," Shiro said, and pulled his arm free. "What are you talking about?"
"You took the coat of a selkie prince," Lance said.
"You tricked me into taking your coat."
"Semantics," Lance said. "And, they don't know that." He put up one finger. "Princes don't get married to ~land dwellers~," he repeated in a clear imitation, "Princes serve their people."
"You already serve your people, by rescuing them," Shiro pointed out, and Lance gestured wildly, already in the bedroom.
James was bleeding - it didn't seem bad at first, a trickle of blood from his brow, a cut on his cheek but, as Lance glanced down, there was a bandage wrapped tight over his forearm. Before he could open his mouth to ask, James gave him a tired(more) smile and said, "we found him."
Keith only looked better by virtue of his coal-black coat, Lance could smell the blood in the air. Keith raised his head when Lance tumbled out of James's truck and hit the ground running toward where Keith lay near the trees. The black wolf was on his feet in an instant, ears back and teeth glinting white in the dying light of day.
Lance didn't even slow down.
Shiro lay with his back against the tree, covered in dried blood and matted dirt. His hair was cut short, chopped and matted and Lance stood before him, chest heaving, heart in his throat.
"I'll just be a few days," Shiro teased him, coming around the couch and catching Lance's hand, tugging him close and dancing him around the living room to the music on the television. "You'll barely even miss me."
"Is he-?" James asked as he caught up to them, and Keith stood, head butting against James's side until he raised it and set his injured arm on Keith's head.
"No," Lance said, voice strangled as he crouched beside his husband, brushing grime and blood from Shiro's face. He could feel Shiro's breath against his fingers, faint but present, but the relief was already being swallowed in his chest. "No, he's alive." He pulled Shiro's head in, pressed their foreheads together, and closed his eyes.
"But whoever did this," Lance said, the rage constricting his throat, "they're already dead. They just don't know it yet."