Categories > Anime/Manga > Inuyasha

"Sibling" Rivalry

by kirayasha 0 Reviews

Renkotsu's jealousy of Jakotsu and Jakotsu's jealousy of Renkotsu causes some friction between them until Renkotsu comes up with a solution while trying to work things out. Unfortunately the soluti...

Category: Inuyasha - Rating: R - Genres: Angst,Humor,Romance - Characters: Bankotsu,Jakotsu - Warnings: [X] - Published: 2007/06/12 - Updated: 2008/07/24 - 20980 words - Complete

“Sibling” Rivalry

By kira and VegaSailor


Authors’ note: This is a companion piece/ prequel of sorts to “Rabbits” as well as “Knocked up Joke.”

FY: A ri is Japanese unit of measure and is about 2.45 miles.

Special thanks to Jen for looking this over and coming up with a few suggestions to make it even better than it was before. I really appreciate all your hard work.


888

They had been walking home from a rather mundane mission when Renkotsu realized the cross-dresser had fallen behind. Looking over his shoulder at him, the fire-breather noticed Jakotsu was limping and rather pale. “What’s the matter with you? We’ve traveled much farther than this before with no problems.”


Jakotsu shrugged as he continued limping towards the fire-breather. “I don’t know... I don’t feel so good and my leg hurts.”


“It does?” Renkotsu stopped and waited for him to catch up.


“Yeah...” Jakotsu hobbled over to him. “I’ve never had a scratch hurt so bad before.” He stopped in front of Renkotsu, and picking up the right side of his kimono, he turned his leg so the fire-breather could see the cut on his calf.


Renkotsu knelt. “Even a scratch can be a problem without care.”


“Ow! Careful, Ren! That hurts!” Jakotsu whined.


“Sorry... ewww...” Renkotsu said as examined the cut. The skin around it was red and warm to the touch, and when the fire-breather gently probed the scratch, it oozed pus.


“What?!”


Renkotsu stood up. “You’ve got some nasty stuff coming out of there.”


“I do...?”


“Yeah. I think it’s infected. Come, I believe there’s a stream over there where we can wash the wound.” Renkotsu took a few paces towards the stream.


“Okay...” Jakotsu said as he limped after him.


Renkotsu looked over his shoulder at Jakotsu, before stopping. “Want me to carry you?” He heaved a long suffering sigh.


“Yeah... But what about your stuff? How’re you gonna carry me too?” Jakotsu asked. He hobbled over to his fellow teammate.


Renkotsu blew a little snort of impatience out his nose while he thought it over. Getting down on one knee, he said, “Here, latch onto me like a child and pray my bones don’t break.”


“Thanks, Ren,” Jakotsu said as he carefully put his arms around the fire-breather’s neck. When Renkotsu stood up, the cross-dresser wrapped his legs around the fire-breather’s waist.


Renkotsu grunted as he adjusted the weight of his shoulder cannon. He briefly hesitated, before placing his free hand under Jakotsu’s butt. The fire-breather would have preferred carrying his comrade in both arms as he felt uncomfortable about the way Jakotsu was pressed up against him, but since he could not do a thing about it, Renkotsu chose to ignore it. He grunted softly when he took a step. “Humph. You’re not as heavy as I thought.”


“Really?” Jakotsu murmured when he buried his face in the fire-breather’s neck.


“What are you doing to my neck?”


“Nothing...” Jakotsu sighed softly. “I don’t feel good and I wish Aniki-chan was here.”


“Well, unfortunately you’re stuck with me.”


“That’s okay, I don’t mind...”


Renkotsu, not sure whether or not he had just been insulted, huffed wordlessly. Deciding to give the cross-dresser the benefit of the doubt, the fire-breather changed the subject in an attempt to make him feel better. “What’s that scent you’re wearing?”


“Jasmine... it’s Aniki-chan’s favorite. Why?”


“You smell nice.”


“Thanks. You do too. I never knew gunpowder smelt so good, but it does mixed with you.”


“Heh!” Renkotsu laughed. “Yes, the smell of ground elements and flesh is a rather unique scent and not a bad one, if I may say so myself.”


“Yeah...” Jakotsu giggled. “I wonder if Sui likes the way you smell...”


“He says he does,” Renkotsu said tersely.


“Yeah? Sui smells good too, like sandalwood and spices.”


“Yes, especially his hair.” Renkotsu mused aloud.


“I know... He let me wash his hair once while you were away with Aniki-chan and I was feeling kinda sad.”


“I’m lucky; I get to wash his hair a lot,” Renkotsu said smugly.


“Yeah... but washing Aniki-chan’s hair is much better, cuz it always leads to fun.” The cross-dresser giggled happily at the memory of the time he had spent with Bankotsu in the bathhouse the night before he had left to go on this mission with Renkotsu.


“I’m sure it does,” the fire-breather said dryly.


“Just like I’m sure you always have fun with Sui after washing his hair.” The cross-dresser giggled again when Renkotsu made a little sound of disgust. “Hey, Ren, ever think about growing your hair back, so Sui can wash it?”


“No, for two reasons.”


“No...? Why not?”


“One, hair is hazardous for the work I do; it could get caught on my machines, or catch on fire.”


“Oh...”


“And two, Sui says he likes me as I am. He says I have a nice shape to my head, like the moon does when it hangs big in the sky.”


Jakotsu laughed. “Sui thinks you have a big head?”


“No!” Renkotsu retorted angrily. “Sui just likes the shape; I think he was trying to be romantic when he said that,” he said sheepishly. “I know when he thinks I’m asleep; he likes to stroke the back of my head.”


Jakotsu giggled. “Yeah...? I bet it’s soft and fuzzy like a peach.”


“It’s more like a melon,” Renkotsu mumbled.


“A melon?” The cross-dresser laughed. He laughed again when Renkotsu attempted to shrug while carrying him and his cannon, until the fire-breather pretended he was going to drop him. Sobering up, Jakotsu asked, “Can I see if it’s peach or a melon?”


“Touch my head and I will drop you on your arse,” the fire breather warned.


Quickly replacing the hand upon Ren’s shoulder that had been inches away from its goal, Jakotsu asked, “Well then later on can I find out? You know it’s going to make me crazy until I do.”


“Well, seeing as you’re hurt, I guess I can let you,” Renkotsu said, humoring the cross-dresser, although he had no intention of letting him touch his head.


The fire-breather had taken a couple more steps, when his foot stepped on something soft and squishy, and he nearly slipped. Looking down, he realized they were closer to the stream than he thought. “Time to get down,” he said as he carefully knelt so Jakotsu could get off.


“Hey!” Jakotsu yelped when the fire-breather jostled him. “That hurt, Ren!”


“Sorry, my arms are getting fatigued,” Renkotsu admitted sheepishly.


“That’s okay. I appreciate you carrying me as far as you did. It’s just that I never realized how bad it hurt until I stayed off it for a bit.” He gingerly balanced on one leg, while holding onto Renkotsu, and reaching down, Jakotsu picked up the right side of his kimono. Righting himself, he neatly tucked it behind himself in his obi. “I guess it’s time for my bath, no?” he said, slipping his sword’s sheath over his head. Dropping it next to Renkotsu’s gear, he limped towards the stream.


Renkotsu, following closely behind the cross-dresser, helped him into the water. “You sit down; I’ll take care of it.”


“Okay.” The cross-dresser grimaced as he lowered himself into the water. “Brrr, it’s cold, but at least my leg’s not hurting any more.”


Idiot! Renkotsu made a small sound of annoyance. “No, no, no, sit on the bank before you catch cold.”


Dumb ass! Why didn’t you say so before I got all wet? Jakotsu smiled while he stated the obvious, “I’m already wet, Ren.”


The fire-breather heaved a long suffering sigh. “Well get out of the water before you get even wetter,” he said. Renkotsu hunted around his gear for some cloth to clean and bind Jakotsu’s wound with.


“Okay.” The cross-dresser shrugged, and giggling, he slid up onto the bank on his butt. “Better?” Jakotsu asked, quirking an eyebrow at Renkotsu.


“Yes.” Renkotsu silently debated the merits of removing his tabi socks and sandals while he rubbed his temples with one hand. Mentally shrugging, he entered the stream; footwear intact. “You’re right; it is cold,” Renkotsu said as he bent and wet the cloth. Patting his knee, he said, “Give me your leg.”


Jakotsu complied, hissing softly from the pain while Renkotsu cleaned his wound. “You think that’ll help, Ren?”


“It’ll clean the wound and prevent further infection.”


When he was satisfied it was clean, the fire-breather set to work, silently wrapping a long strip of cotton around the cross-dresser’s leg.


Jakotsu nodded. He watched the fire-breather intently, wincing whenever Renkotsu changed his grip on his leg.


“Too bad Sui’s not here... I bet he’s got something to take the infection and pain away...” Jakotsu hissed, “Oww! Careful, Ren.”


“Sorry.”


Jakotsu shrugged and changed the subject, “How long until we’re home?”


“It’s a few ri yet.”


“Oh. So can we stay here for a while and rest a bit?”


“Yeah. You should sit and rest and my arms could certainly use one too.”


“Good... Ummm, Ren...?”


Renkotsu resisted the urge to groan. “What?”


“Ummm... Can I please use your lap as a pillow?” Jakotsu looked up at him, looking as miserable as he sounded.


For several long tense minutes, Renkotsu refused to look the younger man in the eye. He knew if he did he would give-in in an instant, for he had seen that look hundreds of times directed at their leader and it never failed to get him to do whatever the cross-dresser wanted.


Jakotsu, sensing the fire-breather was steeling his resolve against acquiescing, tried looking even more pathetic. “Please, Ren? My head’s a lil sore...”


Renkotsu had closed his eyes and when he had opened them, the cross-dresser managed to make eye-contact. Trying not to sound as uncomfortable with the idea as he felt, and was certain he looked, Renkotsu said, “I thought it was your leg that was hurting.”


“It is...” Jakotsu replied. “But I’m tired and I want to take a nap but the ground’s too hard for my head.”


The fire-breather gave Jakotsu a look that said “you’ve got to be kidding, right?” When the cross-dresser pouted, he sighed and finally joined him on the bank. Sitting down next to Jakotsu, Renkotsu gave him a warning look as he patted his lap. It was all the invitation the cross-dresser needed to make himself comfortable as he curled up on his side, his head nicely pillowed on the fire-breather’s lap.


“Thanks, Ren...”


Renkotsu nodded, and looking down at Jakotsu, asked, “Comfortable?”


“Yeah...” Jakotsu sighed, stifling the urge to wrap his arms around Renkotsu’s thigh. Bankotsu, while acting as a lap-pillow, had dumped him one too many times off his lap as a joke and he did not trust the fire-breather not to do it too.


Renkotsu snorted softly in amusement when he saw the subtle movement of the cross-dresser’s arm, guessing correctly about what he had decided against doing. He brushed his fingers against Jakotsu’s forehead, checking for signs fever. The cross-dresser could be a royal pain the posterior when sick and the last thing Renkotsu wanted to deal with was that, along with the whining about his infected wound. Shifting as best he could without alerting Jakotsu to his intentions, since the cross-dresser seemed to have fallen asleep; Renkotsu dipped his hand in the stream. He let the water run over his hand, cooling it down. After a few minutes, he removed it and placed it gently on Jakotsu’s forehead.


“Why you doing that, Ren...?” Jakotsu said sleepily.


“You felt warm and I thought I should try to prevent a fever.”


“Oh... Can you pet my head, Ren? Sui does that when I’m sick...”


“Uh...”


“Please?” the cross-dresser whined.


Renkotsu sighed. He really did not want to do it, but since the alternative was an afternoon spent listening to Jakotsu complaining before he fell asleep again, he gently began to pet Jakotsu’s head.


“Thanks...” The cross-dresser sighed contentedly and closed his eyes.


“Feeling better?” Renkotsu asked, but all he got in reply was Jakotsu’s soft snores as he drifted off to sleep.


888


“Jak, you should wake up,” Renkotsu said, gently shaking the cross-dresser awake.


“Hunh?” Jakotsu jumped when Renkotsu shook him again, his eyes flying open, as he looked around bleary-eyed. “Aniki-chan...?”


“No, it’s Ren.”


Wincing as he sat up, Jakotsu yawned and rubbed his face. “Ren...? Oh yeah...” the cross-dresser tittered embarrassedly. “I was dreaming we were home. It was such a nice dream too.” He sighed. “Thanks for your lap.”


“You’re welcome, but we have to keep moving now.”


“Okay.” Jakotsu grabbed his sword and struggled to get up, cursing under his breath when he put weight on his injured leg. “Let’s go...” he said as if nothing was wrong. Slipping his sword’s sheath over his head, he limped back towards the road.


Renkotsu bent and retrieved his backpack and shrugged into it, before hoisting his cannon onto his shoulder. Kneeling as he picked up his flask, he looked up in time to see that Jakotsu had only managed to hobble a couple of paces ahead of him. Sighing softly, he said to himself, “Hmmm... this isn’t going to work.”


Jakotsu, who had heard him, called out over his shoulder, “What isn’t going to work?”


“You walking like that the whole way home. It’ll tear that wound open again and then it’ll get even more infected.”


Jakotsu sighed. “So leave me here and go home by yourself.”


“No, you wait here. I’m going to find you some better transportation,” Renkotsu said, thoroughly catching the cross-dresser by surprise. He held his flask out to Jakotsu.


“Okay...” Jakotsu took the proffered flask.


Renkotsu set his canon down and removed his backpack, before shouldering it again. “Watch the rest of my stuff, will you?” He took his flask back. “I’ll be back.”


The cross-dresser gingerly sat down and made himself comfortable. “Okay... and hurry back, Ren.”


888


After what had felt like an eternity, Renkotsu returned, leading a horse for Jakotsu to ride.


The cross-dresser smiled up at him. “Where’d you get the horse, Ren? Or shouldn’t I ask?”


“Oh, some rich fellow was kind enough to give him to us under threat of death,” Renkotsu said matter-of-factly.


Jakotsu laughed. “I hope you thanked him properly for me.”


“But of course.” Renkotsu grinned. “It’s too bad you weren’t there as I think you would have liked him.”


“Oooh!!” Jakotsu giggled and held out his hands.


Setting his canon and flask down, Renkotsu carefully hauled the younger man to his feet.


Minutes later, Jakotsu sat astride the horse amid much cursing, and complaining about the pain in his leg.


“Now, what’s the matter?” Renkotsu asked wearily.


“My leg feels worse than before...”


“Oh.”


“But thanks, Ren, I owe you one.”


“Well I had to do something; if I came home without you, Oo-Aniki would have my head on the end of Banryuu.” The fire-breather took hold of the bridle and urged the horse forward.


“No he wouldn’t! Cuz Sui wouldn’t let him!” Jakotsu asserted. He grimaced when felt another twinge in his leg while the horse walked. “You think Sui can fix my leg?” he asked worriedly.


“I was joking, Jak. Don’t worry; I’ve had much worse injuries than yours just from my metalworking and all of my limbs are intact.”


“Okay... And I know you’ve burned yourself more times than I know how to count up to, but did you ever get anything infected?”


Renkotsu nodded. “A couple of times.”


“Yeah? What did Sui do for it?”


“Let’s see... The last time I got an infection, he put some herbs on it, bandaged it, kissed it and made me drink some nasty medicine.”


The cross-dresser made a face and some gagging noises. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”


The fire-breather chuckled. “Maybe if you ask him nicely, he’ll kiss yours too.”


Jakotsu’s eyes went wide. “Yeah...” He smiled. “That’s a great idea, Ren! I will!” the cross-dresser said happily, before frowning. “You won’t mind if I do?”


“I wouldn’t have said it, Jak, if I did.”


The cross-dresser’s sunny smile returned. “Hmmm... maybe I should get wounded more often. You took such great care of me before and now with the horse, and telling me I can ask Sui to kiss me all better. And I know Aniki-chan’ll fuss over me too...” Jakotsu sighed happily.


Renkotsu look up over his shoulder at Jakotsu and scowled. “Don’t you dare! I might not be so generous next time.”


“Okay...” Jakotsu smiled, and wagging his finger at Renkotsu, he said, “But don’t worry; if you ever get wounded, I’m going to take extra special care of you and I’m going to see to it Aniki-chan does too!”


“Thanks, though I might be worried that you’re going to take advantage of my weakened condition.”


Jakotsu smiled impishly at him. “Only if you want me to...” He giggled.


The fire-breather heaved a long suffering sigh. “If I ever do, I’ll let you know.”


“Ooh! Is that a promise?”


“No, because Sui would kill us both.”


“Hmph! What if we told Sui that was the only way you’d get better?”


“Then he would probably want to do the honors himself.”


“Oh... Well, if that works and makes you happy...”


“Don’t be disappointed, Oo-Aniki is a much better lover to have than me.”


Jakotsu was surprised to hear him say that. “And just how would you know that?” he said coolly.


Renkotsu snorted in annoyance. “By how happy you look when you come back from your fun with him.”


“Oh yeah...” The cross-dresser sighed happily, while thinking it over. “I wish I was feeling better, as I’d like some fun in the futon with Aniki-chan, but this stupid fucking leg hurts like hell!” he said peevishly, pouting like a small child.


“I think once Sui has a look at it and bandages it properly so it’s protected, you will be allowed some nookie.”


“I hope so! Ren, are we almost there?”


“Yes. It’s just another couple ri.”


“Oh... I guess I can always think about being home, no?”


“Good idea. I’m thinking about Sui in his garden right now.”


“So you decided to take that stick out of your ass, hunh?” Jakotsu giggled.


“Excuse me?” Renkotsu glared up over his shoulder at him.


“Never mind…” The cross-dresser sighed. You know if you did take it out, you’d be a lot happier, Ren, and so would Sui… Smiling sweetly, and changing the subject back to the previous topic, he asked, “So is Sui in the garden weeding the hydrangeas?”


“Yup.” Renkotsu grinned as he thought about his lover. “Now he’s pruning them.”


“I bet he’s all sweaty, so he’s gonna go stick his head under the aqueduct’s waterfall...” The cross-dresser leaned forward and smiled when he caught a glimpse of the dreamy expression on Renkotsu’s face and it gave him an idea.


“Yeah...”


Jakotsu continued softly, “And now he’s all wet and the water’s running down his body as he sits up and sighs...”


“You’re good at story telling.”


“Thank you.”


After a moment, Renkotsu said, “Well, go on.”


“Okay...” Jakotsu smiled. “Sui slowly takes off his vest and kimono and carefully lays them to the side, before sticking his head back under the water. Thinking about you, he runs his fingers through his hair, imagining it’s you gently touching his scalp... He smiles and comes out from under the water, letting the droplets drip down his body...”


Renkotsu closed his eyes and smiled. “Hmmm, nice...”


Jakotsu nodded and continued his story, “Sui closed his eyes and said softly, ‘Ren...’ as he runs his hands down his body, imagining them to be yours...”


“All right, stop it! It’s getting hard to walk.”


“It is...?” the cross-dresser said innocently. “And I was just getting to the good part too...” He sighed.


“Any more and I would have to sit down and finish the job.”


Jakotsu blinked and mouthed, “sit and finish the job...?” when it him. Giggling, he said, “Sorry...”


“It’s not your fault I’m starting to miss Sui.”


Jakotsu sighed. “Yeah... I miss Aniki-chan too. Would you like me to tell you a story about him?”


“Yeah, I need something to get my mind off of Sui and listening to some disgusting drivel about Ban should do it.”


“Hunh...? You don’t find Aniki-chan appealing? Not even a lil bit...?”


“No, because he’s not my lover.”


“Neither is Sui mine; but I find him just as attractive as Aniki-chan... Just like I find you attractive too, Ren,” Jakotsu said flirtatiously.


“Well, you’re an exception to the rule, Jak. Besides, I’m sure Oo-Aniki doesn’t find me very attractive.”


“No...?” The cross-dresser frowned. “I shall have to ask him about it when we get back.”


“You’re going to ask him if he finds me attractive...?” Renkotsu said incredulously. He looked up and over his shoulder at the cross-dresser like he had three heads.


“Why not?”


“Because he may misinterpret it.”


Jakotsu blinked. “How so?”


“He might think you’re jealous about me and him again and that makes him cranky,” the fire-breather patiently explained.


“Oh yeah...” Jakotsu giggled. “But it also makes him want to nookie with me a lot!”


“Well in that case, if it’s an aphrodisiac for you then by all means go ahead and ask him,” Renkotsu said dryly.


“Thanks! I hope Sui really did prune his hydrangeas cuz as soon as my leg’s all better, I want to spend an afternoon there enjoying their beauty and Aniki-chan’s...”


“Find your own hydrangeas to nookie in and stay away from Sui’s.”


Jakotsu giggled. “Don’t worry, Ren! You’ll have your chance to play in there as I think it’s going to be awhile before I can walk without hurting, never mind nookying.” He sighed sadly.


Ignoring the cross-dresser’s attempt to get some pity from him, Renkotsu said, “Stay away from Sui’s hydrangeas, he gets cranky when you and Ban do things in there.”


“Yes, but that’s where you come in, Ren. You’re supposed to soothe Sui’s feelings when we play in there. I bet if you’re really sweet about it, Sui’ll drag you over there once we leave.”


Shaking his head at the cross-dresser’s logic, Renkotsu said tiredly, “I repeat, stay... away... from Sui’s... flowers.”


“Okay...” Jakotsu sighed. “Too bad I don’t have my own garden to play in. If I did, do you think you could get Sui to come yell at us there? It always makes things so much more exciting wondering when and if Sui’s going to find us.”


Renkotsu chuckled. “You’re so queer...”


Jakotsu, not sure if Renkotsu had insulted him or not, said peevishly, “What do you mean by that?”


“Unique, one of a kind...”


“Oh!” Jakotsu blinked a few times, before smiling happily. “Thanks, Ren!”


“You’re welcome. And, Jak...?”


“Yeah...?”


“Stay away from Sui’s flowers.”


The cross-dresser rolled his eyes. “Oh-kay...” He smiled.


“Promise?”


Jakotsu looked away, refusing to answer.


The fire-breather stopped walking and halted the horse as well. “Promise?”


Sighing softly, as he really did not want to give up his favorite spot, Jakotsu said, “Promise... But what if Aniki-chan wants to play there?”


Renkotsu also sighed as he looked up at him. “Tell him you made a promise to me not to mess up Sui’s garden and make Sui cranky.”


Jakotsu nodded. “But what if Sui says it’s okay to play there?”


“If you have Sui’s permission, then it’s okay.”


“Oh good...”


888


“Hey, Jak, I think I see our house.”


Jakotsu, who had been dozing off, shook his head to clear it. “Yeah...?” He lifted his hand to his forehead and cried, “It is our house! I’m so happy to be home, Ren! Hey, Aniki-chan!” He waved at the figure moving in front of the house.


“I think that’s Mu.”


Jakotsu looked again. “Ewww... you’re right.” He looked down at Renkotsu and said wryly, “I must be really missing Aniki-chan more than I thought if I’m thinking Mu is him, hunh?”


Renkotsu chuckled. “Must be.”


Jakotsu laughed, and growing more serious he said, “Or else I must be really feverish.” Leaning towards Renkotsu, he asked, “Is my head hot, Ren?”


“Have Sui check.”


“Why can’t you do it?”


“Because we’re in eye-shot of the house.”


“So...? You took such good care of me before, why can’t you keep doing it?” Jakotsu repined.


Renkotsu smirked in reply, “Ban might get jealous.”


“But you’re only touching my forehead... it’s not like you’re kissing me.” The cross-dresser smiled seductively at him. “You don’t want me to kiss you, do you?”


“No. That privilege I’m saving for Sui.”


“So why won’t you feel my forehead?” Jakotsu whined.


Renkotsu groaned softly and rolled his eyes. Letting go of the horse’s bridle, he reached over and felt the cross-dresser’s head as he leaned towards him. “You’re a bit warm.”


“Yeah...? Think we can hurry up?”


The fire-breather nodded in reply, and grabbing the bridle, he urged the horse into a trot.


Jakotsu leaned forward and rested his head on the horse’s neck. He was tired of riding and he wanted nothing more than to be home, where Bankotsu would dote on him and fuss over him along with Suikotsu. “Are we there yet...?”


888


Bankotsu, coming out of the house just as his two subordinates arrived, said, “Hey! Welcome back!”


Jakotsu lifted his head and smiled wanly. “Aniki-chan...”


“Hello, Oo-Aniki. Where’s Sui?”


“I don’t feel so good, Aniki-chan!” the cross-dresser wailed.


Bankotsu reached up and helped his paramour off the horse. “Awe, what’s wrong, Sweetness?”


Jakotsu yelped when he gingerly put weight on his injured leg. “My leg hurts!! And Ren says it’s infected!!”


“What?! Shit!! SUI!!” Bankotsu cried as he scooped the cross-dresser up in his arms.


Jakotsu clung to his lover and called out weakly, “Sui!”


The claw-bearer, who had been working in his garden, looked up and listened. He was about to dismiss the notion that someone was frantically calling for him as nonsense when he heard his name again. He dropped his pruning knife and ran around to the front of the house. “What?! What’s wrong?!”


Bankotsu turned towards him. “Jak’s got an infected wound!” He rushed over to Suikotsu, meeting him halfway.


“Yeah...” the cross-dresser added weakly.


“Take him into the house, while I go wash my hands and get my medical bag.” As Suikotsu headed towards his rooms they could hear him rattling off a list of herbs and other things he would need.


“Will do!” Bankotsu called out to the claw-bearer’s retreating form. “It’ll be okay now, Sweetness,” he whispered to Jakotsu, carrying him towards the house.


The cross-dresser sniffed and held him tight.


888


It took a few moments for Renkotsu to register the fact that he had been left alone, well, from human presence, as the horse was still at his side, nibbling on some grass. Without a kiss, an embrace, a vocal greeting, not even a simple look of acknowledgment, Suikotsu had left with Bankotsu to take care of Jakotsu’s leg.


The fire-breather let out a small growl of hurt, which caused the horse to look at him.


“What are you looking at?” Renkotsu snapped at the animal.


The horse whinnied and nudged him with its nose. Renkotsu laughed hollowly. “At least someone still notices I’m here.”


With a heavy sigh Renkotsu began undoing the girth on the saddle. “Maybe I should start whining like an incorrigible little child.”


As if to respond, the horse lifted up its head, snorted and shook it, before going back to grazing. Renkotsu chuckled. “Yeah, you’re right; then I’d be sinking to his level.” He bent down, and grabbing the bridle, he pulled the horse’s head up to remove it. The saddle soon followed.


“But it’s not fair,” Renkotsu growled, tossing the horse’s saddle and bridle onto the porch. “Jak gets wounded, I take care of him, I let him use me as a pillow, I tolerate all his stupid jokes, I go through all the trouble of stealing you so he doesn’t have to walk and now when we’re finally home, I’m the one who gets shafted, shafted by my own lover without even so much as a look or acknowledgment that I was even there.”


The horse picked his head up and looked at Renkotsu as if to say, “What about me? I’m here with you.”


The fire breather sighed again. “How pathetic am I? The only one willing to listen to me is a horse. No offense.” He patted the horse’s withers.


“Would you like a friend who’s not a horse?”


Renkotsu spun around to see Suikotsu standing on the porch.


“I thought you were looking after Jak,” Renkotsu said bitterly.


“I’m sorry, Ren. I really missed you and wanted to welcome you home properly, but when Oo-Aniki freaked out...” Suikotsu looked at his lover apologetically. “It was a doctor’s instinct. I thought it was something serious, but it turns out the emergency was nothing more than Jak having a bad case of missing Oo-Aniki; you did a good job of treating his infected wound by the way.”


Renkotsu’s bitter expression turned to one of shock, then to anger as he realized he had fallen for Jakotsu’s wily way of taking full advantage of a situation to get people to do what he wanted. “That little son of bitch!”


“Don’t be so hard on him, Ren.” The claw-bearer was a little taken aback by Renkotsu’s sudden outburst. “He’s been spoiled and catered to by Oo-Aniki for so long now that I’m not even sure he’s aware he’s doing it. It’s like deep down inside him, there’s a frightened lil girl waiting to come out, and she does too, at the oddest moments.”


“Stop making excuses for him, Suikotsu,” Renkotsu folded his arms and turned away from his lover.


“I’m not making excuses for him!” Suikotsu protested. “I’m just telling you how it is with him. I’ve known him longer than you have and I’ve seen how Oo-Aniki treats him.”


“Maybe that’s the problem. You’ve known him so long you’ve become blind to all of his seductive ways. You don’t even see him seducing you all the time,” Renkotsu spat.


“What are you talking about?!” Completely stunned and offended that Renkotsu was worried about him sleeping around with Jakotsu, Suikotsu exclaimed, “You know I have never---!”


“I’m not talking about sex!” the fire-breather snapped, turning to face Suikotsu. “That little shit knows exactly what he’s doing and when it comes to getting what he wants out of someone he’s every bit as calculating and intelligent as I am.”


Suikotsu frowned, not liking either Renkotsu’s words or his tone. “What do you mean he’s been seducing me all along in ways other than sex?”


“You always defend him; you always forgive him no matter what he does. He’s completely seduced you on to his side, both you and Oo-Aniki, and now he’s working on me to add one more to his harem of defenders for his spoiled behavior.” Renkotsu turned away again.


Suikotsu’s eyes widened in surprise. “But...” He paused and thought it over, before stepping towards Renkotsu, and putting his hands on the fire-breather’s shoulders. “Maybe I do defend him, but he’s my friend, Ren, as well as being Oo-Aniki’s lover. I know he has faults, but so you, so does Oo-Aniki, and so do I. And maybe being quick to his defense is one of them. But in this instance you have to realize, Ren, he’s starved for attention, real attention and real love, not the illusion of love one finds in a brothel.


“Ren, I’ve been lucky enough to have known that in my life, as a child, as young man, and now as an adult.” Suikotsu slowly turned Renkotsu around to face him, and cupped the fire-breather’s cheek. “But Jakotsu never knew that, Ren. And aside from some horrible times in between your life as an acolyte and later on as an apprentice blacksmith and now as the love of my life, you’ve know it; you can recognize that it’s real. But to him, it’s no more real than a dream...”


For a moment it looked like Renkotsu might soften into Suikotsu’s waiting arms, but his expression hardened again and he moved his head away from Suikotsu’s hand. He backed away a couple of steps, before speaking. “And he’s got all of the attention now. He let’s out one cry and you and Ban go running to him like a pair of obedient dogs.”


Suikotsu stood there for a moment, trying to understand why Renkotsu was acting like this. “Ren, are you mad at me?”


Renkotsu looked down at the ground and let out a breath of air before speaking. “I’m not mad at you... not... really... I’m...just...jealous,” he said softly.


“What? What did you say?”


“I’m jealous okay! I’m jealous of Jak, I’m jealous of how free he is, how you defend him all the time, how he can show his emotions at the drop of a hat. I’m jealous! There, I said it! Are you happy now?!” Renkotsu panted, for he had said all that in one releasing breath.


Suikotsu gently gathered Renkotsu in his arms, and while Renkotsu allowed the embrace, his body remained stiff and tense. “There’s nothing to be jealous of, Ren. It’s you who holds my heart in your hands, not Jak... In fact, if you want, I’ll ask him to give you the tiny little piece he does have, and then I’ll make the others give you their pieces too, okay?” He smiled gently.


Renkotsu’s eyes widened a little. “You’d really do that?”


“You have but to ask and I will.” Suikotsu smiled.


The fire-breather opened his mouth and hesitated, before lowering his head and clenching his fists. “No...No one should be deprived of a piece of your love, Sui....but...”


“But...?” Suikotsu urged his lover on, though he feared what the “but” might mean, for he could feel the tenseness in Renkotsu’s body.


“I don’t think...you could take away that piece that Jak has even if you tried....” Renkotsu said quietly.


Suddenly, despite himself, Suikotsu laughed. “Probably not, but I’m willing to try for your sake, Ren.”


Renkotsu pulled away from his lover. “Don’t laugh! I completely destroy my ego in front of you and speak my feelings, and you laugh?”


“I’m sorry Ren, I’m not laughing at you, I’m just so happy you’ve opened your heart up even further to me...”


Suikotsu tried to pull Renkotsu back in and kiss him, but the fire breather turned his head away and held a hand up to his face to block the kiss.


“I’m tired,” Renkotsu said, carefully slipping out of Suikotsu’s arms, he headed toward the house. “I’m going to take a bath and then go to sleep.”


“Understandable; you had a long trip...” Suikotsu felt a lump rise in his throat as he watched his lover walk away into the house.



888



Renkotsu emerged from the bathhouse and paused. He was still tired from rushing home with Jakotsu, but not as relaxed as he had hoped his bath would have left him. So he stood there, silently debating with himself over going back to his room and the futon that waited for him, or working out his frustrations in his workshop until he was exhausted. The workshop won out in the end as Renkotsu knew deep in heart that there was no way he would be able to sleep without Suikotsu at his side. Besides, the claw-bearer had been summoned back to their leader’s room as Jakotsu apparently needed someone else to fuss over him, and there was no point in going back to an empty room.


Sighing bitterly, he took off in the direction of his workshop. An afternoon spent hammering metal, when he would have liked to have hammered the cross-dresser’s head instead, seemed like the best choice. Besides, Ren figured that even if he did not feel better by the time dinner rolled around, at least he would sleep well that night when he hit the futon in exhaustion.


So with each step he took towards his refuge, he worked himself up into a fine temper until he was literally ready to spit fire by the time he got there. Sliding open the doors with a resounding thwack, Renkotsu entered his workshop. The scent of ash and burnt metals combined with the earthen floor to welcome the fire-breather. With each deep breath that he took, a little bit of his tension fell away, and looking around the room, Renkotsu knew he had made the correct decision in coming here.


The fire-breather stripped out of his kimono and neatly hung it up on a nail. Picking up a faded indigo happari, he slipped the short kimono-like garment on and tied it closed, before grabbing his heavy apron and donning it, followed by a pair of thick leather gloves. Grinning wickedly, he picked up a piece of iron and carried it over to the forge. Setting it down, he quickly started a fire in the furnace. While he waited for it to heat up to the proper temperature, Renkotsu picked up the iron bar and imagined it was the annoying cross-dresser along with all the things he’d like to do to him.


Satisfied that the forge was at the correct temperature, Renkotsu thrust the offending metal bar inside. He waited a few heartbeats, before pulling it out and taking it over to the anvil. Laying it down, he grabbed his hammer and hit the hot metal bar. The clang of the metal hammer striking the iron and the resultant tremor that moved up his arms felt comforting to Renkotsu.


“You... fucking... stupid... little... bastard... you’re... just... lucky... it’s... not... your... head... I’m ... pounding...” the fire-breather said, punctuating each word with a blow from his hammer. Renkotsu alternated striking the iron bar with heating it up in the forge, and he chuckled wryly at himself to see the metal beginning to form itself in the shape of a butterfly. “Damn it!” He struck the iron. “You’re even invading my creative space! Can’t you fucking leave me alone!” he said bitterly as he contemplated sticking the metal into the forge until it melted into something less like a butterfly. Sighing softly, he ran the back of his hand against his sweaty brow and Renkotsu knew he could no more destroy the budding piece of art than he could leave it aside and never finish it. So he glared at it and continued hammering out the shape of the butterfly’s body.



888



Suikotsu sighed as he closed the shoji leading to his leader’s rooms. Jakotsu’s apparent fever was nothing more than Bankotsu’s hands being much warmer than usual, and judging by the smug look on Jakotsu’s face, they had been up to no good beforehand which explained the warm hands. Suikotsu swallowed his annoyance like a bitter tonic and allowed himself one brief little mental image of his more violent side ripping them both to shreds as payment for bothering him with trivialities. But he also understood what it was like to be young and in love, and having the responsibility of looking after that love. He also gave Bankotsu a lot of credit for putting up with Jakotsu’s nonsense, although he was beginning to see that much of that nonsense had its roots in their leader’s treatment of his paramour.


The claw-bearer rubbed a hand over his face. He put Bankotsu and Jakotsu out of his mind, replacing them with warm thoughts of snuggling up with his own lover in the futon. He hurried to the room he shared with Renkotsu without seeming to, all the while thinking up ways to make up for the lousy “welcome home” he gave Renkotsu.


Smiling as he slid the shoji open, the claw-bearer felt his heart clench with disappointment at finding the room empty. He briefly closed his eyes and lowered his head in sadness, before looking up again as he opened his eyes. That was when he noticed Renkotsu’s sketchbook on the low work table they shared. It was left open to his latest sketch, a drawing of the new weapon he had wanted to make when he returned from his mission. His heart feeling a little less heavy, because he now knew where his lover was; Suikotsu turned and exited his room.


As he walked across the compound towards the workshop, Suikotsu could see his suspicions were correct for a thin plume of smoke trailed upwards from its chimney. His excitement at seeing his lover at work was tempered by his guilty feelings over neglecting him, and Suikotsu, hoping to surprise Renkotsu, tried unsuccessfully to slip inside the workshop unnoticed.


The fire-breather, sensing an intruder, looked up in time to see his lover enter. “Oh, hello,” he said tersely, before going back to his metalworking.


“Hi...” Suikotsu said, approaching his lover. Smiling, he added, “I thought you said you were tired.”


Renkotsu paused in his hammering to answer, “I am, but my mind’s too full.”


The claw-bearer nodded. “I see... So you’ve decided to come here and hammer things out physically?”


Renkotsu sighed. “Art helps me concentrate.”


“I know. You always make the most beautiful things when your mind is troubled,” Suikotsu said softly.


“Yes, strange isn’t it?” the fire-breather said wryly.


“No, not strange... just very Ren-like.”


Renkotsu looked at him in surprise. “It is?”


“Yes,” Suikotsu said, a tiny smile tugging at his lips. “It’s one of the things I love about you. How you can calm your mind by working the cold harsh metal and turning it into a thing of beauty.”


The fire-breather looked down at the iron bar, before turning and putting it back into the forge. “It doesn’t seem to be working today.”


“No...?” Suikotsu said as he carefully came over to Renkotsu.


The fire-breather pulled the metal out and turned to face him, causing the claw-bearer to back up out of the way. Setting the half-formed butterfly on the anvil, he pounded his hammer on it. “No, something’s still nagging at me...”


“What?” Suikotsu moved to stand in front of him. “Is it anything I can help you with?”


Renkotsu brought his hammer down on the metal and looked up. “Sui? Do I really always act like I have a stick up my ass?” he said, before going back to his metal work.


The claw-bearer blinked in surprise, completely taken aback by that statement. “What? Who said that, Ren?” he asked, a hint of annoyance clearly heard in his voice. “Jak?”


Renkotsu ignored him while he heated the half-formed butterfly in the forge, as well as adding a couple of thinner pieces of iron to it. Turning around, he once again placed it on the anvil and hit it with his hammer. “Well, it is the one thing that everybody teases me about. I admit I do sometimes, but not all the time...” he said plaintively.


Suikotsu reached out and wiped the sweat from his lover’s brow. “And this bothers you, hunh?”


Renkotsu sighed. “I don’t know... I guess I’m still jealous that Jak gets away with everything all the time.” He sighed heavily. “He’s always so perky and careless and flighty, and whenever I try to make him take things seriously, he, Ban, and sometimes you and the others all make fun of me for it. He always gets off as the victim and I’m always made out to be the monster.”


The fire-breather turned and pulled a smaller iron bar from the forge. He hammered it out in silence, quickly forming it into one of the butterfly’s wings. However, he was still feeling frustrated about the whole situation as he felt his lover was not seeing things his way and his hand slipped, bending the metal in the wrong direction. “Damn it!” he swore.


Suikotsu, appalled at his own behavior, frowned. “I’m sorry, Ren. I wasn’t aware I was doing that. It’s not right for me to make fun of you...” He looked away, embarrassed. “Although,” he continued softly, “there are times when I wish you were a little less serious about things, but only because you don’t seem happy. However, that aside, I will speak to Jak about it and you can be sure it will stop.”


While he knew that was true, it still rankled Renkotsu that all Suikotsu had to do was hint his disapproval about something to Jakotsu and the cross-dresser would happily comply even though he outranked the claw-bearer, while if Renkotsu tried the same thing, he all but ignored him. Plus he knew Jakotsu would get Bankotsu to stop too. And yet, as much as he wanted to hold on to his anger towards his lover, Renkotsu found his resolve beginning to fade.


“Thanks...” he murmured as he fixed the bent piece of metal.


“You’re welcome, although, I wish you would have come to me sooner about this.” The claw-bearer sighed. “How many other little secrets are you keeping from me, Ren?” Suikotsu said teasingly.


The fire-breather smiled wryly. “Oh, I didn’t want to seem like I was complaining, and you always seemed so defensive of Jak before.”


Suikotsu nodded at Renkotsu’s subtle rebuke. “I guess I was, but if he’s upsetting my Ren in any way I want to know so I can speak to him about it. This is one thing, Ren; our naughty little child isn’t going to get away with. I’m not going to tolerate shit like that.”


Renkotsu smiled; the last remnants of his anger dissipating like dew on a summer’s morning. Setting his hammer down next the half finished butterfly, Ren took off his gloves and turned to his lover, catching him off guard when he kissed him.


Suikotsu quickly melted into his beloved little dragon’s embrace, deepening the kiss as he held him tightly.


They remained together, kissing, for several heartbeats as Renkotsu gently maneuvered his lover away from the forge. The fire-breather felt his lover’s desire when he pressed against him, and lamented the fact that his workshop was not the best place for a lovers’ tryst.


As if reading his mind, Suikotsu said huskily, “Perhaps you could lean against your work table?”


Renkotsu looked over Suikotsu’s shoulder at it. “I think it’ll work...” Slipping out of Suikotsu’s embrace, the fire-breather hurried over to the shoji and closed it. “To keep the ‘pests’ out,” he explained when his lover looked at him questioningly. After doing the same to the workshop’s windows, and hanging up his apron, Renkotsu, grinning, turned to the claw-bearer and said, “Now where were we?”


Suikotsu let out a little snort of amusement. Smiling, he said, “Come’re and I’ll show you.”


Renkotsu shook his head playfully. “No, you come here.”


The claw-bearer quirked an eyebrow at him and shrugged. “Fine, have it your way...” he said, sauntering over to his lover.


Leaning towards him, Suikotsu kissed Renkotsu. Letting his hands wander, he fumbled with the ties on Renkotsu’s happari and deepened the kiss. Minutes later he had them undone. Snaking his hands under the short kimono-like top, Suikotsu ran his hands over Renkotsu’s smooth, hard body.


The fire-breather, enjoying his lover’s light touch, moaned softly as he gently took Suikotsu’s face in his hands. His breath quickening in time with Suikotsu’s touch, Renkotsu gently rubbed his thumbs across his lover’s lips. Pulling his face closer, he kissed Suikotsu’s nose. The claw-bearer growled softly in return. Tilting his face up as the fire-breather pulled his head back, he playfully bit Renkotsu’s chin.


“Hey!”


“What...?” Suikotsu murmured as he nuzzled his lover’s neck.


“Nothing...”


Ignoring the budding conversation, Suikotsu trailed a line of butterfly kisses down Renkotsu’s neck, pausing in the hollow of his throat. Chuckling softly, he slowly pushed the soft cotton happari off the fire-breather’s shoulder. Renkotsu’s skin tasted salty from his earlier exertion as Suikotsu found out when he licked his lover’s collar bone. While he kissed and licked the fire-breather, Suikotsu slowly led him over to his worktable. It was waist high and just the perfect thing to bend Renkotsu over while Suikotsu had his way with him. When they had reached the table, Suikotsu picked Renkotsu up and sat him on the edge of it, nestling his face in his beloved’s chest while the fire-breather cradled his head. Suikotsu imagined he could hear the beating of his lover’s heart and he snaked his arms around his waist, enjoying the feelings of closeness. Feeling bolder, the claw-bearer flicked his tongue over the fire-breather’s nipple. When Renkotsu let out a soft moan, he flicked it again, the nipple hardening under his touch. Chuckling softly, Suikotsu tried the same thing on the other one with much the same results.


Renkotsu closed his eyes and leaned back, and taking the hint, Suikotsu gently eased him onto his back. Growling softly, the claw-bearer pushed his way between his lover’s legs. He leaned forward and blanketed Renkotsu, nuzzling his neck. The fire-breather’s cries of pleasure became louder even though they retained an air of breathiness and it was all the encouragement Suikotsu needed. Moving slightly up and off his lover, Suikotsu trailed a line of kisses down Renkotsu’s torso, inching his way closer and closer to his hakama. When the fire-breather’s hand strayed to his hakama ties, Suikotsu batted them away, preferring to untie them himself. Tugging none too gently on the ties, Suikotsu quickly loosened them. The claw-bearer slowly pulled Renkotsu’s hakama open, sighing softly at the sight of lover’s erection. The older man lightly ran the back of his forefinger down its length, chuckling softly, when his lover’s penis twitched. The claw-bearer stroked it again, before wrapping his hand around it, causing Renkotsu’s breath to momentarily catch in his throat, before letting it out in a strangled cry.


It was all Suikotsu needed to spur him on. Grabbing the sides of Renkotsu’s hakama, he slowly slid the soft cottony folds down the length of his legs. Reaching his lover’s feet, Suikotsu grabbed Renkotsu’s ankle and lifting his foot, he pulled the hakama off, before repeating the same moves on the other foot. As much as he wanted to remain where he was and massage the fire-breather’s feet, the desire to couple with him was stronger. Lifting Renkotsu’s legs, Suikotsu balanced them on his shoulders and moved closer to his lover’s bottom.


Renkotsu tensed as he felt his lover brush up against his buttocks and the sensitive area just above it, moaning softly. He closed his eyes and tried to relax, but he knew what was coming and the soft rustle of Suikotsu’s clothes and his whispered “I’m sorry,” did not help. Damp fingers gently probed the tender area around his anus as Suikotsu tried to lubricate him. Seconds later, he felt a sharp pain as his lover entered him, causing him to cry out.


“I’m sorry, my little dragon, I promise I’ll be quick...” Suikotsu whispered, thrusting none too gently into his lover.


Renkotsu grimaced in reply. Despite his lover’s attempts at being not only quick but gentle, the fire-breather wished he had hidden away a vial of their favorite love oil as he was finding it too painful to be enjoyable. But as Suikotsu gave into his lust and developed his rhythm, Renkotsu found it was not as bad as he feared and that he was able to relax a little bit and enjoy himself. The claw-bearer hated hurting his lover and because he mistook Renkotsu’s cries of pleasure for pain, it only strengthened his resolve to do something out of the ordinary for him as he reached his climax. After pulling out of him, Suikotsu leaned forward, and gathering Renkotsu in his arms, he whispered, “I’m so sorry, my little dragon... I had hoped it wouldn’t be so bad, since we had no trouble before you left...”


Taking a deep breath and letting it out, Renkotsu said softly as he wrapped his arms around his lover, “Don’t worry, Sui, I’m fine...” He kissed the claw-bearer. “It’s a good pain...” he said, unconsciously echoing Jakotsu’s views on the matter.


“You’re sure I didn’t hurt you...?”


“Yes.”


They lay there, awkwardly sprawled together on the table, before Suikotsu reluctantly got up off his lover and Renkotsu sat up. The claw-bearer stood in front of his lover, resting his hands on the fire-breather’s thighs. “Ren, I’d like to take care of that for you, but not in the usual way.”


“What do you mean?”


“I’d like to ummm... pleasure you orally, if you don’t mind.” The claw-bearer looked so earnest and so eager to do it that Renkotsu was torn between letting him and stopping him from doing something that he knew Suikotsu found repulsive.


“No.”


“No?”


Renkotsu nodded. “Yes, ‘no.’ Sui, while I appreciate the thought behind it, I can’t let you do this. It’s enough that you offered.”


“You’re sure?”


“Yes.” Renkotsu frowned. “You’d seriously do something you find horrible, disgusting, unsanitary and uncomfortable, for me?”


“You’d better believe I would.”


Renkotsu brightened. Cupping his face in hands, he chirped in perfect imitation of Jakotsu, “Awe, you really do love me...”


Suikotsu likewise grinned back at him the way Bankotsu would at the cross-dresser when he thought Jakotsu was being silly. “Who said I didn’t?”


They laughed, before growing serious again.


“No... I can’t let you do something that goes against your feelings of comfort or morals, even if you are willing to,” Renkotsu said softly, tenderly cupping his lover’s cheek.


“You’re sure it’s okay...? I felt terrible about the poor homecoming I gave you, so I thought that if I did that for you, especially after taking my pleasure from you, it would go a little way towards making things up to you.”


Renkotsu frowned. “I don’t want you to do it because you feel you have to make up for something. Besides, I enjoy having you inside me; I mean I’m second-in-command so I have to play leader all the time and set the good example, so it’s kind of nice to let you take charge of at least one piece of my life from time to time.” He smiled shyly.


Suikotsu smiled. “That’s very sweet of you, Ren, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still feel terrible about forgetting you in all the drama.” The claw-bearer gently cupped his lover’s cheeks in his hands, pulling his face close, and kissing his nose. Suikotsu dropped his hands to Renkotsu’s shoulders as he rested his forehead against his lover’s. “You don’t mind me there? And playing submissive to me?” Suikotsu, who was deeply touched by the idea, said softly, before planting another little kiss on Renkotsu’s nose.


“If I did mind, then I wouldn’t let you,” he reassured his lover.


The claw-bearer kissed him. “I love you so much...” he whispered, his voice breaking as he said it.


Renkotsu patted his lover’s head and said wryly, “Oh, stop blubbering, I have an ulterior motive; the truth is I’m terrified you’ll bite my manhood off by accident.”


Suikotsu laughed as they both knew the claw-bearer would be extremely careful and would never let it happen, and Renkotsu laughed along with him.


“Forgiven...?”


Renkotsu kissed his lover on the forehead. “Forgiven.”



888



Renkotsu stepped out of his room, his sketchbook tucked neatly under his arm as he closed the shoji behind him. The large lacy pine was casting beautiful shadows on the ground; just begging to be sketched. Renkotsu smiled as he contemplated an afternoon spent sketching in blissful silence with only the occasional bird call breaking it, when he spotted the cross-dresser lazing on the veranda.


“What are you doing here?” he asked Jakotsu, doing his best to keep his annoyance from seeping into to his tone.


“Nothing...”


The fire-breather quirked an eyebrow at him and said, “Nothing, hunh?”


“Yeah... I’m just waiting for Sui to come back so he can look at my leg. He told me he wanted to see it in a few days.” Jakotsu rolled over and sat up. “It’s a few days later.”


“So it is.”


“Yeah... You still mad at Sui?”


“No,” Renkotsu said smugly.


Jakotsu eyed fire-breather intently. “Wait a minute...” He smiled and wagged his finger at Renkotsu. “You’ve had make up nookie! That’s great, Ren!”


“Why, thank you.” The fire-breather came over and sat down next to the cross-dresser.


“You’re welcome.” Jakotsu leaned towards him and purred, “Care to share the gory details?”


Renkotsu chuckled and took the cross-dresser by surprise when he said, “It was in my workshop...”


The cross-dresser’s eyes went wide like two saucers. “Your workshop?!”


“Yup!” Renkotsu said smugly. “My workshop’s worktable to be exact.”


“You’re joking, right?” Jakotsu said as he narrowed his eyes at the fire-breather.


“I kid you not, Jak.”


“You’re telling me you got to nookie with Sui on a worktable?!” Jakotsu said incredulously. He blinked and his mouth hung open before he found his voice. “No fair!!”


Renkotsu grinned, and he was looking extremely pleased with himself for finally doing something that Jakotsu would have wanted to do but never did. “It is too fair, Jak. It’s my workshop, my table, and more importantly, my Sui.


Jakotsu looked at him with tears in his eyes. “I wish I had a Sui of my own!”


The fire-breather sighed, and flicked the whining cross-dresser on the forehead with his fingers. “Idiot! You do too have your own Sui, although I believe you call him your lil dumpling.”


Immediately perking up, Jakotsu laughed. “Oh yeah! Aniki-chan!!” He scooted off the veranda. “Later, Ren!”


Renkotsu shook his head as he watched the cross-dresser hurry off to find his lover.



888



“Jak! What’s wrong?!” Suikotsu called out as the cross-dresser came running towards him.


“Nothing!”


“I see your leg is better.”


“Yeah...” Jakotsu said. He slowed down and trotted over to the claw-bearer. Leaning forward, and resting his hands on his knees, Jakotsu panted as he caught his breath.


“You see? I told you it was nothing to worry about and you probably won’t even have a scar to remember it by.”


Jakotsu, straightening up, laughed. “Well, it did hurt...”


Suikotsu shook his head at him. “I’m sure it did, but I’ve seen you take worse on the battlefield without even a whimper.”


“Yeah...” Jakotsu giggled, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.


The claw-bearer chuckled. “So what’s the big hurry about? I was hoping that now that you’re all better, you could help me in my garden.”


“I’m sorry, Sui, but I was looking for Aniki-chan. Why don’t you ask Ren to help? He’s sitting outside your room.”


“Thanks, I will. And, Jak...” Suikotsu looked at him sternly.


“Yeah?”


“Two things: one, stop running before you trip and twist an ankle or break something.” The claw-bearer softened his expression. “And two, Oo-Aniki is in the main house with Mu.”


“Thanks, Chichi-ue!” Jakotsu cried, impulsively throwing his arms around the claw-bearer, before pulling away, and sprinting off towards the main house.


“Jakotsu! Stop running!” Suikotsu called out to his retreating form but the cross-dresser was clearly ignoring him. Sighing softly, the claw-bearer rubbed his temples. Why do I have the feeling something bad is going to happen today...?



888



“Aniki-chan!” Jakotsu cried breathlessly as he burst into the main house. “Aniki-chan!”


“What?” Bankotsu looked up from where he sat at a low table, discussing a possible mission with the diminutive poisoner.


“Everything alright, Jak?” Mukotsu asked.


“Yeah...”


“Well...?” Bankotsu calmly prompted.


“I have an idea for another place where we can nookie!”


Bankotsu’s eyes lit up. “Where?”


Before Jakotsu could tell him, Mukotsu cried, “NO!! Don’t tell him! I don’t want to know! Please, I beg of you; wait until I’m out of ear-shot, preferably when I’m as far away as in town! So if you’ll excuse me, Oo-Aniki, we can finish discussing this later as I see you have more important matters at hand.” Ignoring the strange looks that were coming his way, Mukotsu stood and scurried out the room. He muttered under his breath as he left, “It’s not fair!! Why does he have more luck sleeping with men than I do with women?”


Jakotsu blinked. “Ummm...?”


Bankotsu leaned forward across the table, his chin resting comfortably in his hand, and prompted, “You were about to tell me where we can go nookie.”


“Oh yeah!” Jakotsu laughed.


“Well...?”


“The worktable in Ren’s workshop!”


“Yeah...?” The young leader of the Shichinintai grinned from ear to ear at his paramour. “Where’s Ren?”


Jakotsu put a finger to his lips and thought it over. “I think he’s outside with Sui in his garden...”


“Let’s go!” Bankotsu got up and hurried over to the cross-dresser.


“Really?!”


“Yeah.” Bankotsu took his paramour by the hand and led him outside much to Jakotsu’s delight.


“You know Sui and Ren nookied there, that’s what made me think of it!”


“No shit! When’d they get up to that?”


“Ummm... I think it was the day I hurt my leg,” Jakotsu giggled as they made their way towards the workshop.


“Yeah...? No wonder Sui was so cranky! I wonder if we interrupted anything...”


“Well, he should have just told us, I would have understood that!”


“Yeah, but you know how Sui is about stuff like nookying. He and Ren do it but they never talk about it. Besides, everyone knows how mad Ren gets when you try and talk to him about nookying, so maybe that’s why Sui kept quiet about it.”


“Could be...” Jakotsu mused. He was about to say something else when Bankotsu opened the workshop’s shoji and peered inside.


“Great! No one’s home!” Bankotsu said. He stepped inside.


“Yes!” Jakotsu cried as he breezed in. “This is going to be so much fun, Aniki-chan!” He giggled.


“I know!” Bankotsu grinned, sharing his paramour’s enthusiasm. When Jakotsu started untying his obi, Bankotsu quickly added, “Wait until I close the door, Sweetness! That way no one’ll know we’re in here.”


“Okay!”



888



Renkotsu looked over at Suikotsu. “How do I prune them?”


They were in Suikotsu’s garden, doing a bit of summer clean up amongst the plants and herbs when they made their way over to the hydrangeas. This was Suikotsu’s favorite part of the garden and he spent just as much time over there as Jakotsu did, although for different reasons. Whereas Jakotsu’s love for the heady blooms was the same as the claw-bearer’s late wife’s, namely he loved the way they looked and attracted butterflies, Suikotsu loved them because they brought back sweet memories of her. So he always made sure this part of the garden was well kept which had the effect of making it the ideal place for a lovers’ tryst in Jakotsu’s humble opinion.


“Like this...” Suikotsu grabbed a faded flower head and neatly cut it away. “Just be careful not to cut the stems too long, Ren. They need dead wood to grow properly and bloom again. If you want, you can also cut a few of the nicer blooms for inside. Just put them in the other basket.”


“Okay...” Renkotsu said as he carefully cut away the faded flower head. “So why do you prune these things?”


“Well, for one thing when I cut away the dead flowers it encourages the plant to make more and secondly it makes the plants healthier.”


“How does pruning help that?”


“When you cut away a dead flower, the plant needs to make more flowers so that it can make seeds for next year’s plants. Plus it makes them look prettier without having the dead blooms everywhere.” Suikotsu knelt and laid a few fresh blossoms in the basket. Straightening up, and resuming his pruning, he said, “And when the plants are encouraged to grow they just seem healthier and denser to me. I can’t really explain it, but I know they look better.”


“Hmmm... interesting...” Renkotsu said as he waved away a bee, before cutting the bloom to take inside. “I guess it’s like choosing the best metal from the scrap...”


Suikotsu smiled as he continued his pruning. “Possibly...”


“That was a fun time on the table the other night.”


Suikotsu chuckled. “Yes it was. We should try it again sometime.”


“Yes,” Renkotsu turned his head, and grinning wickedly at the claw-bearer, he said, “Only next time it’s your turn to be on the table.”


“Fair enough...”


888


By the time Bankotsu had closed the shoji and turned around, Jakotsu was standing there, naked.


“Sweetness! I thought I told you to wait.”


“I know, my lil dumpling, but I was so excited about being here with you that I couldn’t help it...” Jakotsu purred as he sauntered over to his lover. He snaked his arms around the shorter boy, pulling him close, giggling when Bankotsu cupped his bottom. They kissed, Bankotsu stretching upwards as Jakotsu leaned towards him, and it was all Bankotsu could do to keep Jakotsu from pushing them both onto the floor.


Breaking the kiss, Bankotsu murmured, “I thought you wanted to have some fun on the worktable...?”


“Oh yeah...” Seconds later, Jakotsu had hopped up onto the worktable, and lay back.


“Uh, Sweetness, this isn’t going to work unless you want me to suck you off as unfortunately, I’m not as tall as Ren or Sui.”


“Oh...” the cross-dresser said disappointedly. “I know!” he exclaimed, rolling onto his stomach and carelessly pushing Ren’s sketches and various other items off the table. “We can pretend we’re on the floor.”


“Fine with me!” Bankotsu said. He stripped down, and getting up onto the table, he blanketed his paramour.



888



“I hope Jak appreciates all the trouble you go through for your plants, Sui.”


Suikotsu wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. “I think so, if the amount of time he spends in here is any indication. And I have to say, he never takes any blossoms without asking.”


“At least he has that decency,” Renkotsu said dryly.


“Yeah...” Suikotsu chuckled. “You know, when it’s spring, the place gets full of butterflies and he’ll happily spend hours in here, watching them. And once, I actually heard him tell Oo-Aniki to go away and leave him alone.”


Renkotsu paused in his pruning, looking completely surprised to hear that. “Really?”


Yeah...” Suikotsu nodded. “Although, I’m sure the fact that he had several butterflies sitting on him at the time might have been a big motivating factor in telling Oo-Aniki to get lost.” He laughed. “I never heard anyone yell so loudly while whispering too.”


Renkotsu chuckled at the mental image and Suikotsu smiled in return. “I would have liked to have seen that,” the fire-breather said.


“You would have enjoyed it.”


“Heh. Now, I really wish I could have seen Ban’s face.”


Suikotsu smiled impishly at the fire-breather before he made a similar face to the one Bankotsu had made when Jakotsu told him to “get lost.”


The fire-breather’s eyes went wide before he burst out laughing. “Hahahahahaha!”


Suikotsu laughed along with him.


After catching his breath, and sobering up, Renkotsu said, “You know, this knife of yours is getting a bit dull.”


“Really?” Suikotsu move closer to him. “Can I see it?” he held out his hand.


“Here...” Renkotsu said as he handed the knife to him.


“Thanks...” Suikotsu ran his thumb lightly over the edge of the knife. “You’re right. And dull knives are bad for my plants.” He handed the knife back. “Do you think you can sharpen it for me? And maybe do this too while you’re at it?” Suikotsu handed the fire-breather the knife he was using. “If not, I’ll have to go into town and get some new ones.”


“Don’t worry about it; I’ll have them as sharp as new in an hour.”


“Thanks, Ren. And if you don’t mind, I’ll stay here and dig up these dead lilies. Oo-Aniki and Jak must have stepped all over them on their way over here. I think I’ll also move the rest so they don’t get stepped on or worse.” The claw-bearer sighed.


“Good idea.”


Suikotsu nodded as he started to dig up the dead plants. “When you get back, maybe we can take a break for lunch.”


“Sounds good to me,” Renkotsu said as he headed towards his workshop, while Suikotsu paused in his digging long enough to watch him go.



888



Renkotsu paused just outside his workshop. He could have sworn he heard the sounds of two people engaged in intimate activity, but quickly dismissed it as nothing more than the memory of the fun he had had in there with Suikotsu. Sliding back the shoji he saw that his initial feeling had been correct.


“WHAT THE FUCK?! GET OUT!! GET OUT!! GET OUT!! GET OUT!! GET OUT!!”


Suikotsu, hearing the fuss, ran over to the workshop. “Ren?! REN?! What the hell’s the matter?! Are you alright?!” Coming up behind the fire-breather, Suikotsu immediately saw what the problem was. “Oh hell! My hydrangeas aren’t good enough for you two any more?!”


“But Ren said he had fun in here...” Jakotsu started to say.


“And Jak thought it’d be a good place to nookie,” Bankotsu finished for him as the two of them slid off his worktable.


Renkotsu stood there, looking at them, a tiny vein in his forehead throbbing in time with his twitching eyebrow. He was not sure if he should burst into tears over the violation of his sacred workshop, or fly off into a rage and totally loose control of himself when a deadly calm settled over him. Turning away from them, he surveyed his workshop, mentally ticking off what needed to be cleaned up first. He could hear the others arguing in the background as Suikotsu chewed them out over it and Bankotsu pulled rank as an excuse for their behavior.


The fire-breather walked over to his worktable. Kneeling beside it, he started picking up his scattered drawings and brushes. He growled softly over the broken pieces of charcoal that littered the floor as well, for he was going to have to go hunt around for some small twigs and sticks in order to make more. Renkotsu had just reached the point where he was able to tune out the others when he heard Jakotsu say, “Want to finish this elsewhere?” which shattered his Zen-like state.


“Just get out,” Renkotsu said softly. If he had left his flask in the workshop instead of his rooms he might have burned the whole place down, Bankotsu and Jakotsu included, in a purifying conflagration. Raising his voice, he added, “Just get the hell out of here!! All of you!”


“Okay, okay,” Bankotsu said while he calmly retrieved his and Jakotsu’s clothes. He stood there, looking down at the fire-breather for several minutes until Renkotsu looked up over his shoulder and glared at him. Flushing slightly under Renkotsu’s scrutiny, Bankotsu turned away and left, followed by Jakotsu.


“You too, Sui, I want to be alone right now,” Renkotsu said softly as he stood up.


“Okay...”



888



As soon as they were outside, Jakotsu said, “Hydrangeas?” He looked at his lover and giggled.


Bankotsu grinned wickedly. “Yup!”


“NO!!” Suikotsu exclaimed. “Go to your room!!”


“You heard that, Sui?” Jakotsu blinked and nearly jumped out of his skin when Suikotsu put a hand on his and Bankotsu’s shoulders.


“Yes, I heard that. I’m right behind you so how could I miss it? Besides, I know how you two think, so stay away from my garden!”


“Yeah, yeah! You told us that several times already, Sui.” The young leader of the Shichinintai rolled his eyes and removed the claw-bearer’s hand from his shoulder. “Let’s go, Sweetness, I know a better place where they’ll never find us.”


The cross-dresser giggled when his lover pulled him out of Suikotsu’s grip and led him towards the main house.


“Stay out of my garden!!” Suikotsu called out. He took one last look at them to make sure they were staying away from his garden, before turning back towards the workshop.



888



Renkotsu was still standing in front of his worktable when Suikotsu slipped back inside. The claw-bearer’s heart sank when he saw his lover was shaking while he fought to gain control over his anger. He discretely looked around the room, trying see if there were signs that the “rabbits” had violated any place else in the workshop.


“It’s okay, Ren,” he said softly. “I don’t think they were anywhere else other than your worktable.”


“Go away, Sui.”


“You sure you don’t want some help cleaning up in here?”


“Yes.” Renkotsu turned to face him. “If anyone should be helping me, it should be those two. But I appreciate the offer.” He looked away and said softly, “Now please go and leave me alone.”


“Okay, I’ll leave but only long enough to make you some tea,” Suikotsu said. Looking over at Renkotsu, he wondered what he could put in it to steady his nerves that the fire-breather would not taste.


“Fine...”


888


Suikotsu looked down at the tray, holding a teapot and one cup, and wondered if he should have added another cup for himself when he looked up and saw Bankotsu and Jakotsu heading towards him, laughing. He closed his eyes and counted slowly to ten while he waited for them to come closer.


Jakotsu smiled and waved. “Hey, Sui!”


“You two are real scum,” he said, quietly frowning at them.


“Hunh?” Jakotsu said, looking from the claw-bearer to his lover and back.


“What do you mean by that, Sui?” Bankotsu said, quirking an eyebrow at the older man.


“It’s bad enough you two violate my garden on a regular basis, but did you have to nookie in Ren’s special place too?!”


Jakotsu, looking properly chastised, said softly, “Oh...”


“And...?” Bankotsu prompted.


“That was his special artistic, stress relieving area; you had no right to invade it!” Suikotsu growled.


“Yeah...” Jakotsu said softly. Turning to Bankotsu, he said, “Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all, Aniki-chan.”


Bankotsu shrugged. “Oh yeah?”


“How can you be so casual about this? Ren’s very upset!”


“Oh please! He’s not that upset, Sui. He barely said two words to us,” Bankotsu said dismissively.


The claw-bearer opened his mouth to reply, but closed it when Renkotsu trudged towards them, looking tired and exhausted. “Ren...?”


“Here he is! And he looks just fine to me, Sui,” Bankotsu said when he turned to follow the claw-bearer’s gaze.


Jakotsu paled when he saw the look in the fire-breather’s eyes. Tugging on Bankotsu’s arm, he said, “But his eyebrow’s twitching, Aniki-chan...”


Renkotsu looked over at them as if he was about to yell at them, instead all he managed to choke out in a strangled voice was, “Don’t ever do that again.” He looked like he was about to cry when he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, holding it, before slowly letting it out. “Don’t ever do that again,” he repeated a bit calmer.


Jakotsu’s eyes welled up with sympathetic tears. “I promise I won’t, Ren!!”


Bankotsu looked at his paramour like he had three heads. “What the hell?”


“Aniki-chan, Sui was right. Ren is all upset by this... I guess he’s not as strong about things like this as Sui is.”


“I...I have put up with you nookying in all these different places and walking in on you, but after this, I feel like...” Renkotsu stared at them for several heartbeats in a loss for words. Continuing in the same strangled voice, he said, “Now please, I’m begging you two, stay out of my workshop...” The fire-breather looked at them, smiling weakly at Jakotsu, who had nodded in reply. When he received no response from Bankotsu, Renkotsu sighed wearily, and pushing past them, he headed towards the house.


“Promise too, Aniki-chan!” Jakotsu said to his lover who laughed. Huffing wordlessly at Bankotsu, the cross-dresser hurried after Renkotsu, leaving his lover to deal with the claw-bearer’s displeasure. “Wait, Ren!!”



888



Renkotsu, ignoring the frantic cross-dresser trailing behind him, made his way to his room. Once inside he unrolled his futon, and flopping down on it, he stared up blankly at the ceiling.


Jakotsu raced up the two steps leading onto the veranda. Pausing just outside Renkotsu’s room, he composed himself, before knocking softly on the shoji. “Ren...? Can I come in, please?”


On the other side of the shoji Renkotsu ignored him.


The cross-dresser knocked again, and getting no response, he opened the shoji and stuck his head inside. “Ren...? You okay?” he asked, inviting himself in.


“What do you want?” Renkotsu said irritably. “Please tell me you haven’t come to make like a rabbit in my room too?”


Jakotsu giggled. “No... But if you want me to, I can.” He walked over to where Renkotsu lay and sat down next to him. “That was a joke, Ren, you’re supposed to laugh now,” he tittered.


The fire-breather reached over his head for a floor pillow, and finding one, he grabbed it and placed it between them. “Well it’s not funny!”


“Look, I’m sorry. It’s just when you told me about you and Sui, I got so jealous; I had to go do it too!”


The fire-breather glared at him.


“I said I was sorry! Besides, how would it look to everyone else if you actually did something sexually adventurous that I never did?” Jakotsu sighed in frustration when Renkotsu turned away to face the wall. “I’m supposed to be the whore around here, Ren, not you.”


The fire-breather rolled over to face him and sat up. “You’ve never had sex on a table?”


“No...” Jakotsu grinned ruefully. “I’ve had sex just about everywhere else you can think of except a table, until now.”


Renkotsu, annoyed over that, grabbed the floor pillow and held like he wanted to strangle it. “On my workshop table...” he groaned. The fire-breather stared at the floor.


The cross-dresser reached out and placed a finger under Renkotsu’s chin, gently forcing him to look up at him. “I’m sorry, Ren. I can’t say it enough but I really truly am.” Jakotsu’s serious expression melted into an impish smile. “You know, I was so impressed by your actions and daring that I just had to drag Aniki-chan over there to make sure I wasn’t growing a stick up my ass,” he teased.


Renkotsu gently slapped the cross-dresser’s hand away and pouted. “But it was my spot! I finally get one up on you and find my own special place and you just couldn’t let me have it and enjoy it, could you?” he said peevishly.


Jakotsu laughed. “Nope!” Growing more serious, he said, “Like I said before, I’m the whore of the group, Ren. You’re supposed to be the fine upstanding young officer.”


“Well that doesn’t give you the right to intrude on my artistic space! Go have sex on some other table and leave mine alone!” Renkotsu narrowed his eyes at the cross-dresser. “And how can I be the fine upstanding young officer when you don’t treat me like one?”


Jakotsu, looking properly chastised, said, “You’re right; I don’t have the right to invade your space, nor do I treat you with the respect you deserve.” He sighed, trying to rein his jealously, and failing miserably. “But that’s because it’s not fair that you came along and took my place just because you know how to read and write!” Jakotsu shoved his arms in his sleeves and pouted.


“Took your place?” Renkotsu said incredulously. “I’m only second-in-command in title, but you’re the one with all the power.”


“Hunh?” The cross-dresser was surprised to hear that. “Everyone listens to you, Ren, and does what you say when you give orders. I might balk at the time, but I still do what you want and you know it! So how can I have all the power?”


“For one thing, I’m the one who always gets in trouble while you get away with everything. Secondly, you cry once and Ban and Sui come running to you. They always defend you no matter what and you can also get anyone to do anything for you and then some,” the fire-breather said bitterly.


“Really?” Jakotsu thought it over. “You do know that Aniki-chan often yells at me in private for not listening to you, Ren. And as for getting anyone to do what I want...” he looked at Renkotsu sullenly. “Come on, Ren. They don’t do that and you know it! How many times have I flirted with you and did everything just short of pouncing on you to get into your hakama and all it took was a huge jug of really strong sake for you to do anything with me, as if I’m so repulsive you had to be drunk to nookie with me...” he said just as bitterly.


“That’s different. Besides, I’m on to your little game,” Renkotsu grumbled.


“What lil game?” the cross-dresser asked, his tone of voice innocent and light.


Renkotsu looked at Jakotsu like he wanted to throttle some sense into him. “Look, even if you’re not aware of it, when it comes to getting someone to do what you want them to do, you’re every bit as calculating and intelligent as I am!”


The cross-dresser blinked in surprise. “I am?” He frowned. “But everyone always goes on about how smart you are, Ren. Including Aniki-chan...”


“Heh! I’m just technical smart. You work in seduction the same way I work in battle strategy,” Renkotsu retorted.


“Yeah...?” Jakotsu said softly. “But I’m just giving people what they want, Ren.”


“Ah...” Renkotsu held up a finger and pointed it at him. “But you are in control of what they want. You make them want you, want to defend you, want to serve you, want to make their laps into a pillow for you.”


Jakotsu smiled. “But you didn’t want to make your lap into a pillow for me, Ren,” he countered. “Why you eventually did is beyond me.” He shrugged. “And you never want to do what I want, nor do you let me do what I want.”


Renkotsu lowered his hand and looked away. “It was a moment of weakness because I was tired and it was just easier at the time to go along with you than fight it. Like I said before, I’m on to you, and that’s why I don’t let you get away with things if I can recognize it.”


“Oh... I always thought it was cuz you didn’t like me. That’s why I’ve always tried so hard to get you into the futon with me. I thought if you didn’t like how stupid I am, maybe you’d like me after I showed you things that would make you happy...”


Renkotsu sighed irritably. “I only dislike you when you do things that piss me off.”


“Oh...” Jakotsu sighed. “I must piss you off a lot cuz you always seem to be mad at me for something,” he said sarcastically.


Renkotsu let a little snort of annoyance. “Well, you’re certainly not doing anything to make me like you any more by nookying in my workshop.”


“I said I was sorry! And, Ren, I promise not to nookie in your workshop anymore, unless I’m in there nookying with you, okay?”


Renkotsu studied the cross-dresser skeptically as he was not sure whether to trust him or not, when he slowly nodded. “Alright, I’ll take you at your word for now, but if you ever do that again, I will personally rip your jewels off. Understood?”


The cross-dresser gulped and said testily, “I told you I wouldn’t and I won’t! Not even if Aniki-chan orders me to!”


“Good. Now can I ask a favor of you?”


Jakotsu shrugged. “Okay... What?”


“Please stay out of Sui’s garden.”


“What?! But I like that place!” Jakotsu whined.


“But it makes Sui irritable and cranky and bitchy.”


“But, but...” Jakotsu paused to think. “But Sui said we can be there as long as we don’t nookie by the aqueduct or any other place you two like to hang out together in.”


Renkotsu was surprised to hear that and it showed. “Sui said it was okay to nookie in his garden?”


“Well, he didn’t exactly put it that way... But he did say I wasn’t allowed to nookie with Aniki-chan by the aqueduct or any place else that was special to you two.”


“Just stay away from Sui’s garden.”


Jakotsu sighed. “Oh-kay... Now I’ll never have any fun...” He pouted.


“Make your own play place.”


“But that is my own play place,” Jakotsu whined.


“No, it’s not.” Renkotsu smiled. “So just stay out of it.”


“But I have no place to go now...” Jakotsu continued to whine. “You have your workshop and Sui’s garden and every time we find someplace in the house to have fun in someone complains or disturbs us for one reason or another. It’s not fair! You have two places to go with Sui and I don’t have any to go to with Aniki-chan!”


Renkotsu was about to say something when it hit him. Standing up he said, “I’ve got to go talk to Oo-Aniki.”


“What?! Why??”


“I have an idea,” he answered, intentionally being mysterious.


The cross-dresser brightened. “What?”


“It’s nothing for you to be concerned about.”


“Awe, come on, Ren. You can tell me. I can keep a secret.” The cross-dresser smiled sweetly at him.


“No, you can’t.”


“Yes, I can!” Jakotsu cried, before narrowing his eyes at Renkotsu. “You’re planning something special for Sui, aren’t you?” he said shrewdly as he stood up to follow the fire-breather.


“No.”


“Well, if it’s not that, then why won’t you tell me?”


“You don’t need to know everything that’s in my head,” Renkotsu said and Jakotsu frowned.


“What does that have to do with not telling me your secret?”


“I don’t feel like telling you.”


“Why are you being so mean to me?”


Renkotsu stopped and turned to face him. “Think real hard, Jak.”


“Yeah...?” Jakotsu stood there, thinking about it, as the fire-breather started to walk away. Following him, he asked, “What am I thinking about again?”


Renkotsu shook his head and ignored the cross-dresser in his search for their leader. “Ban!! Bankotsu-Oo-Aniki!!”


Jakotsu trailed after him like a lost puppy. “What do you need Aniki-chan for?”


“I have an idea I want to clear with him.”


“Oh. What idea?”


“I’m not telling you.”


“Please, Ren,” the cross-dresser begged. “I promise not to tell anyone!”


“No. But you will find out eventually,” the fire-breather said cryptically.


“When’s that?”


“When it’s time for you to be told, that’s when.”


“But why can’t you tell me now?” Jakotsu whined and pouted like a little child.


“Because it’s not time.”


“Why not?!”


“Because I don’t feel like telling you right now,” Renkotsu said testily.


Jakotsu huffed wordlessly.


Renkotsu looked at Jakotsu and smiled. “You know you still want to get into my hakama.”


The cross-dresser blinked when Renkotsu abruptly changed the subject. “Hunh? You’re saying you’ll nookie with me in exchange for not telling me your secret?”


“Well, I had thought about that, but then I changed my mind.”


“Oh... I thought it was too good to be true, you offering yourself like that.” Jakotsu sighed dramatically.


Renkotsu chuckled. “Keep dreaming.”


The cross-dresser glared back at him, before sticking out his tongue at him, and stalking off in the opposite direction.



888



Renkotsu breathed a sigh of relief that he was alone when he found their leader talking to Suikotsu. “Oo-Aniki!” he called out as he approached them.


Bankotsu, hearing his name called behind him, looked over his shoulder. “Yes?”


Renkotsu trotted over to them. “I have an idea how to remedy the ‘nookie in the wrong place’ problems.”


Bankotsu rubbed his forehead tiredly with one hand. He was getting really tired of hearing about his inappropriate behavior. “You do?”


The fire-breather cast a quick glance over his shoulder to see if the cross-dresser was around. “Yes. I think we should build a separate place for you and Jak to have fun in.”


“Really...? I was thinking the same thing. So, what did you come up with?” Bankotsu said, clearly interested in hearing Renkotsu’s idea.


“Well, I was thinking maybe some cozy little room or set of rooms, away from the main compound, maybe over there...” He pointed towards the other end of the house where the daimyo’s quarters were.


Bankotsu looked over and tried to imagine it. “Yeah...” he said softly.


“You could decorate it and make it your own. It’ll be ummm...” he trailed off, trying to remember Jakotsu’s word for what he was describing. “Oh, what’s Jak call it again...? A... ummm...a love nest...”


Bankotsu nodded.


“What do you think?”


“I think it’s a great idea, Ren.”


Jakotsu who had finally found them, managed to catch the tail end of their conversation. Curiosity piqued; he was sure they were discussing the secret when they all fell silent. He also knew Bankotsu would tell him in a heartbeat if asked. “What’s a great idea, Aniki-chan?”


“Oh, we were just discussing some strategy for the new mission we’re going on.”


“Yeah? What mission?”


“A top secret mission Ren and I are going to take on.”


“Oh... Can I come too?”


Bankotsu put his arm around Jakotsu and led him away from the others. “Nah, the less people that come, the better.”


“Why?”


“Because two people with lots of firepower will be enough.”


Jakotsu looked over at Renkotsu and glared. “So take me instead!”


Bankotsu sighed. “Jak, unless you can learn how to breathe fire out of your mouth by tomorrow, I need Ren to come with me.”


Jakotsu made an annoyed face as he turned to face his lover. “That never mattered to you before.”


“Well, this time it’s the best strategy for the mission.”


“Oo-Aniki, I’ll start drawing up the plans,” Renkotsu said.


Jakotsu silently fumed as he looked from Bankotsu to Renkotsu and back.


“Good idea, Ren,” Bankotsu said, before turning back to his paramour. “Sweetness..?” He hated seeing the hurt look on Jakotsu’s face and he was half tempted to let him in on Renkotsu’s secret plans about the special rooms for the two of them.


“Why won’t you take me?” Jakotsu asked, letting all his hurt bleed into his voice.


“I’m sorry, Sweetness, but the reason I’m not taking you is I need Ren.”


Jakotsu narrowed his eyes at Bankotsu and said, “Why do you need him for everything all of a sudden?”


“I don’t need him for everything,” Bankotsu rolled his eyes in exasperation, “just some things.”


Jakotsu looked away pensively. “This is about the nookie in the workshop, isn’t it?” he said softly.


“What does that have to do with me going on a mission without you?”


“Are you mad at me then? What the nookie not good? Or are you just making it up to Ren?”


“No, I’m not mad you, whatever gave you that idea?” Bankotsu gave his paramour a funny look. “And that nookie was the best yet!” He smiled. “I’m thinking I’d like a worktable too, although, I wonder if we can find a shorter one...” Bankotsu said. He ignored Jakotsu’s last question and was glad he did as the cross-dresser seemed a lot happier now.


“Really?”


“Yeah! Maybe you and Sui can look for one while I’m gone.”


“Okay, I will.” Jakotsu’s smile suddenly faded. “Ummm... how long will you be away with Ren? And when are you leaving?”


“Ummm... I don’t know. A couple of days, why?”


Jakotsu shrugged and looked away sadly. “Just wanted to know...” he said softly.


“Okay...” Bankotsu heaved a frustrated sigh. He could not believe that something as simple as a surprise for his paramour could cause such trouble between them. “You know it’s going to take a few days before Ren’s ready to go with the plans so... ummm... How about some special time together before I go? Starting right now.”


Jakotsu looked up at him as a smile once again lit up his features. “Okay! But where should we go? Ren doesn’t want us in his workshop.”


“I’ll let you surprise me.” Bankotsu grinned wickedly.


The cross-dresser thought about it and giggled. “One last time in the hydrangeas?” he said impishly.


“Sure!” Bankotsu said, and grabbing his paramour’s hand, he dragged him off towards Suikotsu’s garden.



888



Renkotsu set down the piece of charcoal and his sketchbook, and wiped his hands on a damp rag. Sighing, he ran his hands over his face, before lacing his fingers together and stretching. Bringing his hands up and over his head, he rested them against the back of his skull, closed his eye, and leaned backwards. His creative frenzy of the past few days finished, Renkotsu allowed himself a brief moment to relax, before picking up his sketchbook. Flipping through the last few pages, the fire-breather surveyed his designs for his leader’s love nest. Satisfied that it would not only be cheap and easy to build, but pleasing to look at as well, he closed the sketchbook.


“How do they look?” Suikotsu asked. He was sitting at the other end of the low table that they shared, going over his dried herbs, and making notes about what he would need to carry them over the winter months as well as what needed replanting at the moment.


“Not bad, if I say so myself.” The fire-breather grinned. “I just hope Ban isn’t mad they took longer than I thought to finish them.”


“I don’t think he minded in the least, Ren, if the condition of my garden is anything to go by.” Suikotsu chuckled. “So, can I see them?”


“Sure,” Renkotsu said, grinning as he slid the sketchbook across the table towards him. Grabbing a couple of charcoal sticks, he wrapped them in a piece of cloth and tucked the small bundle into his kimono.


Suikotsu, meanwhile, had reached for it and drew it closer to himself. After moving the bundles of dried herbs out of the way, he gently perused the book, smiling at the various pictures it contained, until he reached the latest sketches. “These are really nice, Ren. Oo-Aniki and Jak are going to love it. Not only that, it’s going to blend in beautifully with all the other buildings here and no one will ever notice it’s simply a newer addition.” He looked up and smiled his approval. “Well done!”


“Thank you,” the fire-breather said softly, a delicate blush tinting his cheeks.


“You’re welcome.”


Renkotsu nodded. “You know once this thing’s built and they move in, things should hopefully be a lot quieter around here.” He grinned. “Not to mention your garden’ll be safe from those two marauding rabbits.”


Suikotsu laughed. “One can only hope.”



888



Renkotsu walked along the outside corridor of the small maze of buildings they called “home.” He stilled chuckled, after all this time, over Bankotsu’s audacity in demanding the mansion as part of their payment. And while their young leader could have taken over the daimyo’s quarters, he opted to stay with everyone else. Instead, he chose to use them whenever he needed to impress a potential employer.


The trouble started when Jakotsu had moved into Bankotsu’s quarters and the nightly “rabbit sessions” began. They were soon followed by daily “let’s have a bit of fun in here because no one’s around sessions” when the mood hit them. But all that would change as soon as Renkotsu got the love nest’s designs approved. Then it would be a simple matter to get the materials and craftsmen needed to complete the job. Their biggest problem would be how to keep it a secret from Jakotsu until it was completed. The fire-breather reasoned there were only so many missions he could be sent on before he started worrying about Bankotsu trying to get rid of him and once that happened there would be no living with the emotional cross-dresser.


As he walked along, Renkotsu decided that would be Bankotsu’s headache until he realized it would ultimately become his headache because their leader had this annoying habit of foisting the cross-dresser off onto Suikotsu whenever he became too difficult to deal with. Deciding to up the estimate by another two hundred mon, in the hopes of getting the building completed quickly, Renkotsu found himself outside his leader’s study before he knew it. He paused in front of the door, groaning softly at the sound of giggling coming from inside.



888



“Sweetness! Stop it!” Bankotsu laughed and playfully pushed his paramour away. “I’m busy!”


“Ooh... You’re always busy!” Jakotsu whined, and shoving his arms in his kimono sleeves, he pouted.


Bankotsu set his brush down and closed his ledger book. “Awe, don’t make that face, Sweetness...”


Jakotsu narrowed his eyes at his lover. He waited several heartbeats for him to move a little closer, all the while pretending to be upset with Bankotsu. When he did, Jakotsu pounced, throwing his arms around his startled lover, and pulling him close. “Gotchya!” he cried, before planting little kisses all over his face.


Bankotsu retaliated by tickling his paramour in the ribs and as Jakotsu collapsed in a giggle fit; Bankotsu took the opportunity to pounce on him. He had just managed to get Jakotsu out of his kimono when a soft knocking caught his attention.


“Tell them to go away,” Jakotsu whispered. “Unless they want to join us...?”


“Nah... I don’t feel like sharing you. How about I see what they want and then send them on their way?”


“Okay...” Jakotsu said. “But hurry, I want some nookie...” he purred.


“What do you want?” Bankotsu called out, his voice going up a couple of octaves when Jakotsu snaked his hand between them to fondle his lover’s crotch. “Sweetness!” he hissed.


Jakotsu giggled in reply.


Renkotsu slid the shoji open and stepped inside. Looking down while he opened his sketchbook, he took a few steps towards Bankotsu’s low desk, before he realized their leader was nowhere in sight and it was strangely quiet.


“Oo-Aniki?”


A disheveled looking Bankotsu popped his head up. Jakotsu giggled as he lifted his leg up and wiggled his toes at the fire-breather in greeting.


Oh hell... Renkotsu sighed. Not again!


“You wanted to see me, Ren?” Bankotsu asked while he disentangled himself from his paramour’s arms and sat up.


“OOH!! Can I show him me too?!” Jakotsu giggled. He also sat up.


“Get dressed!” Bankotsu hissed, and ignoring Jakotsu, who stuck his tongue out at him, before complying, he said to Renkotsu, “Well...?”


Renkotsu sighed again. “Sorry to have disturbed you, Oo-Aniki, I had no idea you were, uh... busy,” he said dryly. Although, I should have guessed it when I heard the giggling... “I have those plans you wanted, but we can discuss them later when you’re free.”


“Okay,” Bankotsu said in dismissal. “Later then.”


Renkotsu nodded and as he turned to go Jakotsu called out to him, “Hey, Ren!”


“What?”


“You want to draw us?”


“No.”


“Please...?”


When Bankotsu looked at him expectantly, Renkotsu sighed. “Okay, but on one condition. You two come outside and sit on porch. I’ll happily draw you, but no stupid stuff, okay?”


Bankotsu exchanged glances with his paramour. “Fine,” he said.


“Yeah...” Jakotsu said with a smile.


“Okay, I see you outside in a bit.”



888



Renkotsu made himself comfortable on the veranda while he waited. Just as he was about to berate himself for not having anything to draw with, he remembered he had tucked a couple of pieces of charcoal into the folds of his kimono. Reaching inside it, he removed the bundle just as Bankotsu and Jakotsu exited the room.


“Where do you want us, Ren?”


How about as far away from me as possible?
“Over there is fine.”


They sat stiffly across from him.


Renkotsu sighed. “Just act naturally and do what you’d normally do together, except for acting like rabbits, and when you get tired of holding one pose we can move onto something different or end it.”


“Okay...”


“Thanks, Ren!” Jakotsu said. He lay down and rested his head in his lover’s lap. Bankotsu’s braid hung over his shoulder and the cross-dresser played with it as he sang softly to him.


That pose soon gave way to another one where Jakotsu sat behind Bankotsu, re-braiding his hair. When the cross-dresser had finished, he draped his arms around his lover’s neck, leaning his head on Bankotsu’s shoulder, inspiring another sketch. They had wound up changing positions several times while Renkotsu sketched them.


Sitting next to his lover, Jakotsu reached up and grabbed his chin, turning Bankotsu’s head to face him. As he leaned towards him, Renkotsu called out, “Hold it!” They froze and for the next ten minutes, he furiously sketched because the fire-breather could see they were getting tired. “Okay... that’s enough for one day. Thanks....”


“No, thank you, Ren!” Jakotsu said happily. “Can I see them?” he asked. Jakotsu stood up and came over to the fire-breather.


“Okay,” Renkotsu said as he showed them off. He could see the cross-dresser was very interested in the sketches by the comments he had made to his lover, but all Bankotsu did was politely smile and roll his eyes when Jakotsu was not looking.


“Oh, look, Aniki-chan! I look like I’m about to kiss you!” Jakotsu giggled. “And all I did was ask you how much longer it was going to take! How’d you do that, Ren?”


Renkotsu shrugged. “I dunno...”


Jakotsu handed the sketchbook back. It was opened to the sketch in question and when Renkotsu looked at it he realized the cross-dresser was right. I’ll be damned if you can’t see the love they have for each other. So why can’t I have a free and easy relationship with Sui too? It’s not fair!! Why must I have a damned stick up my ass all the time?!


“Uh, bye, Ren!” Jakotsu called out, pulling the fire-breather from his reverie.


“Bye...” the fire-breather said, looking up in time to see them go.


“Aniki-chan!” Renkotsu heard the cross-dresser whine as he hurried along after their leader. “Wait! I wanted to ask him if I could have it! Aniki-chan!!”



888



That night at dinner Bankotsu informed everyone that he and Renkotsu would be leaving in the morning to go on their mission. Everyone peppered him with questions except the cross-dresser, who sat there, quietly sulking, and Renkotsu who was going.


“Are you okay, Sweetness? You’re awfully quiet,” Bankotsu said softly as he leaned towards his paramour.


Jakotsu shrugged and briefly leveled a nasty glare at Renkotsu. “I lost my appetite...”


“You’re not getting sick, are you?”


“No...” Jakotsu said listlessly.


“You sure?”


The cross-dresser nodded and swallowed the lump in his throat. Without saying a word, he got up and left the room.


Bankotsu left the table and hurried after his paramour.


“Damn it!” Renkotsu swore softly. “Why does he have to be such a pain in ass about this? It’s not like Ban’s never gone away without him before!” he said irritably.


The others talked amongst themselves about Jakotsu’s moodiness. They also took bets on what Bankotsu would do to make it up to him as well as how long it would take for the cross-dresser to cheer up.


“That’s because he’s jealous over the secret you and Oo-Aniki have concerning your ‘mission,’” Suikotsu whispered. “Maybe if you two weren’t at odds over ‘the workshop incident,’ he wouldn’t be as bad.” The claw-bearer held up a hand, forestalling Renkotsu’s protest. “Ren, he knows damned well how annoyed you are with him over that-”


“Annoyed isn’t the word for it, Sui. I’m half-tempted to turn my worktable into firewood. Every time I go in there....” He growled in frustration.


“I know... but think of it this way, for two whole days and nights you’re going to have Oo-Aniki all to yourself.”


“And that’s supposed to make me happy?” Renkotsu said dryly.


“That’s two whole days and nights Jak won’t have him and that’s a better punishment than making him get you a new table.”


As Renkotsu thought it over, a smile slowly spread across his face. “You’re right!” he chuckled. “Still, I wouldn’t want to be you as you’re going to have your hands full with him.”


The claw-bearer sighed. “Don’t remind me...”



888



“Sweetness! Wait!!”


Jakotsu continued on his way back to the room he shared with Bankotsu, all the while ignoring him. Sniffing softly, he would occasionally reach up to wipe away his tears. He was angry at his lover for not having dinner alone with him in their room, as well as for not saying a word to him all day about leaving tomorrow.


When Bankotsu finally caught up to Jakotsu, he grabbed his paramour by the arm. “Sweetness...? I know you’re upset with me, but please come back to dinner and eat something. I promise afterwards we can spend all night if you want having fun. Uh, Sweetness?”


Jakotsu stiffened under his touch, and pausing, he turned to face his lover, letting all the hurt he felt over Bankotsu’s latest mission show. His eyes welling up with tears, Jakotsu’s lower lip trembled as he struggled to speak.


“Sweetness...”


Jakotsu closed his eyes and sighed. Opening them, he looked down at Bankotsu and sadly shook his head. He swallowed his hurt along with his tears and looked away.


“I’m sorry, whatever I did...” Bankotsu said softly, taking Jakotsu’s hands in his.


Jakotsu nodded and choked back a sob, his ragged breath sounding like a hiccup.


“Please don’t cry, Sweetness.” Bankotsu raised his paramour’s hand to his lips, kissing his palm.


Jakotsu sniffed back his tears, a tight little smile twitching the corners of his mouth upwards.


“That’s better. Do you want to go back and eat with the others, or alone in our room?”


“Alone...” Jakotsu said softly.


“Alone it is.”



888



Bankotsu slid the shoji closed. Turning to face his paramour, he said, “Now, are you going to tell me what’s wrong or am I going to have to tickle it out of you?”


Jakotsu rolled his eyes at him and sighed. “No, you don’t have to tickle me... It’s just that...” he trailed off softly, a pained expression on his face.


“What?” Bankotsu said. He came over and sat on the floor next to the cross-dresser.


Jakotsu looked at his lover briefly, before looking away. “Aniki-chan, do you ummm...?”


“Ummm what?”


“Like Ren more than me?” Jakotsu said when he got up the courage to look his lover straight in the eye.


“Whatever gave you that idea?”


“Well... you ummm...”


“What, Sweetness?” Bankotsu, placing his hands on his paramour’s knees, leaned towards him.


Jakotsu licked his lips while he tried to put his feelings into words. “Well... you’ve been spending a lot of time with him and ummm... you always get quiet when I come near you and ummm... Ren always looks like he’s been caught doing something wrong and ummm... And I ummm...”


Bankotsu, leaning his forehead on Jakotsu’s, said softly, “There’s nothing going on between me and Ren, Sweetness, and I mean it. I’ve never lied to you, right?”


“Yeah...but...”


“Yeah but nothing.” Bankotsu smiled to soften his rebuke. “This is nothing more than a top secret mission we’re going on and I can’t tell you anything until it’s finished because I’m worried about your safety.”


“But what about your safety?” Jakotsu said, draping his arms around his lover’s neck.


“I’ll be fine and so will Ren. The reason I’m taking him is I’ve decided it’s better if we take care of the ‘problem’ from a distance instead of getting up close like you and me would have to. That’s why I was worried about your safety.”


“Oh... I guess I’m just being stupid again, hunh?”


“No, you’re not stupid, Sweetness, a lil silly at times, but not stupid.”


Jakotsu smiled, and foreheads still touching, he tilted his head to the side and kissed him. Bankotsu deepened the kiss and pushed his paramour gently onto to his back, blanketing him. Reaching back, and grabbing the end of his braid, he brought it forward, tickling Jakotsu on the cheek. The cross-dresser giggled and Bankotsu tickled him again with the end of his braid, gently running it up and down his paramour’s neck. The more Jakotsu struggled beneath him, the more Bankotsu felt the familiar stirring in his loins. Leaning in to kiss Jakotsu, Bankotsu gently pushed the neck of his kimono off the cross-dresser’s shoulders.


As he deepened the kiss, Jakotsu wrapped his arms around his lover pulling him close. When you’re so sweet to me like this, Aniki-chan, I feel terrible about the doubt clouding my heart... Breaking the kiss, he whispered, “I’m sorry, Aniki-chan...”


“For what?” Bankotsu said, hiking himself up off of the cross-dresser.


“For being stupid-”


“I told you you’re not stupid.”


“I know... but I really was stupid, Aniki-chan. I doubted your love for me.... And I was worried you were starting to like Ren more than me... and-”


Bankotsu silenced him with a kiss.



888



“Here, better give them some of this too,” Renkotsu said, handing Suikotsu the plate with the remaining gyoza on it as Jakotsu was rather found of the fried fish dumplings.


Suikotsu added it to the plate of yakitori he had set on a tray along with the plates of food left behind by their leader and his paramour. “That should be enough food for the two of them as you know as well as I do that they probably won’t touch this.”


“Yeah... I just hope Jak doesn’t keep Ban up all night as that will only delay his departure and make him a cranky traveling companion. Still, it’s nice of you to think of them even though it won’t be appreciated.”


“I think they’ll enjoy it. There’s only so much nookying they can do, Ren, before they get tired. Besides, Jak didn’t eat all day, and I bet he’s not feeling well because of it.”


“How do you know that?”


“Well I know he never eats breakfast unless someone makes nattou and I know we’re out of it as I made the last of it yesterday day for breakfast.”


“Poor baby...”


“Ren!” Suikotsu frowned.


“What? Look, he deserves it for being pain in the ass about this whole thing. Maybe I should just tell Ban to tell him about it. Hopefully that’ll end all the nonsense and carrying on about nothing.”


Suikotsu shook his head as they left the dining hall. “Oo-Aniki wants it to remain a secret because he knows how happy it’ll make Jak when he sees it all finished,” the claw-bearer said as they entered the outer corridors leading to their rooms. “So don’t say a word, okay?”


“Fine. Let’s hurry up and drop this off as I need a bath and I could use a lil company too.”


Suikotsu laughed. “Of course. You know, I was thinking I could use a bath myself, so if you don’t mind...”


“You know I’d never mind your company.”



888



“Sweetness, it’s you I love, so no more jealousy about Ren, okay?”


“Oh-kay... I promise I’ll try, Aniki-chan,” Jakotsu said softly.


“Good, because it’s really silly.”


Jakotsu nodded. “Yeah...”


They both looked up at the sound of soft knocking on their shoji.


“I hope that was Sui leaving us something to eat as I’m starving and as much as I would love to eat you, my lil dumpling, you’re more dessert than dinner,” Jakotsu said, looking at his lover impishly.


Bankotsu laughed. “Well then, I’d better go see if it is,” he said as he got up off his paramour. Standing up, he walked over to the door. When the young leader of the Shichinintai slid the shoji open, he saw there was a tray left just outside their room just like Jakotsu hoped there would be. Picking it up, and sliding the shoji closed with his foot, Bankotsu brought it over to his paramour and sat down. “Help yourself, Sweetness,” he said, picking up his half-eaten bowl of rice along with his chopsticks.


“Ooh!! Look, Sui got them to save me some dumplings!” Jakotsu said happily as he picked up a gyoza with his chopsticks. Dipping it in the small bowl of sauce, he took a bite and swallowed. “Mmmm... good, but not as good as you...”


“Silly!” Bankotsu chuckled. He was pleased Jakotsu’s mood had lifted because he was torn by the thought of leaving him tomorrow. If only I could send Ren by himself as I really don’t want to leave you... He mentally sighed. But then it would feel more like Ren’s gift to you, Sweetness, than mine...



888



“Come on, Sweetness, let go! I told you I’ve gotta go!!” Bankotsu said, while trying to get out of Jakotsu’s vice-like grip. The cross-dresser was spooned in behind him and what had started out as some fun cuddling, quickly turned into “I never want to let you go!”


“Awe... Can’t you just stay here a little longer? I get so lonely in the futon without you,” the cross-dresser murmured into the top of his lover’s head.


“I know and I miss you too when you’re away. But it’s only two days and the quicker I go; the quicker I’ll be back.”


“Yeah...” Jakotsu said softly. He gave his lover a quick squeeze, before reluctantly letting him go.


Bankotsu sat up in the futon. “I’m sorry, Sweetness, I wish I could take you with me...”


“I’ll be okay. Besides, Sui needs someone to look after him...”


“I know and I’m sure Ren’ll appreciate that.”


Jakotsu frowned. “Yeah, well he’d better,” he said peevishly.


“I’m sure he does... Anyway, I need to go get dressed.” Bankotsu stood up and walked over to where he had dropped his clothes last night. Picking up his fundoshi, he tied the apron-like loincloth around his waist. Bankotsu could feel Jakotsu watching him while he got dressed, not that he minded as he reached for kimono. Shrugging into it, he grabbed his hakama and tugged them on.


Jakotsu giggled. “You look very cute hopping around like that, Aniki-chan.”


“Thanks. You’d better get dressed too if you going to see me off, Sweetness.”


“Don’t remind me...” The cross-dresser sighed. “Come’re and I’ll braid your hair first, then I’ll get dressed. Besides, it takes me less time to get ready than you,” he said smugly.


“That’s certainly true...” Bankotsu returned to the futon and sat down in front of Jakotsu. Handing him a comb, he let his thoughts drift to the rooms he was going to have built as a surprise for his paramour.


Jakotsu gently combed the tangles from his lover’s hair. Bankotsu’s hair reminded him of raw silk the way the soft blue-black strands slipped through his fingers as he braided it. When he reached the end of the plait, Jakotsu held his hand out expectantly over Bankotsu’s shoulder for the little leather lace he used to tie it off.


“Thanks, Sweetness.”


“You’re welcome...” Jakotsu said softly as he knotted it.


“Bye...” Bankotsu said just as softly, before kissing the cross-dresser on the cheek and heading out the door.


888


Jakotsu emerged from his room a few minutes later, hastily dressed and red-eyed from a last minute crying fit. He was afraid he had missed seeing them off, but to his surprise Bankotsu was still there, talking to Suikotsu, while the fire-breather waited impatiently off to the side. When he noticed Jakotsu was there, Renkotsu walked over to him.


“Here...” Renkotsu said. He reached into the top of kimono.


“I’m sorry for, you know...” they chorused while Renkotsu handed the cross-dresser a small scroll.


Shaking his head, the fire-breather said, “Go ahead, and open it.”


“Thanks, Ren... Although, I don’t deserve it...”


“No, you don’t, but I thought I’d give it to you anyway.”


Jakotsu smiled, and unrolling the scroll, he gasped when he saw what it was. “It’s beautiful, Ren! Thank you! How’d you know I loved that picture of me and Aniki-chan almost kissing?”


“You’re welcome.” Renkotsu grinned. “And a lil butterfly told me.” He chuckled at the look on Jakotsu’s face. “Anyway, I hope this will make up for the fact Ban’s spending time with me and not you.”


Jakotsu bristled a bit, before saying sweetly, “As long as you don’t mind Sui spending time with me, I guess I can live with it. It’s only two days, right?”


“Yeah...”


They laughed.


“Now go! Because while it’ll be fun to have Sui all to myself, I still rather have Aniki-chan. And the sooner you leave, the sooner he’ll be back!” Jakotsu said, wagging his finger at him.


Renkotsu laughed. “Since when do I take orders from you?”


“Then consider it a request from me and Sui.” The cross-dresser smiled.


“Will do!” The fire-breather turned and walked away. “Come, Oo-Aniki! We have a mission to go on!”


Bankotsu and Suikotsu exchanged glances, and rolling his eyes, the young leader of the Shichinintai hurried over to his paramour for one last kiss before leaving.


“Bye, Sweetness!” he waved as he hurried off down the road after Renkotsu.


“Bye...” Hurry back, Aniki-chan! And you too, Ren!


888


“I wouldn’t worry about leaving him behind, Oo-Aniki,” Renkotsu said as they headed down the road towards the village.


“No? He seemed really upset.”


“He’s always upset when he can’t have his own way and you know it,” the fire-breather replied as he shifted his shoulder canon to a more comfortable position.


“I know… but I’ve always told the truth before,” Bankotsu said pensively.


“True… But this time it’s a surprise and you know as well as I do that you can’t surprise someone if they already know what the surprise is… “ Renkotsu rubbed his forehead tiredly with his free hand. Damn it! Now I’m starting to ramble like he does!


Bankotsu nodded. “Yeah. You’re right,” he said sheepishly. Brightening, he added, “And Jak’s really going to be surprised when it’s all done.” He quickened his pace.


“Most definitely, Oo-Aniki,” Renkotsu agreed, pleased that his leader was going to continue with their little “mission” to secure building supplies and a work crew, instead of turning around and going home.


“So do you think it’ll take long to get it done?”


“What? Our mission or the actual building?”


“The building. I want to have it done before winter.”


“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, it’s not even summer yet. As long as the weather holds out and it doesn’t get too hot, I think we’ll be finished before the harvest starts and men are needed at home.”


“Good.” Bankotsu grinned happily, his thoughts straying to the finished love-nest and the fun he would have with Jakotsu in there.


The fire-breather, catching sight of the goofy look on his leader’s face, heaved a long suffering sigh as he had the feeling he knew exactly what was going through Bankotsu’s head.


“You okay, Ren?”


“Yeah…”


Bankotsu nodded. “So, uh… I was thinking…”


Why do I have the feeling this can’t be good? “Yeah?”


“I was thinking,” the sixteen year old repeated a bit more confidently. “That I should get a new futon.”


“Really?” Renkotsu said dryly.


“Yeah. And a new quilt. Jak saw this pretty red one last time we were in town and he wanted it badly, but we didn’t have enough money with us to get it. So, do you think I should get it for him?”


“I do. And I think you should go to the pleasure district and pick out some toys for him too, while you’re at it,” the fire-breather said sarcastically. And a new worktable for me from the woodworker’s…


Bankotsu completely missing the sarcasm, asked, “You think?”


Oh hell! Why do I have the feeling I’m going to regret this whole thing before it even starts? “Yeah. I thought maybe you could do that while I hire a work crew.”


“Good thinking, Ren”


“Thanks…” It was all the fire-breather could do not to roll his eyes.


“So what else do you think I’ll need?”


“Anything that’ll make Jak happy,” Renkotsu quickly assured him.


“Well that goes without saying.” Bankotsu rolled his eyes at him.


“True, true…” The fire-breather snorted softly in amusement as he had the feeling the love-nest would wind up looking like the local brothel by the time Bankotsu was finished decorating it with the cross-dresser’s tastes.


“So you think he’ll be surprised? And like it?”


“I’m sure he will and then some, Oo-Aniki.” You sound like you’re going to woo him. Renkotsu grinned inwardly. Better you than me, my friend…


As they walked along, Bankotsu kept up a one-sided conversation about the love-nest while Renkotsu surprised himself, by nodding in all the right places. As much as he hated to admit being jealous of the cross-dresser, the fire-breather found he actually had it better when it came to things. Suikotsu was just as attentive a lover, but he never smothered him with affection like their leader did to the cross-dresser. He never dallied with women behind his back like Bankotsu would probably do the minute he stepped foot into the pleasure district, nor would he pick fights with him over the stupidest things just to have fun making up afterwards. No, he had a certain maturity and stability in his relationship with the claw-bearer and it felt strangely good, knowing that he finally did have something Jakotsu was jealous about when it dawned on him why the cross-dresser always whined about wanting a “Sui of his own.”
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