August 19, Yondaime Year 5
At 1750 on a Tuesday evening, Minami Udon Bar had already welcomed a smattering of early patrons. A few families, both ninja and civilian; small groups of friends, still wearing accountants’ blouses or chuunin blues. Minami was popular both for its udon and its cocktails. It didn’t boast Konoha’s most romantic ambience, which was precisely why Kurenai had chosen it.
She sat at the bar, idly sipping a yuzu whiskey sour, listening to the girls behind her discussing someone’s relationship woes. It took her a moment to realize they were dissecting a book character, rather than a mutual friend. She made a mental note to recommend the book to Kakashi. It sounded like his kind of drama.
And, speaking of relationship drama… The long blue noren in the doorway lifted and parted as a tall man ducked through. Raidou, in civilian wear, keeping his chakra close-bound to his skin as always. He wore dark jeans and a buttoned shirt, throat open and sleeves rolled up in concession to the day’s heat. The steel rings on his right hand glinted as he let the noren fall.
Kurenai lifted her glass to him. He spotted her, nodded, came over. Light sweat sheened his cheekbones and the notch of his throat; it was a warm day. He smelled of some spicy aftershave. She smiled. “What will you have?”
His mouth hitched up at the corner: not quite returning her smile, more as if he’d thought of something he couldn’t yet share. “Beer is fine.” He settled onto the stool beside her and looked her over, a quick appreciative glance from her bare shoulders and keyhole neckline to the mid-thigh hem, before his eyes lifted to her face and stayed there. “I like the dress.”
“I’m glad I’m not the only one who changed after work.” She signalled the bartender and passed on Raidou’s order. “And that your work didn’t, in fact, call you out again. How’s the downtime?”
“Spending the mornings kicking Hatake around the training field, and the afternoons being a test subject for Tousaki’s healing training.” Raidou turned his arm over to show the faint yellowish shadow of a healed bruise. “Both fun. And you?”
“My afternoon was spent arguing with cryptoanalysts, mostly. You’ll both be interested; I’ll tell you when— Ah, he arrives.”
However Genma had spent the day, he’d clearly taken the time to clean up, too. He’d knotted his hair back into a low bun at the nape of his neck, though a few shorter strands escaped to soften the sharp lines of his cheeks and chin. His jeans were cut slimmer than Raidou’s, hugging his pelvis below an untucked indigo shirt patterned with interlocking white stars in a traditional yukata motif. The clean, mustard-yellow sneakers had certainly never seen a training field.
He smiled, quick and unguarded, when he saw them. The stool on Raidou’s other side was empty; he grazed his fingertips over Kurenai’s exposed shoulder as he passed her, then leaned in to catch the bartender’s eye. “Ume chuuhai, please.” He turned the smile back to them. “Hi. Glad I didn’t wear just a t-shirt. You’d both have me outclassed.”
“Not by too much,” Kurenai said. She’d seen Genma in a t-shirt. “As long as it wasn’t spattered in paint. Or blood. How are the renovations proceeding?”
The bartender arrived with Raidou’s beer and retreated again to combine umeshu and shouchuu with soda water for Genma’s chuuhai. A ceiling fan creaked lazily above them, barely stirring the air. Raidou took a long, grateful drink.
“Pretty much finished.” Genma leaned an elbow on the bar and nodded to Raidou. “Thanks to Raidou and the team helping me out. On my own, I’d probably have been living in construction until the first snow.”
“Or you would have decided the hole in the roof was an aesthetic choice,” Raidou said. “Started using tarps as blankets. ‘No, I wanted it this way. Blue is a healthy color’.”
Genma chuckled. “I’d have fixed the roof. The hole in the floor I might have left as an agility training tool.” His drink arrived, pale yellow in a tall frosty glass, garnished with a pink umeboshi. He sipped, and licked a stray drop from the side of his mouth.
“It might have kept your number of visitors down,” Kurenai said. “Or possibly not, in Konoha.”
“It would also have been another security risk for Kakashi to leave me illegibly critical notes about.”
She laughed. “Have you tried redlining his notes and handing them back?”
“I complained I couldn’t read his last note, and got a half-hour lecture on better security practices.” He took another sip and shrugged, looking wryly amused. “The irritating thing is he was right about some of them. I’m not installing nightingale floors, though.”
“Especially since we just finished fixing the floors,” Raidou pointed out. “The time to suggest alterations was before we sanded and stained.”
“And since he was involved in that work, if I recall correctly, he’s got no one to blame but himself.” Kurenai licked a trace of yuzu-flavored foam from the edge of her lip and saw both men’s eyes track the movement. She smiled. A little promise of warmth unfurled low in her belly. “It’s a pity I couldn’t stop by to enjoy watching you both be shirtless and competent, but we’ve had a busy few days since you turned in your mission report. Still plenty of holes we haven’t filled, but I do have a few snippets to pass on. After dinner?”
“Filling in the holes after dinner sounds like a good plan to me,” Genma said, with perfect innocence.
“Oh my god,” Raidou said, but he was laughing too. “No more alcohol for either one of you.”
Kurenai drew her glass back protectively. Genma chuckled.
“Speaking of dinner, what do you think of heading down to the waterfront? There’s a festival tonight with a lot of food stalls. Not too far from my place.” Genma swirled his glass, shards of ice gently chinking. “After we finish our drinks, of course.” He met Raidou’s eye, tipped his glass back, and let the plum fall into his open mouth.
Raidou’s eyes darkened. His hand curled loosely on the polished wooden bar. “For that,” he said, mouth crooking, “you’re winning me a prize at the festival.” He tipped his bottle back and downed the rest, strong throat bobbing as he swallowed. The veins in his forearms stood out, clean and hard. He set the empty bottle down on the bar and looked at Kurenai on his left. “You too.”
“I should have known you’d require gifts for your courting,” Kurenai said, amused. He’d demanded Genma win him a prize at that festival in Hiraizumi, too, when they were all in henge and Genma was playing his besotted husband. “A fluffy stuffed animal for your bed? Goldfish? Or will you be content with whatever mediocre toy the one person here who doesn’t specialize in throwing sharp objects can win?”
His brows lifted. “I thought the point of gift-giving was for the giver to demonstrate how well they know the giftee?”
“In that case, I should just hand you the sharp object.” Although the prizes at festival booths in Konoha often tended to be more useful than those at civilian fairs. Puzzle boxes that pricked unwary fingers with needles when solved incorrectly; shuriken in unusual shapes; brightly colored sand-filled balls for grip-training. They still offered the traditional games for civilians and children, of course, but any ranked shinobi who stepped up to a booth could expect a challenge.
“Maybe we should win you a kanzashi, so you’ll have a sharp object of your own to practice with,” Genma commented.
Kurenai tossed her loose hair back and smiled at him. “I’d wear it.” She finished her drink, picked up her purse, and counted out bills for the bartender. “Shall we try?”
Genma was more than happy to let Kurenai lead the way out, especially since she presented such an attractive sight. Her garnet-red dress fit her to perfection, and she moved in it with the grace and poise that were always hers, but seasoned with a provocative sway of hips that drew more than just Genma’s and Raidou’s eyes. There was something smugly satisfying about knowing the promise in her walk was for the two of them alone.
Raidou, at his back, was watching them both, and that was just as thrilling. Genma let a little extra fluidity grace his walk, too, for Raidou’s benefit. In the four days since they’d made this date, in the sultry dark of his bedroom, Genma’d turned Raidou’s words over and over with growing anticipation.
I want to throw you on that bed and go down on you until you scream. I want to bend Genma over the goddamn couch and make him forget his birthday and his name. I want to watch you ride him until neither of you can stand up. To start with.
To start with.
Genma grinned to himself as they caught up to Kurenai outside the bar.
“Let’s see, I’m trying to remember what you liked best to eat in Hiraizumi. Takowasa for you,” he told Kurenai. “But I think you just went along with the crowd on the takoyaki and corn, Rai. Any favorites we should be looking for?”
“Yakitori,” Raidou said decisively.
“Yakitori it is,” Genma said. “Hard to go wrong with grilled meat on a skewer.”
“Exactly,” Raidou said. “And taiyaki for you, if I remember right.”
“Yep. Red bean or matcha.” Genma steered them down a lantern-strung alley he liked to use as a shortcut to the waterfront. “But I’m game to try something new, too.”
Delicious scents of grilling meat and warm sugar wafted towards them on a drift of smoke that glowed golden in the setting sun. They followed a stepped path down a steep section of the hill, past shuttered workshops with apartments overhead. Laundry fluttered on balconies, and upper-storey windows stood open to catch the evening breeze. The alley turned a final curve and opened onto the broad thoroughfare of Kawadori Street, with the riverfront park just beyond.
Tents and stalls lined both sides of the pedestrian path through the park, and a throng of people, many in yukata, but just as many in streetwear or uniform, meandered through the little festival’s offerings. Shrill children’s voices and the call of barkers hawking their offerings rose and fell, and the tinkle of windchimes came from a stall nearby.
“What I don’t get,” Genma said, as they made their way across the street, “is how Ryouma had never been to a festival before we took him to the one in the mountains. Maybe he doesn’t think things like this count?”
“There were a lot less during the war, I guess…” Raidou sounded doubtful.
“Yeah,” Genma said, “there weren’t really any during the war. And I guess if you didn’t have the kinds of friends or dates who’d want to go to one, once they started up again, maybe you wouldn’t even really know they were happening.”
“You could tell him about this one, assuming it continues through the week.” Kurenai shrugged one shoulder. “Send him and Kakashi down, and give yourself another night free.”
“They did manage to enjoy themselves at the previous one without bloodshed.” Genma paused to examine the offerings at the bell-maker’s stall. “I’d almost think they were flirting through violence and insults, but I’m pretty certain Kakashi’s not the flirting type, no matter the method.” Especially since Ryouma’d confessed that the one time he’d flirted with Kakashi, Kakashi had shied violently, then ground him into paste at the next day’s training.
“Pretty sure Hatake wouldn’t recognize flirting if it did a naked dance in front of him.” Raidou flicked the sail on a little iron bell, making it ring for emphasis.
“Mm,” Kurenai murmured. “He might Sharingan it for future reference, though.”
“That sounds like him,” Genma agreed.
She leaned in to investigate a delicate green-enameled chime shaped like a cluster of dragonflies. “This one is pretty. Look at the ironwork.”
“You have a good eye, miss,” the seller said, turning to them. “That’s one of my late grandfather’s designs. We don’t cast many of them anymore. Too time-consuming.”
“I’d have pegged you more for a glass bell type,” Genma said. “But I can see why that one caught your eye.” He snagged the fluttering price tag and turned it over. “Does it count if I don’t win it for you?”
“I’m not the one you needed to win,” she told him, with a hint of laughter lurking in her low voice. “And we haven’t seen the rest of the festival yet.”
The seller winked at Genma. “Listen to your lady friend, and take her to see the rest of the fair. I know you won’t find a prettier bell. And I do have one more of this design with me, in case this one sells.”
Genma glanced over at Raidou, who was turning one of the glass bells around to get a better look at the spray of yellow flowers painted on it. “Want to see the rest of the fair first, too?” he asked.
“Yes.” Raidou looked up with an unguarded smile that did something intense and complicated to Genma’s thought process.
“Dinner,” Kurenai declared. She slipped her arm into Genma’s and tugged him into motion. “Remember to breathe, Genma.”
The seller grinned at him. “I’ll see you back for two bells, then. Go have fun, kids.”
Raidou gave her an amused smirk and ducked out of the stall, peering at the other vendors’ setups for a moment before he started herding Genma and Kurenai towards a red and white striped tent that promised games for every skill level. “Perhaps I can win you both something.”
“Show us how it’s done, you mean?” Genma found his footing again. Mostly. He put the question of what had just happened to him aside for later contemplation. Maybe it was hunger.
“If you need me to show you how to hit targets, Senbon-san, we have bigger concerns.”
Genma tucked a flyaway strand of hair back behind his ear. “Oh, it’s a contest? A contest I can do.” He grinned at his companions. “Let’s hope they have good prizes.”
“Gods preserve us from male competitiveness,” Kurenai said. “Just don’t clean them out.”
“Any time you want to step in and show us up…” Raidou told her.
“I’ll leave the contests of strength and skill to you,” Kurenai said, after studying the signage that listed the rules. “Tell me if you see any drinking competitions, though; I’ll win a prize for you there.”
“I believe you,” Genma said. “You drank us under the table the night we went to Embers.”
There were, as the sign promised, games and rules for every skill level, from civilian to jounin. Plus a special Hokage tier, which, if you could best it (and you weren’t actually the Hokage), won you not only your choice of prize, but a pool of money from all the previous attempts.
“You could try a chuunin-level game,” he suggested.
“Possibly,” Kurenai said, in a tone that suggested Not Likely. “Or I could applaud yours. What are you thinking? Blindfolded senbon toss?”
“That’d be my best shot, probably,” Genma said. “What about you, Rai? Or do you want to try the senbon and I’ll do… I don’t know…”
“Rock-breaking,” Raidou said. “Jounin-level requires no chakra beyond the boundary of your skin.”
Genma studied the illustration of the game—a cartoon figure lay under a heavy slab of rock, while a giant of a man swung a sledge hammer down on it.
“I bet I could do that,” he started, and stopped himself. “Although if by some chance I screwed up and the blow got through, I’m pretty sure I’d end up at the top of Toushirou-sensei’s all-time list of dumb.”
The questioning look on Raidou’s face rapidly morphed into alarm as he remembered Genma’s clotting problem. “Excellent point. I’ll break rocks. You can wow us with your accuracy.”
“My spleen and my insufficient platelets thank you,” Genma said.
They stepped up to the booth. The ticket-seller cast a critical eye over them, and more importantly, a critical wash of chakra. Retired shinobi? “Jounin-level,” he declared. “Two-thousand ryou each. What’re your games?”
“She’s not competing,” Genma said, “unless there’s a drinking contest.”
The barker laughed. “You might find someone who’ll take you on over where they’re serving beer.”
They paid their entrance fees. Raidou went first. A small sand-filled ring was surrounded by split logs upended to use as seats, with a respectable cluster of spectators. Mostly genin and chuunin, and a few civilians. A teenage girl was in the ring, on her back, with a slab of slate on her chest and belly. The promised mountain of a man stepped into the ring with a sledge over his shoulder. It took Genma a moment to place him. “That’s Akimichi Yuuji,” he told his companions. “I was in the same class as him at the Academy.”
Yuuji looked down at the girl. “Ready?”
“Ready,” she said. There was a warble to her voice, but no other sign of nerves.
Yuuji raised the hammer over his head, then swung. The girl crunched her legs and head up, curling her spine in a C as the rock shattered. She made one, tiny, high-pitched sound. And then stretched her arms out wide and whooped. “Did you see that? Pay up, Masa!” She flipped up onto her feet to a round of cheers from the audience.
While she went to claim her reward, Yuuji beckoned Raidou into the ring.
His rock was considerably sturdier—a thick black slab of basalt that it took Yuuji and a helper to lift into place.
Next to Genma, Kurenai went oddly still. When he looked at her, her cheeks were pale. “That is… remarkably reminiscent of the statue that nearly killed him last month. I wonder if he intended it.”
The tanuki statue. That the kits had dropped on Raidou on Genma’s behalf. Genma sucked in his lip and wrapped an arm around Kurenai’s shoulders. “I’m almost completely positive he’s doing it on purpose. This is how he deals with trauma.”
Raidou didn’t look particularly traumatized, though. He looked centered and calm, staring up at the colored lanterns strung over the little arena.
Yuuji picked up a much bigger hammer. “Ready?”
The swing was faster. The hit harder. The crack of shattering stone far louder, and Raidou’s grunt as the hammer crushed the slab went straight to Genma’s chest. Kurenai shuddered. Genma tightened his arm on her. For a moment, Raidou didn’t move. Medic training kicked in fast, as Genma visualized fractured ribs, a cracked sternum, a shocked heart…
And then Raidou roared to his feet, with a huge, open-mouthed grin. “Hell yes!”
Anxious emergency treatment plans evaporated in a furnace-blast of relief. “Yes!” Genma echoed. “Get over here, you bastard!” He towed Kurenai with him to wrap Raidou in a rough, exuberant hug. “That was insane! Magnificently insane!”
“Ninja!” Raidou said, laughing and hugging back. “Also ANBU.” He tossed his head back and grinned at the sky, hugged them again, and said, “Now your turn to stab things!”
The blindfolded senbon toss was almost too easy for Genma. He speared tiny paper lanterns with cool precision, sending them spiraling out of the air like doomed comets. His prize was a pair of long metal senbon, which glimmered with a threatening, oily sheen.
“World’s most lethal chopsticks?” Raidou suggested.
“Or hair decoration,” Genma murmured, studying them thoughtfully. He spun one between his fingers, making a steely blur. “Or maybe they’re for when you want your target to feel extra special as you pierce their carotid.”
“It’s the little touches,” Raidou said. His own prize was a set of brass dice in a lacquered box, absurdly heavy for their size. If he dropped them, they might crack concrete.
It was an odd collection to present Kurenai with, but she seemed pleased. The senbon went into her hair, pinning its dangerous curls. The dice vanished into a pocket dimension, safely stowed until whenever she might want to break a gambling table in half.
“My turn now, to win something for you both?” she asked, with a challenge in her smile.
Raidou glanced around for a drinking game, while Genma laughed and told Kurenai she didn’t have to. She tossed her head and strode away to a small booth decorated with glittering metal fish.
The interior of the booth was taken up by wide, shallow tanks, filled with a variety of fish. Huge, colorful goldfish; narrow, darting smelt; butterfly-tailed carp; gleaming milkfish; some kind of black… thing with orange bulges over its eyes that looked like protuberant eyebrows. Raidou studied the last one with disturbed fascination while Kurenai paid her entrance fee.
The ticket-seller, a lean woman with a handsome face and pale green eyes, took a single shrewd look at her. “Jounin?”
“Special jounin,” Kurenai corrected.
“Hm.” The ticket-seller handed over the smallest net from her collection, a gossamer-looking thing about the size of a large soap bubble. “Ghost-fish tank. You get one chance.” She flashed an unexpected smile, sharp at the edges. “Good luck.”
A tank Raidou had taken for empty turned out to contain a handful of small, slender, translucent fish. They were lightning-fast, only identifiable as living things by the occasional gleam of light reflecting from skeletons or pale internal organs.
Kurenai’s eyes narrowed, arterial red in the lamplight, as she studied her targets. She stuck the net-handle between her teeth. Her hands flashed through a half-dozen rapid, fluid seals. The water shivered as the shapes in it changed course. Kurenai crouched down on her high-heels, balancing elegantly, and watched as the glimmers of fish began to coalesce from unpredictable darts into a solid, circling school.
She extracted the net from her teeth and muttered, “They don’t have much mind to influence.”
Raidou didn’t think he’d ever seen fish genjutsu’d. Or— any animal, for that matter. But it seemed to be working. The ghost-fish were a tight group now, fast and still barely visible.
Kurenai’s hand flashed. The net dipped, once.
“Winner, winner,” the ticket-seller drawled, as three shining fish came up, gasping and flip-flopping.
Kurenai released them gently back into the tank. The school broke up, offended fish scattering to all four corners.
“Choose your prizes,” the ticket-seller said, gesturing to the back wall of her stall. “One thing for each fish.”
Kurenai rose to inspect the options. Fingering a pair of glimmering fish-scale earrings, she glanced back, eyes alight. “Neither of you have piercings, do you? A shame.”
There was a subtle hunger in her expression, as if she was picturing them as a matched set. Raidou glanced sidelong at Genma, who looked faintly alarmed, but not unwilling.
“No,” said Raidou, carefully.
Genma pointed to a gold-edged coupon that proclaimed “Free 6-piece maki!” for use at a neighboring sushi stall. “How about that?”
“You price yourself too low,” Kurenai told him, but she took the coupon. After considering Raidou, she added a second coupon. For her third prize, she selected the earrings, and slid them into her own pierced ears as they left. The silver gleamed bright against her hair.
Sushi was the inevitable next step. The stall was busy and cheerful, run by a tiny old woman who used her knife with precise skill even shinobi would envy. She had tuna rolls in front of Genma and unagi in front of Raidou with impressive speed. Kurenai ordered a plate of mixed sashimi, which came arranged around a lotus blossom like an extended sunburst of petals. Since six rolls apiece barely took the edge off an active shinobi’s appetite, Raidou and Genma both indulged in their own sashimi orders: more tuna for Genma, lean and dark red, glistening like fresh-cut garnet; amberjack for Raidou, who wanted something with heft and fat.
The little old woman poured a cup of sake for each of them — to help, she said, keep away the chill of the evening. It was August, and warm, but the sake was good, so Raidou just thanked her politely.
After that, Kurenai expressed an interest in investigating the adult beverages tent. Genma offered her a courteous elbow. Raidou followed a half-step behind, feeling somewhere between a guardian sheepdog trotting patiently on their heels, and a voyeur, covetously watching the way Kurenai rested her hand on Genma’s forearm. Pale skin and red nails against scarred sunbeam brown. The grace they held between them, in the smooth curve of Kurenai’s spine, the line of Genma’s neck as he dipped his head to listen to something she said.
The tent was mostly beer, brewed locally, and imported sake. A few fruit wines held discrete corners — persimmon, yuzu, pear. Something that proclaimed itself muskmelon and fig, which they all gave a wide berth. The air smelled like hops and fermenting, and buzzed with chatter. Kurenai got a sample tray of five small sake cups. Genma, looking intrigued, ordered a glass of persimmon wine. Raidou chose a beer purely for the cross-eyed cockerel on the label, but found it too bitter. Kurenai took it off his hands, downing it and her collection of tiny cups in the time it took him to source something more palatable.
“I still need to win you something,” Genma told him, when Raidou returned with sake. “Did any of the other booths have prizes you liked the look of?”
The corner of Raidou’s mouth quirked up. “It’s cute you think that’s where my attention has been.”
The little catch in Genma’s breath was barely noticeable, hidden against the rim of his glass. The tip of his tongue touching his lower lip might have just been to chase a drop of wine away. “I’ll have to swap you for rear guard when we go back out, so I can be distracted, too.”
Raidou laughed, which made Genma grin. “Deal,” Raidou said.
“At some point, I’ll need to trade out for my own turn,” Kurenai said, with a slow, promissory smile. “Maybe when we leave, if we’re all heading in the same direction.”
It had seemed a foregone conclusion that they would be, but, Raidou was reminded, nothing was certain. They were all adults, ability to step back and decline included. She might change her mind. Genma might. They were entitled to.
Raidou wasn’t planning to, though.
He smiled, offered his arm to Kurenai. “Let’s find somewhere for Genma to win us pretty things.”
“I’ve got my pretty things already,” Kurenai said, touching one of the sleek senbon pinning up her hair. They were working better than kanzashi usually did. Only a few curls had tumbled free to brush the bared nape of her neck. “I think this time the challenge is all for you.”
“I will happily take all the pretty things,” Raidou said, looking down at them both. His smile stretched nearly into a smirk.
“Smooth bastard.” Genma punched him lightly in the other arm, laughing. His cheeks flushed dusky rose with persimmon wine and pleasure. “Not that I’m complaining.”
They made their careful way out of the crowded tent and into a golden evening. The river glinted beyond another stretch of booths and games; couples strolled its grassy bank, and families laid out picnic blankets. The pedestrian path between the stalls was growing busier, and the first few hanging lanterns had been lit.
Genma fell back, as he’d promised. The weight of his gaze felt like a haori draped over Kurenai’s shoulders, warming her from nape to thighs. She put a little more sway into her step, bumping her hip against Raidou’s, and heard Genma’s soft laughter behind them.
“There,” he said, after a moment. He pointed past them, where a neatly drawn sign advertised water-walking games at the river’s edge. In the gap between a takoyaki stand and a paper-fan seller, Kurenai saw a small group clustered on the bank.
They made their way closer. Kurenai’s heels sank a little in the soft ground, and then she really did need Raidou’s support. She could have braced herself with chakra, but it was more pleasant to lean against him, to feel the muscles flex in his forearm as he steadied her steps. His arm was very warm, lightly furred with burnished coppery hair, ridged with veins and scars.
Genma pulled ahead of them as they neared the river’s edge. Out on the lazy water, a meter from the bank, a sweating teenager tried to balance on his flattened palms. A wiry elderly man wearing only fundoshi stood on the bank and counted loudly: “Six… seven… eight…”
The boy’s chakra, or his strength, gave way. He plopped headfirst into the river and surfaced two meters downstream, spitting water.
“Too bad!” the fundoshi-clad man commiserated. “Another two seconds and you’d have won the prize. Well, a nice cool swim is as good as a prize anyday. Who’ll step up next?”
Genma looked back, brows lifting. “What do you think? Want to watch me avoid swimming?”
“Mm,” Kurenai said. “I’d appreciate a wet shirt exhibition, too.”
“Both is good,” Raidou said, with a grin beneath hungry eyes.
“The dye might run,” Genma commented, looking down at his indigo shirt. “Too bad I didn’t wear an undershirt.” He unbuttoned it from the collar down, nimble-fingered, and stripped it off. Raidou caught the casual toss. Genma turned away, golden in the evening light, a lovely architecture of strong shoulders and narrow hips. The ragged scars across his back made him real. He asked the vendor, “What are the rules?”
For jounin or special jounin, the rules required a fingertip handstand without wetting the palms. “Ten seconds for a small prize, twenty seconds for a big one,” the vendor said cheerfully. “Nice trim boy like you, you won’t disappoint your friends there, will you?” He slapped Genma’s tattooed shoulder. Genma wasn’t extraordinarily tall, but the elderly man still had to reach up to touch him. “You don’t want that pretty girl walking away with your friend instead.”
“Not without me,” Genma said, grinning.
He paid his entry fee and followed the vendor to the designated entry point, where the bank dipped shallowly to the water. He toed conscientiously out of sneakers and socks, then strode barefoot out onto the surface of the water. The glossy surface dimpled under his toes. Rings spread out from each step.
Two meters out, he stopped and flipped up into a graceful handstand facing the bank. His palms arched, lifting him up onto three braced fingertips of each hand. The old man began counting time in a clear, carrying voice: “One… two… three…”
Genma’s arms didn’t tremble. The muscles stood out strong and corded beneath the skin. He kept his spine and legs beautifully straight, toes pointed. A few strands of hair fell loose around his face, but he’d lifted himself high enough that they didn’t touch the water.
“Nine… ten… eleven…”
“Ganbatte!” Kurenai called.
He grinned distractedly. His face was starting to redden; he blinked against sweat running into his eyes. The slightest tremble quivered in the muscles of his arms and across his chest.
“Can you go one-handed?” Raidou challenged.
Muscles shook. Genma lifted his left hand up, slowly; almost overbalanced; counterbalanced with angled toes to recenter his mass over his right hand. His left hand tucked against his side. The wiry old vendor, sensing an opportunity, kept counting: “Nineteen… twenty… twenty-one…”
“Hey, come see, it’s an ANBU!” A pair of teenage girls called to their friends. A dark-haired young man in an Uchiha shirt glanced over, paused, and drifted closer to watch.
Genma’s arm was quivering like a windblown leaf now, his face red with blood and effort. His body swayed, then corrected.
“Twenty-eight… twenty-nine… thirty!”
Genma’s arm gave way. He fell straight down, left arm snapping out to smack against the surface of the water. Chakra arrested his plunge. His legs came lightly down, and he kipped up to his feet in a spray of wet hair and dazzling light.
The teenage girls applauded. Kurenai joined them.
Genma ducked his dripping head to them and came back across the water. He dropped onto his back in the grass at Kurenai’s feet, breathless and laughing. “How was that?”
Raidou looked down at him, proud and just a little predatory. “Perfect.”
Kurenai crouched to brush wet tangles of hair away from Genma’s face. “I think you just gained two or three new recruits for ANBU. And a few personal fans, too.”
He smiled up at her, still catching his breath. “Happy with my VIP fanclub of two.”
“That’s Konoha nin for you!” the old vendor was announcing proudly to the gathered onlookers. “Step up, step up, let’s see who can follow that example… You take your time, son, that prize’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready. Looks like you’ve got your hands full just now anyway.” He winked outrageously at Kurenai and turned away to the next eager contestant.
Genma sat up, massaging his shoulder for a moment before he put his socks and shoes back on. Raidou offered him a hand up. As he stood, shaking his wet hair back, a young man’s voice said, diffidently, “Genma?”
He’d come from the side, displaying a ninja’s sensitivity to approaching any strange shinobi from behind. Genma wasn’t looking in his direction, but he clearly recognized the voice. A sudden stillness swept over his face, shuttering the delight in his eyes. His tired muscles tensed, then deliberately relaxed. A polite smile touched his lips. He turned his head.
“Masa! Hi!” His voice was light, friendly; someone who hadn’t heard him speaking a moment ago might not have noticed a difference. He slung a damp arm over Raidou’s shoulders and the other over Kurenai’s, and towed them around with him. “Uchiha Masanori, these are my friends Yuuhi Kurenai and Namiashi Raidou.”
Kurenai inclined her head. Uchiha Masanori bowed shallowly. He was handsome, pale and fine-featured, a few years older than Genma. He wore the loose-collared shirt with its red and white fan symbol over a pair of dark shinobi pants. No indicia of rank, but his chakra wasn’t quite the smooth coil that Kurenai expected from tokujo or jounin rank. Chuunin, perhaps.
“It’s… been a while,” Masanori said. His dark eyes skimmed over Genma, drinking in details. “You’re still in ANBU?”
Genma nodded. “I’m a lieutenant now.” He paused just long enough to grow awkward. “Did your family finally convince you to—”
“I married Yoko in February,” Masanori said, a touch too quickly. “She’s buying a fan for her mother.” He nodded up the gentle slope at the direction of the fan-vendor’s stall.
“Congratulations,” Genma said. “I’m very happy for you. I know you and she always got along well.”
Raidou glanced at Kurenai. She shook her head very slightly. He nodded.
Neither of them moved to give Genma and his old… friend space.
It had been almost a year since Genma’d last seen Masa. Since they’d broken up after five months of dating. Casually, Genma’d thought; much more seriously as far as Masa had been concerned. Why now, of all days, did Masa have to turn up? They could have run into each other in the village on any other day, and it would have been awkward, but maybe not this awkward.
On the other hand, Raidou was a breathtaking bulwark on his left, and Kurenai a stunning counterpoint on his right. Genma wasn’t looking to be cruel, but the hurt yearning still lurking in Masa’s dark eyes was a weight he didn’t want to shoulder. He tipped his head to the side, against Raidou’s broad shoulder, and tugged Kurenai a little closer.
Masa’s eyes darted to the side, then back, skimming up Genma’s body like he was backtracking the clinging water droplets. “You look good. That handstand—that was amazing.”
“Thanks,” Genma said. “Training with Raidou’s been good for my strength.”
“Oh. Uh. Yeah, I can see that.”
Genma glanced over at Masa’s cousin-wife, who seemed to have purchased her fan and was standing talking to a friend who was still choosing from the fan-vendor’s wares. She was practically the essence of summer in a pale pink and white yukata. Her plump cheeks and narrow chin, framed by silky black hair in a classic comb-and-kanzashi bound chignon, made her an epitome of Uchiha beauty.
The perfect genetic match Masa’s parents had wanted. Even if Masa hadn’t.
For the love of every saint and sage, Yoko, come take your husband away.
“Still doing police work?” Genma asked, because he couldn’t think of an easy way out of this conversation, and he didn’t want to be rude.
“I’m going to be promoted to detective,” Masa said. “Soon. As soon as there’s an opening.”
“That’s… great. I know that’s what you wanted. Good for you.” Genma let his left hand drop casually and tapped a short retreat code against Raidou’s shoulder.
Raidou gave the vendor a nod. “Still need to pick out your prize, Genma,” he said.
“I do. You can help me.” Genma flashed him a relieved smile. “I’ll let you get back to the fair,” he added to Masa. “It was great to see you. I’m really glad to see you’re doing so well.”
“See you around,” Genma said. He pulled Raidou and Kurenai both into motion, towards the table of prizes for the water-stand game.
“Uh, yeah.” Masa looked a little lost. And Genma felt like six kinds of a prick. But what else was there to do?
Yoko finally noticed her husband wasn’t with her, and waved an arm, beckoning him. “Masa, come pick one for your mother, too.”
Masa looked guiltily towards her, then gave Genma one last, forlorn little smile. “See you around, Genma.”
When Masa’d gone, Genma felt even more limp than he had after the three-finger handstand. He shoved his hands through his wet hair and shook his head. “Sorry. That was. Well. You can probably guess what that was.”
Kurenai pressed warm against his side, slipping an arm around his bare waist. “You handled it well.”
“I didn’t, really. But thanks.” Genma blew out another breath, tossed his head back, and stretched his arms over his companions’ shoulders again. “You remember the guy I mentioned in our two-truths-and-a-lie game in the Arechi Hill safehouse, Rai? That was him.”
“Short relationship, unexpected proposal, right?” Raidou said. “Makes more sense now I know he’s an Uchiha.”
Kurenai twitched her gaze towards Genma, ruby eyes bright and incisive, then let her glance turn thoughtfully up the slope to Masa and Yoko.
“That’s the first time I’ve talked to him since all of that, a year ago,” Genma said. “But you know?” He reached for a smile and found that, surprisingly, it was there. Warm, genuine happiness washed back through him. “Present company is a whole lot better. I never regretted breaking up with him, but I’m definitely glad I did, now.”
“In my personal and professional judgment,” Kurenai murmured, voice warm, “I’m glad you did, too.”
“Agreed.” Raidou’s voice was just as warm. Just as confident. “If you hadn’t,” he added more thoughtfully, “I doubt you’d have been put on the team. Uchiha connection and all.”
Genma grimaced. “I hadn’t even thought of that. And then I wouldn’t have met you and— Well I guess if I hadn’t broken it off with him, this wouldn’t have been an option anyway. But I did and it is.” He grinned at Kurenai and Raidou each in turn. “So what shall I woo you with? What about one of those?” He pointed to a gaily dancing line of wall scrolls strung from a red cord over the water-walk booth’s prize table. “The one with the chrysanthemums is pretty,” he suggested.
Raidou tilted his head at the scroll, looking less than enraptured. “Could woo better,” he declared. “Kurenai got fancy stabbing hairsticks.”
“I offered you earrings,” Kurenai said, amused.
“What’s wrong with art?” Genma asked.
Raidou ignored him to peruse the other prizes on offer. “There—I want that.” He pointed out a black metal bracelet with a subtle floral pattern etched into it.
Genma waved the vendor over and indicated his choice of prize. The old man picked out a smaller-sized bracelet and offered it to Kurenai, but Genma shook his head and gestured at Raidou. “For him.”
Fundoshi-san hesitated, then cackled. “Well then,” he said. He chose a bracelet for a bigger wrist and handed it to Raidou to try on. “But you really earned two prizes,” he told Genma. “Going thirty seconds, and one handed for half of it.”
“Oh, I don’t need—” Genma started.
“Nonsense!” The old man laughed and pointed at the line of contestants waiting their turn. “You got me a lot of business. They all want to outdo you.” He unclipped the chrysanthemum scroll Genma’d admired. “How about it?”
“Well…” Genma hesitated. “I did just move into a new place. I suppose I could use some art on my walls, but I don’t really—”
The old man fixed him with a look. “That settles it. It’s yours.”
Genma accepted the additional prize with a pink-cheeked bow.
“You enjoy yourselves, youngsters! Come back any time you want to drum up business for me.” The vendor turned towards his fresh customers with a grin. “Whose next?”
Genma twisted his damp hair up into a messy knot and put his shirt back on before they headed back towards the main walk through the festival. As they strolled, Kurenai dropped back to take her turn admiring the view from behind.
The crowds had thickened on the walk as the light grew saffron with the setting sun. Lanterns decorated every stall, and delicious-smelling smoke drifted across the path. Genma’s stomach rumbled, unsatisfied with their sushi first course. “There’s your yakitori vendor,” Genma said. He started angling towards it, when a shrieking stream of small bodies burst through the forest of adult legs. Genma dodged right, missing three of the children. A familiar blond boy changed course though, and launched himself at Genma’s thighs.
“Shiranui-san!! Hi! Is Niisan here? Where’s your cats? Hi, Namiashi-taichou! Did you know there’s goldfish you can eat?”
Genma managed a semi-intelligent, “Naruto-kun?” and had to facilitate the boy’s climb up his body or risk having his shirt pulled right back off. He looked around for the ANBU escort that had better be somewhere nearby, and instead spotted the Hokage himself, accompanied by the highest ranking ANBU there was.
And not just civvies. Sagara-sama was dressed in a bright blue yukata patterned all over with pink and paler blue morning glories, tied with a turquoise obi and a violet cord. If it weren’t for the distinctive scar on his commander’s face, Genma wouldn’t have recognized her. Beside her, Minato, dressed in faded jeans and a dark purple t-shirt advertising a popular brand of sports drink, looked like— like an ordinary, if unreasonably sexy, man.
While Genma was still gaping in bewilderment at his terrible luck (first his ex, and now his boss, and his boss’s boss, while he was on a date with his captain and an Intel agent….) a second child appeared. A little girl in a flowered yellow yukata, solemn-eyed like her mother. “Naruto-kun, Mama says we can get taiyaki—” she stopped short and stared up at Naruto in Genma’s arms. “Who are you?”
“Shira—” Genma started, but the little girl had already turned to run back the way she’d come, wailing, “Mamaaaaaaa! Someone’s kidnapping Naruto-kun!”
The entire sea of festival-goers came to a standstill. Masked ANBU appeared, surrounding Genma and his companions.
Genma’s heart only restarted when one of them, squirrel-masked, said, “Genma?”
“Haj— Taich— Squirrel!” Genma stuttered, as his brain raced to catch up to the new shape of reality.
His former captain’s shoulders shook with barely suppressed mirth.
Naruto took advantage of the sudden silence to inform everyone loudly, “I’m not being kidnapped. Shiranui-san belongs to my niisan!”
This time Hajime completely failed to hold in his laughter.
Since the threat seemed to have been resolved, the crowd started to flow once more.
Minato worked his way over to give his off-duty ANBU a friendly wave. “Hostage-taking appears to be going the other way round,” he observed.
Sagara, towed by her daughter, was close on his heels. She gave Genma and his ‘captor’ an amused, expectant look.
“Hokage-sama. Sagara-sama.” Protocol finally clicked in, and he ducked his head, but he couldn’t salute without dropping Naruto, who was excitedly kicking his ribs. Raidou did salute, tapping his shoulder and bowing his head. Kurenai, not being ANBU, simply bowed.
A tall, balding man in an indigo jinbei pushing a pair of much smaller children in a double stroller slid into place next to Sagara. It had to be her seldom-seen husband. Genma had never met the man.
“Stop tenderizing Shiranui-san.” Minato reached out to still his son’s feet before Genma developed enough fresh bruises to alarm Naito-sensei. To Raidou and Genma he said, “Enjoying the evening? I see a few victory prizes already.”
“I won prizes!” Naruto’s kicking started up again as soon as his dad let go. “I got a goldfish and we ate it.”
“We didn’t eat the goldfish,” Sagara’s daughter corrected. “We ate sushi next door. I got salmon and Naruto-kun had red tuna.”
“Red tuna’s my favorite,” Genma said. “We had sushi, too.”
The little girl’s nose wrinkled, and she scowled at Genma. “Salmon is better.”
“Mariko.” Sagara looked down sharply at her daughter. “Is that how we speak to adults?”
Mariko’s dark gaze slid sidelong at the correction before she tucked her chin down to stare at her toes. “Sorry, mama.”
“So what happened to your goldfish?” Raidou asked Naruto.
“Dad said we ate it…” Naruto squinted suspicion at his father.
“Maybe I ate it when you weren’t looking.” Minato shrugged impishly. “There was a lot of fish-eating happening.” To Raidou he said, “Did you manage to drag my misanthrope student out with you, or is this only a partial team excursion?” His eyes flicked thoughtfully towards Kurenai.
“Just adults tonight,” said Raidou, good humored. “Seemed unfair to let Hatake win all the prizes.”
“He does that,” Minato conceded.
Sagara gave Minato a dry look. “He’s not the only one.”
“I wondered why the prize for beating the Hokage-level at those skills games excluded the actual Hokage from winning,” Genma said.
“Thus I send my son out to do battle with goldfish.” Minato held out his arms to Naruto. “C’mon, let’s find some other games to win, and let the grown-ups here get back to their evening.”
“Bye, Shiranui-san! Come back and play with your cats some time.” Naruto toppled over trustingly into his father’s arms, saved with a swing and a swoop up to Minato’s shoulders.
Mariko perked up again, tugging the sleeve of her mother’s yukata. “We can get taiyaki now and then play ring-toss, right?”
When one of the babies in the double stroller started fussing, Sagara’s husband lifted it out and settled it against his hip. “Taiyaki sounds like a great idea,” he said, nodding a cordial greeting towards Genma and his companions.
“Have fun at the rest of the festival,” Genma said. “It was an unexpected pleasure to run into you, Hokage-sama, Sagara-sama, Sagara-san.” He saluted and bowed properly now that his hands were free.
Kurenai, following the Intel adage of Keep Your Mouth Shut And Listen, bowed as well. Minato gave them a cheerful wave. “Enjoy your evening!” He waded off into the crowd, with Naruto’s chubby fists gripping handfuls of his hair as reins.
Sagara and her family followed.
All of the ANBU guards but Hajime had already dispersed. “Try not to kidnap any more children,” he advised Genma, before he, too, vanished.
Genma took a deep breath and turned to face Raidou and Kurenai. “Wow.” He shook his head, wide-eyed. “Maybe we should get our yakitori and get out of here before we run into any more people we don’t really want to see tonight.”
A quick, unwanted list scrolled through Raidou’s mind: his mothers, Genma’s father, Kurenai’s grandmother. Shrewd eyes and a painfully accurate walking stick, ye gods, no first date deserved that.
“Or we could just get out of here,” he suggested.
“May as well get the yakitori—it’s on the way out,” Genma said.
“Either way, I don’t think we need to stop for those bells,” Kurenai said, still watching after Minato and Sagara. Her eyes were narrow and thoughtful.
“On both your heads when Tousaki’s entire medical class pops out of the ground and starts asking for tips,” Raidou said, resigned.
Despite his doubts, they acquired yakitori without incident, and managed a graceful escape from the festival without tripping over additional ANBU, rookies, or relatives.
It was good chicken, Raidou had to concede. Flame-grilled, intermixed with scallions, nice ratio of blackened crunchy bits. Genma performed absent sleight-of-hand with the empty skewers, flicking them into a trashcan when he was done. Kurenai, delicately licking a fingertip, still had a look on her face. Eyebrows pinched, eyes distracted. A very Intel expression.
Raidou nudged her. “Care to share?”
“Mm?” Kurenai blinked, glanced at him. “Oh. You didn’t tell me you’d made such friends in high places. Hokage-sama practically asked if you were on a date.”
On her other side, Genma choked on the single yakitori skewer he’d saved for a makeshift senbon.
“I’ve been wondering if my presence confused or clarified his speculation,” she continued. “He must have had some suspicion about the two of you already…” She smiled, a little wicked. “And here you were concerned about the chain of command within your team. Your most superior officer doesn’t seem terribly surprised. Or concerned.”
Raidou stared at her for a few moments. “I’m concerned,” he managed at last. “What do you mean he must have had some suspicion? We literally haven’t done anything.”
“How much time have you spent with him?” she asked. “Naruto-kun was clearly comfortable with you both.”
“Two meals?” Raidou said, glancing at Genma for confirmation. “Lunch after he gate-crashed training that one time. And just the other day, for Jiraiya-sama’s visit.”
“Kakashi’s told Naruto-kun enough stories about us that there were drawings on the refrigerator of Team Six—sort of.”
Kurenai’s mouth tilted up at the corners, clearly picturing what artwork Naruto was capable of. “Both meals after our return from Hotsprings Country? And the second one after we made these plans, or I’d have expected you to mention it. A man as smart as Hokage-sama could… draw certain conclusions, let’s say, from your behavior. Especially if there were any changes in the interim.”
What behavior? Standing next to each other? Raidou hadn’t pinned Genma to the dining room table, or dragged him off for a suspiciously long bathroom break, or undressed him with his eyes.
At least, he didn’t think so.
Kurenai added thoughtfully, “Or, of course, there’s the simple facts of a pleasant evening, attractive clothing, a festival that’s more popular for couples and families than for large groups of friends… and your missing rookies.”
“Of course,” Raidou said weakly. “The natural conclusion is a threesome.”
“I might be biased by my own assumptions.” Kurenai shrugged. “It’s an occupational hazard. Like hair-trigger paranoia for ANBU.”
“We haven’t changed our behavior,” Genma said, with more certainty than Raidou felt. He tilted his head at Kurenai. “Aoba does this too. Intel agents are just as paranoid as any ANBU.”
“Counterpoint,” Raidou said, regaining his mental footing. “Yondaime-sama just walked away thinking what nice young people we are, and he would be shocked to hear this kind of lewd speculation.” Raidou smiled, lowered his voice. “Even if it has the advantage of being true.”
“If Kurenai’s right, and he and Sagara both know and don’t care, then I’m good with that,” Genma said. “And if Rai’s right, then… Actually, with Minato-sama being Jiraiya’s student, I kind of doubt he’d be shocked by much of anything lewd.”
“Point,” Raidou conceded.
Diverted, Kurenai asked, “So you really did have lunch with Jiraiya-sama? What was he like?”
“Tall,” Genma said after a moment. “Loud.”
“Lots of hair,” Raidou said.
She digested this. “I thought he was off wandering the continent, enjoying a glamorous second career writing obscenely successful novels.”
“Obscene novels,” Raidou murmured.
“Did you learn why he’s come back here?”
Genma hesitated a fractional second, one which Kurenai’s sharp eyes skewered immediately. “He was here for a book signing.”
“And to see Yondaime-sama,” Raidou said, truthfully. “Catch up with Naruto-kun.”
“We ran into him at the book event when Kakashi ditched us and we chased him down. I had to save Raidou from himself when he was about to tell Jiraiya-sama his writing was terrible.”
Kurenai snickered. “Of course you did. I hope Kakashi got his book signed.”
“His writing is terrible,” Raidou said. “Which apparently no one has told him, since he keeps publishing.”
“It sells, though,” Genma said. “Aoba inflicts it on me—more when I was living with him. I got a signed copy for him.”
“Mm,” Kurenai said. “I’ve read a few. They’re… certainly imaginative.” She tipped her head up, looking at Raidou, mouth curling. “Don’t tell me you gave up before you got to the sex scenes.”
“I gave up because I got to a sex scene,” Raidou said. “Well, I skimmed Hatake’s book when I confiscated it once.” He pulled a face. “Never again.”
“Who knew you were so delicate,” Genma laughed.
“Look, I just want my sex sane, safe, and consensual,” Raidou said. “No sex on cliffs. Or hanging from trees. Or anyone getting accidentally set on fire.”
Kurenai’s smile widened, long past wicked and into sinful. “Assuming you’ve got a bed and all parties consent… What would you prefer?”
A whisper of heat licked down Raidou’s spine. He returned the smile, while Genma looked on with dark, dark eyes. “Pretty sure I’ve already said once. Genma’s loft isn’t far, if you want to discuss it further.”
‘Not far’ meant less than 200 meters, as it happened. The cheerful noise of the riverside festival was still distantly audible as Genma led the way up the stairs to his loft. The stair railing was warm from the sun, though dusk had finally fallen. A small ceramic tanuki statue guarded the top of the landing, brandishing a painted lantern and sake gourd.
Kurenai raised her brows. “This is new. Have you had visitors?”
“Aoba brought it back for me from a mission he had to Tanigawa.” He unlocked the door and stepped back to hold it open. “Ceramic statues and the big stone tanuki in Hiraizumi was the closest they got to seeing one.”
“Hm,” Kurenai said, stooping to unfasten the ankle-straps on her heeled sandals. Somehow that news hadn’t trickled down to her yet. She’d need to have words with Aoba if he was still in the office tomorrow.
She stepped into the slippers Genma’d laid out and straightened again. Raidou, similarly slippered beside her, was suddenly much taller. Her eyes were barely level with his throat, instead of his mouth. Had his chin borne those pale faded scars four days ago?
There was still so much she didn’t know about these men, details too insignificant for their official records, personal stories that had never come up. What kind of books did Raidou actually enjoy? What had prompted Genma’s habit of chewing senbon and yakitori sticks? What music did they prefer, how did they spend a lazy morning, what plans did they cherish for the future?
Not that it mattered tonight, she reminded herself. She didn’t need to know. She just wanted to.
Genma moved past them, turning on lights. The loft was spotlessly clean, all surfaces dusted, cedar-wood counters scrubbed and oiled. He set his new scroll on the table and looked back. “Can I get you anything to drink? I have beer, sake, shouchuu, some rose-petal honey liqueur from Wind Country… Or tea, if you’d rather stay sober.”
“Rose-petal honey liqueur,” Raidou repeated, fascinated. “What do you even do with that?”
“Sip it in very small quantities and chase it with plenty of water.”
“Yes,” Kurenai said. She leaned against the counter to watch his fluid, efficient movements: retrieving the pinkish-gold cut glass bottle from a cabinet; leaning a little further to fetch out a set of tiny flared sake cups in a gorgeous blue tenmoku glaze; turning, long fingers delicately bridged under the fragile cups, a wisp of drying hair falling over his eyes. He caught her gaze and smiled at her.
“You appreciate beauty,” Kurenai said. “In paintings, in sake cups, in countertops. Where did you learn that?”
Genma paused, blinked. “I… don’t know?” As if a connoisseur’s appreciation for bird-and-flower style paintings and oil-spot tenmoku glazes were innate, not something that needed to be painstakingly learned in private lessons outside of Academy hours. He set the cups down on the table. “Maybe that’s why you two are my type.”
Raidou chuckled. “Smooth.”
“Best I could do on short notice,” Genma said, grinning. He filled three glasses with water and set them out on the table behind the three sake cups. Then he uncorked the liqueur bottle and poured a thin, careful stream into each cup.
Kurenai lifted the nearest cup and inhaled the rich, sweet scent of summer. The rose notes were light, undergirding honey and a woodsy vanilla and the strong, peppery burn of distilled spirits. She sipped, finding additional nuances on the tongue: jasmine along with the rose petal, followed by a syrupy sweetness that couldn’t mask the alcoholic kick.
“I can see why you brought this back from Wind Country,” she said, setting her empty cup down with a new respect. “Not a session drink by any means, but… unique. A little sweet for my taste.” She licked the lingering flavor from her lower lip. “It could grow on you. As I suspect the alcoholic content would, too.”
“The more you drink of it, the less you mind the sweet. But oh gods, the hangovers if you keep going.” Genma drained half his water glass. “I only had to learn the small quantities lesson once.”
Raidou put his liqueur cup down after a sip and a suppressed grimace. He took a long drink of water. “Since we’re asking questions, where did you learn your appreciation for alcohol?”
“Intel training, as a chuunin. One of the more enjoyable field agent prep sessions.” Not all undercover agents needed to learn the subtleties of pouring, tasting, and keeping a clear head; but Kurenai’s trainers had been clear from the start about what kind of missions she’d serve. “I know a few jutsu to accelerate blood-metabolism and boost tolerance, but I prefer not to use them off-duty.”
Genma had produced a new bottle of Taishin Province sake and a clean cup for Raidou. Kurenai nudged her empty cup closer, too. “Quite aside from the obvious utility of getting one’s mark drunk, I like the range of flavor and texture and effect — how hugely different the results can be even when the starting ingredients are so similar. And, of course, sometimes I enjoy intoxication itself.”
Less frequently now that she was serving as an analyst rather than a field agent. Or perhaps she was actually learning to enjoy the process more, and not just the result.
She tasted the sake: a delicate ginjo-shu, served chilled from the fridge, with a faint aroma of apples. “This is delicious, Genma.”
“I can’t take credit; Ginta introduced me to this one.” Still, Genma looked pleased. He refilled all their cups. “I know that metabolism jutsu. Or a version, anyway.”
“It’s a useful one. As long as your liver has enough recovery time in between.” She drained the cup but shook her head at another refill. “I have one more question, since we’re asking. Well— many, but one will do for now. Raidou, how much did you enjoy watching Genma show off for you on the water-walk?”
Raidou laughed, rough and a little embarrassed. “Enough to make my pants uncomfortable.”
“Hey, it wasn’t just for Raidou,” Genma corrected. “It was for both of you. But thank you.” His cheeks flushed warmly pink.
“I enjoyed it, too,” Kurenai said softly. “Your grace. Your strength. That stubborn determination you hide behind an easy calm. When you truly want something, Shiranui Genma, I can’t imagine that you ever fail to get it.”
“I… try. There haven’t been all that many things I’ve truly wanted.” He did his best to ignore the flush of heat that bloomed across his chest at Kurenai’s compliment. “ANBU was one. To master metal-style ninjutsu. And this.” He smiled at his companions, catching Kurenai’s seductive ruby-hued eyes first, with their elaborate frame of dark lashes, then Raidou’s dark-eyed gaze, full of promise. “I’ve definitely been looking forward to tonight.”
He brushed a strand of drying hair back from his forehead. “But I only want what’s comfortable for you both. You especially, Rai. We’ve all had a few days to consider things. You’re here, so that says a lot, but I want to know for certain, while we’re all sober and everyone is dressed: do you want to have sex?”
Kurenai’s eyebrows flicked up, in what looked like approving surprise.
Raidou’s expression matched hers. “Yes.” Simple, direct, decisive. Just as he was as an officer—he didn’t second guess himself. “Do you?”
“Yes,” Genma said, blowing out a held breath and tipping his head back for a moment. “Gods yes.” He rolled his shoulders and grinned at them. “I even bought new towels and put on my best bedsheets.”
“Such flattery,” Kurenai’s dusky voice lilted with laughter. “In that case, I claim first shower. But before that…” She stepped into Genma’s space, palms touching his abs lightly, then ran her fingers up his chest in a slow tease. “I wanted this,” she murmured, “while I was watching you.” She tipped her head back, eyes half-lidded, lipsticked mouth open and expectant.
Genma wrapped an arm around her slender waist, plucked the senbon out of her hair with his other hand, and carded his fingers through the black waves of her hair to cradle her skull. He kissed her eagerly, thoroughly, with a rising desire that had his hand caressing lower, his hips rocking forward. When they had to break for a breath, he licked his lips and grinned at her, and then over her shoulder at Raidou, who had moved in close behind Kurenai while she and Genma were distracted.
Raidou met Genma’s gaze with a feral grin, and pressed against Kurenai’s back, trapping her lightly between himself and Genma. He slid an arm around Genma’s back, flattening his hand against a shoulder blade posessively, and ducked his head to kiss the side of Kurenai’s neck, just below her ear. She shivered and angled her head to the side, to give him more access.
Genma reached for Raidou’s hip, letting his fingers skim under the loose waistband of Raidou’s jeans to stroke warm skin. There was no elastic, no cloth beneath the jeans. Genma slid his hand lower, over firm muscle and hard hip bone, reveling in the promise that bare flesh offered.
Raidou made a throaty sound, lifted his head from Kurenai’s neck, and claimed Genma’s mouth in an eager, aggressive kiss. Kurenai rocked between the two of them, pressing her breasts against Genma’s chest. He shivered when her nails grazed grazed skin as she unbuttoned the upper part of his shirt.
A shower before sex was polite and expected — they weren’t out in the field, where such civilities were set aside — but Genma wanted to tow them both back to his bed right now and dispense with propriety altogether. He pulled one hand free and angled his hips away so he could adjust the uncomfortable bend in his growing erection. His low-hipped briefs barely contained him.
He broke the kiss with Raidou for a gasp of air, but Raidou didn’t let him get far, pulling him back for another intense, tongue-tangled kiss that had Genma’s heart pounding in his ears. Then Raidou pulled away, a little breathless, to ask Kurenai, “Need any help with that shower?”
Kurenai’s lids fluttered in a surprised blink, and then she laughed and leaned back against him. “I think I can handle it,” she told him. “But you could, perhaps, help with the zipper of my dress.”
Raidou stepped away enough to do as she asked, tugging the zipper down from the nape of her neck in an agonizingly slow tease, then sliding his hands lower after the zipper stopped, caressing the small of her back and her curving hips.
Kurenai took a step back, too, and one-by-one worked the rest of the buttons on Genma’s shirt undone. When she finished with the last one, she reached under the flaps of the shirt and skimmed her palms up Genma’s torso and over his shoulders, pushing the fabric off until Genma had to assist or be trapped.
While he freed himself the rest of the way from his shirt, she slipped the shoulder straps of her dress free, and let the silk fall to her waist. With a little shimmy of her hips to ease them free, she sent it cascading to the floor, where it formed a crimson pool around her bare feet. She stepped delicately out of the fallen garment. Her skin was unmarred but for a tiny scar above her right hip, and lotus-blossom pale against the black lace of her bra and panties. The soft curve of her toned waist into full hips was mesmerizing.
Genma drank the sight in, while Raidou did the same from behind. Genma reached for the straps while Raidou unhooked her bra, and together they eased her free of it. Her breasts fell heavy and plump into Genma’s hands. She let out a breathy sigh, tossing her head back against Raidou’s shoulder, when Genma leaned down to kiss his way from her throat to one nipple. Raidou reapplied his own mouth to her neck and shoulder, and his hands to steady her hips.
It was everything Genma had been wanting and more. When she rolled her shoulders and pulled away from them both, he groaned a protest.
“Shower,” she reminded them, and sidestepped out of their twinned embrace.
“If you insist,” Raidou said. He wrapped a heavy hand around Genma’s upper arm and hauled him close to fill the space Kurenai had vacated. “Don’t take long,” he told Kurenai with a promissory grin. His other hand snaked down the back of Genma’s tight jeans, and he nipped the edge of Genma’s jaw.
Genma’s breath guttered in his chest. The smoldering fire in his pelvis flared fever-bright. He fisted a hand in Raidou’s shirt and tugged. “We’ll be in the bed,” he told Kurenai. Showers be damned.
The sound of water hissing on was Kurenai’s only answer. She left the bathroom door cracked slightly open. Not an invitation, she’d made that clear — intent to eavesdrop?
Raidou pushed Genma onto the bed, and found himself pulled down in turn. Hands at his collar and his waistband. A hard, lithe body welcoming him. Genma’s mouth, for once unguarded by anything sharp. Genma kissed like he fought: skilled, creative, subtle. Raidou was a more straightforward being; he had fun caging Genma underneath him, wrestling the slighter man down and pinning him into a deeper, harder kiss. Careful, though, to read Genma’s body language, watching for any shift that said get the fuck off. So far, only melting shivers and eager hands digging into Raidou’s back.
And then into the hem of his shirt, which was summarily yanked off and tossed across the room.
Raidou blinked. “Hey,” he said, ruffled and amused. “Messed my hair up.”
Genma’s smile was unrepentant, eyes gone coppery-dark. He went for Raidou’s belt buckle with quick, certain hands. “That’s not the only thing I plan to get messy.”
Heat shivered down Raidou’s spine, but he caught Genma’s wrists before Genma could get his jeans down. “And who said you got to go first?”
“It is my bed.” Genma rolled his hips, a tactical grind that was downright evil. “Or are you saying we should have some manners and wait for Kurenai?”
Behind them, a light, amused voice said, “Kurenai is enjoying watching.”
Raidou hadn’t even noticed the water shut off. He glanced over his shoulder. Kurenai leaned against the bathroom door frame, wrapped loosely in a fluffy, slate-grey towel. Her hair was pulled into a high knot to keep it dry, though tendrils still escaped to fall over her damp skin. Her cheeks were pink. Water beaded on her naked shoulders and slid down her bare legs, outlining her footprints on the floorboards.
“Maybe Kurenai would like to join,” Raidou said. “Help me put this tease in his place.”
“An invitation I can’t turn down.” Kurenai walked forward, dropping the towel at the edge of the bed. She was a creature of grace as she balanced on one knee on the mattress, leaned over — and kissed Raidou.
She tasted like mint. He steadied her as the mattress yielded, one hand on her smooth arm, and reeled her in. Warm, wet skin; unexpected weight. She was heavier than she looked, solid muscle underlying soft curves. Her mouth was hot, eager — distracting. He almost missed Genma’s hands making a return bid for his belt buckle.
Raidou broke the kiss, laughing, and caught Genma’s wrists again. This time he held them pinned together in one hand, Kurenai safely supported by the other arm, and said, “Cheat.”
Genma’s eyes sparkled.
Before he could roll out his no-such-thing motto, Raidou pulled Kurenai around — she made a wonderful, startled little noise — and tucked her in between himself and Genma. Her back pressed warm against his chest; his arm curled loose around her waist, where his hand could slide up to cup her left breast, thumb stroking over the nipple. He rested his chin lightly on her shoulder and said in her ear, with his eyes on Genma, “Would you like Genma to go down on you?”
A shiver ran through her, imperceptible to the eye but felt everywhere their skin met. Her breath quickened; her nipples hardened. “Yes,” she said. She reached out to skim her fingers along Genma’s jaw, tracing the sharp edge from ear to chin, then up to his mouth, following the curve of his smile. “You know what to do with your mouth, don’t you.”
Genma turned his head and caught her thumb between his lips — a gentle kiss, a flicker of tongue along the pad of her thumb that made her breath catch. He reached for her hips and pulled her up, forward. “Like this?” He bent his head to press a soft kiss to her inner thigh. “Or would you rather recline?”
She drew a hand through Genma’s hair, letting it fall into his eyes, and glanced back at Raidou. “Oh, recline, I think. I have a nicely firm cushion here.”
About to be a lot firmer, if they kept that up. But that was half the point.
Raidou shifted himself first, finding a comfortable way to sit and brace his back against the headboard. He drew Kurenai to him, settling her in the circle of his legs, reclined against his chest. She let her hair out of its knot, so that it tumbled down his arm, a silky weight. Her skin was nearly dry now, warm and smooth. She smiled at Genma, and, slowly, spread her legs.
Genma didn’t move for a moment. He knelt, eyes dark, drinking her in, before easing off the bed to undo his own belt. “These are getting a little restrictive.”
He made a show of it, skinning out of those tight jeans, and Raidou filed a mental note away: likes to be watched. Genma tucked one thumb into the waistband of his low-slung briefs and raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Off,” Raidou said, while Kurenai’s smile broadened.
Wordlessly, Genma slipped out of his last armor and stood naked in front of them. The apartment’s soft lamplight turned him golden. Lean, long-legged, scarred and dangerous, with his fine hair loose around his shoulders. He was fully hard, cock flushed dusky-pink and pretty. Raidou wanted to shove him against the nearest wall and— later.
Genma caught the look, because he tilted his chin and smiled, just on the graceful side of smug. He crawled back onto bed and stretched out on his belly, settling between Kurenai’s legs. Pressed a kiss to the soft, soft skin on the inside of her thigh. Then a second, and a third, trailing upwards. Her leg twitched, like a ticklish horse. Genma licked her, very delicately, at the juncture where leg met hip, then crossed over to her other leg and began the path of kisses up her opposite thigh. She squeaked halfway, and Raidou suspected the light involvement of teeth.
Raidou chuckled and teased his fingers gently over Kurenai’s nipples, admiring the way they tightened under his touch. She let out a shivery breath.
Which caught, when Genma’s next kiss was a lot more intimate. Kurenai was waxed smooth everywhere, as she had been in the tanuki’s hot tub, and even though that wasn’t Raidou’s personal preference, it did afford a beautiful view as Genma licked his way between her labia.
Kurenai’s head rocked back against Raidou’s chest, eyes half-closed. Her fingers slid into Genma’s hair, half-anchoring, half just to steady herself, Raidou thought. A flush spread down her throat, blood rising beneath pale skin. Genma slid his hands under her thighs, and Kurenai made a soft, satisfied sound as he pressed closer. He teased a little at first, nibbling and lipping, but Kurenai’s grip tightened warningly in his hair, and, laughter rumbling in his chest, Genma abandoned subtlety for direct focus.
Raidou knew when Genma first touched her clit by the way her legs convulsed partway together, briefly trapping his head. Genma made a squashed sound, which made Raidou laugh, which made Kurenai’s flush deepen, but she lifted her chin defiantly and offered no apologies. The tilt of Genma’s head looked a little smug as he continued.
“Shiranui, one,” Raidou murmured, and devoted himself to Kurenai’s breasts. She preferred a firmer touch, making an involuntary throaty noise when he pinched or rubbed his thumb directly over the nipple, pressing urgently back against him when he lightened up.
Her hips rocked against Genma, hitching as they found their way towards a mutual rhythm. It had the lovely — and unquestionably deliberate — advantage of grinding her ass against Raidou’s cock. A tight, dangerous, blunted friction. He was still trapped in his jeans, something he was actually grateful for. It had been a while since anyone had ground on him. The denim gave him a helpful buffer.
Kurenai’s breath quickened. Her movements sharpened. “You’re — very good,” she managed, fingers tangling in Genma’s hair. Her head tipped back against Raidou’s shoulder. “You should treat Raidou tonight, too. Later. Ah, yes, there…”
Genma glanced up and met Raidou’s eyes, a dark gold glance. A flickering promise. Raidou grinned, slow.
“A little harder,” Kurenai gasped, pulling Genma’s attention back. Her fingernails dug into Raidou’s thigh. Her back began to arch. “Yes.”
Holding Kurenai while she came, that first time, was— He’d pictured the moment, but fantasy didn’t do it justice. The weight of her, cradled against his chest. The warmth of her, kindling hot. The clench of muscles, the sheen of sweat, the flush spilling down her chest. She arched against him, mouth falling open on a breathless, needy sound. Genma’s fingers made dents in her thighs as he held close, face buried between her legs, chasing her orgasm.
Kurenai’s breath stopped. A sweet, perfect moment of tension, like the silence after glass chimed.
Then it broke and Kurenai melted, falling back against Raidou. Her legs parted, her grip loosened — Raidou was fairly sure there were nail marks in his thigh, even through the denim — and she let out a shivering sigh. Genma eased back and grinned up at them, face flushed. His mouth was slick and red, proud — as he should be, damn.
Raidou wrapped his arms more carefully around Kurenai, holding her while she recovered. Genma wiped his face on one of the hand towels he’d put out — smart man — and ran a gentle hand up and down her leg, waiting.
It was a long, lovely moment: thoughtless, floating, held warm and safe between them. Strong arms embracing her, a slow stroking touch grounding her. Raidou’s heart beat steady and sure against her ear.
A little faster than normal, perhaps. Kurenai smiled and opened her eyes.
“That was beautiful,” she said, and won one of Genma’s swift, open-hearted smiles in return. The corner of his mouth was still shiny. A strand of hair stuck to his forehead, sweat-dampened to the color of wet sand.
“Very beautiful,” he agreed. He pressed a kiss to the inside of her knee.
Raidou stroked a hand over her stomach and up to her left breast, callused fingertips circling her nipple in an unhurried tease. Another shiver chased through her skin. Arousal tightened again between her legs.
“You could,” she said, and heard her own voice a little ragged, a little breathless: “You could— Take your edge off, before you move on to Raidou. Make him wait.” She let her knee fall open, wider. Sucked in a breath as Raidou tweaked her nipple.
“Did you just offer to have sex on top of me?” Raidou said, amused. His voice vibrated through his chest.
Genma laughed, low. “I think she did.” He eased up onto his knees, still keeping one hand wrapped around Kurenai’s calf, and looked at Raidou. “You could lose the jeans.”
“Yes,” Kurenai agreed, her nails skidding past the ridged seam over Raidou’s inner thigh. She felt him breathe deeper, that time.
“Hm,” Raidou managed, more a breath than a word. “Fine.”
He bridged up in one powerful surge, lifting Kurenai with him; she didn’t quite hold back the yelp that dissolved into laughter. It was easy to laugh, with them. Easy to admire the strength and control with which he steadied her, one-handed, as he worked his jeans off with the other. Easy to tease him, rubbing against him as he skimmed denim down his thighs and over his knees. Easy to catch Genma’s eye in shared appreciative delight as Raidou kicked his jeans off and settled back down, pulling Kurenai snugly against his bared, hard cock.
Raidou made a tight little sound as her weight settled back onto him. Genma almost purred. He prowled up the bed and leaned over them, reaching for something in the bedside table: a box of condoms. He ducked down to kiss her, salty-sweet, and then stretched up again to kiss Raidou.
Their bodies caged Kurenai in a glory of lean muscle and golden skin, musky scent, rumbling laughter. They radiated heat; their chakra simmered beneath their skin, building pressure like an oncoming storm. She rolled her hips experimentally and felt them both shudder, the wet tips of their cocks slipping against her stomach and her spine. They weren’t, yet, perfectly in sync.
That would come. After this, maybe, while she watched. Her own arousal heightened at the thought.
Genma ended the kiss and drew back, red-mouthed. His lower lip was swelling. Loose hair fell into his face. The condom box scraped open and he sat back on his heels, consciously on display. He was lovely in the lamplight, burnished like bronze, and the lines of his body were a calligraphic sweep: throat to shoulder to narrow waist, the graceful fingers and arched wrist, the long muscles of his thighs and the gentle curve of his cock.
He gazed back at Kurenai as he rolled the condom on. A long, hungry look that lingered on her breasts as Raidou’s hands moved up to frame them. She caught her breath at the piercing pleasure of nipples rolled between strong fingers.
Genma’s eyes darkened. His gaze sank lower, between her spread legs. He leaned down, bracing himself with one hand on Raidou’s shoulder, reaching for her with the other. “I have wanted this for so long.”
He palmed her breast, as Raidou offered it up to him. Then his fingers skimmed down her torso, circling her navel, dipping between her legs, rubbing over her clit and then deeper between her labia. She was slick and swollen, and his touch sparked fire.
“Now?” he asked. His voice had gone almost as low as Raidou’s.
“Gods, yes, now.” She hooked an ankle behind his thighs. “I don’t know how you two are waiting, this is— ah.”
He entered her in a single smooth thrust. “You didn’t— strike me as the impatient sort.” He wasn’t breathing easily, either.
“Not usually. I’ve been— quite patient. Since that night at the club. When I decided I wanted you both. So I’ve— done my waiting.”
He felt exquisite inside her, a pressure and a fullness that drove the breath from her lungs. He was holding still, but she could feel the tiny quivers in his body, the tension in his legs. The arm he’d braced on Raidou’s shoulder was corded with muscle. His hair fell around them like a curtain.
“Yeah,” he breathed. “Me too.” He began to rock into her, gentle shallow thrusts at first, until he released Raidou’s shoulder and adjusted to brace his hands against the mattress and Raidou’s thigh. His thrusts grew stronger, deeper. She lifted her hips to meet his rhythm, and he responded to her in turn, matching her timing and then urging her on.
She had to brace herself, then: holding onto his shoulders, nails digging in. He made a throaty, encouraging sound and bent his head to kiss her.
And then Raidou ground up beneath her in a sudden explosive thrust, driving Genma so deep that Kurenai cried out. Genma gasped, “Fuck.” And then snapped his hips back and forward again, meeting Raidou’s rising movement with a hissed, “Yes.”
There was the synchronization she’d imagined them finding, and she was caught in the center of it; surrounded, transfixed, filled. Raidou’s arm clamped around her ribcage, under her breasts, locking her against him as he set a new pace. His other hand worked down between her body and Genma’s, and found her clit.
Kurenai didn’t even try to stifle her cries as she came.
If he hadn’t already been losing control by the second, if Raidou hadn’t been driving them to a rougher, more feverish pace, there was a chance Genma could have held on through the end of Kurenai’s orgasm. But her throaty voice, her heels driving into his thighs, her cunt throbbing around him in urgent waves, broke the last threads holding him back. Genma groaned, thrust one more time, deep and hard, and froze, joining her in an explosive orgasm of his own.
Even when he remembered to breathe, when he became aware of the blood pounding in his ears and the quiver in his arms, she and Raidou were still rocking into him. Her eyes were still shut, her face a picture of concentrated pleasure. Raidou was breathing hard, with flushed cheeks and tense legs. Genma sucked in a breath and resumed his thrusts, matching their rhythm. It was almost too much stimulation, but he was still hard and she was still coming, and Raidou was working his way towards an edge.
“That’s it, baby. Both of you. Gods you’re hot,” Genma breathed, encouraging them. Kurenai’s response was a tighter squeeze of thighs around him, a sharp gasp, and a renewed intensity of the pulsing between her legs.
Raidou’s hand kept moving between them, until Kurenai’s breathing slowed and her hips twitched away from them both. Genma was coming down, too. He grabbed the base of his cock to stop the condom spilling as he pulled out and eased back onto his knees.
Raidou shifted his grip to Kurenai’s hips while she lay loose-limbed against him, and kept up his steady rocking grind, rubbing himself against her. She was a picture of debauchery, with her thighs parted and relaxed, her cunt still red and glistening. Raidou tipped his head back, hissed a breath between his teeth, and raised it again to meet Genma’s eyes. “How do you feel about getting fucked next?” he rasped.
“Good,” Genma said. “Very good.” He disposed of his used condom and dried himself with the hand towel, then reached over Kurenai for the box on the bedside table. It put his face right next to Raidou’s. He turned to catch Raidou’s earlobe in his teeth, licking the soft flesh when Raidou’s breath stuttered. “I’ll even put the condom on for you.”
Raidou made a husky, approving sound, and turned to give Genma a promissory grin. “Just don’t take too long.” Barely cooled embers in Genma’s groin glowed back to life.
“Just long enough,” Genma said, with an answering grin of his own.
“This okay?” Raidou asked Kurenai. He skimmed a hand up to her chest and back, still moving against her, but slower now, pacing himself.
Kurenai, breathless and lazy with it, murmured, “As long as I don’t have to do anything but watch.”
Genma dropped his head to capture her parted lips in a lingering kiss. Soft, gentle, and still deeply erotic. “Whatever your heart desires,” he told her.
She laughed, putting a hand out to push Genma back so she could shift out of Raidou’s lap and drape herself languidly against the pillows on the mattress next to them. Her eyes raked appreciatively over the pair of them: Genma on his knees between Raidou’s legs, with his cock half-hard again. Raidou reaching for Genma with one hand, Kurenai with the other. His chest heaved with each breath, his hips rocked, thrusting his rock-hard, purple-headed cock against empty air.
Genma’d known Raidou would be big, and he wasn’t disappointed. Dark, coffee-brown hair, neatly trimmed and damp made Raidou seem even bigger. He crawled back on hands and knees and dropped his head to lick from the underside of Raidou’s shaft to the tip, sweeping salty precum away with a swirl of his tongue.
Raidou grabbed his shoulder in a vice grip. “Too long,” he growled.
Genma sat back and opened the condom. “Patience,” he said, and slowly, carefully rolled it down Raidou’s twitching cock.
Raidou hissed, abs taut, chest flushed. “Nope,” he said. He grabbed Genma’s waist and pulled so Genma had to comply or topple, nudging with his thighs until Genma was astride him. He wrapped his hands around Genma’s hips, thrusting up so his sheathed cock slid against the base of Genma’s bare one, wringing a shuddering breath from Genma’s throat. The thrust turned into a steady, shallow grind—plenty to flare Genma’s arousal to full strength, not enough to drive either of them over the edge.
“Lube?” Raidou asked.
Genma glanced towards the side table.
“Over here,” Kurenai said. She levered herself up on one elbow and reached for the bottle, snagging it with her fingertips and tossing it to Genma. He caught it easily, while she sank back onto her pillow nest. She adjusted two of the pillows to give herself a better view of the two of them, and smiled, languorous and replete, but not at all sleepy.
Genma uncapped the bottle and reluctantly raised himself away from the delightful friction of Raidou’s hard cock against his own. He poured a generous amount of lube into his palm, letting it warm there for a moment with a little burst of unformed fire chakra under the skin, then slicked it over Raidou’s cock. A second palmful was for his own backside; he held Raidou’s eyes while he worked it in until he was open and ready.
Raidou watched him hungrily, and tugged on Genma’s hips again. The impatient desire on his face was an aphrodisiac all its own. Genma grinned, reached for Raidou’s cock, and carefully eased himself down just far enough to engulf the tip.
Tight, slick pressure. Raidou’s fingertips dug into Genma’s hips. Genma’s grin broadened; his hands clenched on Raidou’s shoulders, bracing himself. Sparks shuddered in Raidou’s belly.
Genma didn’t slide down. He watched Raidou, eyes golden-bright, and rocked his hips just a little.
“Oh, you tease,” Raidou managed, as sweat beaded and ran down his back.
If that’s how Genma wanted to do it…
Raidou adjusted his grip and dragged Genma down, driving up as he did so. Genma’s mouth dropped open, breath punching out. But his body opened up, wrapping Raidou’s cock in nerve-melting heat and pressure. Even through the condom, it was incredible.
He watched Genma’s face carefully, looking for a flinch, a sign of pain — but there was only surprise, a scarlet flush rising on already pink cheekbones. Maybe a little annoyance in that arched eyebrow. “Don’t like being teased?” Genma asked, breathless.
“Prefer to do the teasing,” Raidou said, and grunted when Genma adjusted position, finding an angle that made them both shiver. “But I can compromise.”
“We can take turns.” Genma rolled his hips, a testing stroke that made him take a sharp breath and bite his lower lip. His eyes were half-lidded. He freed one hand and skated it down Raidou’s chest, fingertips circling one nipple. “Your turn.”
Raidou smiled, curled his hands under Genma’s ass, and lifted him easily — a slow slide up, a glacial one back down. Quicker the next time. Harder the third time, working towards a mutual rhythm. He had to grab for unsexy thoughts when Genma bottomed out on him: times tables, trajectories of flight for thrown kunai. Genma was tight, and Raidou was going to be pissed if he came in thirty seconds.
Genma’s erection had softened when he’d first climbed on, but it was back now, hard and urgent between them. Raidou wrapped a hand around it, stroking his thumb over the head. Pre-cum smeared under his touch.
Genma clenched, inside and out — abdominal muscles starkly rigid underneath his skin, inner muscles squeezing Raidou’s cock — and made a low, guttural sound that slid into, “Yes.” His eyes flicked over to Kurenai.
Raidou’s gaze followed, once he could see again, to find Kurenai watching them raptly. She reclined on the bed within an easy arm’s reach, lazily teasing a nipple with one hand. The other hand was between her legs. She smiled, eyes drowning-dark. “Please, continue.”
“If you insist,” Raidou managed, scrabbling not so much for control, at this point, as maybe a fraction of dignity.
Well, probably control. He knew himself.
He shifted under Genma, deliberately breaking their rhythm and earning a noise of protest — quickly replaced by a groaning approval as Raidou tipped Genma onto his back and sank down on him. Genma’s legs wrapped around Raidou’s hips, crossed in the small of his back. Genma’s head landed on the cover next to Kurenai’s smooth thigh. She smiled approvingly down at him, as Raidou thrust deeper and Genma’s breath caught, sharp on his own teeth.
Raidou caught up their rhythm again, taking advantage of better leverage and the deeper angle to target Genma’s prostate. And hit it, judging by the desperate clench and groan. Genma’s hair was damp, tendrils clinging to his temples. His eyes were distracted, inward-focused. Sweat collected in the hollow of his throat, slid across one collarbone. Raidou lowered his mouth to chase it, tongue grazing an old scar.
Genma lifted his face; Raidou met him with a kiss, hard and breathless. Genma’s heels skidded down the backs of Raidou’s thighs; Genma bridged his hips, anchoring himself with a grip on the back of Raidou’s neck. His other hand groped blindly.
Kurenai caught it, curling down over Genma, giving him a second anchor. Her other hand stroked his hair, his forehead. She pressed a kiss to the top of his head and murmured: “You’re so gorgeous, the two of you. Strong and generous and so controlled. But you can let that go now. Let us hear you.”
It took a little more persuading, but between Kurenai’s gentle persistence and Raidou’s unforgiving pace, Genma’s hitching breath became words, grinding out a broken string of: “Yes, gods. Like that. More. Fuck. You’re so big. Feels amazing. Not gonna last long…”
His hips were stuttering now, rhythm starting to stagger as he edged close. His cock was throbbing and hot in Raidou’s grip. Raidou, who was hanging on by a thread and a prayer himself, worked him harder, fucked him deeper. Relentless, grinding, wonderful. Attention strangled between his own pleasure, Genma’s climbing tension, and Kurenai.
Genma’s words were starting to fall apart, replaced by groaning, panting gasps that urged them both on. His legs locked tighter. His back started to arch. He ground himself brutally on Raidou’s cock, and came. Warmth splattered between them, over Raidou’s knuckles, Genma’s lean stomach.
Raidou held on just long enough to fuck him through it, then lost himself in the shuddering, unwinding warmth of Genma’s body.
When he came back down, an unknown expanse of time later, Genma was still underneath him, catching his breath, eyes closed. One hand still wrapped around the back of Raidou’s neck, the other still tangled with Kurenai’s.
Gently, Raidou pressed a kiss to that soft, vulnerable mouth, and eased himself free. He got rid of the condom, collapsed down next to Genma on the bed, and pulled him into a hug. On Genma’s other side, Kurenai settled close, naked and warm and welcome. She exchanged a satisfied smile with Raidou, and they waited.
Genma didn’t take long to return to himself; but it was a pleasant wait, watching his eyelashes flutter, his toned chest heave and catch and steady under Raidou’s arm. They were both furnaces, radiating heat. The air was sultry, thick with sweat and the smell of sex, but a sliding paper window over the bed admitted a breeze off the river. Kurenai pressed a little closer to Genma, enjoying the simple slide of heated skin, the contrast of the chill on her back.
He stirred, making a faint, questioning sound. His lashes parted; he blinked dazedly in the lamplight.
Kurenai smoothed a strand of sweaty hair out of his eyes. “I take it that felt as good as it looked.”
He drew a shallow, sighing, happy breath. “Better than my best fantasy.” He tipped his head back, pressing a kiss to her wrist, and turned to bestow another on Raidou’s jaw. Then he settled down between them again with a sinuous little stretch-wiggle. His arm came up around Kurenai’s shoulders, pulling her close. “This part, too.”
It wasn’t something Kurenai often let herself enjoy. The long slow moments where sweat dried, breathing steadied, heartbeats found a syncing rhythm. The peculiar comfort of her breasts flattened against his muscled ribs. The musky scent that rose off their skin and the glistening splatter across Genma’s stomach.
An unbelievable indulgence, to lie here with them and feel nothing but soft and sated and safe.
She stirred. “I’ll fall asleep soon.”
Raidou untucked his fingers from Genma’s ribs and skimmed them across her skin. A delicate touch, just below the curve of her breast; she shivered. “Don’t want anything else? I didn’t see you finish that last time.”
“I finished several more times than you,” she pointed out, amused. She hadn’t quite been chasing an orgasm while she watched them, either. More— rocking in the waves, soaking in the afterswells and the sharp little tingles of new arousal triggered by the sight and sound and scent of them, but easily abandoned when Genma reached out to her.
“Anatomy advantage,” he retorted, with a glimmer of humor. He propped his head up on his free hand, looking at her over Genma between them. “Also didn’t answer my question.”
“I’m good.” She smiled at him, letting him see it. “I’m not, usually, easily satisfied — but you boys have managed it. Next time, though…”
If there was a next time. With shinobi — with ANBU — it couldn’t be assured.
“Next time,” she said, willing it into certainty, “I want to see Genma give you that blowjob. And then you can fuck me.”
Raidou’s eyes darkened, pupils drinking in the light. “My morning’s free, depending how early you want to get up.”
“Could go again in an hour or so, for sure,” Genma said sleepily. “Or the morning. Morning is good.”
Well, that aptly answered the question of how long they were invited to stay. Kurenai kissed his shoulder and sat up. “Morning it is. A brisk and rousing debauchery, followed by tea and breakfast in bed — or do you have training?”
“0700,” Raidou confirmed. “Debauchery, a quick shower, and raincheck on the breakfast in bed?”
“As long as there’s tea. I don’t have to be at work until 0900.” She yawned, covered it, slithered off the bed. “I’ll clean up quickly, then the bathroom’s yours.”
She heard Genma bargaining as she left: “Could postpone training to an afternoon session for variety’s sake, and I’ll cook breakfast.”
“If you send that message to the rookies, they’re gonna show up at the hospital looking for us.”
“Tell ’em we have an officers’ meeting with Intel…”
“No,” Raidou said, and Kurenai turned back at the bathroom door.
A sliver of cold speared through the lingering warmth; was she really going to eavesdrop, even here? Even now? But this wasn’t something she could afford not to hear.
This wasn’t about being Intel, about being a field agent, a spy. This was about knowing whether the fragile connection between them really was safe.
“For one,” Raidou was saying, as she returned to the open bedroom door, “that’s easy for the rookies to identify as a lie. But more importantly, the team needs to come first. Before sex, or anything else. Or I can’t make this work.”
Genma rolled onto his side, propped up on an elbow to face Raidou. He looked abruptly much more awake. “I promised you before that the job—the team—comes first. Hasn’t changed. Saying we’d be meeting with Intel…. that was supposed to make you laugh, Rai, not freak you out.” He sounded disappointed.
Not at the no, Kurenai thought. At the lack of trust.
“I missed the joke, then. Sorry.” Raidou’s brows pinched together. “But I’m not freaked out. I’m trying to be clear.”
“Got it.” Genma nodded. “No changes to routine. You and I both get up early as a matter of habit anyway, so sunrise debauchery and skipping breakfast works for me. But…” He reached for Raidou’s hand, covering it gently, reassuringly. “If you’re having second thoughts, we can skip the debauchery and go straight to training, too.”
Raidou’s crooked smile returned. “Now who’s getting freaked out? If I were having second thoughts, I’d tell you.” He turned his hand under Genma’s, squeezed it briefly, then reached up and flicked the tip of Genma’s nose like a teasing child. “You?”
Genma’s nose crinkled adorably. “None here.” He eased down and turned onto his other side, spooning against Raidou’s chest in a deliberate gesture of trust and affection.
Raidou looked down at him for a moment. Then he wrapped an arm over Genma’s ribs and snuggled down with him. His face disappeared behind the lamp-gilded spill of Genma’s hair.
Silently, Kurenai slipped away.
She caught her reflection in the bathroom mirror and wasn’t startled by the smile. She looked tousled, relaxed, utterly at ease. She felt warm again. A small, fuzzy feeling in her chest, clinging to her even in the bathroom’s porcelain cool.
It was the promise of a welcoming bed to return to. A night’s sheltered rest and the promise of a erotic morning with men who knew her, who knew themselves, and who laid out with clear and careful precision exactly what they were willing to ask and offer.
Friendship, complicated by sex, and all the more precious because of it.
Kurenai washed her hands, braided her hair, and went back to claim her space in bed.