Bal – Chapter 04

While taking a break from promoting Polaris’ newest single, Kouta was able to go to Ryuu’s animation studio. As he waited for Ryuu, he chatted with Seiko, the receptionist. She blushed during most of the casual conversation. He was in the middle of teasing her about being shy when Ryuu appeared. Kouta’s attention was immediately drawn to him.

“Hi,” Ryuu said, his smile a warm welcome. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“Me too.” Kouta struggled to keep from affectionately touching him. He wasn’t sure if Ryuu was ready for that display where he worked.

“Would you like a tour?” Ryuu asked. “I might be able to tell you what happens here.”

“Sure,” Kouta said, laughing. “And maybe afterwards we can get something to eat.”

“I’d really like that.” Ryuu paused to joke with Seiko. “Stop staring. You already know what Kouta looks like, Miss Ota!”

“Yes, boss!” she said, grinning.

“I’ll sign an autograph for you,” Kouta offered.

Seiko glanced at Ryuu, seeking his acceptance.

“You’d never forgive me if I said no,” he told her. “Go ahead.”

“Thank you, boss,” she responded graciously.

Kouta wrote a playful message for her: To my favorite, cutest receptionist. Please don’t forget me. Kouta. Then he gave her a hug, leaving her distracted. Not only did she keep reading his words, she also wondered about the chemistry she sensed between him and her boss. Glances that were heavy with meaning had passed between the two from the moment they’d greeted each other. A flush rose to her cheeks as she imagined just how close they were. She thought of the media’s speculation during the past month. It wasn’t until today that she believed that there was some truth to the rumors. She watched them walk to the main work area. They were joking around, clearly happy to be in each other’s presence.

Ryuu led Kouta through a glass door etched with Kobayashi Animation Studio. There was a large open workspace where 15 people were busy with numerous tasks. Their desks, arranged in clusters of three, were covered with art supplies. Each station also had a computer and some of the employees were creating three-dimensional figures. A few individuals were sitting at a round table, discussing a section of a script. Everyone was busy, but the atmosphere was relaxed.

“This is so cool!” Kouta exclaimed a little too loudly.

The staff peered in his direction and he bowed apologetically several times. Ryuu laughed softly; the sincerely of Kouta’s outburst thrilled him.

Ryuu asked everyone to take a break, joking with them that they were only pretending to be productive. He introduced Kouta to the different teams. Yoriko Harada, Ryuu’s main assistant, gave details on what each group’s projects were.

“I might be difficult to deal with sometimes,” Ryuu told Kouta. “Yoriko keeps me sane.”

“I try my best,” she said modestly.

“Thank you for taking care of him, Ms. Harada,” Kouta said.

Yoriko glanced at her boss, her eyebrows raised slightly. Ryuu looked off to the side, grinning widely. With what had appeared to be a simple comment, Kouta had revealed a great deal of feeling. Ryuu’s observant assistant had not missed the importance of the moment.

“Um, let’s continue the tour,” Ryuu said. He took Kouta over to a desk that was at the center of the workspace. “I spend most of my time here.”

“Can I sit in your chair? Or is there some kind of punishment for that?” Kouta had noted that Ryuu had placed his hands on the back of the chair in a proprietary manner.

“Go ahead,” Ryuu told him, motioning for him to be seated.

“Will you let me see some of your drawings?” Kouta asked, settling into the ergonomically-designed chair.

“You’re like a little kid in a candy store,” Ryuu noted, charmed by how much Kouta was into his work.

“I know. Sorry, it’s just that this is the first time I’ve been in an animation studio. To have it be yours too, well…”

Ryuu bent over Kouta’s shoulder, as if to show him something on the desk. Instead, he discreetly blew in Kouta’s left ear. It made a shiver go down Kouta’s spine. He wanted to catch Ryuu’s mouth in a kiss but he restrained himself. A smile spread across Ryuu’s face, as he sensed the carnal reaction he’d caused. Still pretending that he hadn’t made a secret advance, he pulled out several portfolios. He displayed the artwork for Kouta to view.

Kouta was impressed with the amount of detail in Ryuu’s work, the character design was full, rich with expressions. An idea came to Kouta, when he saw Ryuu’s level of talent.

“Have you ever thought about doing videos for a band?” he asked.

“No. Exactly which band would you have in mind?” Ryuu asked, already guessing the answer.

“Mine naturally. I’d have to talk to the other members and management, but if they agree, it would be a great project.”

“I need to think about that. It wouldn’t be as intensive as a full-length film. Still, there would be many details to cover.”

“I understand. If you can do it, I’d really like that.  But, I don’t want to push you.”

“It’s okay; I don’t feel pushed…”

After giving Kouta some more time to examine his work area, Ryuu suggested that they continue the tour. He motioned for Kouta to follow him to another part of the office. One of his favorite features was a fully-functional kitchen, complete with a stove.

“What would you like to drink?” he asked. “I’m sorry. I should have asked you that when you first arrived.” He listed off the choices that were in the refrigerator. Kouta chose a glass of iced tea.

“I can’t believe you have a kitchen in your office,” Kouta said, taking note of the stainless steel appliances.

“Yes, we like having meals together,” Ryuu explained, as he poured Kouta’s drink. “It keeps our staff close. Also, there are a few people who make great baked goods. While they’re thinking through a concept, they come in here and just create a batch of cookies or even cakes.”

“Really?”

“You know, as I explain it to you I realize just how different my company is from other places.” Ryuu rubbed the back of his neck, looking slightly embarrassed. “When we’re in our own world, we don’t think twice about it.”

“No, this makes K.A.S. that much more interesting. You should put that up on the website.”

“Oh, that’s something I never considered. There are other things I can add to the site. For special occasions, like someone’s birthday, I have ingredients brought over from the restaurant. We have a schedule for who cooks too.” Ryuu tapped a hand against his forehead, remembering a responsibility that had slipped his mind. “That reminds me, I can’t go out to eat today. It’s my turn to make lunch. Will you please eat here?”

Kouta had wanted to have a cozy lunch at a nice restaurant but he was more interested in seeing how Ryuu interacted with his employees. He knew that, as the boss, Ryuu could have changed his plans but he’d opted for keeping the promise to his staff.

“Can I help you make the meal?” Kouta asked.

“Sure. We were going to have ramen and gyozas but I’ll call the restaurant.”

“No, let’s just do what you’d already decided.”

“You being here is a special occasion,” Ryuu told him, an ardent quality to his voice.

“Ryuu, you don’t have to…I mean, won’t your staff see it as…”

“Kou, it’s not a problem.”

“I don’t want to make things awkward for you.”

“Those who would be bothered aren’t the kind of people who work here,” Ryuu firmly assured him. “I’m not shoving my tongue down your throat in front of them. It wouldn’t be polite, regardless of whom I’m dating. But my staff doesn’t have a problem with us.”

With his concerns about Ryuu’s staff put to rest, Kouta helped Ryuu decide what would be the new menu. They placed an order for the ingredients and informed everyone of the change. Perceptive glances passed back and forth between his staff members. Many smiled as they buried their heads in their work again.

While they waited for the ingredients to arrive, Ryuu took Kouta into a conference room that had a large mahogany table with ten chairs around it. A series of framed storyboards from the studio’s commercials, short films and its full-length feature decorated the walls. Kouta was about to look at them but Ryuu held onto his arm, stopping him. Ryuu closed the door to make sure they had privacy.

“I just have to kiss you right now,” he confessed.

“You didn’t want to do that in front of everyone?” Kouta teased.

“I didn’t want to make them jealous,” Ryuu responded.

He stepped closer to Kouta, sliding his arms around his waist and holding him to his body.

“You smell great,” Kouta murmured, deeply breathing in his cologne. He smiled when Ryuu found his mouth, their tongues eagerly playing with each other.

They reluctantly ended their kiss, letting out a long breath. Though they’d wanted to take things further, they had to remind themselves of where they were.

“Have a look at the storyboards,” Ryuu suggested.

“Will that take your mind off how hard you’ve become?” Kouta asked.

Ryuu laughed against his neck, sending ripples of pleasure across his skin.

“Just make the safest choice for us, Kou.”

“Yes, I’ll look at the storyboards,” he replied, laughing softly.

He walked around the room, examining the artwork. He pointed out some that he recognized.

“I remember these scenes from Oasis.”  

“Yes. It’s definitely my studio’s most popular work,” Ryuu said. “Even before we finished, I could feel in my bones how much it would mean. It brought in plenty of revenue—it still does. At the beginning of this year, we were able to move into a larger space and get even better technology.”

“Will you tell me more about your company?” Kouta asked, as he continued to peruse the storyboards. “How many people actually work for you?”

Ryuu leaned against the wall, watching his progress around the room and answering his questions.

The staff consisted of 20 animators, ten of whom were free-lancers who helped on the larger projects. Five other individuals were also a vital part of the company. They kept the studio functioning smoothly, doing everything else from managing the website to handling publicity.

“I don’t mean to sound like an interviewer,” Kouta told him. “I am curious though, so please bear with me. Is it hard to have your own business?”

“It can be incredibly expensive,” Ryuu admitted. “I knew that before I started but it didn’t register with me until I saw the full costs.  Fortunately, I have my family and friends who invested in the company. Oasis had been quite successful but the revenue from the restaurant provides a strong financial base. Plus my studio does CGI special effects for a variety of movies…You know, I’ve wanted to see my ideas animated ever since I was 14. The year I started college, I spoke to my parents about getting help to start a studio. I was a little unprepared when I first raised the matter. My father said, ‘I want three good reasons why your mother and I should assist.’ And he was serious.”

“Was it easy to convince them?”

“No, not at all. I remember having arguments with them. It took me almost six months to give them answers they found acceptable,” he told Kouta, laughing. “My mother was supportive of me first. She spoke with my father several times, trying to get him to agree. He held his stance, but I eventually won him over too. The deal was for me to open a restaurant and successfully run that. Afterwards, he’d provide me with more funding for my greater venture.”

“Oh I see. That explains why you have La Primavera. I would never have connected an eating establishment with an animation company. Go on; tell me about what you’re planning.”

Kouta desired to know much more, as he heard the passionate way Ryuu described how he’d reached this point in his life. It was the same level of feeling that fueled Kouta’s career. Knowing Ryuu had such a strong drive increased Kouta’s attraction to him.

Ryuu became more comfortable expressing his thoughts, as he could see that Kouta was genuinely interested.

“I’ll release a second full-length feature in the near future,” he said, staring off into the distance. His mind raced with the different projects he’d managed and was planning on creating. “I’ve also collaborated with a much larger studio, which has international clout. This year we completed two animated shortfilms that will be released as parts of compilations. For now, I’m working on more commercials, which helps keep the studio’s name out there. In a few years, I’d like to…”

Ryuu shook his head and his words trailed off.

“What is it?” Kouta asked, pausing in his journey around the room. “Why did you stop?”

“I’m sorry. I thought I was talking too much. I usually don’t go on like that.”

“I want to know these things about you,” Kouta assured him.

“I’ll tell you more later,” Ryuu said, smiling.

There was a knock on the door. It was Yoriko, telling them that the ingredients for the meal had arrived. Along with several other people, Kouta and Ryuu made lunch. As Kouta ate with Ryuu and his staff, he admired how Ryuu behaved. He was in charge but he wasn’t overbearing. Much of the conversation flowed through him in some way, as he joked with his crew.

After everyone finished their meal, Kouta signed autographs. He also had a few drafting lessons by hand and on the computer. His work was displayed on one of the large televisions, causing him to feeling awkward, yet slightly pleased with his progress. The staff watched, offering assistance and encouragement. He commented that his work was unimpressive and accepted good-natured teasing.

“Well, at least you can sing or cook for us,” Ryuu told Kouta, absentmindedly tousling his hair. They both blushed at the show of affection.

~~4.1~~

Later that evening, Ryuu and Kouta went to relax at Ryuu’s apartment and watch a movie. Initially mindful of their bet to delay sex, they resisted temptation by sitting on opposite ends of the couch. However, after the movie, when the two were chatting, they  maneuvered closer to each other, unable to keep even a few feet apart for long.

“I’m glad you came by my office today,” Ryuu said.

“I really enjoyed the visit. I hope I wasn’t too disruptive.”

“You weren’t a bother at all. I really needed the break. My staff always tells me to unwind a bit.”

“In that case, I think we should find more creative ways to occupy your time,” Kouta suggested.

“Kissing isn’t out of bounds, right?” Ryuu asked.

“No, it’s not. We already said it wasn’t.”

“I’m just checking. I don’t want to do anything that would cause me to lose. I’m doing very well so far.”

Ryuu ran his fingers softly up and down Kouta’s arm; it was definitely having an effect. Kouta found his skin being charged by even this slight contact. He wanted more, wanted to make sure that Ryuu was feeling the same way.

“I’ll see what I can do to make your life difficult then,” Kouta playfully taunted. He gently pushed Ryuu back and pressed his body on his. Ryuu’s tongue worked against his neck, licking the mole on Kouta’s left collarbone.

“I like this,” he said, running a finger over the mole. “It’s sexy. I want to go searching for other interesting spots on you…Speaking of sexy, I was listening to your band’s radio show last week. I love how you spell out your name…K.O.U.T.A. You practically chant it. It sounds like you’re truly enjoying yourself…on the verge of coming.”

Ryuu rolled over, flipping Kouta under him.

“Oh, now you display your strength,” Kouta said. “Where was that a few days ago?”

“You mean, in the sparring session? I was just letting you play. I know how to ration out my energy, saving it for the important things.”

“Right, um, if that’s what you…”

Kouta’s words disappeared when Ryuu began to move down his body. Ryuu breathed through the cloth of Kouta’s t-shirt, making heat travel across his skin. When he arrived at Kouta’s crotch, he kissed the developing bulge. Kouta lifted Ryuu’s head, tempted to let him continue but needing him to stop. Ryuu looked at him, lust pooling in his eyes.

“You sure you don’t want my lips there?” he asked, his voice heavy with need.

“No,” Kouta groaned. “And you know why.”

“The waiting. It’s getting worse for you, isn’t it Kou?”

“It’s been two weeks and six days since we made that damn bet,” Kouta said, his voice straining with need. “Don’t pretend it’s not getting to you.”

“Maybe we should just…”

“Are you giving up?” Kouta questioned eagerly. If Ryuu gave into him now, there would be an end to the carnal torture.

“Absolutely…not!” He untangled himself from Kouta and they both groaned in frustration. Ryuu wanted nothing more than to forget about the bet, yet his pride was too great.

“Curse your stubbornness,” Kouta growled at him.

“The same to you.”

“I’ll go home before I lose. Have you seen my keys?”

“Maybe they’re in your pockets.” Ryuu grinned lecherously, a mischievous gleam in his eyes. “You want me to help you search for them?”

“No,” Kouta quickly assured him, laughing and moving farther away.

~~4.2~~

When Kouta arrived home and went to bed, he struggled to fall asleep. Ryuu had made the game even more unbearable. For the second time that night, Kouta kicked off his covers. He began to stroke himself, fantasizing about Ryuu. He imagined Ryuu on his knees, his cock in Ryuu’s mouth, hitting the back of his throat. Kouta pumped himself harder, envisioning Ryuu working him fiercely, nibbling and sucking on him. His imagination was vivid; the sensation of having Ryuu at his groin was almost real. He was close to that sublime state, when Nami pounced hard on his stomach.

“Nami!” he scolded her. He realized that he’d been fortunate; her aim had not been lower.

His cat softly pawed his stomach then settled down on it, looking at him with an expression of entitlement in her large, amber eyes. Whenever she saw an opportunity, she liked to curl up on his stomach. Why, it looked like she was wondering, should this time be any different?

“I think you knew exactly what you were doing, you evil little thing,” Kouta said laughing and stroking her. “Maybe that should have been your name.”

He picked her up and set her down outside his bedroom, closing the door. He heard her scratching for a bit but ignored her until she stopped. He stood in front of the mirror on his dresser and returned his attention to his cock, which was now at half-mast. He eased back into his fantasy, picturing Ryuu deep-throating him. He watched himself, pumping faster and faster as he continued his arousing thoughts. Soon, he was coming hard, needing to hold on to his dresser as the surge of pleasure washed over  him. As he’d hoped, his release lulled him into sleep and he was soon dreaming of Ryuu.

At about four in the morning, a phone call awoke him. He groaned in annoyance, until the caller ID showed him who it was.

“Kou, it’s me.” Ryuu’s voice was strained, his reluctance to make the call carrying through the line. “I’m sorry about the time.”

“Hey, it’s not a problem.” Kouta sat up, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “Is everything alright?”

“Can I come over?” Ryuu asked. “I know it’s late but I needed to talk to you.”

“I’ll see you soon.”

His body tingling with anticipated, Kouta bounded out of his bed and went to the bathroom. He’d taken a shower and was pulling on some pants by the time the bell rang. It was Ryuu. The drive from his home was almost 20 minutes but he had arrived in half the time.

“That was quick,” Kouta noted, inviting him inside.

“I sped a little,” Ryuu admitted, grinning with embarrassment. Then he became very serious, searching Kouta’s face with his eyes.

“What happened?” Kouta questioned. A quick scan of Ryuu’s body proved to be quite informative; he had arrived already hard.

“Everything is fine, except…” Ryuu circled Kouta twice, looking him up and down. Then he stood in front of him, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. Kouta could feel the energy radiating off him and his cock began to harden in response.

“Tell me,” Kouta ordered, taking a step closer to him.

The confident action made Ryuu chew nervously on his bottom lip. Kouta was eager to hear his confession. He sensed that Ryuu was not the type of person who often admitted to others what his needs were. He also rarely backed down when he was in any kind of contest of wills.

Ryuu had not expected to feel the confusion he was now experiencing. He’d jumped in his car and had been half way to Kouta’s house before he’d truly realized what he was doing.

“You win…” Ryuu murmured. He cast his eyes downward, his ambivalence evident on his face.

“What brought this on?”

“Do you really have to know?”

Now that he was standing in front of Kouta, Ryuu was unprepared to expose his deeper feelings. He already felt vulnerable. He knew his body was telegraphing his need, having to say the words too was proving to be taxing. He disliked losing at anything but the wager had become entirely too difficult. Few individuals had been able to drive him to this level of desire. The last time it had happened, he’d ended up with someone who had broken his heart. After so much time alone, he had finally been tempted beyond his ability to refuse another.

“Please tell me,” Kouta pressed.

He had to hear an explanation. For over a month, he’d thought that he was the only one feeling incredible strain over the bet. There were times when Ryuu appeared to be struggling too but, more often than not, his level of stress was impossible to fully gauge. He was usually less demonstrative than Kouta. His capacity to get close to the edge and yet resist going beyond it was something that Kouta admired but it was also frustrating. Kouta had to know that the past few weeks had been more of a challenge than Ryuu had ever acknowledged.

“A few weeks ago, I’d bought a DVD of one of your concerts,” Ryuu began quietly, pacing the room. “I just hadn’t watched it yet. Well, tonight, I was thinking of you so much that I had to see it after you went home. The song Ownership.” He paused to look at Kouta. “You and Hiro. The fan service. His mouth against your crotch. The look on your face. I know it was only a performance but, Kou, I don’t like anyone else doing that with you.”

Without a word, Kouta took Ryuu’s hand and rushed him to his bedroom. They hurriedly began to undress each other, their eyes taking pleasure as each bit of skin was revealed.

“Wait, I need to savor this,” Kouta said. “Let me just look at you.”

Ryuu obliged, lying down next to him on the bed. Now Kouta could enjoy him without having the bet hanging over them. He took his time going over the fully naked masterpiece that was Ryuu. He had well-defined pecs and abdominal muscles, while his thighs were muscular with a mole on the inside of his left one. Kouta flicked his thumb over it, enjoying the contrast the dark mark made against Ryuu’s skin.

Of prime interest to Kouta was Ryuu’s cock. Surrounded by black curls, the tip was reddened and swollen, showing Ryuu’s growing excitement. Kouta propped himself up on one elbow and scanned Ryuu’s beautiful body, stroking himself. His breath caught in his throat when Ryuu smiled, gripping his cock and mirroring what Kouta had done.

“Kou…” Ryuu groaned, as he became unbearably hard. He turned away from Kouta, interrupting his slow perusal. “Don’t be so damn leisurely about this. I’m in a really bad way.”

“Okay,” Kouta said, laughing.

He relished the sight as Ryuu went up on his hands and knees. He took the lubricant out of the dresser by his bed and liberally spread it onto Ryuu’s rear. The sudden coolness on his heated body pulled a surprise hiss from Ryuu.

“Enough?” Kouta checked with him. “Want more?”

“I really don’t need to bathe in it,” he said, smiling at Kouta’s impish behavior.

Kouta reached into the nightstand and pulled out several colors of condoms.

“You get to choose!” he prompted.

“You’re acting as if I’ve won a large prize,” Ryuu told him.

“Did you not see what I have to offer?” he questioned, as he pointed at his crotch.

“You…” Ryuu planted his hand against Kouta’s face and pushed him backwards. Kouta tumbled, laughing loudly. He sat upright again, only to be greeted with an even more frustrated Ryuu.

“Kouta, come on now,” Ryuu muttered. “I don’t care which color goes in my ass. Stop torturing me.”

“You have to pick one,” Kouta said, grinning roguishly.

“Red,” he grumbled.

“Awww.” Kouta made an exaggerated sad face. “I prefer blue.”

“Oh, that’s it. To hell with this.” Ryuu got up off the bed and began to gather his clothes.

“I’m sorry!” Kouta exclaimed. “I was having too much fun messing with you.”

Ryuu paused, seeing if Kouta was going to take him seriously. Kouta slowly rolled on a condom, purposefully lingering on the action, knowing Ryuu was intently watching him.

“Be careful,” Ryuu said, as he went back to the bed. He positioned himself again.

“First time?” Kouta asked, sincerely hoping it was.

“No, it’s just been a while,” he murmured.

“I’m jealous of the others.” Kouta smacked him hard on his ass.

“Only one man has been there,” Ryuu told him. “Just put it out of your mind.”

Kouta pushed in gently, willing himself to take his time. Sweat begin to appear on his body, as he slid deeper into Ryuu. He felt Ryuu flinch and shift under him slightly.

“Ryuu, are you okay?”

“Yes, just take it easy,” he grunted.

When Kouta was all the way in, he waited for Ryuu to get used to him; then he began thrusting slowly into him. Perspiration gleamed on his skin as his movements increased in speed and strength. After a series of particularly pleasurable thrusts, he was suddenly in danger of being quickly overwhelmed. He paused, resting on top of Ryuu. He had waited so long for this and didn’t want to ruin it.

“Shit,” Ryuu hissed out. “Kou, start moving again.”

“I don’t want to rush this.”

“Neither of us rushed anything. Move. Now.”

“What kind of bottom are you, anyway?” Kouta gently goaded. “You can’t give your top orders.”

“Well, I like to switch. Be prepared to get punished for teasing me.”

Kouta started to move again, extremely slowly. He relished the feeling of being inside Ryuu, hearing him respond to what he was doing. Ryuu began to rapidly stroke himself. Kouta moved his hand and took over, giving Ryuu strong, hard pulls.

“Come for me,” Kouta ordered. Holding his hips, he worked Ryuu with increasing force. Soon Kouta could feel his body tighten. He groaned as he shot off, gripping Ryuu’s hips so hard that he left handprints on his sensitive flesh. He heard Ryuu gasp, his own release shaking through both of them as they collapsed onto the bed.

While they caught their breaths, they rearranged their cooling bodies to face each other.

“Was I too rough?” Kouta asked. He brushed a few strands of dampened hair off Ryuu’s forehead.

“No,” Ryuu answered. “Though, you did bite me right before you came.” He showed Kouta what he’d done to his left shoulder.

“I do like to leave marks,” Kouta said, rubbing the reddened spot. “I don’t think I bit you very hard.”

“I’ll have to return the favor,” Ryuu told him. He ran his tongue over his perfectly even teeth, showing Kouta what was in store for him.

“I can’t get scarred up, not with my career, understand?” Kouta protested, making Ryuu chuckle naughtily.

“I’ll remember to leave marks in places only I will see.”

“Well, I’m kind of free with showing my body.”

“Yes, I’ve seen a few of the Polaris ads and those hot DVD covers. What about here?” Ryuu pinched the inside of Kouta’s right thigh. “Do you plan on putting even that area on exhibit too?”

“Ow, stop that.” Kouta laughed and smacked his hand away.

Content to just enjoy each other’s company, they didn’t say anything for several minutes.

“You do realize that you lost the bet, don’t you?” Kouta asked, eventually breaking the comfortable silence.

“It was worth it,” Ryuu assured him, looking at him through half-closed eyes. “Now what will my punishment be?”

“We’ll get to that soon enough.” Kouta trailed one hand over his stomach, along the line of black hair that led to his cock. “Right now, I want to know about your tattoo. Can I see it again?”

Ryuu turned onto his stomach, displaying the panther on his upper left shoulder. Kouta traced the figure.

“Why that animal?” Kouta asked.

“It’s my favorite,” Ryuu explained. “I’ve always liked the big cats. They’re graceful and powerful. They can be playful but there’s always that element of danger.”

“Is that how you’d describe yourself?”

“Definitely.”

Ryuu was about to maneuver Kouta under him when Kouta stopped his progress.

“Not so fast.” Kouta slipped out of his grasp. “You have a penalty. You did, after all, lose our bet.”

“Alright. What monstrous punishment do you have in mind?”

“For 45 seconds, you have to keep Junior cold…” He pointed to Ryuu’s crotch. “Very cold. Ice him up.”

“Oh come on, that’s not reasonable,” Ryuu immediately protested.

“You agreed that the winner could pick the penalty. Remember? ”

“Yes, but…”

“Who’s the winner? Eh?”

“Maybe we can adjust the terms,” Ryuu suggested beseechingly.

“It’s too late for negotiating,” Kouta told him, waving off his attempts. “I’ll add another minute if you keep complaining.”

Ryuu shook his head, still upset. As Kouta made his way to the kitchen for some materials, he could hear Ryuu continue to object. He chuckled softly. He wasn’t ready to inform him that he had no intention of following through with the punishment. Making sure to keep his face serious, he returned to the bedroom with a small silver bucket of water and ice; he put it on the bedroom floor.

“You’re going to do a push up,” he instructed Ryuu. “Make sure at least one inch of Junior ends up in the ice water.”

“Isn’t there a more reasonable way of collecting your prize?” Ryuu was still holding out hope of his situation changing.

“I’m not interested in ‘reasonable.’ I already told you.”

“Sadist,” Ryuu muttered. “Is this even safe?”

“Nah, you’ll be fine. It’ll just get nice and cold. I wouldn’t damage your precious equipment for anything. After all, it benefits me too, you know. The sooner you get it over with, the better it will be for Junior. Wow! It looks like he’s already shriveled from the thought of it.”

Ryuu made a dramatic show of dropping to his knees, as if Kouta had sentenced him to a beheading. Kouta laughed at the look of genuine concern on Ryuu’s face. Then he finally freed him from his distress.

“Relax, Ryuu. I was only joking!”

“I can’t believe you let me think…” Ryuu flicked some cold water at him, making Kouta laugh more. Kouta put the bucket aside and motioned for Ryuu to stretch out on the bed with him.

“Kou, I’m really glad you changed your mind, though I would have done it because I gave my word.”

“Had we been teenagers, I would have gone through with something juvenile like that. However, we’re adults.”

“Yes, we are but you should still get a prize.”

“It doesn’t matter. And I know I won but you don’t really feel this is a loss, do you?”

“No, it’s not a loss,” Ryuu said, pulling him closer. “Not at all.”

 Read Balance Chapter 5…