The Rules of Engagement
Rating: Hard R
Warnings: Language, sex, minor violence, second-hand smoke
Pairings: Kenren/Tenpou (Kenren/Tenpou/Goujun implied)
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimer thingee. Kenren as dragon catnip is mine, blah blah blah.
Summary: Kenren tries to find his place in things.
Note: Part 3 of the Dream of the Butterfly Series. Takes place between the fics Officers' Training Seminar: Building Trust and Teamwork in the Heavenly Army and Yozakura. Kenren's handy-dandy army slang dictionary is found at the end of the fic for some of the more obscure acronyms.
After he found his One True Calling in his semi-regular squaring away of Tenpou's stir-fried shit of an office, he found himself more often than not hanging out in said office afterwards. It was a great place to hole up, really. Tenpou was easy on the eyes, the liquor was free, and there was plenty of opportunity to indulge in both since Tenpou never noticed what you were doing if something in his books had him preoccupied. Plus, he had a habit of doing lame-ass things like staying up to read for days straight and then collapsing. After that he'd sleep anywhere, anytime, and through anything your little heart desired. You could actually clean the place around him and the man wouldn't wake up until you took the duster to his face. It amazed Kenren how totally oblivious of his own basic bodily functions Tenpou seemed to be sometimes. How the hell could someone forget to sleep?
This time around he got tired of tripping over the inert body in its very painful-looking crumpled nap in front of the desk, so he cleaned off one of the couches and draped the Marshal across it. Then proceeded to pick up the latest avalanche; fifty-two books, two scrolls, and something with a foul smell that looked like a dried-up root of some sort but was big enough and ugly enough that it was likely a Tenpou Collectible and not technically garbage. He shoved that onto a shelf, dumped out the frog and then did a quick visual inspection before he pulled out the bottle from the bottom left drawer of the desk. Bringing the frog and the fuel with him, he assumed his position at what he already thought of as "his" spot on the opposite couch. Froggy on the table, bottle between his legs. He leaned back, stretched his legs out, and rolled out the kink in his shoulder. After a moment of deliberation and couple of shots, he decided the rest of the evening would be just fine spent exactly where he sat, slowly draining Tenpou's liquor cabinet. Consider it payment received for the maid service. He sat and smoked quietly for awhile, taking in the sleeping form opposite. Yep, quite definitely easy on the eyes.
Sitting alone and drinking inevitably led to sitting alone and thinking, which was an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of the whole "sitting alone" part of things. People often accused him of not thinking before he did things, but if he thought too much he tended to end up just like this; angsting and worrying and not doing what he should be doing to get things done. Thinking tended to cause paralysis by over-thinking. Case in point; the conundrum currently sawing logs on the opposite couch.
The Marshal, and the dragon. And Kenren makes three. Did it? They hadn't exactly given him the rule book, so he wasn't quite sure where he stood in all of this. Exactly what the terrible twosome were expecting of him. Especially what it was that Tenpou wanted from him. Was it OK to hit on the guy and mean it, or was this an "only with the dragon around" sort of thing, and everything else was off limits? Could he fuck a girl or two on the side? Other men? Not like both weren't happening already, but the question wasn't whether he would do it, it was whether he was allowed to do it, or would they bust his ass with some sort of trumped-up charge when they found out he wasn't their exclusive toy.
He laid his head back, closed his eyes, and let the cigarette dangle for a bit. Really, if they wanted exclusivity they needed to say something. That, and he needed a whole lot more sack time 'cuz there's was no way in hell he'd last more than a frustrated week on what he was currently getting out of them. They had to be getting more than that, still fucking together without him, 'cuz things were too few and far between for them not to be. Plus it would make sense that they were; they were The Perfect Couple, after all. He was… whatever he was.
He stared at the ceiling above his head for a bit, frowning at a suspiciously dragonish squiggly stain marring the expanse of white. Maybe he was their marital aid or something, like it was with his last C.O. In any case, he didn't think this was an invitation to join in on a committed threesome or they'd have said as much. Wouldn't they? So far, they'd been mum. But they didn't strike him as particularly promiscuous, the kind that would pull random strangers into their bed willy-nilly whenever they got a hankering for new meat. Still, the only indication that it hadn't been a simple "Intoxication & Intercourse" one-shot was the fact that it wasn't. He'd been dragged into their bed three times now, without as much as a "howdy do" or a "by your leave" beforehand to give him a clue as to what the hell he was supposed to think about the whole set up. Serial I&I, was that considered a relationship?
It was fucking confusing is what it was. He puffed out a frustrated sigh of smoke. Normally, he'd take things as they came and assume fuck-buddy until proven otherwise, but these were his immediate superiors he was dicking around with and his career was on the line. He really didn't want this to go all FUBAR like it had back east. He was running out of armies to be transferred to. So here he was, chain-smoking, slowly getting drunk, and wondering what kind of sick twisted motherfucker of a masochist he was that he'd do this to himself twice in the same century.
Sick, twisted motherfucker. Yep, that's what he was alright. Ah, Mom… best not to think about her either, or things would just get a whole lot weirder.
Tenpou stirred and resettled, hair falling across his face. Kenren cocked his head to check to see if he was still asleep. It wasn't fair that the mousey tousled look made him look even more fucking edible than before. Such a pretty, pretty man. He looked so soft when he was asleep like this. It was amazing how cold and distant that same face could be when it was awake. Tenpou seemed so determined to go solo in life it made him wonder just how he had ever fallen into the dragon's bed in the first place. Kenren leaned forward to feed the butt to the frog and stayed, elbows on knees as he lit up again. His back needed a stretch. It was a better view from this angle anyhow.
He was pretty sure the two of them had to have been together for quite some time now. They had a ton of those little quirks and silent language cues that just screamed 'Long Term Relationship.' At least they did when they were alone with him; all in all, they were pretty damn good at hiding it in public. Even he would've had a hard time seeing it without looking for specifics, and he'd spent his little slice of eternity perfecting the art of sussing out who was hitched to whom and how that would affect his chances for the evening. Fortunately for the two of them most kami couldn't really read dragon body language anyway, and any scrutiny of Tenpou tended to stop dead at those BCD eyeglasses of his.
Kenren rested his chin on his hand, studying the sleeping face. He had to admit it was a pretty clever way of hiding in plain sight, the eyeglasses. Even if they were for real; Kenren had found that out one night in bed when he suddenly realized that weird look in Tenpou's eyes wasn't lust, it was myopia. Rather endearing, really. Soft-focused eyes were an incredibly effective weapon in their own right. Nothing more than a few well-calculated wide-eyed blinks could turn both him and the dragon into mush within seconds. Even when you knew exactly what he was doing, it still turned your knees to jelly. The man wasn't considered a genius for nothing.
But even if Tenpou actually needed those glasses to see properly, he also used them to their maximum effect as camouflage. The "I'm just a harmless bookworm" deceit aside, whenever he didn't want someone to see what he was thinking he had this way of cocking his head to catch the light in the lenses, blocking out his eyes altogether. Usually happened when Tenpou was talking to some big mucky-muck you knew he despised, but he'd even done it to Kenren once or twice before he'd caught on as to what that was all about. Smart little fucker. Most people hadn't a clue it was happening. They just thought the odd head cock was the usual Weirdo Tenpou shit. Kenren had being misjudged by outward appearances down to a science himself so he knew exactly what was going on, but it kind of disturbed him to see the extent to which Tenpou took it. As far as he could tell, he did it with absolutely everybody, including the dragon. He wondered if the guy had a clue. Who knew, maybe those weird dragon eyes could see through the lens glare or something. In any case it didn't seem to bother Goujun in the least. It sure as hell bothered him, though. It also made him wonder what had been going on in the Western Army that Tenpou felt the need to be so fucking guarded 24/7.
Kenren tilted his head back to drain the bottle. Surprisingly, he was already starting to get a buzz. An empty stomach, that was the problem. He had checked in on Tenpou before hitting the mess in the hopes of dragging him along, and instead found a book pile with feet sticking out and totally forgot to get dinner. Here he was, silently bitching out Tenpou for forgetting to sleep, and he'd forgotten to eat. Point taken. He went to dump the empty in the trash and then pulled out one of the bottles Tenpou kept in the safe that was cut into the wall behind a three-volume set called Collected Analytical Essays on the Influence of Regional Topography in Historical Military Actions, Second Edition. Really, if the man didn't want Kenren to drink this stuff, he should lock the fucking safe. And be less obvious about where he put it.
When he got back to the couch, instead of sitting back down he somehow found himself standing over Tenpou, fingers itching to brush the hair from his face. He had no idea if he could do something like that without the dragon considering it poaching. Or Tenpou decking him, for that matter. And there he was, back to that again. Wishing he knew where he stood, what the fucking rules were. This was exactly why thinking was a Bad Thing. Chasing his own tail over this was making his head swim.
If he had to give his scientific, wild-ass guess about it, where he stood was absolutely nowhere. This whole thing was only because he was catnip and the dragon wanted to roll around in him once in awhile. Tenpou got to come along and take a dip in to keep him from getting all jealous wifey over him, and that's all there was to it. Might as well just face the facts, get his head out of his ass to correct that Rectal Cranial Inversion he'd gotten himself into, and move on.
Could he deal with being the family fuck toy? He let that question roll around in his head a bit while he lit up again. Smoked it halfway down before deciding on an answer. He supposed he could. Not like he'd ever been anything more to anyone else. Ever. Not like he ever wanted to be anything more to anyone else. Not before this, anyway.
That thought deserved another drink. This wouldn't even be an issue if the man didn't push almost every one of his goddamned buttons. But Merciful Goddess help him, he did. Get him to bathe regularly and he'd be near fucking perfect. Add that to the fact he genuinely liked the guy. Respected him, even. He couldn't remember the last time he truly respected anyone with that much brass, let alone someone who got as high up on the food chain as Marshal. Usually a guy had to be dead to even get the rank, yet here Tenpou was, very, very much alive, and as far as Kenren could tell he got to the top legitimately. A goddamned miracle is what that was. Had to respect that.
He unabashedly stood and stared as he smoked. So pretty to boot. A pretty, pretty little respectable Marshal. With books. A pretty little respectable librarian of a Marshal. He had to admit he'd never fucked a Marshal before. Like he said, they were usually dead before their Marshalness anyway, and he was suspicious that part of the award ceremony for the live ones involved sizeable sticks and orifice insertion. But he'd been with a librarian or two back east. Librarians might be all prim and proper at work, but in bed they could be regular little wild cats. Librarians had Imaginations, fueled by years of reading histories of mating rituals and pillow books and who begat who, and had things like secret collections of shunga prints hidden in their rare books collections. Archivists, now they were boring as hell but librarians, librarians had some serious kinks, and they were just waiting for someone game enough to try out all that interesting research with. After that "training seminar" he was pretty damn sure he knew just what Tenpou's kinks were, and they were plenty. Dragon sex just scratched the surface.
Kenren took another swig. Librarians and their kinks were making his throat go dry and this whole line of thinking was making his stomach hurt. He leaned over to tap some ash into the frog and found a pair of sleepy eyes tracking him from the couch. He stopped dead in mid-tap.
"Marshal. I see you're awake."
"And I see you've found my safe."
Kenren stood back up and let Rakish Smile #3 slide into place. Guaranteed to disarm the stubbornest of potential conquests, patent pending. He returned the cigarette to its rightful perch.
"I found it three days after I got here. When you had me reset the tactical theory shelves."
"Really. Still, it's rather expensive. Couldn't you have taken the bottle from the desk drawer instead?"
"Been there, done that, bought the shirt. Moved on to the bigger and better."
"That bottle was nearly full, General. Please don't tell me you finished it."
Full, huh? Well, that sure helped to explain the buzz.
"Tell you. Really, Tenpou, for such a genius of a tactician you're shitty about hiding your liquor."
Kenren figured he was already busted every way to Sunday so he didn't bother to return to 'his' spot like a good little soldier and instead plopped his ass down where he was, right next to the frog on the table. A bit of negotiation with his knees followed when he discovered Kenren-length legs didn't exactly fit between Tenpou's table and couch at this angle. He offered the Marshal his cigarette and was somewhat surprised it was accepted. Now he had to ignore those pretty little lips wrapping around something that had just been in his mouth. Smart move on his part. Down, boy.
"Hmm. Well, I've never had a pest problem until now. Perhaps a few snap traps should be set to make sure the rest of it doesn't disappear. Are there any bottles left?"
"All of them."
"All of them?"
"All of them. I leave the bottles to you. I'm only interested in the stuff that's in them."
"Ahhh. Such consideration on your part. Thank you."
Tenpou gave a small smile as he passed back the butt. It looked like he was having a hard time waking up. So far, he hadn't moved an inch from where Kenren had draped him. Plus he was doing that endearing bed-time blink. The effect was marred only slightly by the fact the eyeglasses were still in place. Impressive.
"So, indulge me, General… give me your professional assessment on how my liquor-concealing capabilities are wanting."
Kenren was very, very aware that one of his knees was currently rammed butt-up against Tenpou's thigh and Tenpou hadn't moved it away. Instead he was occasionally rubbing it against him, like he had an itch or something. It was absolutely ridiculous just how much that turned him on. Like a regular little school girl crush. He offered Tenpou the bottle. Tenpou shook his head, causing a bit of his hair to slide across his face and catch on the corner of his lip. Kenren found himself staring at it. His hand began to itch again. Before it could get him into trouble he put it to work stubbing out the cigarette and lighting another one while he gave Tenpou his assessment.
"Putting the safe at eye-level behind the fattest, most boring-ass set of books you've got, that no one in a million years would be remotely interested in reading? Almost as obvious as that book safe with the bottle of 'Wine of the Immortals' stashed inside. And no, I haven't touched that, in case you were wondering."
Tenpou's eyed widened perceptibly. Kenren felt inordinately proud of himself.
"I thought that one rather clever. I'm surprised you found it."
"Clever!" Kenren pointed at him with the new cigarette for added emphasis. "That's the problem. Too fucking clever. A five-inch thick book of poetry? C'mon, Tenpou. Who the hell writes that much poetry? Who the hell reads it? And then to have it be Tao Qian. 'One cup, and-'"
Tenpou smiled and quietly joined in on the recitation.
"…'And ten thousand worries vanish; two, and you'll even forget about heaven.' Bravo, General. Bravo. Yes, I suppose you're right. That was rather obvious of me. Still, you were the first to find it."
"Well, I guess I'm just special." He leaned over and fed the frog so his brain wouldn't go all mushy while Tenpou's smile widened at how special he was.
"So, your opinion then. Would there be a better place to hide said liquor to avoid further predation?"
Kenren leaned on his hand and considered the question for a moment.
"Maybe the toilet."
"Effective, but disgusting."
"That's the point. But really, why hide it? Wine is meant to be shared. A good wine doubly so. You sure you don't want any?"
Tenpou again shook his head. It did nothing to dislodge the hair from the corner of his mouth. Kenren sat there for a moment valiantly ignoring the hair and waiting for him to say something, but instead Tenpou remained immobile on the couch, silently and attentively watching him. It was obvious the gears were working and it was starting to feel like he was being sized-up for something. It was never a good idea to let Tenpou think about anything for too long. Much too dangerous. Time to go, then, before he made any bigger fool of himself than being caught staring at his sleeping C.O.
"Well, I guess I'll get going."
Tenpou's mouth lost what was left of his smile, but still said nothing. Okay then. He had stubbed out his cigarette and had already gotten up when Tenpou finally piped up.
"General. Indulge me. I was wondering if you would be kind enough to share… as to what you were thinking about previously."
"Previously? Previous to what?"
"While you were standing here, believing I was asleep. You had the most intriguing expression on your face. I was rather curious as to its cause."
Kenren's heart leapt. He couldn't quite remember what the hell he was thinking about that exact moment that far back in the evening, but he knew it wasn't good. He recalled enough about the gist of the night's thinking to know that no matter what it had been, if he answered honestly he'd probably be in the shit house over it. He walked his brain backwards to see if he could remember what it was he was thinking about when Tenpou woke up. To his surprise he did know. He answered honestly because it was too ridiculous not to.
"Li-" Tenpou stopped mid-word. His look suggested that he realized he was beginning to sound like a parrot. He changed tactics.
"So, was this about librarians in general, or was there something more specific that had you musing?"
Oh, what the hell, Kenren thought. Run with it. He was sure Tenpou wouldn't see it coming. Plus he was wondering if Tenpou could blush.
Tenpou raised an eyebrow at that. Nope. He hadn't seen it coming, but no blush either. Kenren continued on without a blink before he had a chance to forget what he just remembered.
"That reminds me, before you ask- the book you were reading when you fell asleep is book-marked and on the desk."
Tenpou stretched and smiled. Kenren wished he could say he loved that smile but this wasn't the smile he loved. This was the smile he was quickly learning to fear.
"Thank you. Though I am curious as to why kinky librarians and my book would be a logical sequitur in your mind."
Kenren blanched. Damn, he really had to stop drinking so much when he was around Tenpou. You needed to be much faster on your feet than the liquor allowed or you'd give too much away, like he most likely just did. Loose lips... he had two options; a flirt that probably wouldn't be reciprocated, or a redirection. He tried the save.
"Who said my mind was logical?"
Tenpou's face returned to neutral as he continued to regard him for a few moments longer. Something subtly changed in his eyes and he tilted his head to catch the light.
"True enough. Librarians aside, then. Though I am invariably happy to see you, was there an actual reason you stopped by this evening?"
Kenren was surprised the line of questioning was dropped so quickly. Usually Tenpou hung on like a bull dog. Something wasn't right with that.
"Not really. I was on my way to the mess hall, and popped in to see if you wanted to come along. Did you want to come along?"
"Not really, but thanks for the offer. So, General. You haven't graced these four walls with your presence recently. Have you been busy?"
Kenren sat back down and put the bottle on the floor. Tenpou had to be stalling him for some reason. It was obvious the man still wanted something from him yet didn't want to come out directly and ask, because he never simply chit-chatted. Probably still on about the librarians, and now he was trying out the back door. Honestly, now that he thought about it he had no idea what possessed him to be so suicidal as to tell the man the truth about what he'd been thinking and give him that much live ammo. He'd seen Tenpou wheedle a person down to tears while digging for information about much less interesting things than kinky librarians.
"Been busy with training the past few days, that's all."
"Besides the occasional bout of alcohol thievery you seem pretty well trained, General. I assume not for yourself."
"Nope, for Squadron One. That last police action was enough to convince me they needed someone to ride herd for a bit."
"Hadn't Enrai been working with them these past few months?"
If he was going to be here awhile, he needed another cigarette because he definitely needed to keep his hands busy. He patted his pockets to see if there was anything left. Tenpou pulled a pack out of his breast pocket and handed it over to him.
"Enrai's idea of training is eight hours of nuts to butts close-order drill practice with the entire division. He's also got a real thing for mass martial arts forms. Trust me, they'll look great on Armed Forces Day when we do the Dog and Pony Show for the Emperor." He handed the pack back to Tenpou. "Throw an actual enemy at them, and maybe they can dazzle them into surrender with the perfection of their formation lines. Right now, I swear that if things don't go by the book in a combat zone they'll march the book over to the enemy and show them the page where it says how they ought to act."
Tenpou grinned at him again. Now, this was the smile he loved. He smiled back, filled with the warm and fuzzies. Tenpou was actually beginning to look almost interested in what he had to say, like he was a book on Han military history or something. It was nice for a change.
"Well, if things are as you say at least that march would be a perfect one. So, favor me with a report on how your training is going. If you're not concentrating on marching line perfection, what is it that you're working on?"
"Well, the squadron is small enough; so I figured they're a good size for a special ops or commando team. Like we talked about before, the army desperately needs more mobile, small-group strike capabilities, and that's where we've been going with things. They already click together pretty well as a unit which makes things a helluva lot easier, but they can't take a shit without an order from above and their group discipline is ate up in any real-time combat situation- you've seen that. So we've been using some intensive PT training and a few ST exercises with a heavy emphasis on problem-solving skills. They're doing at lot better, actually. Much less likely than a week ago to take each other out with friendly fire. I've got them split into three teams each working against the other in the combat simulations, so there's always two possible hot points for engagement in the field. Keeps 'em on their toes."
Kenren paused to fill his lungs before he continued. "The team that can show me the greatest amount of improvement by the end of training and can pass all PT skills tests gets weekend passes with a free party room at the Phoenix House, my treat. I know the madam pretty well," Kenren winked, "so she gave me a real deal on that. Ain't too much out of my pocket and they'll get a real buzz out of it. You should really come down tomorrow, Tenpou. See them go at it. Let's just say a bit of the right kind of motivation does fucking miracles sometimes. One of the teams is calling themselves 'Team Hidden Dragon.' I do believe that's in honor of you. I think they'd love it if you'd come down and check them out."
Tenpou seemed absolutely enthralled. Kenren hadn't ever seen Tenpou this excited about anything before, print or otherwise. He reached for Kenren's cigarette and began to talk in the bouncy way usually reserved for describing an extra-interesting paragraph he had just read.
"Guerilla warfare is such a new concept, virtually unheard of in a large standing force; so it's quite a fascinating idea to try to integrate the use of smaller, autonomous groups in something as ponderous and hierarchical as the Heavenly Army. I've thought about it before, of course. We spend far too much time in large displays of power where smaller and more mobile units would be more efficient. Unfortunately, the current Minister of War is so overly fond of the "Might Makes Right" technique that he refuses to mandate for anything near what you've currently got the unit engaged in. It'll be rather exciting to see what comes of it. From what I've seen of Squadron One's potential capabilities, I think they'll do rather well. Though I have to say, I wish you'd spoken to me about it beforehand. I'm technically supposed to sign off on any changes in the training schedules."
Tenpou passed back the cigarette. Good, 'cuz now Kenren needed the nicotine.
"The damn papers are sitting somewhere in that pile of shit on your desk waiting for your seal, Tenpou. I talked to you about it something like a month ago, at that stupid senior officers' policy briefing at the Ministry of Defense. You gave me the green light on it and everything. We agreed to write it up as 'Combat readiness PT' to get it past the pencil pushers. Ring a bell, or was I talking to a brick wall that day?"
Tenpou's face soured momentarily at the mention of the briefing, and Kenren shuddered inwardly as well. He was still having nightmares over it himself which involved immensely large conference tables and 'No Smoking' signs.
"Had we? Why don't I seem to recall that?"
"Hell if I know, Tenpou. Though that endless ass-kiss of a day was enough to freeze anyone's brain cells. We talked between the Death by Flowcharts and the 'final debriefing' we had with the Commander. Remember it now?"
He paused, hoping for it to click. Tenpou just stared at him wide-eyed like a dope.
"No? Huh. Well, we sure as hell busted down a few IQ points with him that night. You probably fried the area of your brain that the conversation was kept in. Short-term memory is the first thing to go, you know."
Debriefing. He really needed to be slapped for that horrifying pun but it was just too good to pass up. That night was the last nookie he'd had from the terrible twos. They all had a lot of frustration to vent, so things had gotten rather wild. He hadn't been able to walk upright without pain the whole next day.
"Ah, yes. That was quite the interesting evening. Had it really been that long ago? An entire month?"
"Technically more than a month. I guess time flies when you're reading shit."
Tenpou smiled again. He'd never really stopped smiling since the whole conversation on training began except for the brief scowl at the mention of the day from hell, but the smile got wider and softer at the memory of that night. Kenren's smile softened, too. A few of the better, non-policy briefing related memories were currently being given the instant replay in his head, and the best part of that evening was laying there smiling at him right now, looking prettier and more fuckable than ever. His hand began its itching again and before he realized it he reached out and moved the stubborn last bit of hair that was still caught on Tenpou's lip and tucked it over to the side, fingers gliding lightly over the high cheekbone. Then his brain caught up with what he was doing. He stiffened and snapped back.
"Shit. I- I'm sorry, Sir."
Tenpou's smile dropped. He studied Kenren's face pensively for a moment.
"You've touched a lot more than that before today, General."
Kenren panicked. Considering 'it' had been broached it looked like it was finally time for the Talk. He should've been happy things were finally going to be squared away, but now that the time had actually come he wanted to back away from it as fast as his gangly legs could carry him. He wasn't quite ready to admit it, but he was afraid of what the answers might be. Anyway, he wasn't any good at this sort of shit. Talks like this always got emotional, and he'd get angry and start yelling and things would go to hell in a hand basket real fast. He was doing a shit job of hiding it too; from the man's expression he was sure Tenpou could clearly see the distress in his face.
"Tell me what this is about, Kenren."
Kenren stared at him, struggling over exactly what to say. It didn't go without notice that it was the first time in a long time Tenpou called him by his name. Normally that made him do the happy dance but this time it only made Kenren suspicious of an underlying motive for the sudden change. It just served to piss him off that Tenpou could be so fucking manipulative sometimes that he had Kenren wondering over such stupid shit as being called by his name. Well, two could play at that game.
"Sorry, Marshal. It was just… you know."
"If I knew, I wouldn't be asking you to explain."
"It's just that… I know you and the Commander are… you know. A unit. Wasn't trying to mess with that or anything. Didn't mean to be so forward."
Tenpou looked at him with a baffled expression, as if his General was suddenly speaking in tongues. It wasn't the reaction Kenren had expected at all. Tenpou didn't seem to know what the heck he was talking about. Maybe the touch didn't seem all that intimate to him. Hell, of course not. The whole thing was probably a total non-event to Tenpou, since he wasn't the one with butterflies in his stomach over his pretty C.O. Nope; all Tenpou knew was he had an X.O. who was suddenly acting like a fucking lunatic. He felt like shooting himself to put himself out of his stupidity. He got up to leave again because he wouldn't be able to take Tenpou's laughter when the man figured it out.
"Stay where you are, General."
Kenren stopped dead. Things sure as hell went back to "General" mighty fast. That just proved it. He closed his eyes and waited for what was coming.
"Sit back down. Now."
He sat and put his head in his hands. Tenpou sat up. About fucking time he moved. It took the man a while to say anything. When he found his voice, it was clipped and angry.
"You seem to be laboring under the misconception that Commander Goujun and I are married in some way."
Married to another man of course got you kicked out of this man's army. Even if the two of them were living like they were common-law hitched, there was no way Kenren would come out and actually say it. Some things just weren't talked about.
"Not married. I didn't say married."
"That was certainly the implication."
"It's not what I meant. I just meant… "
"I'm quite aware of what you
meant, General. And you are wrong. The Dragon King of the
Kenren was fast becoming aware of the size of the hornet's nest he had just poked. Tenpou's anger wasn't so much directed at him as at the dragon. Or maybe at the situation. Tenpou was Goujun's Dirty Little Secret, and he obviously wasn't too happy about the fact. If he was angry at Kenren it was because he had basically just rubbed his nose in it. Of course the deeper implications of this little bit of news wasn't totally lost on Kenren, either; it meant that he was even less than the Dirty Little Secret. He was the doormat the two of them got to clean their feet on whenever they wanted to really get filthy.
"I wasn't trying to imply anything, sir. I was merely apologizing for overstepping my role."
Kenren continued to stare at his feet while Tenpou seemed to take that in and digest it for a bit in silence. When he finally spoke it was in a much quieter tone and more in control, but what he said made Kenren's blood turn to ice.
"I hadn't realized you had a 'role' in this to overstep, General."
Damn the fucker. Alright, he got it. Message received loud and clear. He meant less than nothing; little insignificant General Kenren had no 'role' in the great melodrama between Mr. Big Important Dragon King and his Golden Boy Marshal. Well, fuck them anyway. See if they get any more catnip out of their glorified call girl. He was so angry with himself, for letting it get to him like this. This is what came from pining over his pretty little C.O. like a motherfucking idiot. He felt his face begin to flush and his anger started rising to the top. He had to try and calm himself down or he'd be up for assault because he really, really wanted to kill something right now. If he hadn't been so close to being discharged during the last permanent reassignment he would have already decked the man.
"Kenren, look at me."
The last thing he wanted to do right now was look at the asshole. He needed time to calm down. He needed to be left alone. And the fucking genius should have been able to read his body language well enough to know that. Instead, he had to keep twisting the knife in deeper.
Kenren's head snapped up just high enough to make brief eye contact, just enough to let the man know to back off before he got seriously hurt. Tenpou jerked as if he'd been hit. Good. He was sure what the man had seen there wasn't pretty. Kenren went back to looking at his feet and tried to slow his breathing. He needed to regain enough control to be able to remove himself from this situation without ending up in the stockade in the process. Tenpou was blessedly silent while he worked himself down. After a few minutes of deep belly breathing he finally got things to the point where he thought he'd be OK. His fists were still clenched, but that was to be expected. At least his jaw had unlocked. He took in a deep breath and tried his best to keep his voice calm and steady.
"If you'll excuse me, sir. I need to leave now."
He'd done remarkably well with that. He hadn't yelled and his voice didn't break or anything. Unfortunately Tenpou wasn't following the script and seemed intent on getting himself killed.
"Tell me what's happening here, Kenren."
"Stop calling me that."
All that hard work was undone in a second as he went live wire again at the use of his name.
"You never call me by my name. It's always 'General' this and 'General' that. You're just trying to fucking jerk me around. Stop it."
"I don't know what you think is going on here, Kenren, but you're wrong. Now talk."
The fucking bastard was baiting him. If Tenpou yanked his chain like that one more time it was going to snap. He could feel it already starting to happen. He needed to get out before he went ballistic right then and there.
"I have to go. Now."
"Permission denied. Not until you tell me what this is about."
There was no way in hell he was about to admit to the man he was pissed off because he'd been mooning over him and felt like a jilted fool, but he was so angry he couldn't think clearly enough to come up with a reasonable lie to tell Tenpou that would pass inspection. He had to get out of there, go to the gym, and beat something to a pulp. He had no choice; better to be busted for insubordination than for assault. Without another word he got up and left.
Before he took three steps his legs were swept out from under him and a yank from behind flipped him around and brought him down hard. The back of his head met the floor with a resounding crack. Holy shit that hurt like hell.
Tenpou came down on top of him an instant later in a perfect pin down. He kept his hand hard on Kenren's neck, forcing the chin up. His face was inches from Kenren's own, eyes wild.
"You will not walk away from me, Kenren. Do you hear me?"
His head was screaming at him and the hand on his neck was making it difficult to breathe. Blood was roaring in his ears already, so he brought his own hand up over Tenpou's, trying to pry it off, getting him to let up on the choke hold before things got dangerous. Tenpou eased it nominally, enough to allow for blood flow but not enough to give Kenren much of a purchase to throw the man off. He coughed as his wind pipe opened back up. He was well caught. Fuck but the man could move fast. After a short, futile struggle to dislodge the weight on top of him Kenren did a belly up by shutting his eyes and relaxing his body as much as his anger and the pain in his head would allow. Tenpou wasn't buying it and hadn't let up in the least, so they stayed locked together like that as both of them fought for some self composure. After about a minute Kenren finally got up the gumption to reopened his eyes and found Tenpou was watching him, looking slightly less livid but no less dangerous. Tenpou waited until their eyes actually met before he hissed at him again.
Talk. Talk how? About what? Kenren couldn't even remember anymore what the hell this was about. He just knew he was angry and his head was killing him. He bucked Control Freak Tenpou's authority, that must be it. He needed to kiss ass some more.
"Wrong answer, Kenren."
Kenren searched Tenpou's face in frustration, wondering what it was the man wanted from him. He'd already submitted, damn it. Why wouldn't he let this go, and just bust his ass into the lockup already? Tenpou wanted something, but he didn't know what he had to give that the man would take from him. How could he answer the fucker when he didn't even know what the actual question was? The fingers around his neck tightened again in warning, looking for that answer. This was fucking ridiculous. What the hell did Tenpou think he was doing, tackling him like this and pinning him to the floor over something as stupid as a minor insubordination? This entire turn of events was ape shit crazy even for him. He sputtered out the next thought that came to him.
"What am I doing down here?"
He knew it wasn't the answer Tenpou was looking for, but damn it, his head was throbbing, an elbow was beginning to join in on the chorus, and his leg was starting to go numb. Plus he was confused as all hell. This was an awful lot of energy to expend just to keep the doormat in its place. When Tenpou actually answered his question he was surprised. He sounded lost somehow.
"I didn't want you to leave."
It was at that moment that Kenren finally saw it. The fear. In the back of Tenpou's eyes, he could see it as clear as a bell. They were too close together for Tenpou to hide behind those damn fucking eyeglasses, and Kenren could see right into him, see it all. He could see the fear, the hope. The want. For the very first time, he could see Tenpou as he really was, and it was as if he'd reached the eye of a hurricane. Everything inside of him suddenly went still, and the clouds cleared and it was blue skies above him.
"Let me go, Tenpou."
His voice was as calm and as quiet as he felt inside. Tenpou's eyes widened and his breath hitched at the words. There was a long moment that seemed to hang in space between them and Kenren could see the conflict inside, then the sadness as he seemed to suddenly collapse and give up. Tenpou closed his eyes, gave a ragged sigh, released the choke hold, and sat up.
As soon as Tenpou let him go Kenren struck like a coiled snake. He bucked up, grabbed a wrist, twisted and pulled down. Tenpou was caught totally off guard and was easily flipped onto his back, wrists pinned to either side of his head. He quickly wedged his knees between Tenpou's legs and shoved them as wide apart as he could. Tenpou looked up at him in undisguised surprise as Kenren let himself pause to catch his breath. He let go of Tenpou's wrist and brought a hand down to stroke the side of his face, soaking in the feel of him, for just that moment, before he crossed his Rubicon and crushed that perfect mouth under his.
Tenpou met his kiss, open-mouthed and frantic. That brief calm in the eye of the hurricane passed and the storm returned in its full fury, a wild frenzied outburst of biting, scratching, clawing, taking everything they could grab a hold of and trying to climb into each other's skins. He devoured Tenpou completely. Took him, nailed him into the floor as hard and as long as he could with all the pent-up frustration and anger he had held inside since this whole damn thing had started between them. Tenpou desperately clung to him, growling and moaning like an animal, marking him with teeth and nails and he made sure that Kenren felt it, felt the pain. Felt him. When the storm clouds finally abated they were a panting mass of limbs and sweat and scattered clothing lying tangled together on the floor. Kenren felt light and empty and absolutely exhausted, as if he'd just finally let go of that boulder he'd been forever pushing up that hill. His arms were still wrapped tightly around Tenpou, hands stroking the sweaty back underneath the shirt and tie that had somehow managed to stay on throughout the storm. A leg was wrapped possessively over him and a gentle hand was caressing his face while they lay there side by side, mouths joined together in searching, tender kisses that were soft and so intimate that he felt swallowed up by them. He was still basking in the glow of it all when Tenpou asked him something he had waited through eternity to hear.
Kenren nodded and grunted an affirmation. Tenpou kissed him again. Deeper. As if they were closing a pact between them. While they were still kissing the thought suddenly struck that he had never actually seen a bedroom up to this point. He was almost afraid to ask, but he had a reputation to uphold for going where others feared to tread.
"You better have a bed."
Tenpou snorted in laughter and he grinned into that sweet mouth. Shit, but he was in trouble. He even found the man's snorts endearing. Tenpou's voice had that bedroom laughter sound to it, reserved for lovers.
"Oh, it's in there, I assure you. Though some excavation may be involved."
"So now I have a whole 'nother room to clean. I'd stock up on the liquor if I were you."
Tenpou snorted again. He seemed almost giddy, if Tenpou could ever be such a thing. It made Kenren immensely happy to have been the one to make him feel that way. Tenpou twisted his body up, looking about, and reached a hand over their heads. Kenren strained to see what he was doing. A crumpled pack of cigarettes had been located and retrieved. Tenpou rested his chin on top of Kenren as he pulled one out and brought it to his bruised lips. He looked about as wiped as Kenren felt.
"Hmm. The lighter's in my pants. Kenren, do you have any idea where my pants are?"
"Um…" Kenren made a brief show of looking about a bit. "Which piece?"
Tenpou laughed. It wasn't exactly a joke; he'd been more than a little aggressive at getting them off and the pants were probably not salvageable at this point. Tenpou momentarily gave up his quest for a nicotine fix and flipped onto his back, flopping his head down on Kenren's shoulder. The unlit cigarette danced between his fingers as he rubbed his face with the back of his hand.
"So… a team has named itself after me. 'Hidden Dragon.' That's… quite touching, really. Quite touching. It consistently amazes me as to the level of estimation I receive from my troops. Though I'm surprised that one hasn't been named after you as well. Has one?"
Kenren snickered. It had been so long since they'd been together he'd forgotten what a bedroom talker Tenpou was.
"Well, kind of. Like I said there's Team Hidden Dragon, and then there's The Wild Bunch. The third team first tried calling itself "The Flying Skulls," and I told them they could call themselves whatever they wanted but they wouldn't get any brownie points for the suck up. They gave that up pretty damn quick."
Tenpou craned his head to look up at him. "I'm feeling a punch line here."
"Yeah, well. There is. After that they called themselves "The Screaming Skulls" for a few days. Guess I was riding them pretty hard, like a regular DI. At least at the beginning. But they finally got off that whole skull shtick."
"So now they're called…"
Kenren's grin spread from ear to ear. "'The Iron Derrières.' I have a sneaking suspicion they just might be insinuating they think their General is a hard ass. You should see their team flag."
Tenpou snorted again. Kenren buried his nose in the long hair and trailed his fingers across what he could reach, which wasn't much with Tenpou laid partly across his arm. It was enough to keep him content for the moment.
"I'd certainly give them points for creativity. I believe I'll have to make an appearance tomorrow, to review my troops. Hopefully you'll be able to remind me, come the morning."
"Come in the morning. Check. Can certainly help you out with that."
"Why were you so angry before?"
Kenren sighed. He felt like a bloody idiot about that and had hoped Tenpou wouldn't ask. It took a moment's pause before he responded, not knowing exactly what to say about it that would make any sense outside of his own head.
"Because I have 'Anger Management Issues,' that's why. At least that's what my psych eval says. The shrink has me set up for some classes. I've been working on it."
"It's nothing… I thought you were slapping me down to show me my place, giving me a 'Dear John.' I just… I wasn't sure I where I stood with you, and not with the dragon."
"You never asked."
"I thought it'd be crossing the line. Didn't want to get busted again for it."
"Hmm. I had thought you knew me better."
"Which 'you' are you referring to?"
That bit of reality shut him up. They were quiet for a while. Not a long while, but a while.
"You going to tell me about the librarians?"
Kenren smiled again into Tenpou's hair. He just knew the man hadn't let that go.
"I'll hold you to that. And now, I definitely need a smoke. If you would be so kind as to help me in trouser reassembly." With that Tenpou sat up and started searching for what was left of his pants.
Tenpou was right; serious excavation was needed before a mattress was visible in the spot where he claimed the bed was sitting. Fortunately, by this time Kenren was fast becoming a Master Book Stacker and Scroll Wrangler so it wasn't too long before they were tangled up in each other again, a bit more comfortable than on the floor but with Tenpou no less talkative. Kenren hadn't realized before this what a lonely man Tenpou was. Well, he'd do his best to change that. He fell asleep listening to the man softly babbling away, the world narrowed to the sound of his voice and the feel of the fingertips that were slowly redrawing the map of the heavens across his back.
Ate Up: Not up to army standards
BCD: Birth Control Device. Army issue eyeglasses, said to make anyone ugly
DI: Drill Instructor
FUBAR: Fucked Up Beyond All Repair
Golden Boy: Pet of a high ranking officer
I&I: Intoxication and Intercourse; a wilder version of R&R
PT: Physical Training
Rectal Cranial Inversion: to have one's head up one's ass
ST: Situational Training
XO: Executive Officer. Next in command under the C.O.