In Love and On Fire chapter 5

Chapter 5

“Adachi, what happened?”

“I got it from Niimori.”

I was doing up the belt on my work clothes in the changing room, when Tsuno caught a glance of my black and purple cheek. His eyes had flown open in surprise. “Are you serious? What did you do, Adachi?”

“Why do you assume it was my fault? Hear the story first, will you.”

“But it is your fault, right?”

“Eh, well.”

It was almost a miracle he hadn’t broken any teeth. Eating breakfast this morning had been obnoxious.

Even now, every time I spoke, my teeth hit the inside of my cheek and it hurt.

“Don’t worry too much about it. Niimori’s sociable enough now, but he was pretty stormy back in his middle school days. There are still plenty of people back home who’re afraid of him, you know.”

“Yeah I’ve heard that before, I don’t know why anyone would be afraid of Niimori.”

“Well, you two are the same age, you were in the academy together, weren’t you?”

Niimori’d gone into firefighter’s academy as a high school graduate. He’d spent four years as a working adult before he got in, so even though I went to college before I got in, he was the same age as me. Apparently his previous job had been with a security firm.

The first thing when you get into the academy is what they call basic training, but it’s just intense strength training exercises. It’s about as harsh as its name suggests, so there are guys who throw up or who fail out without being able to eat the whole menu, but there was one guy who seemed to handle it all without a problem, even as skinny as he looked at first glance, and that was Niimori. Apparently, he’d already had experience with something similar at the security company’s training.

It’d been harsh for me at first, too, but I’d been in the phys ed program in college, so basic strength was more than standard for me, just by nature. When Niimori ran his hundred laps around the campus with about fifteen kilos 1 of equipment including the fire hose, I was running right there next to him, all the way to the end.

“Even if he wasn’t my age, there’s nothing much scary about him. I mean, I think he’s a jerk, I guess, just that– I didn’t realize it until the other day, but depending on how you look at him, don’t you think he’s a little– cute?”

“Did he get your eyes, too? Or your brain? Are you okay, should I call the squad?”

“Listen, if Niimori took you on like that, you’d look at him the same way.”

I mean, the person Nimori hated the most right now was me. And it was ninety percent my fault, but still.

Yesterday, after the sex act had ended and I pulled out, there was blood mixed in with the cum.

I’d heard that there was blood sometimes when a woman’s hymen broke, but I didn’t think it was the same for men. Thinking about it rationally, the way I’d thrust all the way into him like that couldn’t have been normal. I realized suddenly that things had gotten all nice and slippery because I’d broken something, and I turned pale. The instant I said, “I’ll take responsibility,” Niimori quietly got out of bed, calmly twisted his hips, and scythed his leg down in a pointed roundhouse kick.

His heel sunk into my cheek and I drew a wide parabola on my way to the floor. It was the second time I’d been dropped by a kick of his.

“Weren’t you going to hit me?”

“You want me to hit you too? Where would you like it?”

Niimori’s fists were clenched and his eyes were glittering with rage, but he plopped right back down on the bed.

“The way it ended was definitely my fault, but you’re the one who invited me, who started things off by force in the first place.”

“I wasn’t looking to get myself done. And even if I was, you don’t normally push in without getting your partner ready.”

“Well I thought you were ready. It went in after all, even if I had to force it.”

“It went in after you tore me. Even if somebody’s used to it, you still get them ready, you virgin.”

“Is it that bad, should we go to the hospital?”

I was trying to be considerate, but I got a silent glare. The heat that had been lodged in my head and my body rapidly cooled in the face of his weasel-demon stare and I even forgot the pain in my cheek.

“Put your clothes on and get out, now. And don’t you ever touch me again,” he spat out, with a brutal expression on his face that told of only barely concealed homicidal urges.

“Seriously though, Adachi, what did you do? You couldn’t do anything to make him go that far, could you?”

Tsuno was overflowing with curiosity, but I only said, “No comment,” arranged my stuff, and left for the morning meeting.

After the handover, there was cleaning and equipment inspection, and then we dragged out and rewound the fire hoses. Looking at the male and female hose fittings made the place where I’d been kicked really hurt.

“Well, I mean it was my fault, anyway.”

I had to reflect on my behavior, just doing whatever I wanted without realizing I’d made him bleed. The fact that Niimori was off duty today was the only blessing.

I was staring off into space thinking about it all, when Tsuno said to me, “Focus, please.”

“I understand. I won’t mess anything up on the scene.”

“Actually, your real-life performances are strong, Adachi, but you’ve been strangely withdrawn lately. I’ve been worried about you, you know.”

It was the truth, so I couldn’t deny it. But nothing else happened to make Tsuno especially worried, not even during afternoon training. It was just that even as the afternoon ended, my head was still full of Niimori.

It was the first time I’d touched anyone – and been touched – so deeply, and it was the first time I’d felt anything so good.

Just remembering the previous day was enough to make the blood start gathering in my lower half, and so I headed to the training room after my duties were done, hoping to scatter some of it. It turned out Harikawa was there, and he called out to me.

Figuring he was going to scold me for my recent slump, I hurried to stand up from the bench press.

“Oh, it’s okay, as you were.”

Harikawa sat down at the arm curl machine next to me, smiling wryly at my eagerness.

“You’re taking the Rescue exam, aren’t you? The deadline’s coming up soon. You’ve got the requisite number of years this year, don’t you?”

I’d been so fixated on the idea he was going to scold me, his question surprised me.

Each heavy rescue squad has different exam seasons and contents, depending on the region. The qualifications you needed to meet in order to be a candidate changed with the region, too.

Some places, you needed a certain number of years as a firefighter, some places you were automatically in after a letter of recommendation, and some places you needed a letter of recommendation from a superior and certain results on a physical and written exam.

“You told me before your future was on the heavy rescue squad, but you haven’t even applied.”

In our case, you had to have a certain number of years experience as a firefighter, you had to apply for it, pass a screening by your superiors, and then you also had to attend and pass a month-long course at the academy before you were qualified for the heavy rescue squad. Even then, you weren’t instantly on the squad, these were all just required steps to get there.

“Niimori’s not taking it, is he.”

“Well, Niimori’s on command center duty. He’s out this year, at least. Even if he wanted it right now, he can’t get the recommendations. Although now that you mention it, he did want on heavy rescue, didn’t he.”

We’d been competing against each other without even saying anything to each other. There were even bets on which one of us would make it first.

“I’m fine with next year.”

“Listen, you know, there’s no guarantee Niimori’ll be back next year. Maybe he’ll still be on command center duty. You still holding back because of what happened last year? If you don’t put your back into your training, you’re going to mess up on a call again one day.”

I knew it in my head, but I simply couldn’t find a clear answer.

I was the main reason Niimori’d been chased off to the command center, taking that step before him would just be cowardice.

“Harikawa… You’re Niimori’s cousin, aren’t you?”

“Did you hear that from him? That’s weird, him telling people stuff like that. You don’t look like you get along, but you two are pretty close after all.”

“Uh, well, not like, not that well. Just as colleagues.”

I made excuses without really meaning to, and then remembered the other day. We got along pretty well doing that though, I thought, and went red. Harikawa stared at me with an increasingly shocked expression. “Jeez, you know about that, too, huh,” he muttered.

“Ah, I saw the guy he’s going out with by accident.”

Not to mention all the stuff that happened after that.

“Is he still seeing that jerk? Man, he picks the terrible ones, every time.”

“Why does he always pick that type, though?” I asked, in place of an affirmative answer.

“It’s a kind of trauma,” Harikawa said, with a complicated expression. “Niimori only goes out with guys he’d be okay with breaking up with, like he expects to break up from the start. It’s probably unconscious, but still.”

“What does that mean?”

Harikawa looked hesitant, but then said, “I guess I can tell you.” He usually looked like he was about to laugh at something, but his face turned intensely serious now. “The truth is, Niimori’s father was a firefighter. He died on the line when we were in middle school.”

“Oh, jeez, really?”

“He’s dreamt of being a fireman for a long time, but his grandmother had lost a son and she didn’t want to let her grandchild become a fireman, too. She opposed him, started crying. That’s why he ended up getting another job first. Oh, I’m Niimori’s cousin on his mother’s side. His mom died, too, when he was still a kid.”

“I hadn’t heard that before. And his dad was a fireman, uh.”

Niimori was not the sort of guy who talked about himself. I’d only just learned he was gay, and where he’d lived. Even the fact that Harikawa was his cousin was something we’d talked about by accident only a few days ago.

“He doesn’t open his heart to people. He’s probably afraid he’ll let them in and then lose them.”

Somehow I could understand that. Niimori was bizarrely resigned when it came to his personal matters.

He gave it all for victims and comrades, but he was totally careless about his own life. Although, his competitive spirit seemed to come out when I was around. It had been that way last year, too.

“But he’s opening his heart to you, though. Whenever he yells at you, it’s because you’re being rash and he doesn’t want you to die, you know. Cause you’re always trying to do too much. You’re special to him.”

When he said that, something moved in my chest. It was warm, and uncomfortable, and it felt like something was tightening in there, and even I didn’t understand it, so I pulled my lips down like I didn’t believe it.

“You think so? I mean, if you say so, but I always thought he was yelling at me because he thinks I’m an eyesore.”

“How’s he going to know you’re an eyesore unless he’s been looking at you?”

Harikawa seemed to have a good outlook on things, but that didn’t mean Niimori was going to open the door for me.

I’d only peeked in on him by accident, through a crack in the door. But looking at the captain’s face, with his gentle smile, like we’d been friends since we were kids, I couldn’t deny it any more.

“Hey,” he said, “keep it a secret, will you, about him being gay?”

“You’re his relative, you’re not going to stop him?”

“I don’t think sexual preference is something you can change, no matter what you do. Plus, he has made some progress in choosing his lovers, even if they are all still guys. Compared to his past, he used to just abandon himself to whoever came along.”

“But, I mean, if he at least didn’t choose guys who look like bears.”

“He does always pick guys who look like a demon king or a daruma out of a Sesshu painting or something, but I think that’s mostly down to other people’s preferences. You’re not unpleasant enough, don’t worry,” Harikawa said, and then put on his captain’s voice. “The rescue squad and Niimori, however, are two separate issues. Think about it, on your own, and choose the one you won’t regret.”

I was still waffling back and forth about how I should reply, when the speaker turned on without the usual warning bell.

“Call for assistance, Shimocho, building number four, fire reported. Fire currently spreading.”

At the sudden preliminary marching orders, Harikawa and I left the training room and dashed up the stairs.

All the things we’d just been talking about got shoved into a corner of my mind for now and I switched into work mode.

“Dispatch orders, Shimocho, number four, hotel Love Kingdom, fire reported. First call.”

When the actual marching orders came down, I stuffed my feet into my boots, pulled up my fire pants, and put on my jacket. I grabbed my helmet with my name written on it front and back, and jumped into the pumper truck.

As it pulled out, we all kept an eye on the surrounding roads into the capital.

When we pushed into an intersection with our sirens blaring, most cars and passersby would hear us coming and pull off to the side somewhere, but there were sometimes people who couldn’t immediately move, people who were stuck where they were, even with an emergency vehicle approaching. There was even a gang once that blocked the street out of malicious intent. Emergency vehicles absolutely did not want to be involved in accidents, so the firefighters in the back seat kept their gaze on the street and their eyes sharp, hoping to prevent disaster.

“With a name like that, it’s gotta be a love hotel,” Tsuno muttered, disgruntled. A lot of those kind of hotels didn’t bother adhering to the fire code. And the hallways were always intentionally dark, and none of the rooms had windows. Besides which, it took a long time, even under the best of circumstances, between the moment people sensed the danger and the moment they arrived somewhere safe. In the case of a love hotel, the customer’s first priority was finding their clothes.

The type of love hotel where they locked the doors until the customers paid their bills were the worst. Even if the customers sensed danger before the employees did, they couldn’t get away if the doors wouldn’t open. People who are trapped give in to panic, so they run wild the instant the door locks release, and they can’t take any calm or composed actions.

“It’s maybe arson, isn’t it?”

“Stop thinking about unnecessary crap, Tsuno,” Harikawa scolded.

“Yes, sir,” Tsuno answered, his gaze never moving from the window.

When we neared the scene, we could see police vehicles, and hear people talking over megaphones. The police had gotten there first, and were removing gawkers and directing traffic. A column of black smoke rose out of one of the windows.

We took the hose out of the storage compartment, opened the lid on the fire hydrant, and fit the female connector onto it.

In the time it took to put out the fire, we got word that all the customers were accounted for. Even those who’d been taken away by ambulance showed only minor injuries.

By the time we finished with the last of the flames, most of the gawkers had been cleared.

We were risking our lives here, and the same for the victims. But these people mobbed the scene out of mere curiosity, like they were stopping by a stage show. Every time I saw it, it ticked me off.

There was even some guy in the middle of it all taking pictures of the charred building and the faces of the people who’d been rescued.

“Oh it’s over already, huh,” one spectator said like he was bored. I was putting the hose away, trying to swallow the anger that was growing in my chest, when I heard the click of an electronic shutter.

What the hell was he taking a picture of anyway? I followed the line of his camera to the shade of a tree where there was a group of people from the apartment building next door – the building had suffered some damage from the flames. A woman was crying and one of the other residents was comforting her.

Taking shots of people who’ve been through a disaster, he’s got some nerve, I thought, irritated.

Maybe I wasn’t as clever as Niimori, but I could chase off some insensitive photographer, at least.

“Hey!” I called out. The guy, wearing a black cap low over his face, looked up from checking his pictures on his camera’s screen.

Our eyes met.

“You– what are you doing?” I asked, half bewildered.

Niimori answered in his usual haughty tone. “I’m working, get back to your post.” He went back to photographing the gawkers.

“Hey.”

“Stop talking to me.”

I thought maybe he was mad about yesterday, but when I started to say something that wasn’t quite an excuse or an apology, Niimori spoke quickly. “I’m taking shots of the gawkers’ faces, the arsonist might be one of them. So I don’t want people thinking I’m chummy with the firemen. Stop talking to me.”

That just made me wonder what he was doing even harder, but before I could question him, I heard someone calling my name from behind me.

I turned around and replied, but when I turned back, Niimori had already spun on his heels to leave.

“We should stick to our own jobs. Don’t worry about the other things. That’s not in our job description.”

That’s how Niimori had reprimanded me at that bar fire.

The first floor was shops, the second and third floors were residences. One shop owner had left the kitchen for a bit to serve customers, he told us, and when he came back the pillar of fire rising up from the pan had already spread to the walls. He grabbed his fire extinguisher, but the flames were too strong to be quenched, so he evacuated with all the customers and called 911. We were told no one was left inside and we were busy suppressing the fire when a third story window opened and smoke suddenly poured out of it.

It was a narrow street, so we couldn’t get anybody up there with the hook and ladder. Niimori and I went inside and headed for the room with the window, where we found a high school girl collapsed. We heard later that she was supposed to have been in cram school, but had played hookey and snuck home by the back entrance. Niimori and I rescued her from all that smoke and left the building.

The second we made it out, the parents started yelling at her – all their worry had turned to anger. I pacified them – “Please, now isn’t the time to be angry.” – and encouraged the girl as we carried her to the ambulance. She asked me in a shaking voice to hold her hand until she got to the hospital, but I had work left to get to, so I declined.

Even so, as we dealt with the remaining flames I worried that I’d been a bit cold to her. After all, she’d just been through something terrible. But Niimori only made fun of me. “That’s not our job,” he spat out.

What he said was true, psychology definitely wasn’t our job, but I thought he’d been cold about it. He’d always been strangely cold, though. He was so distant, it was hard to apply words like “a sense of justice” or “zealous” to him. He didn’t seem like the type to go searching for arsonists at the scene of the crime on his day off.

Hunting down arsonists wasn’t in our job description, after all.

I was thinking about Niimori and how I’d seen him at the fire the previous day as I took my breakfast into the mess hall. When I sat down across from Tsuno, he suddenly asked, “You are going to apply, aren’t you?”

I tilted my head, not understanding what he meant, so he added, “The rescue squad. Must be nice. I’d like to apply, myself. In Tokyo, you’re qualified to take the exam after only a year, you know.”

He grumbled into the coffee he was holding in one hand. It was filled with barley tea.

“It’d be nice to be in the capital anyway. Their command center manages the whole city, so their systems are all consolidated, I absolutely have to get there.”

“Don’t talk like that. Everything’s times ten in the capital, and you get called out a lot.”

“But there are a lot of applicants, too. And the salary…”

As Tsuno prattled on, a paramedic in her thirties who was reading the newspaper next to us bellowed at him. “If you’re gonna talk like that, I hope you do end up in the capital! They’re there! You’re here!”

“Yes ma’am.”

Tsuno nodded like he’d been bowled over by the sheer force of her shout, and decided not to push the issue any further.

I sighed to myself in relief. It was hard to tell anyone I wasn’t going to apply. If I had to talk about it, he’d definitely ask me why.

Once I told him it was really because it felt dishonest, after what I’d done to Niimori, Tsuno’d probably chide me with the same expression Harikawa used on me.

Even Niimori himself would probably get mad at me – “Don’t use me as an excuse for your life choices!” When you put it like that, I understood it on a practical level, but then what had he been doing yesterday?

I didn’t know what his plans were, but I was worried about what was going to happen if the criminal spotted him snooping around like that. I recognized that Niimori was strong, but there might be more than one of them, and he wasn’t going to be able to make a stand by himself against someone who played foul enough to commit arson.

“I really ought to stop him, huh,” I muttered, and the paramedic looked at me, so I asked her, “What are you supposed to do with a guy who doesn’t listen to anything he doesn’t want to hear?”

“Find his weakness and threaten him,” she said clearly – some extreme advice from a person who saw scenes of carnage every day.

I had no intention of doing that, but I certainly would be finding out if Niimori was at work after breakfast was over.

It was easy enough to confirm. I only had to look out the window and see if his car was parked in the garage.

The black SUV he always drove was parked at one end of the garage.

I figured I’d ambush him in the parking lot at the end of his shift, after I’d finished signing out, and then we could talk, but by the time I’d changed my clothes and left the office, his car was gone.

There was nothing for it, I’d have to go to his house.

I’d decided never to set foot in there again, and yet this was going to be the third time I’d been to his house in the past few days.

I never expected a pleasant reception, so I didn’t get mad, even when I arrived at Niimori’s house, rang the buzzer, and he answered the door with a glare and an ill-humored, “What do you want?”

A guy he hated had followed him home at the end of his shift, of course I was going to get a response like that.

“I want to talk to you about things.”

“I don’t.”

Niimori immediately started to close the door, but I blurted out, “I’m telling the higher ups you’ve been sniffing around,” following the negotiation advice I’d gotten from that paramedic, and his expression twisted – not that he’d ever been amiable towards me in the best of circumstances.

Now he looked like he was going to click his tongue at me. “Give me a second,” he said. It wasn’t something you could chat about in the entryway, so I figured he was clearing a path through the apartment, but he came out carrying his car keys.

“Are we going somewhere?”

“Somewhere we can talk. I’ve learned from experience not to invite you into my house.”

No doubt he was talking about what happened the other day. He was showing me how composed he was now, and apparently doing so deliberately.

Memories of that day resurfaced without my calling them. The incredible noise he’d made at the end stole into my mind, and my cheeks went red.

Thankfully, he’d turned his back to me, so he probably didn’t notice, but I felt like I could see right through his clothes. I remembered the line of his back as it continued through to his hips, and the touch of his ass, that soft flesh on top of hard muscle, and swallowed loudly.

“Oi.”

“I– What?”

He’d called to me from the bottom of the stairs. I put myself on guard, wondering if he could read my wicked thoughts.

I was the type of person whose emotions naturally came out on my face. And Niimori’d always been good at finding out what was in a person’s head. I waited for him to continue with what he was going to say, which turned out to be, “I’m taking my car. You follow me however you want on your bike.”

I was just relieved he hadn’t pegged me. He did side-eye me, and immediately got in his car, though, so I rushed over to my bike. I almost lost sight of him so many times, but I stuck close behind him.

Eventually, Niimori stopped in the parking lot of a wide river-side park.

The sun was beating down, and there was no one there. He bought a drink from one of the vending machines and took a seat on a bench under the shade of a tree. I bought a drink, too, and quickly popped the top and poured the carbonated liquid down my throat.

If we’d been out in the sun, we’d have roasted under it’s direct rays – even in the shade, there was plenty of reflected light.

It was so hot it felt like the asphalt was going to melt, and I was none too happy about it – why couldn’t we have gone to some store somewhere? But then again, maybe Niimori didn’t want any prying eyes nearby.

“So what did you want to talk about?”

“Your off-duty affairs.”

Niimori must have known what I was going to say. He didn’t even seem agitated.

“Arson pisses me off, too, without a doubt, but it’s not for you to go out to the scene and investigate. Leave that to the police. First off, if you know enough to take photos, the police know it, too.”

Niimori didn’t make any rebuttal. I had a bad feeling about his deep silence, so I continued. “Do you possibly have some objective in mind?”

“Not yet,” Niimori answered.

“So why were you out there in the first place?”

“Intuition.”

“What?”

That was an unexpected reply from someone who hated all things unscientific.

“Anyway, what are you going to do if something happens? It’s not your job in the first place. Leave it to the police and the investigators.”

Niimori was always calm, on the line and off. Even when he was driven into a corner, he was the guy who could calmly judge which measures were best. I always had confidence in Niimori when things got dicey.

So I felt like he should have understood this, even without my saying anything.

“What I do with my off-duty hours has nothing to do with you, does it? I talked to you about it just in case. It’ll just be obnoxious if you tell anyone, so don’t. If you do, I’ll expose you, too,” Niimori said, and stood up like the conversation was over. I hadn’t been able to get him to talk about anything important in the end. If this was all we were going to say, we could have just stayed in his entryway.

“About what? I don’t care if you tell everyone I was a virgin.”

“I don’t have to expose that, your virginity is a commonly known fact.”

I paused. “Seriously?”

I thought Tsuno was just about the only one who knew, this was like a bolt of lightning.

“It’s written all over your face.”

“Don’t make fun of me. And it’s not written anywhere! And even if it had been, it’s been erased now!”

Well, I’d only done it the once, so I figured maybe there was still a trace, but while I was thinking about it, Niimori spoke. “You don’t want me to tell people you slept with me, do you?”

“Aren’t you the one who wouldn’t want people to know?”

“Meh, it’s a double-edged sword. But I’d hate it even more for you to complain about what I do on my breaks, and I don’t want anyone meddling. You interfere and I’ll expose you to that housewife next door.”

So he didn’t want to report to the higher-ups because he didn’t want someone meddling with his investigations. None of his superiors would look kindly on it if they knew Niimori had taken unilateral action.

“Okay, if you want to, do it. I really don’t care.”

I’d already sorted out my feelings on that matter, for one thing.

The master of the house seemed to have gone back to his far-off posting, but even so, I had no desire to get involved with her, and anyway the person I’d been thinking about non-stop these past few days had been Niimori, not some woman on the other side of a wall.

“What? Trying to play tough? It wouldn’t bother you?”

“It really wouldn’t. So you’re not going to get much use out of it as a threat.”

He grinned. “What about that charm then? You don’t want that back?” he asked.

“Have you even found it? Besides, it’s only buried in your apartment somewhere, it’s not like I threw it out, so no one could fault me for that. When you excavate it in three years’ time, please go ahead and toss it.”

Niimori paused. “In that case, if you don’t want me to knock out all your permanent teeth, you’ll keep quiet.”

“Hey, those kind of threats are scary! I even get nervous hearing that kind of shit from Tsuno.”

“That’s how I intended it, so you should be nervous. For a job where ranking is based on seniority, your juniors make fun of you an awful lot. Tsuno, or better yet some total newbie comes for you on a call, and you’re going to find yourself on the wrong end of an accident.”

I’d come here today intending to apologize, and somehow still ended up being scolded in the normal way.

But Niimori’s concerns were groundless. If I said something to one of the guys under me while we were on a call, they did what I told them. Their making fun of me didn’t go that far. I mean, it was just following orders, but they did it. Tsuno was less awful than most, but he wasn’t as good as Niimori. We never did seem to hit it off properly, but on a call? Being paired with Niimori made things go best.

“Listen, if you’re that worried about what’s going on calls, why don’t you come back. It’d make my job easier, too, if you were there.”

“I’m not coming back just to put you at ease.”

“Yeah, maybe you could say it puts me at ease. It’s reassuring, having you standing behind me.”

Niimori didn’t say anything for a moment. “Either way, it’s all about you in the end. You’re not the delicate, hopeless type anyway, what the hell are you even talking about?”

He’d answered with his usual ill-humor, but it felt like he was somehow inarticulate. When I told him straight that I wanted him to come back, he seemed perplexed.

Seeing him look down, avoiding my gaze, made something well up in my chest.

I hadn’t quite understood the other day what this feeling was that was passing through me at intervals since the day I’d slept with Niimori, but it sure did come on now, accompanied by a strong impulse to touch him again. The sweat on the back of his neck looked so sexy.

“Adachi?”

Niimori’s gotten suspicious of my silence.

“You’re not seeing anyone right now, are you?” I asked.

Niimori scowled weirdly at me, but answered that he was not.

“I’ll keep quiet about your snooping around, but there are two conditions.”

“So it’s not just Tsuno, you can take that tone with me, too,” Niimori spit out, irritated, but I pretended not to hear.

“The first is that if you find anything related to the arsons through your off-duty activities, we’ll make the report together. And you don’t go anywhere dangerous by yourself.”

That last part sounded like something you’d say to a small child, but when it came to this issue, Niimori was worse than a small child.

“And the second?” he asked, tilting his chin up haughtily.

“Just once, you go on a date with me.”

I had a hunch I could figure out why I’d been thinking of nothing but Niimori, and understand what the name of this feeling welling up in my chest was, if we just went on a date. I could find out if it was just because he’d been the one I’d lost my virginity to, or if it was possible I’d lost my heart to Niimori in that moment.

“What?” Niimori stiffened for a brief moment, and scowled as much as he physically could. “Are your brains boiled?” he spit out.

I’d expected as much, but it still hurt to be turned down, even if the other person was Niimori.

Well, maybe it was because the other person was Niimori, I guess.

“What are you talking about a date, you virgin. At least if you made a straight demand for my body again, I could understand that.”

“That would be under duress, though.”

Just because I made a demand like that was no reason for Niimori to lay there and let me have him.

“You don’t think what happened the other day was under duress?”

“That was just a difference of opinions, it wasn’t by force, was it? You’re the one who started it, you’re the one who laid the mines.”

Niimori started to say something, but stopped. He must have realized that at least part of what happened that day was his fault.

“Besides,” I said, “you seemed to be feeling good, too, towards the end–”

My sentence was interrupted by a metallic crunch. Niimori had dented the still-unopened can in his hand.

“Why would you… want to go on a date with me?”

There was no choice under that suspicious glare. “I want to see if I really like you or not,” I answered.

Niimori blanched, and then said, “Let me put you at ease. We do not need to go on any date. You are mistaken.”

“Don’t decide that for me!”

“It was your first time having sex and you’re flying high. Give it a minute, you’ll calm back down quick enough.”

“How are you just going to announce that? Maybe I will end up really liking you.”

“How simple do you have to be to like a guy after one round? Even you’re not that dense. It’s like catching a cold for an hour. A month later, it’s a part of your past you desperately wish you could erase. So keep your head on straight and stop making idiot demands of me. Anyway, wasn’t that you, spouting some dumb thing with Tsuno about your love of big tits a while back?”

“Is it possible you’re afraid to go on a date with me?”

The way Niimori was arguing so vehemently and at such high speed made me think it, and when I gave voice to my thoughts, his expression got even further out of control.

“How the hell did you get that idea?”

“Well then what’s the problem? It’s one date. You don’t want me to tell anyone about you snooping around, do you?”

I had no idea how I could support Niimori’s snooping problem, but if my silence was a negotiating tool, I was going to take out every secret I had to hand if I thought it would be of valid use.

Niimori made the most hate-filled expression I’d seen yet, but he reluctantly agreed to my proposal.

Even so, I didn’t forget the warning he gave me. “Don’t complain to me if you end up with memories you’d rather forget.”


  1. ~30 lbs


In Love and On Fire

In Love and On Fire

Koishite, Enjou, 恋して、炎上
Score 9.2
Status: Completed Type: Author: Artist: , Released: 2013 Native Language: Japanese
Virgin Firefighter Adachi learns one day that his disagreeable co-worker Niimori is gay, and prefers the lowest type of guy. Thinking he’s found something he can lord over Niimori, he ends up attacked himself, but quickly turns the situation on its head and ends up embracing Niimori himself…!? Special Electronic Edition short story, “In Love and Purehearted” is included, which tells the story of that night from Niimori’s perspective.

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