Yusaku remained at the table for several minutes after finishing the plate, head hanging tiredly over the back of his chair, smiling delightedly most of the time. Ai watched him in uncharacteristic silence from across the table, admiring the view. Yusaku's stomach bulged adorably under the night shirt, and Ai's sensitive sensors registered a slight rise in his pulse as his body worked to digest the rich food. Metabolism was of no concern for the young man. Yusaku's worked so fast that even a steady diet of his boyfriend's loving creations couldn't put any stuffing on those long and lean bones of his. Ai wished that it would, if only so that Yusaku could finally feel like the man he was growing up to be. Forever mature beyond his years, he still looked no older than eighteen—at least not to Ai.

Fifteen minutes later, any sign of the indulgent breakfast was already gone from Yusaku's form. He reappeared in the kitchen with a backpack thrown over one shoulder, his hair styled back into its glorious, heavy spikes, all fancy in an open-front suit jacket, moss green turtleneck and black, skintight jeans. Ai found the colour scheme to resemble Playmaker's, and he was sure that Yusaku had intended it so. As unbothered as Yusaku was by the opinions of others, he had a natural sense of style that he'd rather die than ignore. Ai had noticed over their many years together that his boyfriend cared very little what Ai looked like (no matter how hard Ai worked at all times to look stunning), but when it came to himself, he was meticulous. It tugged at Ai's pride sometimes, that Yusaku didn't appreciate his handsomeness quite as much as Ai believed that he deserved.

Which was why he was now running a little late, and had to hurry through saying goodbye. He called for Ai in the kitchen doorway, who stood with his arms elbow-deep in his own dishes.

"Ai, I'm leaving." Ai's head snapped up, and his soaked hands splashed water everywhere. Yusaku would've told him that he didn't have to do the dishes, at least not now, but he knew that Ai detested messes. Especially those of his own making. "I'll be off at six. I'll come home to pick you up, so be ready by then."

"Oh~" Ai sang with a curious grin, tip-toeing over to Yusaku with his dripping hands at a safe distance from his body. "Could it be that the steel-hearted Fujiki Yusaku-chan has a surprise in store for me, his ever-loving and loyal soulmate?"

The Ignis came so close that he started dripping soapy water on his boyfriend's shoulders, so Yusaku brushed him off with a gentle hand on his chest. "You know exactly what we're doing, we've been planning it for weeks." When Ai would not let up, wiggling his eyebrows up and down suggestively, Yusaku gave in. He leaned in a placed a quick but warm peck on the SOLtiS' silky lips, just long enough for Ai to register the warmth of the touch, then marched back into the hallway. "Six o'clock, Ai. We don't want to be late."

"Six o'clock," Ai repeated. He placed himself in the doorway, and watched as the young man put on his shoes.

Before he stepped out the door, Yusaku turned to look at Ai. What most likely felt like less than a second for him, registered as minutes of high-definition, slowed down footage for Ai's memory to safeguard. A look so soft that it near didn't belong on Yusaku's face. In that split second, the young man took in Ai's whole presence—the near inaudible whirring of his machinery, the deep, glowing light of his golden eyes that far exceeded what any normal SOLtiS could project, the fall of obsidian curls over handcrafted cheekbones. Ai was breathtaking to look at. Anyone with eyes would agree, regardless of their romantic preferences. Yusaku had no preference, no drive... or at least he didn't. Before Ai, he had never quite felt this way about someone's physical appearance. He knew that he didn't say it out loud very much. More often than not, he just didn't think that Ai's ego needed the boost. Mostly, though, it was because the beauty of Ai's human form was but a drop in the ocean of things that made Yusaku so attached to him.

That made him the most important thing in Yusaku's world.

"I love you," he began, and opened the door. Then he stopped again. Everybody deserved to hear that they were beautiful—especially Ai. "You look stunning, by the way."

Then he was gone, and the door closed behind him. Ai was left staring at the empty space Yusaku had just vacated, lost for words that now only seemed to clog up his processors uselessly. A SOLtiS wasn't normally designed to blush, but the action was still replicable by the hard light that made up Ai's skin. Normally, though, it was something he chose to do in front of people. Over the years, he figured that the response had been sort of built into his code. His sensors knew to read it as heat. Furthermore, that feeling of heat was directly copied from the data Ai had on what Yusaku's touch felt like, in the areas of his body where his skin wasn't colder than Ai's own—his neck right below the hairline, the valleys of his waist, the insides of his thighs.

"Love you, too," he finally whispered. Oh, how he wished he'd said it before the door closed.

Then, Ai's expression smoothed over. Something far darker than what Yusaku had seen just thirty seconds ago occupied his optics as he quickly connected to the building's (somewhat limited) surveillance. Through eyes not quite his own, he watched Yusaku enter the elevator and press the button for the ground floor. More people joined him on the way down, and Ai scanned all of their faces. Matched them up to profiles of their neighbours that he had already deemed safe several months ago. His SOLtiS body tensed as he did this. He figured that it was only natural, considering the stress that was now pouring freely into his systems.

As Yusaku moved further and further down the elevator shaft, he also moved further away from Ai's protection.

"He's in the elevator," Ai said. Not out loud, because he didn't need to, but straight into the Network. A very specific, safe connection in the Network. "Are you in position?"

"Have been for the past half-an-hour," a voice said back, sounding somehow both bored and excitable at the same time. "What were you guys doing up there?"

"None of your business," Ai snarled. His SOLtiS body followed suit with a tense jaw and furrowed brows. "Don't you dare lose track of him, Shima. Whatever you do, keep on him, but don't. Let yourself. Be seen. You don't want to know what will happen to you if you screw up."

Shima Naoki, whose voice had dropped a full octave in recent years but still retained its annoying, whiny overtone, sighed dramatically. "I don't know why you keep threatening me when you're the one who wanted my help in the first place! And I only asked what you were doing because I'm curious, it's not like I'm some creep or something who wants to know all about people's private life! What you and Playm- sorry, Yusaku-kun do is entirely your own bu—"

Thankfully for Shima, he was interrupted by a second voice before he could annoy Ai any further—female this time, and far, far more respectable. "We will keep Fujiki safe. Don't worry, Ai."

"Can't do that," Ai replied. He let out a strained breath, even though he didn't need to breathe. "But thank you."

"Come on! She get's a thank you while I get literal death threats?! That's not—"

The audio cut out, but the connection didn't end. Ai kept the channel wide open for any future messages or signals—although he hoped beyond hope that he wouldn't get any at all. No news was good news, and Ai only wanted those today.

Twenty minutes to eight. So far, the plan wasn't off by a single detail. Ai closed his eyes, watching through the cameras in the apartment lobby downstairs as Yusaku exited the building and joined the crowds on the street. Entirely oblivious, as intended. As Ai needed him so desperately to remain.

Once the young man was out of visual reach, Ai's full consciousness returned to his SOLtiS body. He let out yet another, useless sigh. He could stress all he wanted, but the plan—or the day for that matter—wasn't going to go any faster for it. So Ai went back to the kitchen and finished up the dishes. Dried them off and put them back in the cupboards. Saved what he could of the ingredients he'd shoved into the sink and threw the rest in the trash with his discarded favourite clothes. Taking the overfilled trash bag and tying it off, putting it in the hallway for Yusaku to take out later. Ai would've done it, but they had an agreement—Ai did not leave the apartment alone unless he absolutely had to. Not even to go around the corner to the bins in the alley behind the building. Ai had argued for months after they moved in here, but Yusaku was relentless. Understandably so, but Ai still didn't like it. He accepted it, though. He'd gotten a few promises of safety out of Yusaku in return, some of which would come in extremely handy today, when it was more important than ever.

Half past eight, Ai had tidied the whole apartment up. The kitchen was spotless. The bed that Yusaku had already made had been remade to absolute perfection. It was a small place, despite being the largest Yusaku had been able to afford when they first decided to move three years ago. Large for his sake, Ai realised, since he was the one cooped up here. The bedroom, smallest of all rooms, was mostly Yusaku's, but the bed was for both of them. Ai didn't sleep per se, but he did sleep with Yusaku—in both senses of the term. The bathroom across the narrow hallway was a tight fit on a good day, but that was mostly because they'd squeezed in a washing machine so that Ai didn't have to go down to the laundromat. The kitchen, Ai's favourite spot, was the most spacious, with a small island in the centre and plenty of shelf room for ingredients and tools. It joined with a small living room through a doorless opening beside the hallway, which Yusaku's computer desk shared with a second-hand, fluffy loveseat and a way-too-small, free-standing TV.

Their home. They'd made it so over the past three years. Not as much as Ai sometimes wished, but more than enough. Ai would've liked more framed pictures and flashy colours. Yusaku preferred calmer shades—a stark contrast to his perfectly dyed hair—so they'd ended up somewhere in the middle. Ai had won out on the couch, though. It was an old model, overstuffed like an enormous marshmallow, and someone had sewn a new upholstery for it. A rainbow upholstery. Ai absolutely adored it, and he knew that Yusaku did too, deep down.

He stared at it now, empty as it was. By tonight, it wouldn't be. He'd be curled up in Yusaku's arms, feeding him little sour, chewy candies, watching movies that Yusaku only enjoyed because Ai did. He'd thank whatever deities this world of humans currently prayed to for keeping Yusaku safe.

This is what he told himself, over and over, as he got his keys from the hook in the hallway, stuffed his hard light pants into a pair of very real boots, and exited the apartment.