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Demonic Taste Tests (And Other Experiments The Cram Students Should Not Do)

Chapter Text

It all started with one stupid question.

“Okumura,” Bon said abruptly one night, snapping Rin out of his thoughts. He’d have liked to say breaking his concentration, given that this was a study session and he had an open textbook in his lap, but Rin had to be honest here. It was late. He was tired. And for the past fifteen minutes, he’d been staring blankly at the pages in front of him without absorbing a single word.

“Huh?” Rin asked, blinking a couple times before reaching up to scrub at his eyes with the back of his hand.

Izumo glanced up from where she was seated a few yards away, her own textbook balanced against a single folded knee. Shiemi, seated next to her, looked over at Rin as well, concern touching her features for a moment. Probably wondering if Rin and Bon were about to get into another fight. Rin had the same question; they were all a bit sleep-deprived with their regular-school midterms coming up and it was making him and Bon bicker like a pair of stray cats. To be fair, Bon had also been helping him study a lot more now that they were all on good terms again, so it was possible the only thing that had really changed was the amount of time they were spending exposed to each other.

Bon tipped his head back. He had his arms folded across his chest, one foot braced against the table in front of him, and he was absently levering his chair back and forth on its back legs. Rin wondered how long it was going to be before he overbalanced and fell over.

“You’re a demon,” Bon said, and Rin squinted at him. Shima and Konekomaru were paying attention too now, lowering their books as they watched the exchange.

“. . .yeah,” Rin agreed eventually, when nothing else seemed to be forthcoming. “Is there a point here, or did you think I needed a reminder?”

Bon waved a hand. Koneko made a mildly alarmed noise as Bon’s chair gave an ominous creak. “I’m getting there, delinquent, calm down. I was just thinking about how we use milk and rotten blood to draw out goblins.”

Rin waited again. Again, that seemed to be all that Bon was planning on saying.

“Dude,” Rin said, “I’m fucking exhausted and I can’t read minds. What are you trying to say?”

Bon shrugged.

“Well, is that. . . appealing to you?”

Rin stared.

Rin closed his textbook, setting it aside on the floor and flopping down onto his back to join it. He reached up, pressed the heels of his hands into the hollows of his eye sockets, and thought very hard about how much he’d rather be in bed right now.

“Wow,” Shima laughed, “That was tactless even for you, Bon!”

There was a loud slam of chair legs against the floor as, presumably, Bon took offense to that and broke out of his relaxed reclining pose.

“Hey,” he snapped, “I didn’t mean it like that! I’m just curious! Okumura’s a demon, isn’t it possible he has some different tastes?”

“He’s cooked for us, man! A lot! You know as well as we do that he eats totally normally. Well,” Shima amended, “Not totally normally. He eats more, but it’s all normal stuff.”

“Actually,” Izumo’s quiet voice cut in, tone very nearly pulling off bored, “Part-demons have been known to enjoy things that most humans don’t. Even people with no demonic blood whatsoever can have strange cravings; is it so hard to believe Rin might be the same?”

See!” Bon crowed, “Even Izumo agrees with me!”

“And I already regret it,” she said dryly. “I also agree it was impressively rude how you phrased that.”

“Oh shut up, fox-face. I was just thinking out loud! And you admit I have a point.”

“Can we all calm down?” Konekomaru tried, though he sounded less than confident. “Professor Okumura lives in this building too. We shouldn’t wake him up.”

“Stupid Yukio’s the reason we have so much work to get through on top of midterms,” Rin grumbled. He still had his hands over his face, and his voice came out slightly muffled. “I say it’s only fair if he loses sleep too.”

“You would say that,” Bon said. “Hey. Okumura. You never answered the question.”

Rin let out a breath, dragging his hands down his face and blinking owlishly up at the ceiling above him.

“I dunno,” he said, “I don’t think I like anything weird. It’s not like I ever actually tried to eat goblin bait before though.”

“I think you’d probably drink it, actually,” Shima mused. “Like a smoothie. A gross, chunky smoothie.”

An eraser sailed through the air above Rin. There was a quiet thwap, then Shima cursed.

Hey!” he cried, indignant.

“You’re gross,” Izumo sniffed. “I need that back, by the way.”

“You’ve never tried it,” Bon conceded, “But have you wanted to? That stuff smells pretty nasty to me, I’d think with your freaky dog nose it would either be way worse or. . .”

Rin’s knee-jerk reaction was to declare that of course goblin bait smelled bad– one of the two ingredients was literally rotten, for fuck’s sake– but as he opened his mouth to do so he was forced to pause. It. . . wasn’t true. Sure, he didn’t find himself drooling whenever they broke out a vat of the stuff, but unlike how a lot of strong smells messed with him these days he’d never found himself gagging over the mixture either.

Huh.

“. . .come to think of it,” he said grudgingly, “It doesn’t actually bother me that much.”

Bon whooped in delight, and Konekomaru desperately tried to shush him again. Rin flipped the bird in Bon’s general direction, and Bon laughed.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Rin insisted. “It’s not like I go around trying to eat people’s eyeballs or whatever. I drank something my old man made for Kuro once, but that– that was under unique circumstances.

The circumstances being it was booze, Rin was willing to try just about anything to sneak some alcohol, Yukio had said not to and, oh yeah, his dad was the one who had made it. Sure, it had been. . . pretty fucking good, but it had also been potent as hell, and Rin was pretty sure that had colored his memory of the experience. Had been pretty sure. Now he was less so.

Stupid Bon making him question himself.

“What if we tested it?”

Shiemi’s voice was soft, but it still managed to cut across Bon’s snickers and Izumo’s pointed sighs as easily as Rin’s sword might slice through the air. Rin took a moment to process her words, then sat up and looked over at her. She just blinked back at him with those huge green eyes, expression genuine.

“What?” he asked.

Shiemi shrugged a bit.

“There are herbs that attract demons. Some you dry and burn, others they just like wild. Our shop stocks them for exorcists, I could bring you some for you to try cooking with. Maybe you could make tea or something.”

Rin hesitated. On the one hand, agreeing would mean giving Bon some level of satisfaction. On the other, a quiet evening in the kitchen with Shiemi and some experimental recipes sounded awesome.

“Couldn’t you just have your familiar grow some for you now?” Izumo asked. Shiemi flushed, cheeks and ears going a soft pink as she ducked her head.

“I– I don’t like asking Ni for these kinds of plants. He can get a bit disoriented afterward, and it’s not like this is an emergency.”

“You’ve got a point here, Moriyama,” Bon said. He was leaning against the far wall of the room now, one hand grasping his chin and the other wrapped around his waist. “We should be approaching this scientifically. Testing out options.”

Rin scowled at him.

“I’m not a lab experiment,” he snapped.

“Oh come on. You can’t tell me you’re not curious.” Bon looked back at Rin and gave him one of his rare, broad smiles. Rin would have appreciated it more under different circumstances. “What about blood?”

“What about blood?”

“Well,” Bon began, and Rin could already tell he was going to hate the rest of the thought, “A lot of demons eat humans. Even those who don’t go out of their way to do so still seem to like human flesh. Obviously we’re not going to try that, but we could see if you like the taste of blood.”

Konekomaru groaned and put his head down on his textbook. Shima looked between Rin and Bon.

“For the record,” he said, “If this ends with Okumura taking a bite out of your arm, I’m going to tell the teachers it was your fault.”

“I’m not going to take a bite out of the rooster!” Rin exploded, feeling his tail swish wildly against the floor in agitation and being entirely helpless to stop it. “I’m not going to take a bite out of anyone! What is with you guys?”

“What’s with you?” Bon asked. “For a guy who likes to cook so much you sure don’t seem to be culinarily adventurous.”

“Oh, you did not just bring my cooking into this,” Rin growled, and from there the whole thing probably would’ve devolved into just another argument between him and Bon if Izumo hadn’t hissed a quiet curse to his left.

Rin’s nose twitched.

“Izu-chan!” Shiemi sputtered, alarm in her voice, and Rin looked over to see that Izumo had moved while he wasn’t looking. Instead of reclining against the wall beside Shiemi, she was sitting upright with her legs folded, one hand cupping the other as she squeezed one of her fingers. A red bead of blood was blooming at the tip of her index finger, and after a moment she gave a self-satisfied nod.

When she looked up to see how many stares she was getting, she rolled her eyes.

“What?” she asked flatly. “You were just going to talk about it all night. Someone had to move things along.”

Several people tried to speak at once then, including Bon– you’re one to talk about insensitivity when you just go ahead and– and Shiemi– Izumo, do you need a bandage, Ni could make you some– but ultimately it was Rin’s voice that carried over everyone else’s.

“Are you crazy, polkabrows?” he asked, incredulous.

“I told you not to call me that,” Izumo said, though it seemed to be more on reflex than anything else, “And it’s not like this is a big deal. I lose more blood than this summoning my familiars.”

She scooted a little closer to Rin and stuck out her bleeding hand, palm-down. The droplet of blood threatened to succumb to gravity and splash onto the floor.

“Well?” she asked. “What are you waiting for?”

Kyodo had once sat Rin down and given him a talk about peer pressure. The subject had mainly been about drugs and drinking, about how just because everyone was doing it didn’t mean Rin had to join in, and he’d stressed that if Rin was ever in a situation that made him uncomfortable he should call Father Fujimoto right away. That the priests would never be upset with him for getting into trouble if he asked them to help him get out of it.

Rin wondered how his old man would have reacted if Rin called him to say his study group was peer-pressuring him into drinking blood.

“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, Okumura,” Konekomaru said, then made a startled squawking sound as Shima reached blindly over to shove a hand over his mouth. He was watching Rin and Izumo with rapt attention.

“Shush, Koneko,” he said, “This is the most interesting thing that’s happened all night. Okumura, I triple-dog dare you to do it!”

Rin made a face. Everyone was watching him, each with varying levels of fascination and concern, and. . . well, honestly, he was kind of curious.

“You all owe me so bad,” he muttered, then stuck his tongue out and tentatively leaned forward.

The tip of his tongue made contact with Izumo’s finger. At first, Rin didn’t taste much at all, just a mild hint of salt from Izumo’s skin. Then the blood actually hit his tongue and Rin jerked back in surprise.

“What, what’s wrong?” Shiemi asked, eyes wide. Rin shook his head.

“I’m fine,” he reassured her, “It’s– uh. It actually tastes. Good?”

Good was one way to put it. Amazing would probably be a better one. Izumo’s blood tasted delicious, warm and thick like well-made hot chocolate with a savoriness to it that made Rin think of pork buns. He swallowed hard, the taste lingering in his mouth, and was already starting to contemplate if it was possible to replicate that flavor with run-of-the-mill spices. Rin. . . didn’t think so.

Bon crossed the room with a few heavy footsteps, shouldering Izumo out of the way slightly and sitting down in front of Rin.

“My turn,” he declared. Rin gave him a look.

“. . .I’m pretty sure it’s just gonna taste like blood to you,” he said.

Bon smacked the side of his head. Rin cried out in pain and rubbed at his ear, glaring at Bon as the other boy reached over to steal one of Izumo’s pins.

“That’s not what I meant, dumbass,” he said. He pressed the tip of the pin into the pad of his index finger, movement less practiced than when Izumo or Shiemi would draw blood. “I wanna see what you think of mine next.”

“You realize you just handed him the easiest opportunity to insult you ever , right,” Shima drawled, and Bon shot him a glare.

“Watch it,” he snapped, “Or I’ll decide we need a bigger sample size.”

“I wouldn’t mind taking part,” Sheimi said tentatively. “If Rin’s okay with it.”

“This is such a weird way to be picking up girls,” Shima groaned. “Okumura, tell me your secrets.”

Rin couldn’t have answered that even if he wanted to, because Bon had managed to get some blood flowing, handed Izumo her needle back, and promptly shoved his finger into Rin’s mouth. Rin was better prepared for the taste this time, and instead of flinching back in surprise he closed his eyes and tried to focus on the flavor– Bon’s blood tasted slightly different than Izumo’s, he noted with surprise. There was something earthy to it, a richness like the molasses bread he and Yukio used to smother in butter while it was still warm from the oven and eat together on the monastery's front steps. It was an unexpectedly nostalgic taste.

Rin opened his mouth, letting Bon’s finger slip free, and licked his lips before he opened his eyes. Bon’s gaze was demanding and aggressive, but he didn’t begin to outright interrogate Rin about his flavor profile, so that was nice.

“Izumo’s a little bit more. . .” Rin hesitated. “Meaty, I guess? And Bon, you’re kind of. Syrupy, almost.”

This is so weird,” Shima whispered to the room at large, but Rin elected to ignore him. As did everyone else.

“Huh,” Bon said, crossing his arms and leaning back a bit out of Rin’s personal bubble. “I guess that makes sense. There have been cases where a demon gets attached to one person’s flavor in particular and keeps them around like–“

“Me next!” Shiemi chirped, squeezing between Izumo and Bon with a broad grin and an already-bleeding hand extended in Rin’s direction. Rin could already feel his cheeks flushing– Shiemi seemed so genuinely excited to be included that it was hard to think of anything other than how adorable she was– but despite his embarrassment and Shima’s loud wolf-whistle he opened his mouth and leaned forward. Shiemi tapped her bleeding finger on his tongue the same way she might dab it on her summoning paper, and Rin closed his mouth and rolled the flavor around. Shiemi was sweet. Fresh. Like a lungful of spring air or a light, flaky pastry dusted with powdered sugar.

Oh fuck, all his friends were delicious.

Rin was going to think about this every goddamn day, wasn’t he?

“. . .you taste like happiness,” Rin said after a moment, and immediately regretted it at Shima’s bark of laughter and Bon’s affronted look.

“I get syrupy, fox-face gets meaty, but for Moriyama you break out the poetry?” he groused. Rin spluttered, holding his hands up in defense.

“That wasn’t all I had to say!” he argued. “And– and it’s hard to describe, anyway!”

“You’re supposed to be some kind of food-genius! This is the one thing you’re any good at!”

“I don’t have a good vocabulary for this kind of thing!”

“You don’t have a good vocabulary at all!

In the end, they did wind up waking Yukio with their yelling, though his brother was far enough out of it that he didn’t seem to realize what they’d really been up to. He just lectured them about how sleep was just as important as studying, that they all should be in bed, and it’s too late for you all to go back to your dorms now, you’re just going to have to sleep in some of the spare rooms here. For Yukio, the incident was probably forgotten as soon as it had passed.

But it wouldn’t be the last time Rin and his friends experimented with his demon side.

Chapter Text

“We can’t let professor Okumura see him like this.”

Okumura, the non-professor variant, giggled and leaned further into Shima, officially abandoning his own chair in favor of compromising Shima’s and nearly over-balancing them both. Why Okumura had chosen Shima to climb all over he had no idea; he could barely support the guy’s weight and if he wasn’t careful they were both going to wind up on the floor. 

He gave Koneko a helpless look.

“Yeah? Where do you think we should hide him, exactly? They share a room.”

Bon was pacing in a tight, nervous circle, brow furrowed in thought.

“We could–“ he began, then shook his head. “No, that wouldn’t work. What about– no.”

“I got him some water!” came Moriama’s nervous voice as she bustled back into the room, a glass held in two white-knuckled hands. She was freaking out the most over the whole thing, which wasn’t helping anyone’s nerves. Shima kind of wanted to grab her by the shoulders and force her to sit down; she’d been running back and forth trying to find things to help Rin since he’d first dropped that teacup.

“Shiemi!” Okumura cheered, just like he had every time Moriama reentered the study room. “Y’r– you are the best, Shiemi. I love you.” His head lolled on Shima’s shoulder. “I love all you guys. Y’r great.”

Shima let out a breath and awkwardly patted Okumura’s back.

“So you’ve said. Hey, dude, do you think you can sit up and drink something?”

“Mmm-hm,” Okumura hummed, but didn’t move. Shima sighed.

Now?

“Give it up,” Izumo chimed in from across the table, “He’s gonna be totally useless until this stuff wears off. Just look at him.”

Okumura grabbed the hem of Shima’s shirt and gave it an urgent tug.

“I like your hair,” he whispered, loudly enough that the whole room could hear him. Izumo snorted.

“How exactly did I wind up holding him?” Shima asked, glaring balefully at the rest of the group. “If anything Bon should be the teddy-bear substitute here. This whole thing is your fault anyway.”

“No, it’s not. It’s my fault,” Moriama said, ducking her head and tightening her already tight grip on the glass of water. Shima was mildly concerned it was going to shatter. “If I’d realized what those herbs actually did–“

“It’s no one’s fault,” Koneko argued, voice soft but sure. “Moriama, the herbs are used to attract demons, and no one blames you for never having seen that in action. None of us have.”

“But I knew they disoriented Ni! I should’ve thought about what they’d do to Rin!”

“Hey,” Okumura interrupted, waving a hand at Moriama sluggishly. “ Stoppit. I feel great. Everything’s great.”

He paused, sniffed, then began determinedly nosing at the crook of Shima’s neck. Shima let out a sound that was very much not a squawk and tried to squirm away without toppling their chair over.

Okumura–“ he protested as the demon’s tail thwapped at his leg and hands fisted in his shirt.

“You smell good,” Okumura mumbled. Shima groaned.

“Great. When he eats me, make sure to tell his brother it was Bon’s fault.”

“He’s not going to eat you, you coward,” Izumo said, rolling her eyes.

“Oh no? Pretty sure he’s getting the munchies right around now,” Shima retorted. “Trust me, I’ve been where he’s at. I know what’s happening here.”

That got Bon to stop pacing. He turned to face Shima with a judgemental frown, and Shima wished he had the free hands to flip him off, but unfortunately both of them were occupied trying to keep Okumura from licking his face.

“Shima, did you. . ?” Koneko asked, and Shima sighed.

“Can we not make a big deal out of it? I barely smoke.”

“You shouldn’t be smoking at all,” Bon said. His eyebrows were drawn together and he’d folded his arms as he spoke, taking advantage of his standing height to glare down at Shima. “Who gave you drugs? Kinzo?

“It wasn’t Kinzo, jeez,” Shima lied– or partially lied, anyway. It wasn’t just his brother. Besides, there were worse vices for an exorcist to have than getting high once a month at most, and Shima didn’t want to get Kinzo in trouble. “Can we focus here? We still don’t have a hiding the stoned demon plan.”

“We could just keep him here until he comes down,” Koneko suggested. “How, um. How long does that usually take?”

He was looking at Shima as he asked. Goddamnit. He and Bon were totally going to remember this, and they were totally gonna give him shit about it later.

“How should I know?” Shima asked, completely reasonably in his opinion. “I don’t use– demon catnip or whatever this stuff is called.”

“Rin, c’mere,” Moriama said gently– she’d taken Okumura’s abandoned seat at some point and was now attempting to coax him away from Shima’s neck and towards the glass she was holding. Shima had one hand on the guy’s face and when Moriama reached up to cup Okumura’s cheek their fingers brushed.

Thank goodness for Moriama, Shima thought, relaxing a bit as Okumura was slowly but surely eased off of him.

Izumo watched the procedure with blank eyes.

“I agree with Konekomeru,” she said. “We don’t have much of a variety of hiding places, and at least professor Okumura isn’t likely to interrupt if he thinks we’re studying.”

Something wet dripped onto Shima’s leg. He looked down at the dark splotch soaked into his pants, then back up to see Moriama holding the glass to Okumura’s lips. He was getting some of the water down, at least, but a not-insignificant amount was escaping his mouth and running down his chin. This was like taking care of a child. A super-strong child that could set you on fire with a thought and probably wanted to eat a few of your organs now that your idiot friends had given him a taste for human.

“There you go!” Moriama said encouragingly. “You’re doing great, Rin!”

“Worst-case scenario, I say we tell his brother he has a concussion,” Shima said. “It would explain some of the weird behavior, and he heals faster than us anyway– him being all better by tomorrow wouldn’t be weird.”

Bon made a considering sound. “That’s. . . not bad idea.”

“Couldn’t we just tell Yuki-chan what actually happened?” Moriama asked, glancing up from the water as she took the glass away and carefully dabbed at Okumura’s chin with her sleeve. “I know we’d probably get in trouble, but. . . what if this is really bad for Rin? Shouldn’t we let him know what’s going on so he can help?”

“Don’ tell that stick in th’ mud anything,” Okumura slurred, swaying slightly and almost falling out of Shima’s lap. He was only saved from toppling to the floor by Shima’s arms wrapping securely around his waist. Ugh, he was heavy. Probably because of the solid muscle Shima could feel beneath Okumura’s shirt. Stupid demons with their stupid ripped bodies. “He’s a. . . he’s a dork an’ I’m fine anyway. We don’ need him.”

Bon sighed. “You might be right, Moriama.”

“Hey,” Shima protested, “Don’t narc on the guy! He’s going to get in trouble too y’know, this isn’t just some noble self-sacrifice for us.”

“What about a compromise?” Izumo suggested. “If he’s not back to his usual brand of irritating in an hour, then we get the professor involved.”

“You have pretty eyes,” Okumura told her seriously. His pupils were blown wide, irises a thin ring of blue around a pool of darkness. 

“I know,” Izumo told him. Then, to everyone else, “What do we think, everybody? Compromise? Sound good?”

Konekomaru nodded. Bon gave a reluctant grunt of affirmation, and Moriama– after another nervous look at Okumura- nodded her head as well.

“But if he gets worse,” she hedged, “We call Yuki-chan right away.”

“Agreed,” Bon said. Okumura blew a raspberry at him.

“I wanna pet your stupid fluffy head, rooster,” he announced, then–

Then he leaned forward, laid his head on the desk, and closed his eyes.

Shima didn’t move for a moment, just staring at the demon who, while still very much in his lap, had apparently just gone to sleep. Okumura’s tail twitched, tapping Shima’s calf, and one of his pointed ears flicked back as he started to snore.

Shima thought back to a drunk Okumura pulling pretty much exactly the same move. Shima had had to deal with that too; dragging a passed-out Okumura back to his bed, prying off his shoes, and tucking him in. Maybe that was why Okumura had latched on to him as soon as the herbs started to kick in, the knowledge that he’d taken care of him before and the assumption that he’d do so again.

Shima would like to argue that that had been a fluke, that he wasn’t a responsible person and had only helped Okumura back then because no one else had been around. . . but he had let an extremely high Okumura treat him like his own personal beanbag chair today. Shima couldn’t even claim it was because he was scared of what Okumura would do if he refused. He’d given up on being scared of the guy at this point and had settled into something more like resignation. Okumura wouldn’t hurt him on purpose, and if Shima did die at the hands of Satan’s son, it would be from run-of-the-mill wrong-place-wrong-time bad luck. Like Okumura throwing a desk and accidentally hitting him in the face or something. It was really only a matter of time, but it was an unintentional, unmalicious one.

So Shima couldn’t say Okumura’s assumption had been wrong. Apparently, despite spending quite a lot of time trying to explain to everyone around him that he was flakey, irresponsible, and a poor exorcist to boot. . . Okumura trusted him. And Shima had risen to that trust, even if only in the most mundane of ways.

That didn’t change the fact that his leg was falling asleep, though, or that Okumura didn’t seem like he was going to move anytime soon.

“. . .can someone help me lift him?” Shima asked. “He’s going to mess up his back like this.”

Okumura was back to his normal self when he woke up an hour later. A bit disoriented, thirsty enough to down a whole pitcher of water in one terrifying go, and hungry enough that he used it as an excuse to make an early dinner for all of them, but still. Relatively normal. He didn’t remember most of what had happened, saying it was all a blur, but that was just fine by Shima. The less anyone expected of him, the less he’d let them down in the end.

He didn’t want Okumura’s trust.

Chapter Text

Suguro Ryuuji, Bon to his friends and a couple of irritating acquaintances who couldn’t be convinced to stop using the nickname, had a lot of notebooks. He liked to stay organized, and the easiest way to do that was to have a specific notebook set aside for each subject he was studying. Considering he had both a normal course load and a second, secret course load, that meant a lot of clearly labeled, college-ruled composition books jammed into his bag and cycled out between his day classes and cram school. Shima made fun of him for it, but Shima also begged to borrow his notes on a regular basis, which Bon considered to be an admission that his system was better than Shima’s write everything on loose-leaf paper and jam it all into two overstuffed binders approach. He’d been using that same tactic since they were kids; anyone else would’ve learned better by now.

There was one of Bon’s notebooks that went completely unlabeled, though. It rarely went into his backpack at all, and never came into class with him. Most days saw it stuffed under Bon’s mattress, and on the few occasions he did bring it outside of his dorm room it returned soon after. Unlike his other books, which were stuffed full of detailed notes and the occasional copied diagram or charm, this only had a few pages filled out. The writing itself was sparse, just a handful of bulleted lists marked down in Bon’s neat handwriting.

Things Rin Okumura has been convinced to put in his mouth:

–Blood [human, fresh]

(Positive reaction)

–Blood [animal, rotten] and milk

(Neutral reaction)

–Meat [animal, raw, fresh]

(Positive reaction)

–Meat [animal, raw, rotten]

(Mixed reaction, neutral/positive)

–Fish [demonic, poisonous, raw, fresh]

(Positive reaction)

–Demon-attracting herbs [fresh]

(Positive reaction)

–Demon-attracting herbs [dried, tea]

(Positive reaction. Soporific effect)

–Demon-attracting herbs [brownies]

(Mixed reaction, positive/regret after bad trip. Soporific effect)

–Soap [unused]

(negative reaction, Shima injured in retaliation)

–Tears [source unknown, provided by fox-face with no explanation]

(Positive reaction)

–Salt water [provided under the false impression of more tears to test the placebo effect]

(Mixed reaction, neutral/claiming to be able to taste the difference)

–Hair [human]

(Negative reaction, Shima briefly set on fire)

There were several other lists, among them things Rin Okumura has been convinced to punch and whether or not he’d broken them, as well as things Rin Okumura has set on fire, whether it was intentional or accidental, and whether or not the thing on fire had actually burned. That was the longest list of all, and at present it was far from all-encompassing but still showed a general trend away from accidental and towards not actually burned. Rin’s self-control was getting better, even as he grew in strength. It was something all the cram students knew anecdotally, but actually having the numbers on it felt reassuring in a way Bon couldn’t quite explain. It was like he had documented proof he could wave in people’s faces and say look! He’s not dangerous! Rin Okumura is not dangerous!

But of course Bon could never show the notebook to anyone outside their circle. He’d honestly debated burning the thing himself multiple times, because most exorcists wouldn’t get past blood, human before grabbing their weapon of choice and charging after the son of Satan. Objectively, Bon shouldn’t keep a record of anything their group had done, but. . . reading those lists made him smile. Every bullet point was another memory of all of them hanging out, trying dumb shit and having fun doing it. Rin might protest, but Bon got the sense that the experimentation was comforting for him, that having the rest of them goof around with his more demonic attributes helped make him feel accepted.

The guy hadn’t even had the good sense to stop Bon from taking notes. He really was a fucking idiot.

“We’re fucking idiots,” Shima groaned, and Bon shot him a look.

“Speak for yourself,” he said. “And you don’t have to help if you don’t want to. No one’s forcing you.”

“Izumo is!” Shima protested, gesturing at her with both hands as Bon leveled him with an unimpressed look. “She said she’d send her familiars to come get me if I ran off!”

“I wonder if Okumura is even going to like these,” Koneko said quietly, stirring the half-melted chocolate in the double-boiler in front of him. Moriama had set it up, pouring the water into the pan and balancing a ceramic bowl on top. Now she was dusting the molds with coco powder with a smile on her face like she’d just been named paladin. “I mean, he’s so fussy about his cooking– are we going to be able to meet his standards?”

“Who cares?” Izumo asked. “The point is the gesture, not the product. Otherwise no one would hand-make theirs at all.”

“I really want them to come out well, though,” Moriama said. She was biting her lower lip now, and Bon wanted to reach across the table and flick Izumo’s forehead. He didn’t, but mostly just because they had to present a united front against Shima. “It’s my first time making chocolates for my friends, and I want everyone to enjoy them!”

“In that case we need to make sure we keep ours separate from Okumura’s,” Shima said dryly, “Because I don’t know about you but I think I might throw up if I bite into a demon delight truffle.”

“Don’t worry,” Izumo said, “I’m only going to hide one in yours.”

“It’s melted,” Konekomuru said to Moriama. “Should I turn the stove off, or. . ?”

“It says you need to add the cream and butter first,” Izumo told him before Moriama got a chance to speak up. She tapped the recipe in front of her. “Then we can make most of the centers before we put together Rin’s.”

Shima stood up. “I’ve got this. Koneko, you keep stirring. I’ll pour the cream.”

It smelled good in the kitchen, like sweets and flowers. Moriama had brought over some stuff from her garden and it was all laid out in front of Bon on the table, lavender and raspberries and other things Bon didn’t recognize. Rin would probably be drooling if he were here right now; he got intense and enthusiastic about fresh ingredients.

Half the point of this was the surprise, though, and they’d have plenty of opportunities to cook with him later. It wasn’t like they were going anywhere.

“I’m going to start drawing blood,” Izumo announced. “Moriama, can you–“

Shiemi set a stack of small bowls in front of her before she could finish her sentence, the five of them clacking quietly against each other. Izumo nodded and fished a penknife out of her skirt pocket.

Tamers.

“How much, do you think?” Izumo asked. Bon was surprised she wanted someone else’s opinion at all.

“Well, we’re only making a couple each,” Moriama said, “So. . . maybe two tablespoons at most?”

Izumo nodded, pushing the recipe book out of the way before grabbing one of the bowls. She set the flat of her ring finger against the sharp edge of the knife and didn’t even wince as it bit through her skin. Blood bubbled easily to the surface, dripped into the bowl in front of her. She held her hand carefully over it so she didn’t spill.

“We should mark which ones are which,” she said. “See if he can tell the difference. Guess which ones are Shima and Konekomuru.”

“I wonder if he has a favorite flavor between of the three of you,” Shima mused. “My money’s on Moriama.”

“Maybe he’ll think you’re delicious,” Izumo suggested. She was smiling, and it made her eyes cold and flinty.

Shima shuddered.

If he really didn’t want to be here, he’d have said. He’d been friends with Bon and Koneko long enough that they knew when he was serious, and when he was just whining for the sake of it. He was definitely serious about thinking they were all idiots, but he was going along with everything anyway. Clearly he was even dumber than the rest of them.

“What if we use a different topping for each person’s?” Koneko suggested. “It’ll mark which ones are which even if they get mixed up.”

“Oh! That’s a great idea,” Moriama exclaimed. Then her expression grew more intense. “But which one to go with who. . ?”

“Beats me,” Bon said. “The only one who’d know what to pair us with is Okumura, and the whole damn point is not tipping him off.”

“Hand,” Izumo said, which was all the warning Bon got before she was grabbing him by the wrist and shoving a bowl in his direction. A sharp sting bit into his finger and Bon cursed, glaring at fox-face.

Ask first,” he snapped. So much for a united front.

Izumo gave him a dispassionate look. “Don’t move. You’ll spill.”

“He said you were sweet, right Bon?” Shima asked. Bon looked over at him. He’d finished his task and was leaning back against the counter now, watching Bon bleed with amusement. Bon tried to convey with just his eyes that he was going to make Shima suffer if he didn’t stop enjoying this.

Shima just smiled.

“You’re sweet, Shiemi’s airy. . . was Izumo salty?”

“Meaty,” Bon corrected automatically.

“We could top hers with sea salt,” Koneko suggested. “Or would that be too much of the same thing?”

Izumo relinquished her grip on Bon’s hand and he drew it back, grabbing the box of band-aids Moriama had put out on the counter for just this purpose. He wrapped the cut with deft fingers. Gave Shima his nastiest look.

“Your turn,” he told him.

Shima looked like he was regretting certain recent life choices.

“We should probably wash the knife first,” he said. “It can’t be sanitary to– no, Izumo no! Shit!

“Maybe I could use vanilla in mine?” Moriama mused softly, either ignoring the chaos unfolding behind her or too absorbed in her thoughts to notice it. “That works in sponge cake, and sponge cake is airy.”

“Excuse me,” Koneko said, just as Izumo succeeded in capturing Shima and a squawk of indignant pain came from behind him. Moriama moved over, still muttering to herself, and Koneko started to fill the silicone molds with melted chocolate.

Bon tried to think of what he should pick. Sweet didn’t really help him narrow it down, especially when he was mixing his blood into something that was already sweet. Should he try to offset his flavor with something bitter? Something sour? Should he offset it at all, or should he just lean in and just slap some sprinkles on top? Okumura would have a field day with that.

“I’m done with the plain centers,” Konekomuru said. He’d left a few of them empty– ten, to be exact– but the rest were filled to the brim with slowly cooling chocolate.

Bon slid the two bowls of blood over to him, then grabbed a whisk. He watched as Koneko poured a small amount of chocolate into each one– first Izumo’s, then Bon’s– and grabbed his bowl when it was ready. He stirred the blood and chocolate together, smoothing the combination into a ruddy brown.

“I’ll write down what everyone picks,” he said. “So none of you forget.”

Shima’s bowl landed on the counter and Izumo handed Moriama the penknife. That snapped her out of her daze and she began busily getting to work on her own centers.

“I’m using mint,” Izumo announced, glaring Bon down like she expected him to argue. Bon hadn’t planned on arguing, but now he felt like he should.

“I have no idea what my blood tastes like, so I’m just going with sprinkles,” Shima said.

Well. There went that plan.

“Maybe I could just use some of the fruit,” Koneko said, pouring another small amount of chocolate into Moriama’s bowl. He filled the last one up with the last of the chocolate ganache, then accepted the penknife with a look of only mild apprehension. Whether that was the bloodletting or the choice paralysis, Bon didn’t know.

The final list was:

–Kamiki Izumo

(Mint)

–Shima Renzō

(Sprinkles [rainbow])

–Shiemi Moriyama

(Vanilla)

(Lemon)

(Lavender)

–Konekomaru Miwa

(Marshmallow)

–Suguro Ryūji

(Blackberry)

The notebook went back under Bon’s bed when all was said and done, chocolates finished and packaged up in neat little boxes for them to enjoy the next day. Each was labeled, though Okumura’s was the only one that really needed it, and stored in the refrigerator to keep them cool and fresh. Bon would have to wait if he wanted to record Okumura’s reactions.

He’d left plenty of empty space.