Beginner Level

 

Yata slouched in his seat and scowled at his beer, wishing with all his might that he was somewhere else. Fuck my stupid life.

Sitting at the outside edge of a booth full of his friends in a loud, crowded bar wasn’t exactly out of the usual. He normally had a lot of fun doing this stuff. Right now, though, he was feeling awkward as hell.

Why the fuck did they have to drag me out here, anyway? This sucks.

It wasn’t that Yata resented his friends or anything. Their hearts were all in the right place. Hell, they were here with him, at a gay bar, acting pretty chill – well, pretty chill for this group anyway. Chitose had already smoothly and graciously turned down about six guys who’d hit on him since they’d come in the door, and the only comment had been Dewa’s dry, “You’re that popular everywhere, huh?” And there was no stereotypical concern from any of the others about potentially being hit on; the conversation was casual, drinks flowed freely, and it could’ve been any other bar they were hanging out at.

That was the thing, though: it could’ve been any other bar, but no. They had to be at this one.

The problem was – well, it wasn’t really a problem, more like the cause of a problem – he’d spent about half a year coming to terms with parts of himself he’d tried to cover up or deny, dealing with the insecurity and uncertainty. Two months ago – spurred on by Kousuke and Eric casually and offhandedly announcing they’d hooked up – he’d finally managed to come out to his friends, and the unhesitant acceptance had bolstered his confidence a lot. He’d felt pretty okay with himself since then. He wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. Not that he’d object if he found one, just… yeah. Things were fine.

Still, for some reason his friends had decided he should try to get one – or at least get laid – and this was the result.

“Hey, think of it as practice,” Chitose had reasoned with a shrug.

“The hell?” Yata had gaped at him, too incredulous to glare. “Practice for what?

“Picking up guys at a bar?” Bandou had supplied helpfully.

“Why would I wanna pick up guys at a bar?”

“To find true love,” Dewa had answered in a dry tone and with a perfectly straight face. “Or casual sex. Take your pick.”

“It’ll probably be fun, right, Yata?” Totsuka had added brightly from outside the little group, his camera recording everything in shameless full view. “Trying new things is good for you.”

And that had pretty much been that.

Yata was in the process of picking up his beer for another sullen swig when an unexpected shadow fell over him, and he nearly dropped the bottle as he stared up at the smiling face above him.

“Hi there,” the new guy said, once he’d gotten Yata’s attention. His eyes were bright and his smile open and friendly.

He’s talking to me? Seriously? Yata blinked, too shocked to fully comprehend the situation. “Ah…”

His lack of response didn’t seem to deter his conversation partner. “Couldn’t help but noticing you looked a little down.” The smile widened, two thin eyebrows rising at the same time. “Maybe some dancing would cheer you up?”

No way… He’s hitting on me? The situation felt unreal. Yata swallowed, feeling his palm start to sweat against the cool glass as his fingers tightened reflexively. “Hah… uh… wha...” The silence at the table around him was somehow deafening even with the music and the buzzing of conversation blaring around them. He couldn’t think straight. One of you assholes could fucking help me out, goddamnit! “I-I… wait… I…”

“A little shy, huh?” The guy winked at him, leaning back with good-natured ease. “Well, no worries – I’ll be at the bar if you change your mind.” He grinned, winked again, and turned to saunter off.

Yata stared after him, still too shell-shocked to properly process. What… just happened…?

“Well, you just about blew that chance,” Chitose commented ruefully and shook his head when Yata jerked his gaze over to glare at him. “Seriously, we’re gonna have to put a lot more work into your game. That was sad.”

“Sh-shut up!” Yata could feel heat crawling up over his cheeks, and scowled more fiercely than before. “H-he caught me off-guard, okay? What the hell was I supposed to do?”

Dewa raised a skeptical eyebrow at him. “All you had to say was ‘yes’.”

“Right?” Chitose nodded, leaning back with a wry stare. “He did all the work for you.”

The truth of that was sinking in, embarrassment settling across his brain as he felt the pitying eyes of all of his friends on him. Yata struggled with a reply for a moment before finally sputtering a defensive, “Well... what if I don’t wanna dance with him? Huh?”

“There’s a response for that too,” Eric cut in, bluntly. “It goes like this: ‘no’.”

“Man, you should consider it, though,” Chitose added, before Yata could do more than bristle at that. “Guy seemed pretty easygoing. And you need some serious practice flirting. What’s the harm in a dance and a little banter?” He spread his hands with a shrug. “Maybe you guys will click, who knows?”

Flirting. Damn. Yata slumped a little further into his seat, aiming his scowl down at the bottle in his hand again. There was a battle raging in his head already: pride versus that tiny edge of wistful curiosity he’d been shoving down for a large part of his teen and adult years. This stuff was stupid. He didn’t need a boyfriend. His life was good enough as it was. Who cared if he didn’t know how to deal with this kind of crap?

And yet still, there was that traitorous thread of want

Apparently he’d been quiet for too long, because Kamamoto’s voice cut into his thoughts awkwardly. “Yata-san, y’know it’s no big deal if you don’t feel up to it or anything…”

“Shut up!” The outburst escaped him before he could think twice about it, fingers tightening around the beer bottle as he slammed it down onto the table and aimed a glare at his friend. “I’m up to it just fine! It’s not my fault this shit is so goddamn complicated! Where the hell do you even start with this flirting crap, anyway?”

There was a brief moment where all of his friends stared at him, and then Chitose abruptly chucked, the sound cutting through the clamor in the bar with something of a dark edge. “Oh, I see.” There was a smirk on his face and a gleam in his eye that were foreboding when he lifted his head. “You don’t know how to flirt, do you?”

Yata stared at him, nonplussed. “That’s – that’s not…”

“There’s a surprise,” Eric mumbled, almost too low to be heard.

Yata whipped his head around to glower at him. “Sh-shut up! Not like I pay attention to this stuff! Who’s got time for that, anyway?”

“It’s a question of priorities,” Chitose responded loftily, and raised an eyebrow when Yata turned to meet his gaze. “Flirting is an art – you can hone it with practice. Take that guy as an example.” He nodded his head in the general direction of the bar. “He came up to you specifically, leaned in like you were fascinating, smiled, and then made it clear that he’d noticed you with a casual observation. Basic flirting, right there.”

It sounded easy when he put it like that. Yata eased off on the glare, eyeing his friend warily. “What kinda stuff are you s’posed to say?”

“It’s not about what you say so much.” Chitose straightened in his seat. “There’s a rhythm to it – getting your intentions across playfully, y’know?” He gave Yata a considering look. “For a beginner, I’d say compliments are a good start. Specific stuff. Tell him he’s got a nice smile or something.”

“Eye color’s another good one,” Akagi said helpfully. “Compare it to something nice.”

“Can’t hurt to bring up a guy’s clothes.” Dewa shrugged. “Gives you an excuse to look, right?”

“Say something about his hair.”

“Tell him he’s got a great voice.”

“Talk about his moves on the dance floor.”

“Okay, I get it!” Yata quickly cut into the outpouring of advice, torn between impatience and embarrassment. “So I compliment him or some shit, great – but what the hell comes after that? I can’t just sit there talking about how this guy looks, right?”

“That’s the point where you let the conversation evolve,” Chitose responded, leaning forward confidently. “Ask him about himself. Once you get him talking, show interest by asking for specifics. Throw in some compliments about stuff he’s done. If he starts asking about you, you’ve got it.”

“Huh.” It didn’t sound that hard. “That’s it?”

“Of course not.” There was a smirk spreading on Chitose’s face again. “That’s called building chemistry. If you want to take it further, this is where you escalate.”

Something about that word was setting off alarm bells in Yata’s head. He narrowed his eyes. “Escalate how?”

“Well, you gotta gauge physical attraction, right?” Chitose shrugged, still looking infuriatingly smug. “Start small. Try leaning in closer and see if he does too. Build from there.”

“Oh, yeah!” Bandou perked up at that. “How about ‘accidental’ hand brushing?”

“That worked for me,” Kamamoto agreed, nodding.

“Make a lot of eye contact,” Kousuke added quietly. “That usually helps.”

“Smile and laugh a lot.”

“Lean over and whisper stuff in his ear.”

“On that note,” Chitose cut in slyly, shooting Yata a canny gaze. “If you’re feeling especially bold, you could tell him something… risky. Say you’re not wearing underwear.”

The uncomfortable heat that had been prickling Yata’s face through the rush of advice flared up into something like an inferno. He gaped back, unable to believe what he’d just heard. “Wh-wh-what… the fuck?” he managed to squawk, indignant and shocked. “Who the hell would say something like that?

Dewa was pinching the bridge of his nose. “It’s better not to listen to this guy when he gets like that, Yata.”

“Hey, c’mon!” Chitose leaned back in his seat, looking mildly disgruntled. “I’m just saying if things go well and you want to try getting lucky…”

Yata scowled at him, trying to will away the heat on his cheeks. “There’s no fucking way I’ll say something that dumb, okay?” He hastily raised his bottle and swallowed down the last of his beer, letting it break from his mouth with a smack and setting it back decisively on the table. “I’m getting another drink.”

Bandou whistled low as he stood up. “Sure that’s all you’re getting?”

“Good luck, Yata-san!” Kamamoto added enthusiastically.

It wasn’t helping the hot embarrassment spreading even further across his face. “Sh-shut up! I said I’m getting a drink.” He hastily slid free of the booth, tossing a rough, “Be right back!” over his shoulder before pushing through the crowd towards the bar.

There was an anxious knot already building in his stomach as he made his way over. If the guy from before really was up there, well then… Hell. Whatever. He could at least try to say something. It wasn’t like he was incapable of having a damn conversation. Nothing had to happen. It was just… just practice, like Chitose said. If it turned into something else, great, but there was nothing wrong with a little harmless –

A lanky form seemed to materialize in front of him before he could finish that thought, too fast for his occupied brain to catch up, and he abruptly made contact, practically faceplanting on the guy’s collar.

“Ow! Fuck!” Yata reeled back, raising a hand to cup his stinging nose.

“That’s my line,” a low, peeved-sounding voice snapped back at him. “Would it kill you to watch where you’re going?”

“Hey, you plowed into me, asshole!” Yata raised his eyes to glare at the stranger, and momentarily lost his train of thought. The man standing in front of him had a striking appearance – dark hair, pale skin, and gray-blue eyes behind an unfashionably thick-rimmed pair of glasses. He was thin and angular, the lines of his face and body both strong and delicate somehow, and the sight of him stirred up an unmistakable twinge of attraction in the pit of Yata’s belly. His breath slowed unconsciously, nerves flaring to life.

The effect was kind of spoiled by the irritated frown on the man’s face. He made a sharp, impatient noise and glanced over his shoulder, eyes flashing with what looked like frustration. “Whatever. You’ll do – come on.”

“Huh?” That was all the warning Yata got before he found himself tugged roughly off to the side, through a small break in the crowd, and then shoved into an open booth.

His assailant pushed his way into the booth beside him before he could recover his equilibrium, practically inside his personal space. “Hurry and play along,” he muttered, glancing skittishly off to the side again before aiming a frown at Yata. His bangs hung fetchingly over the glass shielding his surprisingly long-lashed eyes. “Pretend we’re making pleasant conversation or something.”

The combination of the unexpected close proximity and the strangely intent gaze from this really fucking hot stranger had Yata’s brain just about short-circuiting. Between the unexpected manhandling and the confusing demand, he was still reeling – all he could process was the blend of nerves and attraction. Instinctively, he found himself skimming back over the advice he’d received just moments earlier.

“Say something about his hair.”

“Tell him he’s got a great voice.”

“Make a lot of eye contact.”

“Smile and laugh a lot.”

And somehow, what blurted out of his traitorous mouth, loud and higher pitched than usual, was, “I’m not wearing underwear!”

There was a brief, stark moment of startled silence.

Mortification was already starting to wash over Yata in waves – he had just enough time to shut and then open his mouth again, desperate to somehow take back the words but too shocked to properly think of how, before the stranger let out a short, harsh sigh. The blue eyes that had widened with surprise narrowed into flat lines now. “Are you an idiot?”

Fuck. Somehow, Yata managed to make his voice work. “Th-th-that’s not what I meant to say, goddamnit!”

“If you say so.” One thin eyebrow rose at him, the accompanying voice drawing out condescendingly. “Well, it’s not like I care what you decide to talk about. Just play along for five minutes, and then we can pretend this conversation never happened.” In a mutter almost too low to be heard he added, “Thankfully.”

Yata’s wits were starting to return; that tone of voice grated on his nerves. He scowled back through the mortified heat still flaring on his face. “The hell is your problem, huh?”

The man made another irritated noise, turning from him again to look over his shoulder. “None of your business.”

“You’re the one who fucking dragged me here!” It was getting easier to move past that moment of humiliation now that he had his irritation to bolster him. “What the hell do you want from me?”

“Haven’t I already said? Five minutes.” That cool-eyed gaze fixed on him again. “Well, if you won’t play along, I can grab anyone in this stupid place to make my point. But since you’re already here, it’s more convenient.”

Convenient. Great. Yata let out a sharp, frustrated breath. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

He got another raised eyebrow for his trouble. “Why would I waste my time with that?”

What the hell, seriously? This guy was a pain in the ass. Yata’s scowl deepened as he took in the handsome face that was uncomfortably close to his own. The knot that had formed in his stomach tightened; the guy was definitely hot, and somehow… something about his cool attitude was…

Goddamnit. He really didn’t want to think about what the sudden, fierce tug of attraction said about his personal taste. Chitose’s voice was still strong in his memory, though: “Maybe you guys will click, who knows?”

Well, whatever. Yata let out a sharp breath, reaching up to scratch nervously at the back of his head. “Yata Misaki,” he muttered, struggling against the instinctive urge to say his first name in a lower tone. He was more or less past being embarrassed about it. Mostly.

The man’s brow furrowed a bit. “What?”

“My name.” He drew in his next breath, steadying himself, and met that cool-eyed gaze squarely. “It’s Yata Misaki.”

That time he got two raised eyebrows. “Sorry – did I give the impression that I care?”

Yata scowled again in response. Fucking dick! This was what he got for making an effort? “You’re the one who wanted pleasant conversation!”

“I said to pretend we were making pleasant conversation,” the man drawled in return, “not to actually make it. I have no interest in a conversation with you.”

The casual dismissal nearly left him gaping. Yata sputtered for a few seconds, torn between outrage and shock, and then managed to narrow his eyes in return, glaring fiercely. “Yeah? Well, I’m bad at faking it, asshole, so you’re gonna have to make it good if you want this to work!”

He got a brief moment of satisfaction when the stranger’s eyes widened – and then the first hint of anything like a smile he’d seen on the guy’s face tugged with obvious reluctance at the corners of his mouth. It came with a small, ruefully amused huff. “Do you always overshare like this or am I getting special treatment?”

“Huh?” Yata blinked at him for a second, thrown off by both the smile and the remark, and then the double meaning behind his own words sunk in and he felt that traitorous heat rising along his neck again. “Wh-what the fuck? Don’t twist my words like that!”

“Whatever you say.” The tiny hint of a smile spread just a bit more; those long lashes lowered slightly as the man regarded him. “Yata Misaki, huh?”

“Just Yata,” he corrected automatically and hastily straightened, trying to draw up some more height. That look was doing some funny things to his stomach even now, and he couldn’t help but swallow hard. “So how ‘bout you, what’s your name?”

He halfway expected the guy to refuse to answer, but the response was prompt and matter-of-fact. “Fushimi Saruhiko.” As if giving out his own name had triggered some kind of defense mechanism, Fushimi abruptly frowned again. “Not that it matters.”

“Whatever – at least I know what to call you in our five minute fake conversation.” Yata managed a grin in response, feeling a rush of relief and a small boost to his confidence from the momentary success. He hastily scanned back through the advice he’d received earlier before going on. “So, uh, do you live around here?”

Fushimi eyed him dubiously. “More or less.”

He wasn’t sure what to make of that. “Okay, so… What d’you do? Y’know, for a job and all?”

That earned him a short, impatient-sounding sigh. “You could call it tech support, I guess.”

This probably wasn’t going well. Yata decided to give it one more try. “How about for fun?”

“Apparently, go to noisy bars like this and have boring conversations with strangers.”

The blandly delivered answer had Yata scowling again in response, irritation flaring up. “Do you have to be such a fucking prick? I’m trying here, goddamnit! For the five fucking minutes we have to interact, you could at least throw me a bone or something.”

Fushimi clicked his tongue, frown deepening as he returned the angry gaze steadily. “Look who’s talking. So far all you’ve said about yourself is that you’re bad at faking it and you’re not wearing underwear. As enthralling as those pieces of information are…”

“Okay, okay, fine! I get it!” He really wasn’t eager to visit those humiliating moments. Yata took in another sharp, frustrated breath. Last try. “I live around this area, work at the sports shop two streets up, and I like skateboarding and video games. That good enough for you?”

The gaze that Fushimi was giving him was a mix of wary and quizzical – he somehow got the impression that he was being looked at like some kind of puzzle that hadn’t been figured out yet. After what felt like an awkwardly long moment, Fushimi finally offered, “Mostly just programming.”

Yata blinked at him. “Eh?”

“For fun.” It came with a very brief shrug of those thin shoulders. Fushimi’s gaze flickered away briefly before settling on him again. “I guess I don’t mind playing video games sometimes,” he added, in an almost reluctant mutter.

“Huh. Really?” There it was again – that rush of relief and cautious optimism. Yata brightened, offering a smile in return. “Guess we’ve got something in common then, huh?”

“Two things,” Fushimi corrected him flatly.

Yata furrowed his eyebrows. “What?”

“We have two things in common,” Fushimi drawled in response, his eyelids half lowering again. “Well, two things that are immediately apparent.”

The hell is he talking about? Yata scratched his head, confused. “What’s the second?”

Fushimi shrugged, looking slightly awkward about it. His expression was carefully bland. “We are both here at a gay bar, aren’t we?”

Ah. The uncomfortable warmth that had finally receded from his face returned in full force; Yata was suddenly aware of just how little space was between them. His gaze dropped to trace the line of Fushimi’s thin lips, and he automatically licked his own nervously. When he looked up again to meet that steady gaze, it felt like his entire body started to tingle. “Oh. R-right.”

There was a moment of what felt like heavy silence.

It was as if some kind of awareness had passed between them – Yata couldn’t quite get hold of what it meant, but he had a strong feeling it was mutual. It set his heart racing. All of his instincts were screaming at him to move in, close the distance, do something, but his nerves held him paralyzed. He could barely manage to breathe.

He’d never felt like this before. It was unreal.

“Fushimi-san?” someone said loudly – and incredulously – from outside of their booth, and the mood was shattered.

Fushimi shut his eyes and let out a short, irritated sigh before clicking his tongue. “Now he turns up,” he muttered and turned his head away before opening his eyes, shifting to slide from the booth gracefully. “So? I did what you all wanted,” he said to the man standing behind them, turning his back to Yata as if nothing had happened.

All Yata could do in that moment was stare at him, not quite sure what was happening. “O-oi…”

He was ignored. “I’m leaving now,” Fushimi announced abruptly, pushing past his startled-looking friend without even bothering to glance back once. “That was the agreement, wasn’t it?”

Huh? Agreement?

The man he’d just pushed past shot Yata a brief, apologetic look and then turned to follow. “Wait a second, Fushimi-san…”

It only took a handful of seconds for both of them to merge into the crowd, and Yata was left alone in the tiny booth, stunned and confused.

What the hell just happened?

 


 

 

The confusing – and irritating – encounter was still on his mind the next day, all the way through his shift at work and right up to when he met with Kamamoto afterwards. He still didn’t know what the fuck had happened. It was frustrating.

“Just forget about it, Yata-san,” Kamamoto urged him, shooting a sympathetic look over his sunglasses. “Don’t waste time on people like that, s’not worth it.”

“I’m not wasting time on him!” Yata rounded on his friend, scowling. “I just wanna know what the hell his problem is!” He clenched his hands into fists. “You don’t just grab people and shove them into booths and then act all high and mighty about it – I don’t care how fucking hot you are or how fucking cool your voice is or – !”

Kamamoto coughed lightly, looking uncomfortable. “Yata-san…”

“The point is” – Yata fixed him with a glare, throwing all of his pent up frustration into the rant – “that asshole owes me an explanation! And a fucking drink,” he added, with a snort. “For putting up with his shit!”

“Yeah, probably, but y’know…”

“I know I’m never gonna see the fucker again – I’m not stupid, okay?” Yata heaved an impatient sigh, reaching up to scratch the back of his head with agitation. “All I got was his name, we didn’t even trade contact info or anything.”

That was another frustrating thing – he actually regretted it. Fushimi had been rude, blunt, and generally unpleasant, but somehow at the end it had felt like they’d had a real connection. Things just seemed to… click. Or something. He wasn’t an expert on this crap, but wasn’t that supposed to be a good sign?

Whatever. Too late now. Short of going back to that bar and hoping for the best, there was no way –

Yata’s phone buzzed in his pocket.

He wasn’t expecting anything other than one of his friends checking to see if they were hanging out tonight, so when he pulled the phone out and checked the preview, he was surprised to see a text from some number that wasn’t in his contacts.

Even more surprised when he saw what it said: ‘Yata Misaki from the bar last night?’

The fuck? Yata stopped walking.

“Yata-san?” Kamamoto stopped too, looking back at him curiously.

That snapped him out of the moment of shock. Yata frowned, feeling his skin prickle up as he considered the message. Couldn’t be…

Only one way to find out for sure. He unlocked the phone and typed back, ‘who the hell is this???’

The answer didn’t take long. ‘Judging by that response, I have the right person. I’ll call you now.’

He’d barely finished reading the words when the screen indicated an incoming call from the same number.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Yata stared at his phone for a second, nonplussed.

Kamamoto was giving him a dubious look. “What’s going on?”

“Just… wait, okay?” It didn’t take long to decide whether he was going to take the call or not. Curiosity would eat him alive if he didn’t. Yata let out a short breath and clicked ‘Accept’, raising the phone to his ear and opening with a sharp, “How the fuck did you get this number? Are you some kinda stalker?”

There was the distinct sound of someone clicking their tongue with irritation over the line. “You’re listed in the public directory,” the tinny sound of Fushimi’s voice commented in that condescending drawl. “Believe it or not, there aren’t that many male Yata Misaki’s out there.”

“Sh-shut up!” Despite the fact that he’d more or less accepted it, his first name was still a bit of a sore point. Combined with the low voice he’d admired from before, it really threw him off. “What the hell do you want?” he demanded gruffly, trying to cover the moment.

Fushimi sighed. When he spoke again, his voice had a note of sullen reluctance in it. “I need a favor.”

Yata pulled the phone away from his ear so that he could stare at it with aggrieved disbelief. The fuck? He brought it back up, scowling. “You still haven’t thanked me for the last favor, jerk!”

“Thank you.” The words came in a bland drawl, void of any actual sentiment. “Are you willing to help or not?”

Is he for fucking real? Yata felt the corner of his mouth twitch with agitation. If he was being honest, he should’ve hung up already. Kamamoto was giving him a look of concern, which was a sure sign that this entire conversation was a bad idea from the start.

Still… Fuck me. If he didn’t at least hear the bastard out, he’d wonder about it forever. “What sort of favor are we talking about?”

There was a brief, awkward pause, and then Fushimi’s voice came across the line, low and mumbling. “I need a date.”

Okay. Sure. That was about it. Yata felt both of his eyebrows twitch, unsure if it was more frustration or disbelief that triggered the reaction. “What the hell do you expect me to do for you? I’m not a fucking dating service!”

There was another sigh from the other end of the line, heavier this time. “I’m asking you to be my date.”

Even fucking better. Yata clenched his teeth. It was more than a little annoying that the idea sent a thrill through his body. Hell, this was the first time he’d ever been asked on a date, and this was someone he was into. Really into. More than he should’ve been, all things considered. Still…

What’s the fucking catch? “Why me?”

“You’re the only other gay man I happen to know.” There was that bland drawl again. If there was anything else behind this, it didn’t show in Fushimi’s voice. He clicked his tongue. “A few of my co-workers apparently have decided to make it their mission to ‘find me someone’.” The words came out with heavy derision. “If I go on this date, they should have no reason to bother me anymore.”

There it was. Yata scowled, mentally cursing himself for being disappointed despite having already braced for it. “The hell? What kind of co-workers do you have?” It hit him, then – the strange behavior at the club, the insistence on pretending to have a ‘pleasant conversation’, the man who’d come up behind them… “Wait, is this why you dragged me into that booth last night?”

“Congratulations on piecing that together.” Fushimi’s voice was dry. “And yes, they’re useless idiots with a lot of time on their hands, unfortunately.” There was a short pause, and then he added in a mutter, “It wouldn’t have been so bad if my boss hadn’t heard about it.”

Yata cocked an eyebrow. “Huh?”

“It’s not important.” Fushimi sounded exasperated now. “Anyway, I’ll pay, so there’s a free movie and dinner involved. Are you interested or not?”

Good fucking question. The answer should’ve been obvious, too. The question of what the hell was going on last night was answered – there was no reason to think about this rude bastard any more. He just had to refuse, hang up the phone, and get on with his life. No reason to think any further about Fushimi Saruhiko with his snarky comments and grumpy behavior, and his… his pale skin and long-lashed dramatic eyes…

That fleeting moment of connection they’d had at the bar, when everything had seemed to click…

Fuck. “Let me pick the movie, and I’ll go.”

There was another moment of silence – it was hard to tell if Fushimi was surprised that Yata had actually agreed or disgruntled about the movie thing. Finally he mumbled, “Just don’t pick something lame.”

“Not a chance!” That one small victory was enough to bring a grin to his face. It was something, anyway. “When are we doing this?”

“I’m off tomorrow. How’s 5pm?”

“Yeah, I can do five tomorrow.” He had the early shift, as it turned out. “Meet at the theater?”

“Fine. See you there.” The call disconnected.

Rude to the end, huh? Yata lowered his phone, giving it a briefly disgruntled look, and let out a sharp ‘ch’. “Coulda said goodbye at least.”

“Yata-san…” In all of that, he’d almost forgotten Kamamoto was there – when he looked up, his friend was giving him a dubious look. “Are you sure it’s a good idea to meet that guy?”

It probably wasn’t, actually. “Yeah, yeah. I know.” He offered a shrug and a rueful smile. “Still, I’m getting a free dinner out of it.” At that, he managed a grin. “Bastard owes me that much, right?”

Kamamoto didn’t look convinced. “Well, if you say so…” He lowered his sunglasses to meet Yata’s gaze, serious for once. “I think it’s a bad idea to get too into this one. He kinda seems like bad news, y’know?”

Yata snorted at that. “Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.” He pocketed his phone with a sigh. “I’m not gonna get too hung up on this guy, okay? It’s just a stupid date.”

Even as he said it, though, he had the uneasy feeling it wasn’t Kamamoto he was trying to convince.

 


 

 

It was just past five.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Yata wove around several startled pedestrians on his skateboard, heart nearly hammering out of his chest as he pushed himself off the pavement, trying to pick up as much speed as possible.

A block and a half to the theater…

He’d finished work at three, and it had occurred to him almost as soon as he’d left the shop that he was about to go on a date – his first date – and he was still wearing the same old crap he wore every day. Which was usually fine; normally, he didn’t care much about that stuff. But this was a fucking date and he was meeting someone hot, so he’d detoured back to his tiny apartment and torn apart his meager supply of clothing to find something that would look like he actually cared without also looking stupid.

… It had been surprisingly difficult. He was cursing some of his previous fashion choices now.

Not that it matters anyway. Yata clenched his teeth, kind of irritated with himself for putting the effort in despite everything. This wasn’t a real date, so he wasn’t sure why he cared so much. It wasn’t like Fushimi was going to notice or care.

Still… on the off chance that he did…

“Whatever!” He actually snarled the response to his own thoughts out loud, ignoring the looks he was getting from some of the passers-by as he propelled himself around the corner and towards the theater. Fake or not, it was a date, and he was gonna do this right, goddamnit!

Well, aside from being on time, apparently.

Yata spotted Fushimi before he’d actually rolled up to the theater, standing off to the side of the line-up with his cell phone out and his eyes on the screen. His shoulders were slightly hunched, giving him an awkward appearance, and his skin seemed even paler in the summer sun. It made an attractive contrast with the styled dark hair and the thick frame of his glasses. Yata couldn’t remember exactly what Fushimi had been wearing at the bar, but today he was sporting a white shirt with quarter-length sleeves, a black vest and jeans. The clothing fit his tall, thin frame well.

Hell. Yata’s heart, already racing, seemed to do a little flip in his chest. Somehow, the not-so-dark-and-mysterious version of Fushimi was even hotter than the sexy, cool-eyed vision he had at the back of his memory.

Well, whatever. He had this. “Oi! Fushimi!” he called out on impulse, weaving through the last of the crowd to approach the theater.

Fushimi’s gaze rose to search for and find his, and Yata’s chest tightened even further. Okay – so the cool-eyed thing was still there. Right.

On impulse – and because his nerves were just about killing him – he pulled an ollie and flipped the board, turning in midair without really thinking it through before letting himself coast forward and step back to come to a halt in front of his date.

Okay, yeah, maybe part of it was showing off. He had to do something to even things out or he was gonna spend the whole date feeling stupidly self-conscious.

“What was that supposed to be?”

The words had come in that same flat-toned drawl, but when Yata looked up, the frown on Fushimi’s face wasn’t condescending or mocking. His expression was oddly guarded, head tilted slightly to the side and eyes fixed keenly on Yata’s face.

Kinda promising, really. “Frontside flip.” It occurred to him after he said it that Fushimi probably didn’t know much about skateboarding, and he hastily clarified, “I mean, frontside 180 ollie kickflip.”

… Which probably wasn’t much better. Goddamnit!

Fushimi raised one thin eyebrow at him. “Somehow, I didn’t quite catch the meaning behind that random string of words.”

“Yeah, right.” Yata managed a sheepish grin in return, kicking up his board to catch it by the pin and reaching with his free hand to scratch the back of his head. “Sorry. It’s a skateboarding thing.”

“I figured that much out.” Fushimi slid his phone into his pocket, stepping forward. His gaze shifted down as if taking in more of Yata’s appearance, silently assessing.

It was difficult to resist the urge to fidget in response. Yata hefted his board, tucking it under one arm. He felt stupidly self-conscious under that open scrutiny. “What?”

“Nothing.” Abruptly, Fushimi raised his eyes to meet Yata’s again. “You look different from before,” he mumbled.

Yata blinked at him, caught off guard. “Huh?”

Fushimi clicked his tongue, frown deepening. “Your clothing fits you better and you’re not wearing a hat,” he observed, flatly matter-of-fact. “What did you think I meant?”

There was that attitude again. Yata scowled back. “How’m I s’posed to know what you meant? It was a weird thing to say, okay?” And what the hell’s with that ‘fits you better’? Maybe he did usually wear overly large shirts, but they were comfortable. Anyway, who notices something like that? It wasn’t like he was even wearing anything special, either – a pair of khaki pants he hadn’t even looked at since his last job interview and a layered shirt with a collar, white underneath and black above. It had taken him a fucking hour to decide on, but there was nothing unusual about it.

Does it look weird or something? Wait – don’t tell me he noticed I spent all that time…

There was no way. Right?

With his nerves on edge, Yata didn’t bother to wait for a response, blurting out the rest of what came to mind. “A-anyway, my friends dragged me out there without warning, so I just had on my regular everyday crap that night. That’s all.”

“Hm?” Fushimi tipped his head forward a bit, raising an eyebrow. “And this is… what, then? Something other than your regular everyday crap?”

Shit. He hadn’t intended to give that away. Yata felt traitorous heat creeping up on his face and scowled against it. “Th-this is… just…” Hell, it was out there now, so he might as well own it. “It’s s’posed to be a date, right? To impress your stupid co-workers? You don’t wear regular everyday crap on a date.”

“If you say so.” Fushimi’s eyelids lowered and the corners of his mouth twitched up. “It doesn’t look bad.”

If anything, the heat on his face intensified. Seriously? From the way his heart sped up, he might as well have been told he looked amazing. Yata made a show of clearing his throat, too flustered to continue to meet his date’s eyes. “Y-yeah. Thanks.”

Fushimi let out a tiny, amused-sounding huff, but didn’t comment further. “Which movie are we seeing?”

That was a question he was better prepared for. Yata grinned, relieved, and raised his free hand to point at one of the giant advertisements lining the building behind them. “That one.”

He’d been smart enough to check the showings beforehand and figure that out. No way were they going to some lame-ass drama where he didn’t understand half the crap coming out of the characters’ mouths. He wasn’t gonna get stuck with a romantic comedy, either – he could barely handle the mood in normal circumstances, much less on a date. And any kind of ghost story was right out – fuck that.

Luckily, there was almost always some kind of action movie showing. Explosions were safe territory.

“Why am I not surprised?” Fushimi drawled, following the line of his finger. Yata shot him a frown, half-expecting some snarky comment about his taste, but all he got was a shrug. “Well, it’s fine. Come on.”

Yata fell in beside him as they approached the line for the ticket counter. The earlier conversation was still sharp in his mind, and he kinda felt like he needed to say something in response. “So,” he started and reached up to scratch the back of his head, avoiding eye contact. “You also… y’know, you look good. Or something.”

There was a second or two of awkward silence; when he summoned up enough nerve to look up again, Fushimi was frowning, his gaze fixed forward. His brow had a slight crease, as if he was concentrating on something. “You don’t need to make it sound so indecisive,” he mumbled finally.

Oh. Oh. That was actually kinda cute. Yata grinned a little, the fluttery feeling in his stomach returning with a vengeance. “You’re not good with compliments, huh?”

Fushimi clicked his tongue, looking vaguely annoyed. “I don’t want to hear that from you.”

Yata’s skin prickled up with pleasant warmth. He’d actually learned something about this closed-off guy’s personality – as small as it was, that felt like an achievement. “Heh! I handled it better than you did. At least say ‘thanks’ or something.”

“Mm-hm.” Fushimi’s voice drew out into that lazy drawl again. “Should I do that before or after stuttering like an idiot and making excuses?”

That was unfortunately accurate – Yata shot him a disgruntled look before rallying to fire back. “Hey, at least I said it – that’s more than I can say for you.”

“I wonder about that…” Fushimi shot him a sideways look.

It set off his heart again full speed when their eyes met. Despite the teasing, Yata felt invigorated; he grinned back. “Shut up, jerk.”

The couple in front of them finished at the ticket counter, so there was no real chance to continue as Fushimi paid for their tickets. All things considered, though, Yata was in pretty high spirits. It had been there again: that connection between them. Maybe less intense than the night before, but the sense of things clicking into place was strong. He could feel the rush of it all the way to his bones.

Riding on that high, it felt natural to offer to pay for snacks. Yata shrugged off the dry reminder that theater food was ridiculously overpriced, repeated Fushimi’s instructions regarding his drink a few times in his head to get them down – carbonated, no real fruit flavors, low sugar content, seriously? – and took a spot in line while his date went to grab them seats.

It was kinda stupid, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that they were gonna share the popcorn. Yata shifted on his feet, anxious excitement pooling within him. Somehow, that just… felt really date-like. Or something. The bag between them and both of them reaching in at the same time, fingers brushing in the dark...

It’s not a real date, remember? He frowned, trying to keep his thoughts from getting too carried away. It was a bit of a downer, but he had to keep reminding himself. It’d be dumb to get his hopes up.

Still, this was the closest he’d gotten to the real thing, so he might as well enjoy it. Right?

There weren’t too many people in the theater when he made it in. Fushimi had seated them near the back in the center of the row, in front of some guy with his coat hanging on the seat beside him. As Yata was handing off Fushimi’s drink, a girl came in and took the seat, setting the coat around her shoulders and smiling warmly at the guy.

Ugh. The sight of them leaning in towards each other made his cheeks burn. He wasn’t sure why that shit still embarrassed him, but… Damn, whatever. It wasn’t any of his business. Yata turned and sat down firmly in his own seat, leaning his skateboard against it and hoping Fushimi hadn’t noticed the awkward moment.

It was a fleeting hope. “What’s your problem?”

Yata scowled to himself. Yeah, of course you’d notice. “Nothing.”

He could actually hear the raising of Fushimi’s eyebrow in his tone. “If you say so.”

“I fucking say so.” Yata shoved the bag of popcorn at him. “Here, hold this.”

Fushimi clicked his tongue in response. “Why should I have to hold it?”

“I bought it.”

“No one asked you to.”

“I was trying to be nice, jerk!” Yata pulled the bag back into his own lap, slouching in his seat with a scowl. “Fine, whatever. I’ll fucking hold it, you fussy bastard.”

“For the record,” Fushimi drawled at him, “when trying to convince someone to go along with you, ‘jerk’ and ‘fussy bastard’ might not be the best descriptive choices.”

Yata turned to shoot him a glare, nonplussed. “Yeah, says the asshole who called me an idiot while  trying to get a favor the first time!”

Fushimi frowned back, folding his arms. “You announced to a perfect stranger that you weren’t wearing underwear – I’m not sure how else you’d expect me to react to that? Should I have congratulated you?”

Damnit, he’d almost managed to forget that moment of mortification… Yata felt his face heat, and glanced around furtively. “K-keep your voice down, would you? Anyway, that was a mistake!”

Fushimi raised both eyebrows at him. “Really?” The corners of his mouth edged up into one of those little smirks.

What the fuck does that mean? Yata stared back at him, torn between disgruntled embarrassment and that traitorous little swirl of attraction. He wasn’t sure what the hell to think, but Fushimi’s eyes had gone lidded and they seemed to glitter in the dark behind his glasses. The sight was prompting that fluttering in Yata’s stomach again; he swallowed hard, finding it hard to respond. “Y-yeah,” he managed eventually, voice coming out low and uncertain.

In front of them, the screen and speakers suddenly came to life with the pre-movie advertisement.

Yata nearly jumped out of his skin, swearing under his breath – but at least it gave him an excuse to turn away from Fushimi and try to put that confusing moment behind him. We’re not actually dating, goddamnit, he reminded himself furiously, scowling at the screen.

Apparently whatever part of his brain decided on the ‘attraction’ thing hadn’t got the message.

It was easier to get his mind off of it once the movie started, thankfully. There was nothing too complicated in the plot – some kind of revenge thing for some heist in the past – but the characters were badass and the action was awesome. Yata couldn’t help but be pumped watching the first shoot-out. Fucking cool, yeah!

Unfortunately, when the movie came to a quiet point, he heard the sound of shifting behind him and then a noise that filled his heart with dread.

A low, soft moan.

… Seriously? Yata held his breath, ears piqued now. No way…

There was another breathy, feminine ‘mm’ and the soft, wet sound of lips parting and falling back together – exactly as it had been burned into his brain from the goddamn love scene in every stupid movie that had ever had one.

He didn’t think he’d ever have the misfortune of playing unwilling spectator to it in real life, but...

Fucking hell, are you kidding me?

Yata’s cheeks started to burn again. In an attempt to distract himself from the noises that were now impossible to ignore, he stole a furtive sideways glance at his date. Fushimi was staring blandly ahead at the movie, his arms still folded and light from the screen glinting off of his glasses. He didn’t appear to be showing any reaction at all. He seriously didn’t notice?

It seemed impossible, but why the hell else would there be no expression? There was no way Fushimi could just… not react, right? It was embarrassing, wasn’t it?

Yata squirmed in his seat. The sound of making out behind him was getting even more enthusiastic – it was only another minute or so before he couldn’t take it anymore. “Oi,” he hissed, turning his head to face Fushimi fully.

He got a sidelong unimpressed look in response. “What?”

There was another of those soft moans from behind him, and Yata blanched, but kept his eyes trained stubbornly on Fushimi’s face. “Y-you hear that, right?” he whispered furiously. “Th-those guys…”

“You’re just noticing it now?” Fushimi sighed, his expression not altering even a bit. “They’ve been at it since the movie started.”

“Wha – ? Seriously?” Yata goggled at him, unsure if he was more shocked by the unexpected news or by Fushimi’s lack of reaction. “H-how are you so calm? Don’t you find it embarrassing?”

“Not really.” The words came out breezy and unconcerned. “Who cares about that sort of thing?”

Fuck. How can he seriously ignore it? Yata felt his skin prickle with mortified heat as there was more shuffling and a low, breathy noise from the man behind them.  “B-but…”

Fushimi waited a beat or two for him to finish; when Yata couldn’t put his discomfort to words immediately, he clicked his tongue. “It’s better to just ignore them.”

“I-I know that!” Yata scowled, feeling stupid, and jerked his gaze back to the movie again. “Never mind,” he muttered, trying to stuff the embarrassment to the back of his head.

He felt like an idiot for bringing it up. Why am I the only one who’s affected? He couldn’t even focus on the action on the screen now, his ears catching every little shift and sound from behind him. Yata hunched his shoulders, mortified. What the hell? Everyone’s just cool with this, seriously?

He was debating running off to the washroom just to escape for a goddamn moment when Fushimi abruptly shifted in his seat. “Oi,” he spoke up, voice raised enough to be heard by those in the immediate vicinity; when Yata glanced at him, startled, he was halfway turned towards the seats behind them. “You two. Do you mind?”

There was a sharp feminine gasp from behind them. Yata didn’t dare risk looking back, staring at Fushimi with astonishment instead. Wait… didn’t he just say he didn’t care?

He was ignored in favor of the pair behind them. “Some of us don’t appreciate the noise pollution. Cut it out already, or take it somewhere else.”

“Hey, mind your own business, pal!” the man retorted in a furious mutter, sounding annoyed. “Not like there’s a law against it or – ”

“Actually, there is,” Fushimi cut him off, in that bored drawl that Yata was coming to recognize. His gaze was pointed. “It’s covered under the IRPD act, section 12.4: intent to commit indecency in a public setting.”

Huh? What the hell is he talking about…? Yata frowned, feeling his brow furrow. IR-what?

There was a startled silence; when the man spoke again, it was with much less certainty. “Wh-what kinda thing is – ?”

“IRPD,” Fushimi responded flatly, cutting him off once again. “Individual Right to Public Decency. Did you miss when it was passed this last year? Or do you think a public theater wouldn’t count?” He pushed his glasses up on his nose. “There was an individual court case just this past month. I believe the sentence was six months in the end.”

The woman let out an embarrassed-sounding squeak. “I-I’m leaving!” she announced suddenly, and there was the sound of furious shuffling followed by hasty footsteps down the row.

“W-wait – Kairi-chan…” The man hastily scrambled after her.

Fushimi turned after the fuss had past, settling back into his seat with a sigh. “Idiots,” he muttered.

Yata couldn’t help but stare at him, amazed. “Hey, that was seriously cool!” He made an effort to keep his voice down, but couldn’t help the grin spreading across his face. “How the hell did you remember all that law stuff, huh?”

“It’s not hard.” When Fushimi turned his head, there was a small smirk on his lips again. “When you invent your own, that is.”

“Huh?” Yata blinked. “Wait… you mean…”

“Obviously I made it up.” Fushimi shrugged. “Neither of those two morons could’ve told the difference. And even if they had, the theater staff would’ve heard the disturbance sooner or later and kicked them out anyway.”

Somehow, that addition made it even cooler. Yata’s grinned widened. “The hell? You made up a fake law to freak them out? That’s awesome!” He shook his head. “I thought you didn’t care about them, though – what changed your mind?”

In that instant, Fushimi’s eyes met his and held them – just for a single, short moment, and then he was looking away, frowning to himself. “You seemed to mind it.”

Yata stared at him, startled. “Eh?”

Fushimi clicked his tongue, frown deepening as he gazed forward fixedly. “It was getting annoying how you kept squirming around,” he muttered. “I didn’t want to have to deal with it for the entire movie.”

It wasn’t like Yata was great at reading people, but the reluctant tone and the lack of eye contact were speaking volumes. This guy’s not honest, is he? But still, in that moment it really felt like they were on the same side. Pleasant warmth spread out from his chest, blending in with the anxious fluttering in his stomach, and he smiled to himself. “Heh! Sure.”

Maybe – just maybe – there was something he could come out of this “date” with, after all.

There was no response, but Yata hadn’t really expected anything. As he turned back to the movie, he reached absently into the bag for more popcorn and felt Fushimi reach in at the same moment, their fingers brushing casually.

In the end, it really did feel fucking amazing.

 


 

 

"That was awesome!"

The words just kinda flew up to Yata's mouth as they exited the theater and he went ahead and blurted them out, in high spirits and feeling exhilarated. With his skateboard under his arm, his hot date beside him, and the rush from the encounter at the start propping up that sense of a really great story, he felt like he could've conquered the world. "Right?"

Fushimi met his gaze with a shrug, expression more or less neutral. "It wasn't terrible."

Wow, thanks for that buzzkill. The thought was more rueful than anything; he was starting to get used to the cynical mindset Fushimi brought to everything. Yata grinned back. "Yeah, okay, so if I translate that to a normal human reaction, pretty good, huh?"

He got one of those irritable tongue clicks; Fushimi frowned. "I'm not sure I'd trust your definition of 'normal'."

"How about 'not a complete killjoy'?" Yata supplied, smirking. "All right, so now what? Dinner, right?"

"Well deduced," Fushimi murmured, but there didn't seem to be anything condescending in his tone. "I hadn't planned anything. You decide." He let that hang for only a second and then added, "Anywhere we can get something other than fish or vegetables is fine."

Yata blinked at him. "Uh, okay. So how about a noodle place? There's a couple with tables along this street." Eating at the counter probably wouldn't be very date-like.

"Sure."

They ended up cycling through about three places before Fushimi finally seemed to settle on one that didn't have any of his major negatives - too many people, too cramped, too hot, too loud, not enough light... Yata lost track after the mumbled string of complaints became too long. He was just starting to lose patience by the time they finally walked into a pleasantly lit place with several empty tables and a tantalizing smell coming from the kitchen area and Fushimi glanced around for what seemed like a long moment before finally shrugging his shoulders and saying, "This isn't bad."

"Fucking finally," Yata muttered, shaking his head with good-natured exasperation as he looked up to make his selection from the menu. "You really are a fussy bastard."

Fushimi raised an eyebrow at him. "You really have a way with words," he drawled back, and stepped up to the front before there was a chance to respond. "Mild beef udon. No sprouts, onions, chives, or garnish of any kind."

Wow... like a kid. Yata raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment. "I'll have chicken yakisoba."

He went to find them a table while Fushimi was putting his card through to pay for the meal. There was a two-seater by the window that was kind of out of the way of most of the other people eating, so he went for that, leaning his skateboard against the wall beside his own seat and waiting for his date to return.

Fushimi didn't keep him waiting long. "They said twenty minutes."

"Cool." Yata leaned forward, setting his elbows on the table. There was still a blend of contentment and anxiety stirring in his stomach as he met Fushimi's eyes, and he had to mentally give himself a shake with a reminder to cool it. "So? Any sight of your nosy co-workers?"

"I'd hope they have at least enough decency not to spy," Fushimi commented drily. "But considering how much free time some of them seem to have, your guess is as good as mine."

That was kind of a daunting thought. Yata resisted the urge to glance around, despite the fact that he wouldn't have recognized one of Fushim's co-workers even if he saw them. "You're kidding, right?"

"Who knows." There was that little smile forming on Fushimi's face again, complementing the lazy drawl. "Why? Were you planning on pulling something embarrassing?"

Somehow, that smile had his cheeks flaring up again. Yata scowled back. "Wh-what's that s'posed to mean? Why would I?"

"You're the one who's worried about it - you tell me."

"That's just normal!" Yata shot back, defensively. "I mean, who the hell likes the idea of being spied on? It doesn't mean I was planning anything - what the hell?" The guilty little voice at the back of his head reminding him that maybe he'd kinda like to plan something along those lines didn't help; he made a soft 'ch' and fixed Fushimi with a narrow look. "Anyway, I'm not the weird one here! What's with that super picky order, huh?"

Fushimi clicked his tongue. "Nothing much. I told you I don't like fish or vegetables."

"Yeah, but most people get over that stage when they stop being five." Yata raised an eyebrow, relieved that the conversation from before had been effectively tripped up. He didn't need to start thinking about that stuff now. "Do you just not try new things, ever?"

He got another frown for that; Fushimi folded his arms across his chest. "Why do you care?"

"Huh?" The question threw him; Yata answered without even properly thinking, just going with what came immediately to mind. "Isn't it normal to try to get to know someone when you're on a date?"

Pretty much the second the words were out, he wished he could toss them back in. Shit! It was the fucking 'pleasant conversation' thing all over again, but this time about a hundred times worse. This time they were supposed to be faking a goddamn date, and he'd just talked about it like it was the real thing without even thinking. Hot embarrassment rushed over him in waves; he hastily averted his eyes, waiting for some kind of mocking comment about his slip-up.

It's not like it's a real date... c'mon, get it together!

There was a brief, almost awkward moment of silence, and then Fushimi's voice broke the silence, low and almost cautious. "In that case… what kind of food do you not like to eat?"

The unexpected concession had Yata jerking his gaze back up again, astonished. He blinked rapidly a few times, absorbing the fact that he hadn't been mocked - had, in fact, been taken seriously - and then swallowed hard, hastily wracking his brain for an answer. "N-nothing really. I'll kinda eat whatever." He shrugged. "When I was a kid, I used to hate milk, though."

"Ah." Fushimi offered another of those tiny smirks. "You have heard that milk helps you grow, right?"

Yata kicked him under the table. "Shut up!" He returned the smirk fiercely, shifting to lean forward a bit. "So? Where do you work with all those shitty co-workers?"

"Scepter 4 Specialty Computer Services," Fushimi responded. He seemed a bit more relaxed, or maybe that was Yata just reading his own mood into it. "You wouldn't believe how broadly my boss defines ‘services’," he muttered almost absently, and sighed. "Anyway, you mentioned that you don't go to that bar often. Where do you spend most of your time?"

"Well, that's actually... I mean, I just came out recently." Yata reached up to scratch at the back of his head, aiming a sheepish grin back across the table. "I'm still not sure about a lot of this crap, so, y'know, maybe I'll go back. Or something." He lowered the hand. "I usually hang out with my friends at this other bar, Homra. We all know the guy who owns it, so it's kinda just natural to gather there." Feeling bolstered by the way the conversation was flowing, he quickly followed up with, "What about you, where do you like to hang out?"

"At home. I don’t really like to be around people." Fushimi said it in a kind of offhand way, but he seemed to be watching Yata carefully. "Other than when I'm dragged out by 'well-meaning' co-workers." He let out a short, sharp breath. "That was the first time at that place for me, too. I was careless and let the information slip." Without pausing for a reaction, he went on. "How long have you been skateboarding?"

He kinda got the reason for the immediate change of subject. "Five years. Around that, anyway." Yata shrugged. "I'm just an amateur, but I compete in tournaments sometimes. Nothing too great yet, but I was thinking about trying for Street League this year."

"I assume that's something important," Fushimi commented blandly.

"Right, sorry." Yata grinned back. "It's an international event. I'd just be in the qualifiers, but the guy who runs the store I work at might sponsor me. Not sure I'd make it anywhere, though."

"You seemed good enough to me." The words came out in the same bland drawl, but Fushimi actually leaned forward, setting his crossed arms on the table in front of him. It brought their heads a lot closer together. "Not that I'm an expert."

The close proximity had his stomach doing another flip. Yata swallowed again, feeling his skin prickle up with a mix of interest and anxiety. He could see the dark curve of Fushimi's eyelashes behind his glasses, and the sight was appealing enough to be dangerous. "R-right. Well, thanks." He cleared his throat, hoping it came across as casual and not awkward. "S-so, what kinda stuff do you do, then? Like, at home?"

It wasn't until Fushimi raised both of his eyebrows that Yata realized exactly what that sounded like. "Th-th-that's not what I meant, jerk!"

Fushimi offered him a lazy smile. "I didn't say anything yet."

"Yeah, well, don't!" Yata heaved a frustrated breath, flustered and thrown off. "I meant like... you said you play video games, right? Which ones?"

"No specific kind. Anything that happens to look interesting." Fushimi shrugged again, still watching him with half-lidded eyes. It wasn't helping Yata's nerves. "Sometimes I'll make my own if nothing catches my attention."

That was enough to distract him from the physical stuff. Yata blinked. "Wait... you make games?"

"Nothing special," Fushimi clarified blandly. "Just those simple, repetitive apps. It's the kind of thing I get asked to do for work sometimes too, so it's not anything big."

"Still, that's fucking amazing!" Yata grinned at him, tossing the words out with as much sincerity as he could stuff into them. He felt a little thrill that was maybe part attraction but mostly just pure and simple admiration. "Gotta be honest, I thought you were just kind of an asshole at the bar, but you're actually really cool! And that stuff at the movies was awesome! I can't believe you made that up on the spot!"

Fushimi blinked in response, as if Yata's words had caught him off-guard. There was something endearing about his startled face; it seemed to lose that wary edge that characterized him normally.

Cute... The thought kinda snuck into his head, but somehow, he didn't feel like pushing down the warm rush of attraction that came with it. His stomach was fluttering pleasantly, and... well... he liked it. A lot.

The moment didn't last; Fushimi's expression settled again, though he didn't back off. There was a hesitance to his words when he spoke. "You're easily impressed."

"Heh! Says you." Yata let his grin widen, eyebrows coming down automatically with it. "You're too damn cynical. Just take the compliment."

Fushimi let out an amused-sounding huff. "With or without stuttering?"

"Yeah, yeah - I heard that one already, remember?" He wasn't gonna let this guy get to him the same way twice. Yata shifted forward more, gazing into Fushimi's eyes boldly and enjoying the resulting tingle across his skin. "Got anything new?"

The smile on Fushimi's face widened just slightly at the corners, his eyelids lowering even more and creating a veil of lashes over his eyes. "I wonder about that..."

It seemed like they were really close - not that it was all of a sudden, but in that moment, Yata was strongly aware of it. A little tug of anticipation joined the movement of warmth and nerves within his body. In that moment, he felt almost bold enough to lean in and close that last bit of distance between them.

Almost.

"Order eleven-thirty-six!" a man's voice called out loudly, and the bubble burst.

Fushimi shifted back, turning his gaze in the direction of the counter, where a tray was sitting with two steaming bowls. "That's ours."

"R-right." It was kinda like taking a bucket of ice water to the face. The hell am I doing? Yata pushed his chair out, nearly knocking over his skateboard in his haste to get to his feet. "I got it!" His face was prickling up again, but he tried to ignore it, stepping quickly away from the table. "Wait there!"

It was a dumb thing to say - where the hell was he gonna go? - but Fushimi didn't say anything in response, and Yata didn't dare risk a glance back to see his expression. Fuck. It was hard not to clench his hands into fists, but he managed with some effort. Get your goddamn head sorted, idiot - it's not a real date, remember?

The wave of stinging disappointment that washed over him with that thought spoke volumes about his lack of success with that concept.

Damnit... Yata scowled at the tray as he reached out to grab it from the counter. I really fucked this up, huh? When he turned to head back to the table, he could see that Fushimi had propped one arm up, delicate fingers curled into a loose, casual fist and chin resting on the back of his wrist. His dark bangs hung softly over the frame of his glasses, and even with his hands occupied, Yata had to swallow back the urge to reach out and brush it with his fingers.

Yup. He was definitely screwed.

 


 

 

Just because he was screwed didn’t mean he wasn’t gonna continue to enjoy himself, though. Their post-meal conversation went on long enough that the summer day was bleeding into night by the time they stepped outside again.

Yata couldn’t have listed every single thing they’d talked about it, but his brain felt pleasantly buzzed at the end of it. Despite the underlying reality, he still found himself grinning at Fushimi as they moved away from the entrance to figure out their next move. “So that’s it, huh?”

That was it. Technically, he’d gone on a date. And hell, he’d had a good time with a hot guy. That wasn’t bad, right? Pushing back his disappointment at the evening inevitably coming to an end was easier if he looked at it that way.

“I guess,” Fushimi agreed blandly, and Yata swallowed against the sudden tightness at this throat.

You fucking knew it was gonna happen, dumbass! “Yeah, well.” He shrugged, a little one-sided with the skateboard under his left arm. “Y’know, it was – ”

“You live around here, don’t you?” Fushimi interrupted him abruptly, and returned his startled look steadily. “I’ll walk with you.”

“Huh?” Yata blinked at him, caught off-guard by the unexpected offer. “Wait, don’t you have to take the subway to – ?”

“It’s a date, isn’t it?” Fushimi tipped his head forward a bit, something of a guarded look in his eyes as he regarded Yata. “I’m the one who asked you, so I’ll at least see you home.”

Right, the whole ‘proper date’ thing. Yata shot him a grin. “Man, you really take this whole thing seriously, huh?” Not like he was protesting, though. “Your co-workers aren’t gonna believe it if you tell ’em.” He let the grin shift to a smirk. “Bet they’re used to your pricky side too.”

Fushimi sighed. “Believe it or not, there are people who trust my ability to give an accurate report,” he drawled back, and raised an eyebrow. “Anyway, lead the way – I can’t exactly do it for you.”

“No shit.” Yata shook his head, still grinning, and moved on up the sidewalk. “All right. Let’s go!”

Despite the fact that they’d just been talking up a storm, the walk was quiet. Yata found he didn’t really mind the silence; there was something comfortable about just strolling next to each other, unhurried and simply enjoying the presence of someone he got along with beside him.

It was nice. Relaxing.

Besides that, it gave him a chance for the end of the date to really sink in. He was honestly cool with it, despite the letdown. Fushimi was a pretty good guy, and he’d had fun, after all. They had each other’s numbers – maybe there’d be a chance to hang out again in the future. Or even just text once in a while. He would’ve liked the chance to try one of Fushimi’s games too – that could be a thing.

Okay, he was kinda grasping at straws, but he really just didn’t want to let it end here. There had to be something…

“This is a good location,” Fushimi’s voice cut into his thoughts.

It was a welcome intrusion. “Yeah, right? One of my friends helped me out with getting a place not long ago.” He couldn’t help but smile, a little ruefully. “Shoulda seen my last place.”

Fushimi raised an eyebrow at him. “That bad?”

“Nah, just small.” Yata shrugged. “I got more money now that I’m working full time and winning some of those cash prizes in tournaments. It’s… weird.”

“What, having money?”

“Kinda.” It was hard to explain the strange exhilaration that came with being handed cash for doing something he loved – something he was good at. The feeling was strangely personal. And it wasn’t that he minded the idea of sharing those thoughts. More like… he got the feeling he’d like to. Later. He could see this thing between them getting to that point. They just weren’t there now.

It sucked that ‘later’ wasn’t a given.

They didn’t really have time for it anyway, though. Yata slowed as they approached his building. “This is it.” He hesitated at the walkway leading up to the front entrance. “So…”

Fushimi clicked his tongue. "I can at least see you to your door," he mumbled.

They were drawing out the inevitable at this point. Yata shook his head, letting out a short, rueful breath. "Yeah, sure, whatever. C'mon."

The elevator was broken - again - and his apartment was up two flights of stairs, but Fushimi didn't utter so much as a single word of complaint. Actually, his lack of complaining was weird at this point, considering how the food had gone.

It was setting Yata on edge. What's with this atmosphere? He wasn't sure if he was supposed to be anticipating or dreading whatever was gonna come next. It occurred to him that he didn't actually know Fushimi that well - inviting a strange guy up to his apartment maybe wasn't the best idea.

Too late now. "Right, so... here." Yata stopped in front of his door, turning to face Fushimi again. Fuck, he wasn't sure what to do now. Did they just say goodbye and that was it?

Wait... was Fushimi expecting him to invite him in? Was that happening?

How far did he expect to take this for the sake of his goddamn co-workers?

While he was internally struggling with that, Fushimi seemed to have gathered himself. He shifted slightly from one foot to the other, and muttered, almost too low to hear, "Are you free again on Friday?"

For all the possibilities he'd considered, that one hadn't been among them. Yata blinked in response. "Huh?"

"Friday," Fushimi repeated, raising his voice and looking up to meet Yata's gaze evenly. "Are you free?"

"Uh..." Slowly, the gears in his brain started to turn again - Yata hastily skimmed over what he remembered of his schedule. "Yeah - yeah, I think so. Why?"

Fushimi clicked his tongue, frowning slightly. "Obviously so we can go out again. What else would I be asking for?"

"How the hell would I know?" Yata bristled automatically in response to the tone - and then did a double take as the first part sunk in. "Wait... what?"

If anything, Fushimi's expression soured even further. "Do I really need to say it again?"

"Eh? Uh... no, just..." It was hard to think with his head rushing around in circles over that. It just wasn't sinking in for some reason. "Is - is there some other thing with your co-workers you didn't mention or - ?"

He got another of those sharp, irritated noises in response. "Do they have to be the reason I do anything?" Fushimi's gaze shifted to the side. "If you're not interested, just say it."

"I didn't say I wasn't interested!" Hell. Yata felt his heart begin to flutter like mad in his chest, and fought to keep from looking too eager. It was... it was just hanging out, right? He shouldn't get his hopes up or anything. "Friday's good. Yeah." At that, he allowed himself a grin in return. "Let's meet up!"

The date may have been fake, but the connection was real - he was more sure of it than ever. The thrill that came with that reassurance washed over him. Next time... Okay, they could start just hanging out. No weirdness or anything. If something else happened, great, but he wasn't gonna get his hopes –

"Then, can I kiss you goodnight?"

For the second time in less than two minutes, Yata's thoughts crashed, burned, and died a spectacular death.

Wait, wait, wait... did he just...?

He was pretty sure he looked like an idiot, gaping in response to that soft mumble of a request, but he couldn't seem to help it. Shock was making his skin prickle up. "Wh-wh-wha... what did you... just...?"

He said 'kiss', right? I didn't just make that shit up in my head?

There was a noticeable hint of color at the high curve of Fushimi's cheeks; he deepened his frown and clicked his tongue, looking away sharply. "Forget it."

"Wait!" Yata hastily reached out to grab his wrist and prevent him from turning to walk away. "Just wait for a goddamn minute, will you?" He could feel hot embarrassment spreading up over his face again, but stared back stubbornly when Fushimi turned warily to face him again, lips turning down aggressively into a frown as he fought the awkwardness. "You... you said this date was fake, didn't you? So why – ?"

"Hah?" Fushimi raised an eyebrow at him. "When did I say it was fake?"

"When you fucking called, you..." That thought trailed off as Yata skimmed back over the conversation in his memory. Okay, so Fushimi had never actually used the word 'fake'. But...

"All I said was that I needed to go on a date to get my co-workers to shut up." Fushimi breathed out sharply, eyeing Yata with flat disbelief. "I didn't say a fake date. Why would you assume - ?"

"Sh-shut up! What the hell was I s'posed to think, huh?" Yata blurted out defensively. His face felt like it was on fire now. "You said it like that was all it was, getting your co-workers off your back! It's normal to think that means it’s fake! That's what you wanted in the bar, wasn't it?" Now that he was on a roll, he was spitting the words out as fast as they came into his head. "If it was s'posed to be a real date, then why'd you use that lame excuse, anyway? Why not just ask me out like a normal fucking person?"

Fushimi clicked his tongue again, looking away, and realization suddenly struck.

"Wait... did you...?"

When he left that question hanging, Fushimi sighed impatiently. "Don't assume things on your own," he muttered.

"You did! You actually made that excuse up so you wouldn't have to ask me out like a normal fucking person!" The words came out slow that time, laced with disbelief. "Didn't you?"

Fushimi glared at him, as if it was somehow Yata's fault that his lame-ass excuse had been exposed. "I didn't make anything up," he mumbled, grudgingly. "It's true that my co-workers won't keep their noses out of things that don't concern them. Why do you think I was at that bar in the first place?"

Yata stared at him, nonplussed. Is he for real? "Yeah, but - "

The next door over abruptly swung open. "Can you guys keep it down out here?" the guy demanded, clearly exasperated. "Just agree you're hot for each other and kiss already. Or go inside. I don't care. But do it quietly. I work the early shift tomorrow."

It was like every vein in his body turned to ice. Yata froze, staring at his neighbor's annoyed face with shock blanking out everything in his brain that was even remotely capable of thought.

Next to him, Fushimi clicked his tongue. "We get it," he muttered.

Appeased, the neighbor retreated back into his own apartment. Yata blinked at his closed door for a second, and then slowly turned his head to regard Fushimi. His anger and annoyance had drained, and he still wasn't quite sure his brain was functioning. "Th-that... just now..."

"I'm guessing I've worn out my welcome," Fushimi drawled in response, not quite meeting his eyes. "I should - "

Yata felt the scowl building on his face even as his fingers tightened on Fushimi's wrist. "Don't even fucking think it," he muttered fiercely. "You're not leaving 'til we sort this shit out."

Fushimi heaved what sounded like a long-suffering sigh, turning slowly to frown at him. "What, exactly, do you think needs sorting out?"

What the hell? Try 'everything', huh? Yata frowned, kicking his brain back into gear for probably the third or fourth time since they'd come in. First, Fushimi wanted to see him again. Not because of anything his co-workers did or didn't say, but just for the sake of seeing him. That was awesome enough as it was, but then there was the fact that this date wasn't even because of nosy co-workers. It was real - an actual fucking date this whole time! And to top that off, Fushimi wanted to -

Fushimi... wanted to...

Oh yeah. Right. That.

It was kinda hard to draw up his nerve, but somehow Yata managed it. He took in a breath, straightened as much as possible, and cleared his throat, a wild idea crossing his mind. "Saruhiko," he said, testing out the name with as much confidence as he could summon.

Fushimi's gaze jerked up to meet his, that endearingly startled look on his face, and Yata leaned in before he could have a chance to rethink it, tilting his face up to capture those thin lips with his.

It was the first time he'd ever tried actually kissing someone. So... yeah, it probably could've gone better. His mouth planted somewhere near the corner of Fushimi's, and Fushimi's lips were slack with surprise, but the contact was soft - softer than he'd expected, even - and the combination of warmth and closeness and the tentative, intimate touch sent sparks through his entire body.

Yata pulled back quickly, despite the fact that he desperately wanted to linger, watching Fushimi's face anxiously for some kind of reaction. True, it had been his idea, but what if Yata had done it wrong? What if it had turned out gross or stupid?

Had he fucked everything up after all?

It seemed like Fushimi was spending a lot time just staring at him, too. Yata felt his mouth quirk with impatience and nerves, eyebrows coming down into a fierce, embarrassed glare. "S-say something, will you?"

That seemed to be enough to shatter the mood. Fushimi's eyes narrowed abruptly. "Something," he drawled, and tipped his head before Yata could snap back at him, leaning in to bring their mouths together again.

The second time was better. More confident. Yata shut his eyes without thinking, the thrill of the contact shivering through his body. Fushimi's lips were active this time, pursing with tentative purpose to fit against his own. There was warmth between them - a pleasant mingling of breath and body heat that had excitement coiling in Yata's belly.

Hell yes...

They broke apart after a moment, breathing uneven, and when he opened his eyes, Fushimi's met them across only a short distance.

It was almost overwhelming. Yata sucked in a breath sharply, struggling to gather his thoughts. Out of the chaos in his brain, one thing did manage to stand out, and he couldn't help but grin again as he thought of it, a helpless gesture that was returned tentatively on Fushimi's flushed face as well.

"You have a really nice smile, by the way."

 

The End