Building Bridges




Yatogami was sipping his drink when Yata returned to the table; he looked up when the chair was pulled out, and raised an eyebrow, lowering the mug. "Is something wrong?"

"It's nothing." He really didn't feel like getting into it with a total stranger. Yata let out an aggravated sigh, picking up his water and taking a long drink.

His heart felt sore, just thinking about what happened in there. Damnit, what the hell is his problem, anyway? He really didn't get it - none of Saruhiko's actions made sense. Even if he wracked his brain trying to think why his roommate would've stalked him on his date and then kissed him - after rejecting him, and not to mention mocking his confession - he couldn't figure it out.

It didn't help that his brain kept going back to the moment when Saruhiko's lips had pressed onto his - the way his heart had instinctively jumped, and he'd been momentarily paralyzed with a mix of shock and want. He should've pushed that bastard away sooner, but damnit, he just had to hesitate for that one second...

Can't be helped, though, right? Yata set down his water glass, frowning at it for a moment. He wasn't over it. Not by a fucking mile.

"On a broken path
As night obstructs the vision
A gentle foot treads."

The tinny-sounding voice snapped him out of that trance; Yata glanced up, startled, and noticed the phone being held out on the table in his date's hand. "Hah?" His eyebrows knotted on his forehead. "The hell...?"

"As it says." Yatogami was studying him with serious eyes, unsmiling. "Don't be too reckless if your way is unclear." He pulled the phone back towards him, straightening. "There are many situations where a gentle touch would be more effective than a fist, Yata Misaki."

Like I wanted a fucking lecture. Yata frowned, staring at the phone dubiously. "What the hell was that?"

"My late master, Ichigen-sama, wrote haiku in his spare time." Yatogami pulled the phone back a ways, smiling at it with an odd, fond little smile. "Whenever I feel conflicted or uncertain, I can count on his wisdom to bring me back to myself." When he looked up again, his eyes were oddly bright. "What do you think? Amazing, right?"

Yata looked from his face to the phone and back again. Are you kidding me? "That's creepy..."

"C-Creep...?" Yatogami looked shocked - and then outraged. "How dare you insult Ichigen-sama!"

The knot of irritation in his stomach was starting to get worse; Yata wasn't sure if he cared any more that he was about to ruin his first date. He narrowed his eyes, leaning forward with a scowl, and opened his mouth to respond with something rude.

Before he could get the words out, someone rushed up to the table from his left and slammed their hands down, knocking over his empty water glass and narrowly missing doing the same to Yatogami's mug, which he managed to salvage at the last second. "Kurosuke!" the person cried out, voice muffled, and Yata recognized one half of the trench coat couple, still with a poorly-positioned fake mustache.

What the fuck - ?

Yatogami's expression was startled, but he seemed to recognize the voice, because his eyes narrowed. Reaching out quickly, he yanked off the fedora and mustache. Long, silvery hair tumbled loose; the owner pouted cutely.

Yata shrank back down in his seat instinctively, feeling his face heat. "A-A w-w-woman...?"

"Neko," Yatogami said, voice low and ominous. He was staring at the woman in the trench coat, looking thoroughly displeased. "What are you doing here?"

"Nnnn! Never mind that!" The woman - Neko? - puffed out her cheeks, leaning over the table again and pointing an insistent finger almost into Yata's nose. "This guy is no good! You should get rid of him right away, Kurosuke!"

Confusion was suddenly stronger than his usual bashfulness. Yata blinked, nearly crossing his eyes to stare at the finger in his face. "H-Hah...?"

Yatogami glanced from him to Neko, looking unimpressed. "Oh? Why do you say that?"

That was enough time for Yata to gather his wits again; he swatted at the hand in his face, trying to will away his blush. "O-Oi, don't just point at people..."

She glowered at him, making an angry noise that sounded strangely like a cat's hiss, and stubborn raised the finger again to continue pointing. "Shiro saw him kissing another boy in the bathroom!" she announced, loudly.

His whole body froze up at that. Fuck...

"Neko, calm down!" The new voice was vaguely familiar; Yata recognized the second of the trench coat couple - and the guy who'd walked him on him and Saruhiko, go fucking figure - hastily moving up to stand next to his partner. He reached out to grab the pointing hand and gently pull it back down. "You're attracting too much attention."

She really was, Yata realized, to his complete embarrassment. A quick glance around revealed quite a few people who'd turned to stare at them, probably in reaction to her (stupidly loud) declaration. You have got to be fucking kidding me... He could feel his face burning even hotter, and couldn't help but sputter. "W-Wait - I - i-it's not - h-hold on - "

"I did see him, though, Kuroh," the new man explained earnestly, removing the mustache and hat. His hair was short, and even lighter than the woman's. "Sorry - we didn't come here to interfere or anything! Neko and I wanted to make sure that nothing bad would happen on your date, and I just happened to see it..."

Yatogami looked from him to Neko, and then fixed his eyes on Yata again, frowning. "Is this true, Yata Misaki?"

"Th-That's what I've been trying to explain!" he burst out, suddenly feeling furious despite the embarrassment. He turned his head to glower at the random observers in the coffee shop. "Oi! Mind your own fucking business, why don't you!"

"Kurosuke is Neko and Shiro's Kurosuke!" Neko declared loudly; when he turned, she was still glaring at him. "We have to watch out for him! And kissing other people when you're on a date is no good!"

"Sh-Shut up! I wasn't the one who started it!" Yata shifted in his seat, trying to keep a good distance between her and him. "My fucking roommate ambushed me in there and pushed me into a wall! H-He's a jerk, okay?" Somehow, he felt the need to clarify with, "A-And kind of messed up. Or something. Anyway!" He turned his gaze back on Yatogami, dead serious despite his embarrassment. "I'm not a fucking cheater. There's no way I'd do something like that while on a date."

Yatogami studied him for what felt like a long moment, and then shut his eyes and sighed. He held up his phone, swiping it to unlock and pressing one of the buttons in the app that came up.

"Fluttering grass blade
A small speck in the water
The current carries it"

Yata stared at the phone, nonplussed. Fucking creepy... "What the hell does that mean?"

"We all struggle with circumstances beyond our control at times." Yatogami's expression was satisfied as he turned the screen back off, setting his phone down. "I haven't known Ichigen-sama to be wrong yet."

Neko puffed out her cheeks and made a little 'harumph' sound. The other man patted her shoulder with a comforting little smile.

Saved by a fucking recorder. Yata slumped back in his seat, not sure whether to be relieved or disgusted. "Yeah, okay, sure."

Yatogami fixed him with a severe look, crossing his arms again. "Your roommate sounds like a disreputable and untrustworthy person."

"He's not really - " Yata hesitated, caught between the instinctive urge to defend Saruhiko and his own conflicted feelings on the subject. He sighed, scratching at the back of his head with agitation. "Well, yeah, kind of, but it's just - it's really fucking complicated."

"I see." When he met Yatogami's gaze again, he found himself being studied with something like understanding. "I think perhaps you and I have more in common than I first thought, Yata Misaki." His eyes flickered very briefly to the other man standing beside them.

I don't really get it, but whatever. A thought occurred to him then; he shot his date a flat stare. "Hey... are you just going to keep calling me by my full name forever?"

"Ah! Kuroh does that a lot," the other man cut in, cheerily. "You kind of get used to it after a while." He tilted his head when Yata turned to eye him warily, and smiled. "Since we're all here now, should we sit together?" Then he blinked. "Oh! Or did you want to be alone to continue your date?"

Yatogami's eyes met his across the table; the expression on his face was wry. Yata thought back to their previous painfully stilted conversation, and then turned his gaze up at the other two. Neko had apparently lost interest in pouting suspiciously at him, and was busily peering through one end of his forgotten water glass at various spots around the room. The other man returned his look with a bright, almost too innocent smile.

Fuck it... "Yeah, sure," he grumbled, still feeling put out by the whole business. "Why not?"

It seemed like a fitting way to end this whole disaster, anyway.

The date - if it could still be called that - lasted for another half an hour before Yatogami announced that he had to get ready for fencing practice, and they all parted ways.

Not soon enough. Yata tossed his skateboard onto the ground with a frustrated sigh, letting his pent-up restlessness fuel him as he hopped on and kicked off. The sting and rush from the wind helped to release some of the tension from earlier; after a minute or two of moving around, his mind finally started to clear up.

He hadn't forgotten that there was still some unfinished business left to deal with, too.

Saruhiko... Yata frowned to himself, absently flipping from the side of the road up onto the sidewalk. In a way, he kind of just wanted to avoid it all - maybe go hang out at the bar for the rest of the day or something. He was going to have to ask Chitose what the fuck he was thinking when he set up that stupid date. And if he was there, he could push that painful confrontation from before to the back of his mind and just let loose for a bit.

But still...

"Only look at me," Saruhiko had said - right before kissing him. And the look on his face... Somehow, Yata couldn't forget it. It bothered him, but he wasn't sure why. It was... almost desperate. Crazed, even.

Ugh, all right, whatever. He was probably going to get mocked for his trouble, but he just had to make sure that idiot was okay. And, anyway, he couldn't avoid the room forever. Eventually, they were going to have to sort this out - at the very least so that they could co-exist until the year was up. I'll just say I'm changing clothes or something.

That would probably work. It was even kind of true - he did want to get out of the fancy 'date' clothing. So, no big deal, right?

Having that settled in his head eased a little of the anxiety that had formed in his chest. Yata almost wasn't nervous at all as he approached the door to their room.


Well, no point putting it off - resisting the urge to hesitate and trying to ignore the way his heart picked up, he reached out to unlock and open the door.

The lights were out; for a second, Yata wasn't sure if Saruhiko was even in there. As his eyes adjusted, though, he caught sight of the familiar thin body curled on the bottom bunk, facing the wall.

For real? For a moment, he wasn't sure how to react. Yata pushed the door closed behind him, staring at Saruhiko with an odd blend of irritation and concern stirring up inside him. He's not sick again, is he?

That thought was enough to break him out of his inactive state. Letting out a half-hearted 'ch', Yata set down his skateboard and stepped away from the entrance for a better look at the figure on his bed. He still has his glasses on...

Actually... As he got closer, he could see that Saruhiko wasn't even pretending to sleep. His eyes were open, and he was staring at the wall. Even as Yata became aware of it and his skin prickled up immediately in response, that gaze shifted, turning sideways to look at him.

It was suddenly hard to breathe; Yata swallowed, feeling his shoulders tense up, and struggled to keep his cool. "Oi, Saru..." His voice came out with a kind of half-hearted irritation. "Don't just sleep on my bed, jerk..."

Saruhiko's gaze slid away from him again; he clicked his tongue. "Do you really care?" he mumbled, almost too quietly to be heard.

That lackluster tone of voice was making Yata feel edgy. What the hell is even happening here? He hesitated for a moment, then decided fuck it, and sat down on the thin strip of bed that was left behind his roommate's back, bringing up a knee so that his back faced the headboard and bracing his hand on the mattress. "I don't get you," he admitted, automatically lowering his voice to match the quiet atmosphere. "What the hell is your deal with me, anyway?"

He'd already prepared himself for a sarcastic remark or something insulting, so it was kind of a surprise when Saruhiko just shut his eyes and made a feeble-sounding 'hmph' noise instead.

Yata studied his face in silence for a moment, heart still thudding against his chest as he waited, and then tipped his head back, letting out a frustrated sigh. "You're not fucking fair, Saruhiko," he muttered, clenching his fingers against the bedsheets. "You always call me a dumbass, so you gotta know I can't figure it out myself..." The pained lump was rising again at the back of his throat; he swallowed again, voice rough when he pushed on. "I-It's not like you don't know how I feel. If - If there's something you want from me, then..."

His voice broke. Even as he took a second to collect himself, he could feel the silence stretching between them, tense and strained. "Then... just tell me, goddamnit!"

It was like his outburst was enough to stir up the stale air in the room. Saruhiko pulled in an audible breath, and then abruptly pushed himself up to a sitting position, turning so that his back faced the headboard as well. He kept his head down, face shadowed, eyes still closed behind his glasses. "Misaki," he murmured - just that, and nothing else.

So... that means what? Yata studied that down-turned face anxiously for clues. It was hard to tell much of anything with the lack of light and the poor angle. "Sa-Saruhiko?" he tried, tentatively.

"Shut up, idiot," Saruhiko mumbled, almost too quietly to be heard. His mouth tightened, as if with pain.

"Yeah, I'm an idiot, all right." Yata frowned, tearing his gaze away, and couldn't help but flash back to when he'd been walking back from the beach, planning out the confession he was going to make after being kissed for the first time ever in his life. His throat clenched up again. "That's why - "

"Shut up!" The unexpected outburst had him jerking his gaze back over; Saruhiko had still not raised his head, but his teeth were clenched. "You're annoying, Misaki," he gritted out, low and dark. "This is why I can't deal with you."

Even after he'd braced himself for it, it still hurt. Yata forced out a soft, half-hearted 'ch' and turned his face again, free hand clenching into a fist in his lap. "Look who's talking," he muttered, struggling to keep his voice under control as painful emotion rose up again in his chest. "Fine." He slid his knee off the bed. "If you really can't stand to be around me, I'll just g - "

All at once, his shoulder was grabbed and he was yanked backwards, hitting the bed with a startled grunt, and then feeling his eyes widen as Saruhiko bent over him, his left hand pushing down on Yata's right shoulder.

What the fuck...? "Sa - "

"Only," Saruhiko cut him off, and Yata caught the edge of desperation in his voice even as narrowed blue eyes met his, "look at me."

Thoughts of pushing him off stilled. "Saruhiko..."

The expression on his roommate's face seemed to twist up. "Misaki," he responded, breathy and drawn out. His fingers tightened on Yata's shirt, and then he bent forward further, resting his forehead against the opposite shoulder. He was noticeably trembling.

Something fierce and protective sparked in Yata's chest; without stopping to think to hard about it, he reached up and looped his arms around his roommate's shoulders, clenching his own fingers in the fabric beneath his hands as he tightened his hold. Saruhiko's breath was harsh and ragged against his collarbone, but he didn't pull back.

For a long moment, neither of them spoke.

Then, finally, Saruhiko shifted in his hold, mumbling something unintelligible.

"What?" Yata kept his voice low; somehow, it felt like the moment was so fragile it could break any second. He was acting entirely on instinct, not really sure what was happening or why, just driven by a need to drive away that awful expression from earlier. His heart was pounding hard against his chest, and he thought he could feel the rivaling beat from Saruhiko's as well, just above him.

It was the strangest experience, but somehow... he didn't dislike it.

Saruhiko pulled back slowly, just far enough that their eyes could meet, and a prickle of shock went through Yata's entire body as he noticed the unmistakable trail of moisture flooding from under his roommate's glasses and tracking down his face.

Saruhiko is... crying?

As he stared dumbly, unsure quite how to react, Saruhiko reached up with shaky fingers to pull the now-askew pair of glasses from his face, eyes still leaking and tears sliding down along his cheeks and over the sides of his nose even as he set them aside. "Don't... get over me," he muttered, and then turned his gaze to the side, clicking his tongue as if saying the words had somehow used up his quota of not being an anti-social dick. It was hard to tell in the dark, but it kind of looked like he might be blushing, a bit, under all that.

Yata's heart swelled; he could feel the smile building on his face and the sting rising up to blur his own vision, and didn't bother to hold back the rush of emotion that surged within him along with it. "Like I was able to anyway, asshole," he responded, not even caring when his voice cracked at the end, and slid one hand up to the back of Saruhiko's head to pull him down and bring their lips together.

The fingers on his shoulder tightened - with surprise, or some of the same elation he was caught up in himself, he didn't really know - and then Saruhiko's breath hitched against his cheek, and he was suddenly pushing back with unexpected aggression, the wet streaks of his tears smearing between their faces and his mouth warm and responsive as he pressed Yata down against the mattress.

At that point, it was kind of hard to tell which one of them was shaking - maybe they both were. The rush of sudden happiness and pleasure that came with the combination of declaration - well, more like demand, but close enough - and kiss was intense to the point of being overwhelming after the hurt and frustration from earlier. When Saruhiko finally pulled back, tipping his head to rest his forehead against Yata's, it felt like the best moment of his entire life.

I don't even fucking care about the last two days - this is worth everything!

There were about a million things running through his mind right then - questions he wanted to ask, stuff they needed to talk about - but most importantly... Yata took in a breath, and smiled up at Saruhiko's damp but steady gaze even as his stomach fluttered. "I like you," he declared, quiet but confident, "Saruhiko."

The corners of his roommate's mouth edged up; he shut his eyes and made a soft, amused noise. "You don't say."

"Shut up." Yata curled his fingers in that dark hair and tugged lightly. "Don't kill the moment, dick."

"Mm, sorry." There was no apology in the tone at all, but the open contentment in Saruhiko's eyes when he opened them again was enough to make up for it.

Yata freed his fingers and slid both hands around to wipe the remaining dampness from his partner's cheeks. "You still have to say it back, you know."

"I know that." Saruhiko shut his eyes again as Yata's thumbs brushed up under them. His voice was light and unconcerned, but the tremor in it gave him away. A little shudder ran through his body, and then as Yata's motions stilled, he murmured, very quietly, "I... like you. Misaki."

Somehow, the way he said that name made it not sound bad at all. Yata felt heat rising on his cheeks - a shiver stirred up at the pit of his stomach. "Saruhiko..."

The corners of his partner's mouth quirked up again. "Go out with me," he added, without opening his eyes.

"You fucking..." Yata stared at him for a moment, a faint thread of exasperation threading through the good feelings. He surged up, pushing an unresisting Saruhiko off of him and over onto his side, rolling to follow. "I asked you first, damnit!"

Those blue eyes slid open, regarding him from less than a foot away. "So, are you refusing, then?" Despite the teasing, there was a kind of guarded look in them.

"I fucking should, you asshole." A grin was building on his face in response, all the same. "But whatever. Yeah, I'll date you, fuckhead - you can relax." He reached out impulsively to grasp Saruhiko's upturned hand in his own, feeling a little rush of warmth from the contact.

Slender fingers curled almost hesitantly against his, and Yata closed his eyes, savoring it.

Thinking rationally was a surprisingly difficult concept with Misaki's hand clutching his and Misaki's face just a short distance away, with that smile on his face like he was happier than he'd ever been. Misaki's eyes slid open and the open affection in them nearly took Fushimi's breath away.

This time, the answering pleasure in his own body was enough to drown out that thin, increasingly hollow cry of panic at the back of his head.

He didn't leave. Misaki was here; Misaki hadn't pushed him away, even after Fushimi had done everything he could to destroy whatever was between them. Somehow, Misaki's hands were stronger; Misaki continued to hold on, and endure, clinging to Fushimi as if he was worth fighting for. Misaki's arms had opened for him, and falling into them had felt like the only thing he could do.

He couldn't even remember the last time he'd cried, before this.

It was kind of annoying, really, but that couldn't be helped. He remembered the feel of Misaki's fingers on his face, surprisingly gentle despite his rough attitude - or maybe not so surprising; Fushimi had been taken care of by him before, so he knew - wiping off the traces of tears, like it was all just that simple. Like he could wipe off the bad feelings and leave everything fresh and new.

Stupid. There wasn't any bitterness in that thought, though.

"So..." Misaki's voice broke the comfortable silence that had fallen between them. He had a sort of wry smile on his face. "You gonna tell me what the last two days were about, or what?"

The question was enough to pull up the more familiar strand of irritation. Fushimi clicked his tongue, frowning down at their joined hands to avoid that straightforward gaze. "Do we have to talk about that now?"

"Yeah." The answer came without any hesitation - but it didn't have resentment behind it either. Misaki's fingers tightened around his. "I get that you're not that great with all this 'feelings' crap and all - but y'know, sometimes there's gonna be shit we gotta talk about."

It was hard to deny the logic behind his words. Fushimi shut his eyes, momentarily blocking out the conversation. "You wouldn't understand," he mumbled - a last, sullen attempt to delay the inevitable.

"Yeah? Try me." There was a note of stubborn obstinace in Misaki's voice, like he thought he might have to fight for this. "I went through hell because of you, and yeah, I forgive you and all, but seriously, you need to fucking tell me why."

There it was; if he wanted to seize this chance - if he really wanted Misaki in his life - this was the unpleasant task that had to be done. And he couldn't delude himself; something like this would no doubt come up again. It would be a series of repeats - uncomfortable moments of vulnerability scheduled at irregular but all-too-frequent intervals for the foreseeable future.

And, if he was lucky, the unforeseeable future as well.

"My recommendation would be to find the choice that would leave you with the least regrets."

At this point, it was clear what that choice needed to be. Fushimi clicked his tongue again, and then released his breath in a long, agitated sigh. "I never intended to fall for you," he muttered reluctantly, opening his eyes again to stare at their hands again. Misaki's fingers were shorter than his, but they seemed to have more strength. "It was... I miscalculated."

He could hear the slight hitch in Misaki's breath, but he didn't interrupt.

"It's not something you'd understand." He'd come to terms with not being 'normal' a long time ago, and barely thought of it now. It wasn't like he wanted anyone's pity - least of all Misaki's. "There's no such thing as permanence in this world. I don't want things that can be easily broken or lost."

I don't want to reach for something when everything I value ends up breaking in the end.

There was a pause between them; he could feel Misaki's eyes on him, and heard the even rhythm of his breathing. "Yeah," he said, after that moment passed, "I don't really get it. If you think about that kind of shit all the time, you'll never be happy. I can't get that kind of thinking, you know?" He sighed, sounding almost exasperated. "But whatever. That's actually perfect, if you think about it."

That statement was confusing enough to have him lifting his gaze again, meeting Misaki's determined gaze with bafflement. "What?"

"You said there's no permanent things, right? They all break, or whatever." Misaki smirked at him, eyebrows coming down with a kind of obnoxious confidence. "If that's how it is, all you need is one thing that doesn't break, and then you're set. Right?"

The brazen simplicity of it caught him completely off-guard; Fushimi blinked several times, and then frowned, perturbed. "You can't just - "

"Hah? What the hell do you know about what I can't do?" Misaki squirmed so that the arm tucked under his body was freed, and curled it into a fist, pointing his thumb out at his chest with reckless certainty. "Just go ahead and try to break me, Saru. You already tried once, and I'm still here, aren't I?"

There was no denying the truth of that. Fushimi narrowed his eyes, rational thought already working to refute it just the same. There were so many things that could happen - accidents, fights, interference from forces outside their control. The human body was astonishingly fragile. Human life was fleeting. Human relationships were complicated, and easily torn apart. He knew all of that, and yet...

Still, something in him wanted to believe in that simple logic, wholeheartedly.

Fushimi clicked his tongue, turning his gaze aside. "Do whatever you want."

"Heh." Misaki sounded insufferably pleased with himself - but when Fushimi turned his eyes back, cautiously, he found that he was being regarded with that same open affection from before. "Of course I will! Just watch me, Saruhiko!"

It was addicting, the way that look could make him feel. Fushimi tightened his hold on Misaki's hand, just a bit.

Even if it was going to break in the future, at least for now... if he could feel like this...

It's good right now.

"Hey, Saru..." Misaki's voice broke through the quiet moment again. He was frowning thoughtfully. "What do you think of 'World Conflict'?"

Fushimi stared at him, feeling his eyebrows furrow. "What are you talking about?"

"The title - you know, for our game?" Misaki abruptly grinned, looking undeservedly smug. "'World Conflict'. Cool, huh?"

Why are you thinking about that right now? Fushimi clicked his tongue. "How does that have anything to do with skateboarding?"

"It's not about skateboarding - it's about us." He scooted forward to press his forehead against Fushimi's again, squeezing his hand. "Our two worlds, conflicting - that's us, isn't it?"

The new point of contact had warmth spreading out through his body again. Fushimi stared back for a moment, not quite sure how to react. Trust Misaki to come up with something like this...

He didn't really feel like being one-upped, though. Sliding his free hand up, he cupped the side of Misaki's face, hesitating a little as he processed the unfamiliar and slightly awkward feel of someone else's cheek against his fingers.

The reaction was immediate and very satisfying - Misaki blinked at him, startled, and then the faint edge of a flush started under his fingers. Fushimi could feel the warmth radiating from it, which was odd but not unwelcome. "Sa-Saruhiko..."

"Misaki," he murmured, and then let the smirk edge its way onto his face. "I knew you'd come up with something lame."

"Geh - " Misaki sputtered, his eyes flashing with sudden, embarrassed indignation. "I-It's not lame, damnit!"

As expected... Misaki's reactions are always the best. "If you say so." To top off his victory, Fushimi leaned in further and swallowed the remaining protests with a kiss.

This kind of thing... It probably was worth the risk, in the end.

"I'm done." Fushimi pushed back his chair, plucking the flash drive from his work computer with his completed exercise sheets. "Should I make copies now, or did you want to look them over?"

"Hm? I think you can leave them for now." Munakata looked up from his own work, setting his pen down. "I don't believe I need to look them over - I trust your work - but it's the end of your shift. Seminars don't begin until Thursday, so you can make copies on your Wednesday shift."

Around this time last semester, he probably would've ignored that and printed them anyway. This time... "Got it." Fushimi set the papers back down on his desk, reaching for his bag instead.

It wasn't like he had plans, exactly - not anything on a schedule, at least - but Misaki had started up his evening shifts at the cafeteria now that the semester had begun, and there was only so much time before the dinnertime rush showed up. After not seeing each other all day, he would prefer to get the most out of that.

Even though they were going to see each other at night, anyway... I don't feel like waiting.

With only a little less than a month of dating experience, he was still adjusting. It wasn't like his feelings had changed - other than his awareness of them - but... circumstances were different. Casual touches and kissing and eyes meeting across the table during meals... Honestly, it was embarrassing. And ridiculous.

And disturbingly addicting.

"Oh, one thing before you leave, Fushimi-kun." Munakata stood smoothly as he was adjusting his bag over his shoulder, stepping across the room to meet him. "That is, if you can spare a moment?"

Fushimi paused, then raised his eyes warily. "What for?"

"A question." His boss smiled, un-rattled as always. "I don't expect an immediate answer. I thought it might be best to ask at the end of the shift so you had some time to think it over."

The wording of that was even more suspicious. Fushimi frowned. He still hadn't forgotten his mistake with the contract. "I'm listening."

Honestly, listening to questions wasn't so bad; he could always refuse to answer if it was too uncomfortable. Misaki had wanted to know about his past; understandable, probably, given the way he'd acted and what it likely said about him, but there were things he didn't particularly want to think about, much less discuss. It was in the past, and Fushimi preferred it to stay that way - the less said about it, the better.

Misaki hadn't pushed. "If you feel like telling me some day, I'll want to hear it," he'd said instead.

Fushimi had been unconvinced at the time. "And if I never do?"

"Then, whatever - as long as you don't expect me to figure it out. I'm not good at that crap, remember?"

After that, they'd changed the subject, but the question still lingered at the back of his mind. The past was the past, and it couldn't be changed - talking about it wouldn't help. It was bothersome to be pitied or fussed over. But, even though it might be too early to say... he couldn't help but think...

There might be a time - some unknown point in the future - when he would want Misaki to know.

"I've observed for some time that the technology in use by the security team is woefully outdated," Munakata remarked, studying his face keenly. "Their maintenance is, of course, excellent - the main problem I've seen is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of innovative thought put into any kind of custom work that could be employed." He tilted his head. "I had tentatively broached the subject of an IT lead on the team with Awashima, and she seemed receptive."

Fushimi stared at him. He would have to be an idiot not to see where this was going, of course. "And?"

Munakata's smile didn't falter. "I've also felt over the course of the past semester that a TA position is most certainly an underuse of your talents. Of course, if you wish to continue past our negotiated contract, I've no objections, but I thought perhaps the new job opening might be a more interesting challenge for you."

In other words, you had that in mind from the time you asked me to work for you. It was irritating to be manipulated with such ease - although it probably couldn't be helped. Fushimi frowned to himself.

Working with the security team, huh? There were probably a few things he could think of to implement that would be an improvement - and it was true that it would probably be interesting. Besides that... He thought back to Hidaka's eager, hopeful offers; Akiyama's patient but steady work; Awashima's efficient mannerisms, even as she offered him a cheap straw hat to protect his head from the heat. And then the rest of the team, all playing the game he'd created - for no other reason than because he'd done it.

It... wasn't totally unappealing.

Still, he wasn't about to make a decision like that right away. "I'll think about it."

"Of course." Munakata nodded, as if that was what he'd expected, and half-turned, adding, "Give my regards to Yata-kun."

"Mm," Fushimi responded vaguely, intending to do no such thing. Unless Misaki said something to annoy him, of course. "See you Wednesday."

"Take care."

It hadn't been his idea to tell anyone about his relationship with Misaki, although he didn't particularly care about keeping it a secret. Actually, he was fairly certain Misaki hadn't intended it to go so far, either. Totsuka, as it turned out, had a big mouth and no filter whatsoever - so, on the Sunday after they'd started dating, Fushimi had walked into the security teamís base and found himself the focus of just about everyone there. After that, Munakata had begun the meeting with a public congratulations, and Fushimi's mood had gone from irritable to downright foul within the span of about thirty seconds.

Admittedly, after he'd given it some time, it was useful to have the whole thing out in the open without having to say anything. He would prefer to die before ever acknowledging that fact out loud, though. His boss didn't need the encouragement.

The weather outside was still fairly warm, although the placement of the sun made it clear that the days were growing shorter. Fushimi pulled out his phone and checked the messages - as expected, there was a new one.

Yata Misaki: its borin as hell here when did u say ur off? 1

What a smooth talker. Fushimi raised his eyebrows, but he could feel the smile building even as he moved to type a response.

You: I'm not your evening entertainment.

Within seconds of hitting send, he had a response.

Yata Misaki: so sayin smthng means ur off rite? 2

And, almost as soon as he'd finished reading that one, another joined it.

Yata Misaki: u comin or wat? 3

The cafeteria was right in front of him by then, so there was no need to respond. Fushimi slid his phone back into his pocket, not bothering to push back the rush of anticipation, and moved forward to push through the doors that would lead him into the building, and to Misaki's waiting smile.


The End

1 It's boring as hell here. When did you say you're off?
2 So, saying something means you're off, right?
2 You coming, or what?