Building Bridges


Communication Breakdown


Yata stretched his arms out across the counter beside his till, resting his chin between them. "Is it always this dead around here?"

"Just sometimes." Totsuka smiled brightly at him from the second till, bent over with his elbow braced on his own counter and his chin resting on his upturned hand. "You've only been here for fifteen minutes, though. Dinnertime rush usually starts in about forty-five or so." He chuckled. "Then you'll be wishing it was dead."

They were on opposite sides of the path leading out of the cafeteria's food selection, which looped around from the entrance directly on Yata's other side. The middle section attached to his till had some shelves of pre-packaged meals and snacks, and a cooler full of drinks. The outside of the ring was all freshly cooked food, manned by some of the senior cafeteria workers.

Honestly, when he'd been hired on as a part-timer, he'd kind of been hoping he'd actually get to cook some of the food. That sounded like more interesting work than standing behind a counter all evening. But, well, money was money, and it wasn't like he hadn't done this kind of job before.

At least he wasn't washing dishes in the back like the other part-timers on his shift schedule.

"Dunno how you do this full-time." He was probably going to die of boredom.

"Eh, it's not so bad." Totsuka made a small shrugging motion. "During the morning and lunchtime, I have another part-timer like you to chat with, and during the slow time in the afternoon, I can usually go over and talk to the chefs." His smile widened. "And I'll have you in the evenings now, too, right?"

"That's true." Yata brightened up a little at that. It was lucky for him that Totsuka worked here, and was well-liked by the managers - it had helped him get the job, it had helped him get the perfect shift schedule of weekday evenings, and it had helped him avoid being assigned to dish-bitch.

All in all, he couldn't complain too much.

There was one other thing he'd been meaning to ask about, though. "By the way, Totsuka-san..." he started, pushing himself up again so that he was propped up on both elbows. "I know there's a convenience store in the activity center, but they don't really have a lot for - you know - ingredients." He reached up to scratch his cheek, feeling a bit awkward about it. "I mean, the food here's good and all, and the employee discount helps out big time, but I don't really have time to get here for breakfast, so..."

"You want to cook for yourself, right?" Totsuka finished for him. "Were you wondering if the cafeteria would sell you groceries?"

It sounded really stupid when it was put like that. Yata grinned sheepishly. "I guess... kind of."

"Well, I don't think they'd do it for a part-timer." Totsuka's smile was bright all the same. "But, you know, I tried cooking a while back - it was pretty fun, actually, even if I wasn't very good at it in the end..." He straightened up, getting a faraway look as he reminisced, and then spread his hands in an 'oh well' sort of motion. "Anyway, at the time, they sold me some of the ingredients - milk and eggs and rice, things like that - so you'd just have to give me the money and I could buy those for you."

"Seriously?" Not having to go off-campus for them was huge. Yata beamed back, relieved. "That'd be a big help - thanks!"

"Don't worry about it." Totsuka waved that off with his usual carefree smile. "Cook us a meal at Homra sometime in return - how about that?"

"Of course!"

The doors leading into the cafeteria swung open. "Aha - some early birds," Totsuka remarked, and raised his voice. "Welcome!"

"Hey, Totsuka-san!" The leader of the group - a tall, brown-haired guy - raised a hand in greeting. "Looks like we beat the rush."

"By a mile," Totsuka agreed pleasantly, and waved a hand in Yata's direction. "This guy's new, so don't be rude if he's slow, okay?"

"Totsuka-san!" Yata protested, a little disgruntled at that warning. It wasn't like working a till was hard; he'd done it plenty, and this one wasn't even that complicated. He turned back to the group again, straightening up. "Yo! I'm Yata, and I can handle - What the fuck are you doing here?"

From the back of the group, Fushimi raised his eyebrows condescendingly, that irritating little smirk on his lips. "Still can't introduce yourself properly, hmm, Misaki?" he drawled, instead of answering. "Why not tell them your full name?"

That now-familiar coil of annoyance wound up at the pit of his stomach; Yata glowered back. "Bastard..."

Fushimi approached the counter, ignoring the stares of the group he'd just walked in with - Seriously, that guy has friends? How? - and placing a hand on the surface, almost casually. "I have to give you credit - I didn't think you were smart enough to get yourself a job."

"Shut up! I can get a job no problem!" He deliberately didn't mention Totsuka's help - that was completely beside the point. "Anyway, like you can talk - I'm not the one with the rotten personality that no one would ever hire!"

One of Fushimi's eyebrows twitched, but his expression didn't otherwise change. "Ah, right, my rotten personality - wasn't it you who described me as 'really cool'? And you 'want to know more'?" His smirk took on a mocking edge. "Well, now you know more - does it meet your expectations, Misaki?"

The reminder was enough to make his face grow hot - Yata hastily slammed his hands down on the counter, leaning forward to glare desperately at his roommate. Don't say more than that, you bastard... "Quit using that name," he growled.

"Why? Is it embarrassing or something?" Fushimi eyed him with a kind of malicious glee. "I guess it's hard for a hopeless virgin like yourself to deal with someone addressing you by your first name, isn't it" - a pause, and then the rest came with the syllables drawn out deliberately - "Mi-sa-ki~?"

There was red swimming at the edges of his vision. Yata opened his mouth to demand that they take this outside, and fuck whatever happened with his job as a result, but was interrupted before he could.

"Is this the roommate you were telling us about, Yata?" Totsuka asked, as brightly as if they weren't sniping at each other in the middle of the cafeteria. A startled glance over his shoulder earned him an innocent, completely unruffled smile. "You seem like you're all fired up again, so I just kind of figured it was the same person."

Somehow, Totsuka always seemed to have the words to diffuse a situation. Yata took in a breath and let it out in a frustrated huff, shooting a scowl in Fushimi's direction and crossing his arms. "Yeah, this is the same asshole. You see what I have to put up with?"

"Ah, so I was right." Totsuka tilted his head, looking past him with a kind of carefree interest. "Hey there, Yata's roommate. I'm Totsuka Tatara."

Fushimi's brow furrowed; the expression on his face as he met that gaze looked like it couldn't decide whether to be disgruntled or unsettled. After a brief second, he clicked his tongue. "Fushimi Saruhiko."

"Nice to meet you! Fushimi-kun, is it? Or can I call you Saruhiko-kun?" Totsuka blinked. "That's kind of hard to say, actually..."

For some reason, the idea of the two of them being on a first-name basis made Yata's stomach twist up a bit. He straightened defensively, uncrossing his arms again. There's no reason Totsuka should have to deal with his shitty behavior - that's all! "You don't need to talk with this guy, Totsuka-san!"

"Hm?" Totsuka glanced from him to Fushimi, looking mildly surprised. "Why?"

"Hah? B-Because!" Somehow, the question caught him off-guard; Yata felt heat crawling up his face again, and scowled against it. "He's an asshole, so..."

"Don't make that face while saying it," Fushimi muttered, sounding more than a little put out.

When Yata jerked his head up to glare, his roommate had averted his eyes. "What was that?"

Fushimi clicked his tongue again. His expression was something close to petulant. "Are you hard of hearing on top of being short?"

The irritation was already rolling over his earlier embarrassment. "Say that again, asshole - I dare you!"

"Ah, well," Totsuka interjected again, as casually as if this were any normal conversation, "I already meet all kinds of people here anyway, so you don't need to worry for my sake, Yata." He craned his neck a bit to check the clock. "You know, if you guys don't hurry up, you'll end up dealing with the dinnertime crowd after all."

Yata had almost forgotten about the others who'd come in with his roommate. Now that he took the time to look, he could see that they were watching the exchange with unconcealed curiosity - and maybe a bit of shock. Fushimi seemed to notice the same thing; he make another 'tch' noise and turned just enough to glare at them sideways. "What? Didn't you come here to eat? Quit gawking at other people's business."

"Oh... uh, right!" The brown-haired guy who'd initially spoken up hastily moved towards the food. "Then, I'll go first."

The rest of them awkwardly shuffled after him, with varying degrees of dubious glances back.

Fushimi watched them, lips curled downwards and eyes narrowed slightly, and then, with a brief glance at Yata and then Totsuka, he sighed and moved to follow.

Yata took a moment to scowl at his back, made an irritated sound under his breath, and turned back to his till without any real purpose. The encounter had stirred up a kind of restless feeling inside him, but he couldn't quite place it. Somehow it lingered right at the edges of his irritation, not quite mixing in right, and it made him a bit uneasy.

If it had something to do with that night...

No! Totally not! No way in hell!

"Are you all right, Yata?" When he looked up sharply, Totsuka was staring at him with some concern. "It seems like something's really bothering you."

Yata shot him an incredulous look. "Hah? What do you think?" He pointed in the general direction that Fushimi had gone, without looking. "That asshole is what's bothering me! I have to live with him, you know - I'll be putting up with that shit every day!"

"Mm, yeah, I guess that's going to be tough." Totsuka shrugged a little, then smiled warmly. "Don't worry so much - it'll all work out, somehow."

Easy for you to say. Yata slumped against the counter, letting out an aggrieved sigh, and then summoned up a smile. "Right! I'm here for Mikoto-san, after all!" The memory of his beloved instructor's words after the lunch break came back to him, and he fought to keep the smile from twisting into a grimace. "Aha... it... it's going to be a great year. Right?"

His view of Totsuka was blocked before he could get a response to that; Fushimi set his tray down on the counter with a firm clacking noise. "I'd like to hear your definition of 'great'," he drawled, with that usual irritatingly condescending look. "I hope you didn't help cook any of this, Misaki, or I'll have to run it through some kind of check for food poisoning."

"H-Hey!" Yata braced his hands on the counter beside the tray, scowling back. "I'm a fucking awesome cook - you'd be lucky if you got to taste my food, Saru." He managed a small 'heh' and a smirk. "Too bad I'd die before cooking anything for your sorry ass."

"Oh?" Fushimi returned his smirk, leaning in just a bit with a kind of gleam in his eyes. "That sounds like an even trade, considering I'd probably die if I ate any of your cooking."

"You..." Yata looked down at his food tray to see what he had picked up, and raised both eyebrows. "What the fuck? You barely grabbed anything! And where the hell are the vegetables?" He turned his incredulous stare back up on his roommate. "How are you even still alive if this is how you eat?"

Fushimi clicked his tongue, lips turning down into a frown again. "What do you care how I eat?"

"I don't fucking care!" Yata snapped back. "But seriously, no vegetables - are you five? And you know you pay the same price for this crap whether you load it up or not, so why is there so much space on your place? You're already practically a twig - you should fucking eat, you dumbass!"

The expression that he was getting back now was a mix of irritation and bafflement - as if Fushimi couldn't figure him out, and trying to do it was annoying him. "It's none of your business. Just shut up and let me pay."

Somehow, that attitude really pissed him off. "You want to die of malnutrition? Fucking fine." He snatched the card from his roommate's hand, scowling deeper when he caught sight of the pathetic-looking plate again. Somehow, its existence offended him, although he couldn't say why. That restless feeling was back, though, full force; the sense that he wanted to do something - should be doing something - but he couldn't figure out what. Yata punched his code into the machine and rang up the total, sliding the card in and pushing the terminal across the counter. "Waste your goddamn money, too - like I give a shit."

"That's why you won't shut up about it, right?" The edge of irritation in Fushimi's voice took away from the attempted taunt; he frowned down at the terminal as he keyed in his information. "Shouldn't you do something about your own stupidity before you go poking your nose into other people's lives, Misaki?"

"Stop using that name already!"

"Hey, Saru-kun?" Totsuka cut in, as cheerfully as ever. "By any chance, are you Professor Munakata's new TA?"

The expression on Fushimi's face as he turned his head was almost comical in its deep disgust. "What."

It didn't even sound like a question - more like just plain, flat disbelief - but Totsuka answered it anyway. "Just taking a shot in the dark. It's true, huh?"

"Not... that." Fushimi was staring at Totsuka as if he were a glob of something stuck to the bottom of his shoe. "Why did you call me that?"

"Ah, right. 'Saru-kun', you mean?" Totsuka looked completely un-phased, smiling back with unconscious ease. "It came to me when I heard Yata call you 'Saru' - I just figured it's much easier to say than 'Saruhiko-kun', you know?" He blinked then, tilting his head. "You don't like it?"

Something seemed to shutter on Fushimi's face. "Do whatever you want," he mumbled, picking up his tray and striding across the room toward one of the empty tables.

Yata frowned after him, confused. What was that about?

"He sure is an interesting person," Totsuka commented, and Yata blinked, snapped out of his momentary trance. "I get the feeling he's the kind who keeps a lot of secrets - or something like that." He smiled brightly when Yata turned to stare at him. "What a strange coincidence that your roommate is Munakata's TA."

"Huh?" Yata could feel his forehead creasing. Sometimes the things this guy said were just weird as hell; he didn't get it. "Why does that matter? Who the hell is this Munakata person anyway?"

"You don't know?" Totsuka looked a little surprised - then his expression settled. "Well, it's not important - don't worry about it."

"Okay..." That was odd. Yata frowned, turning it over in his head, but the name didn't mean anything, so... whatever. If Totsuka said it didn't matter, that was good enough.

In his pocket, his phone suddenly buzzed.

Who would text me now? The others all knew he was at work. Yata glanced at the group of guys who had come in with Fushimi - they were the only ones in the cafeteria, and it looked like they were still picking out what they wanted. So, he probably had time to check. He pulled the phone out and unlocked the screen without stopping to look at the preview.

The first thing he noticed was that the message was from a number that wasn't in his contact list. The second thing was that it was typed out properly with a capital letter and shit, unlike anyone who had ever texted him, including his mother. And the third...

'Do you always lecture your customers on their purchases?'

For a moment, he just stared blankly down at his phone, unable to comprehend - and then he snapped his gaze up, wildly seeking Fushimi in the sea of mostly-empty tables. What the fuck? He could see his roommate's back, leaning against his chair in an unconcerned sort of manner, and ground his teeth together.

"Something wrong, Yata?"

Yes, there is something goddamn wrong! "Nothing," he managed to growl back, and turned his attention back down to furiously type out a response.

'hwo the fcuk did u get tihs nmbr u dick?' 1

He hit send without bothering to correct any of the typos, and glared down at the colored word bubbles, waiting for a response.

'Is that supposed to be a human language? Who taught you to type, a gorilla?'

Fuck your fucking face! Yata swallowed a snarl, clenching his hands around his phone, and then began to type again, mashing his fingers into the keys, hard.

'fuck u jsut tel lme how u shtihead' 2

'Oh? You can't figure it out for yourself, Misaki?'

There was barely time to feel the stirrings of rage at that text before another one joined it.

'Why not ask your friend at the other till?'

What the hell? Yata stared at that one for a moment, more perplexed than angry. "Totsuka-san, did you give out my number?"

"Hmm?" When he looked up, Totsuka was blinking at him with genuine surprise. "I didn't. To be honest, I can't even remember your number." He shrugged, smiling a bit. "That's what the contacts system in the phone is for, right?"

"The fuck, then?" he muttered, turning his eyes back to the messages. "How the hell did he get it?"

"Oh? Is that Saru-kun texting you?" Totsuka hummed to himself, looking thoughtful for a moment. "I guess he must be really good with networks and stuff, then..."

Yata raised his head with the intention of asking what the hell that was supposed to mean, but had to change tracks when he found one of the guys from before standing at his till, watching him apprehensively. "Uh, sorry!" He hastily stowed his phone away, and tried to force a smile. "How did you want to pay?"

He could feel his phone buzz again as he took the payment, and his face twitched with the strain of keeping the smile. Fucking leave me alone already - I'm trying to work, goddamnit!

Even with that thought, though, he was already moving to pull his phone back out almost as soon as the last guy went through his till, heart racing and blood pumping hot through his veins.

'If you talk to everyone the same way you talk to your customers, it's no wonder you're still a virgin.'

He was hammering the keys with a response almost before he'd finished reading.

'as if u can tlk asshhole ur rude as fuckk' 3

After a second of considering it, he added another line.

'bet ur a vrgin too' 4

He glanced up at Fushimi's back - still no change that he could see from his vantage point - and then frowned down at his phone, waiting for the next response.

"That must be a really interesting conversation," Totsuka commented, drawing up a startled gaze. His smile had obvious amusement in it. "You two are actually getting pretty close already, huh?"

"Hah?" Yata stared back at him incredulously. "No way am I getting any kind of close with that bast - " A buzz from his phone interrupted him; he abandoned the conversation to check it, without even thinking.

'I'm not the one who went to that party for "drunken makeouts".'

Yata clenched his teeth, annoyance rushing over the little flutter of something else that might have started in his belly. That's a yes, isn't it? It means he is. He shrugged that thought aside, moving to type furiously again.

Totsuka laughed softly from somewhere to his side. "He's definitely an interesting guy, huh?"

Hitting send on his latest response, Yata looked up to scowl. "What's so interesting about a jerk like that?" Somehow, the warm, knowing look he was getting back had that hot flush rising on his face again; he straightened defensively. "I'm telling you it's not like - "

Another buzz from his phone scattered that thought.

"Sure," Totsuka agreed easily, his tone light and playful, as Yata moved immediately to check the message. "Whatever you say."

That was kind of annoying, but it couldn't be helped. Yata frowned at his phone, moving again to type back a quick response.

The back-and-forth texting continued right up until dinnertime rush, but even when he was scrambling to serve customers, Yata still managed to catch sight of Fushimi's pale, thin figure cutting around the crowd by himself as he made his exit.

Somehow, his stomach was tightening and there was adrenaline pumping through him, and he couldn't quite convince himself it was new-job jitters.

Yata texting translations for those who can't read through the typos:

1 How the fuck did you get this number, you dick?
2 Fuck you, just tell me how, you shithead
3 As if you can talk, asshole, you're rude as fuck
4 Bet you're a virgin, too