Building Bridges

 

Jealousy

 

When Yata woke up to his phone's alarm on Monday morning, it felt like an ordinary day.

There wasn't anything different about pushing himself reluctantly out of bed or moving to get ready for his lessons. The room hadn't changed. He hadn't changed. And the sound of restless shifting from above him hadn't changed.

But it really felt like something had changed.

Nothing really happened, though. Yata tugged on his favorite beanie absent-mindedly as he headed for the kitchen. I mean, I spent most of the weekend just hanging out here.

Hanging out in his dorm room, with his roommate - who also happened to be the asshole he'd been bitching about to his friends all week. And who apparently had a side to him that was... not - not that bad. Really.

Yata felt his face warm a bit, remembering it. Fushimi - Saruhiko - had dozed on and off through Saturday, but had been aware enough sometime late in the afternoon to argue about video games and which ones were worthwhile, ending with him downloading a new one on Yata's portable console somehow. They'd played it for several hours afterward, with Saruhiko propped up against the headboard on the bed with his laptop on his lap and Yata sitting cross-legged at the other end hunched over his console - and somehow, he'd forgotten to go to Homra for the second night in a row, which earned him a text from Kamamoto wondering where he was.

A text he hadn't noticed until Sunday morning, by which point there were four others and a missed call along with it.

It was - fuck, okay, it was just fun. Yata pulled out the ingredients for omelet rice - there were limited dishes that he could make with the ingredients he had, and this was one that was quick and not really a bad breakfast - with restless agitation. Anyway, we're probably friends now, right? Or something like that. It didn't feel quite the same as it did with his other friends, though. And Saruhiko had made more than a few comments that had got on his nerves, but somehow it just... wasn't exactly the same as before, either.

Something had changed, but he didn't know what - and it was really making him nervous.

He measured out the rice for a single serving, then stopped, remembering a thought from Friday night. That guy probably doesn't eat breakfast... For a moment, he hesitated, feeling vaguely embarrassed about it, and then let out his breath in a huff and dug back into the bag for more.

It's just so he doesn't get sick again, that's all! Yata scowled down at his hands as he closed the bag and put it away, feeling that traitorous flush creeping back onto his face again. I don't want to give up another Friday night for that guy just because he won't bother to fucking eat.

The excuse was a good enough one that he could continue without hesitation, but it still took a while for the heat on his cheeks to cool.


When Fushimi woke up on Monday morning, the room was quiet, there was light filtering in through the window, and something smelled good.

Omelet...?

He slid his glasses on and sat up, doing a quick scan of the room before his gaze settled on the covered plate sitting on his desk. There was a folded slip of paper tucked under it.

For a moment, he just sat there, staring at the unexpected item.

Seriously?

After he'd climbed down the ladder and unfolded the note, he could confirm that, yes, it seriously was Misaki's cooking.

'made too much rice so take this and don't waste it.'

A slow smile was already tugging at the corners of his lips before he'd finished reading. Fushimi folded the note again and set it back down, feeling the strange little stirring at the pit of his stomach that he was already starting to associate with his roommate. "You made it for me, right, Misaki?" he murmured, and felt a little rush of satisfaction on imagining the furious sputtering he'd have gotten as a response if he weren't alone in the room.

Normally, he didn't eat breakfast. Yesterday - and the day before, actually, but not much about Saturday really counted, considering his condition - had been an exception, since Misaki had just gone ahead and made food under the excuse that Fushimi needed to get his strength back before going out.

Apparently, today was another.

There was no point in expecting it to become a trend. Fushimi peeled off a corner of the wrap that covered the plate, breathing in the rich scent. Things like this weren't permanent. Anything good could, and likely would, be taken from you at any moment. It was a lesson that had been burned into his brain ages ago.

For now, though...

Misaki's smile, bright and easy, his eyes staring at Fushimi with open fondness...

For now, he would be eating breakfast.


The Homra bar was nearly deserted when Yata stepped in after his lessons ended, with Kamamoto on his heels. "Yo, Kusanagi-san!"

His older friend smiled easily at him from behind the bar counter. "Afternoon, Yata-chan, Kamamoto. How was it today?"

"It was awesome, of course!" Yata responded, enthusiastically. "Mikoto-san really knows his stuff - right, Kamamoto?"

He got the expected nod and grin. "Right!"

"Mm, glad to hear it." Kusanagi turned his gaze towards the small girl at the far end of the bar. "Did you want some more milk, Anna?"

"No." She turned her calm, serious gaze towards Yata. "Is Mikoto coming back?"

It would've been hard not to have your heart warm a little for that. Anna had been living at Kusanagi's bar since shortly after Yata himself had been pulled into the group of friends who regularly hung out there. Her family situation was... complicated, apparently, but she seemed more attached to Mikoto than anyone else.

That's part of why Mikoto-san is awesome, though!

Yata softened his smile, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Ah - yeah. I think he went to get some food from the cafeteria first."

"Should've guessed." Kusanagi smiled ruefully. "You're working tonight, aren't you, Yata-chan?"

"Yeah, yeah, just like every night." He moved in to lean against the counter, with a sigh. "I told Mikoto-san he should come when I'm on shift - I mean, it's not like we're busy right at the start - but he didn't want to wait."

"Ah, that's too bad." He got a bit of a shrug with that. "Is it just the two of you today?"

"Yeah. The others are busy, or something. I guess."

"Actually, I can't stay either." Kamamoto checked his watch. "I'm meeting Ayumi in half an hour, so - "

"Right, yeah, that girlfriend of yours..." Yata turned, leaning his elbows back against the bar and frowning at his friend. "Just make sure you don't always ditch us for her, got that?"

Kamamoto gave him a funny look for that. "Yata-san... just this past Saturday..."

"Hah? What about this past Saturday?" And what did that even have to do with anything? So he'd spent a night playing games in his room with Saruhiko - so what? Why bring it up now? Yata narrowed his eyes, the frown shifting to a scowl. "If you've got something you want to say to me, then just say it!"

"Eh... never mind." Kamamoto waved an apologetic hand. "Sorry, but I have to go."

Yata watched him leave with a certain amount of confusion. "The hell was that about?" he muttered, half-turning again to glance back at Kusanagi in case he had an answer.

He got a shrug and a bit of a smile in return, which wasn't much help. "Are you still coming on Friday night?"

"Huh?" Yata raised an eyebrow at him. Where the hell did that come from? "Why wouldn't I?"

Kusanagi looked like he was about to respond, but the door to the bar swung open before he could. "Welco - oh, Seri-chan!"

A tall, graceful-looking blonde woman entered the bar, walking briskly to the counter. Yata shifted a little more towards Anna, feeling his cheeks grow hot as she took a seat on one of the stools. Seri-chan?

"Good afternoon," she said, with maybe a bit more of a crisp tone than he would've expected.

Kusanagi smiled back. "Always a pleasure to see you, Seri-chan. I would've thought you'd show up later in the day, though."

"I'm covering an early shift for one of the part-timers tomorrow," she explained without preamble, and leaned forward. "Martini - dry. Three scoops of red bean paste."

He visibly winced at that, but moved to start mixing the drink.

Yata really couldn't blame him for that reaction. He didn't know much about alcohol, but... "Fucking weird," he muttered, under his breath.

Apparently this 'Seri' woman had very sharp ears, because she turned to fix him with a cool gaze. "I don't remember your face. Are you a student at this school?"

An immediate rush of heat rose up his neck and across his cheeks; he mentally cursed himself. "Uh - I - um - "

"Yata-chan just started apprenticing with Mikoto this year," Kusanagi saved him, and then offered an amused smile. "He's still a little rough around the edges, so cut him some slack, huh?"

"O-Oi! Kusanagi-san!" Yata straightened defensively, feeling the remains of the blush across his face.

"I see." The woman turned away from him again, just in time to take her finished drink. "Well, as long as he's capable of keeping his hands to himself, there shouldn't be any problems." She delicately stirred the awful-looking thing, dissolving the scoops of paste, and shot Kusanagi a meaninful look. "I had a run-in with another of Suoh's students just last week."

"Oh, right, I heard about that."

A 'run-in'...? Yata puzzled over that for a second, then it clicked - Bandou's unlucky attempt at bagging a girlfriend. "Ah! You're that campus security ice princess!"

She shot him another long-suffering look, and then turned her eyes up to Kusanagi again. "What on earth are you telling these boys about me?"

Kusanagi raised his hands in a kind of half-hearted defensive motion. "Aren't you well-known for being strict already, Seri-chan?" He hesitated for just a second, and then added, "I'll admit, the 'princess' bit is new to me..."

"Honestly..." She sighed, sounding exasperated, and looked ready to say more, but was interrupted by a buzzing sound from her purse. "One moment." Even as she pushed away from the bar and stood, she was already pulling out a cell phone, bringing it up to her ear and answering in that cool, crisp tone from before. "Awashima."

Yata sidled closer to Anna, trying not to pay attention as the "ice princess" moved a short distance away to take her call. Head of campus security, huh? He kind of remembered now, especially hearing the name 'Awashima'. Bandou had been pretty crushed.

He's crazy to hit on a woman like that, anyway.

"I'm sorry." Awashima returned to the bar, pulling a wallet from her purse. "I'm afraid I'll have to cut this visit short - I have to go make a delivery."

Kusanagi looked a little surprised. "Not a problem, but - a delivery? I thought you had enough staff to take care of things like that."

"Normally, yes, but I'm told there was a small incident at the library." She pulled out a card and held it out to him. "Due to a certain evening class, we don't have most of our part-timers on Monday, and I approved some time off this week. At the moment, there's nobody available to make this delivery but me."

Kusanagi frowned thoughtfully, not moving to take the card yet. "It's not some kind of sensitive information, is it?"

She tipped her head at him quizzically. "No. Why?"

"Well, I thought I might offer the services of a conveniently available welding apprentice with some time on his hands." Kusanagi turned his head to smile at Yata. "How about it, Yata-chan? Think you can help a lady in her time of need?"

"Hah? But - Kusanagi-san - " He swallowed, ducking his head again with embarrassment as Awashima looked his way. "R-Right, I guess I could do it."

There was a momentary pause. When Awashima spoke again, her voice was slightly dubious. "I suppose that would be helpful..."

"Ah, no need to worry - Yata-chan's trustworthy enough," Kusanagi assured her. "Anyway, that way you can sit back down and finish your..." - at that point, his voice took on a slightly pained note - "... martini."

"All right." Awashima efficiently stowed her wallet again and turned, face softening just a little with a slight smile. "In that case, thank you... was it Yata-kun?"

"Y-Yeah." He scratched at the back of his neck, feeling more than a little awkward about it. "Right. L-Leave it to me."

"Misaki," Anna said suddenly, and he quickly darted a glance back at her. She regarded him seriously. "Good luck."

Somehow, he got the feeling he was going to need it.


The academics building was huge, and looked kind of official - Yata felt a little awkward about bringing his skateboard in, but it wasn't like he was going to just leave it outside for someone to run off with, so he tucked it under his free arm and set his face in a scowl in case someone wanted to make an issue out of it. In the end, though, no one really paid him any attention - in fact, there weren't that many people around in general.

Huh. Maybe everyone's in class or something.

The office he wanted was on the first floor, and according to the directions he'd been given, shouldn't be too far from the entrance he'd just come in from. Yata wandered down the hall looking at the tags at the side of the doors for the name he'd been given. Munakata, right?

Why did that sound familiar?

Whatever - there it was. And the door was open slightly, too. Yata hefted his skateboard and transferred the package to that hand so he could knock, pushing the door open as he did. "Hey - someone here wanted a delivery? It's from Awashima."

He had barely a second to take in the two people sitting in the desks facing each other inside that small office, and so it registered in his brain exactly who he was looking at in the smaller desk just as that person seemed to recover from their initial surprise, chair halfway pushed out and leaning forward to stare at him. "Misaki?"

"Sa - Saruhiko!" The unexpected discovery stirred up a small flurry in his belly; Yata blinked, momentarily forgetting to breathe.

Why is he - ?

"Is this a friend of yours, Fushimi-kun?" The unfamiliar voice was enough to pull his attention away; Yata jerked his head back to the other person in the room. It was a taller man, with smooth dark hair and calm blue eyes behind thin-framed glasses. He smiled, tilting his head inquiringly. "I don't believe we've met before."

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, and Yata caught him turning his gaze off to the side with a frown. "He's my roommate."

"I see." The man glanced at Saruhiko with a certain fond tolerance before stepping towards the door. "My name is Munakata Reisi - Fushimi-kun is working as my teaching assistant."

Something about that look gathered up into a little pit of annoyance inside Yata. He narrowed his eyes, not bothering to soften the scowl already twisting on his lips. What's this guy's deal? Saruhiko worked for him, right? A boss shouldn't look at employees like that - it was weird. "Yata... Misaki." He switched the package over to his free hand again, and held it out. "Here - your mail."

The little smile on Munakata's face didn't alter, but a flicker of something like interest seemed to spark in his eyes. "Thank you for the quick delivery," he responded, reaching out to take the offered item. "I hope you didn't go too far out of your way. In all honesty, this could have waited until tomorrow, but I have to admire Awashima-kun's unbending sense of duty." He looked over to the side again. "Fushimi-kun, if you have a moment?"

Saruhiko clicked his tongue again, but pushed his chair away from the desk fully and moved toward them. "What?"

"I thought you might make good use of this." Munakata held out the package to him.

A tense knot seemed to form in Yata's chest as he watched Saruhiko reach out to take it. His roommate's expression was mildly suspicious, but somehow that didn't do a thing to soothe the irritation crawling up the back of his throat. Why should a boss give his employees presents? That's creepy, isn't it? It's creepy, damnit!

Saruhiko tore the package open deftly from the top and pulled out a heavy-looking book. "'Advanced Practical Mathematics Problems'," he read out loud, and looked up to frown at his boss. "What do you want me to do with this?"

Munakata smiled back, not seeming phased at all by the unfriendly reception to his gift. It was annoying how calm he was, really. "Whatever you like," he responded, simply. "You seemed bored by the lack of challenge in the simpler mathematics courses. I thought this might pique your interest a little more. However, if it's not to your taste, you can feel free to shelve it here." He indicated towards the bookshelves lining the room.

What the hell kind of offer is that? Yata turned his scowl on Saruhiko, but found himself ignored; his roommate had opened the book and was leafing through the pages, expression speculative. Who gets someone a math book as a gift?

He didn't know why, but it really bugged the hell out of him. His chest felt tight, and his head felt hot, and Saruhiko was just standing there looking at that stupid book like it was actually something good... Yata's fingers clenched around the side of his skateboard; his free hand twitched, like it wanted to form up into a fist all on its own.

Munakata cleared his throat delicately; when Yata jerked his gaze back that way, he found himself being studied with calm, knowing eyes. "You don't have to wait around if you have somewhere to be, Yata-kun." There was something self-assured and indulgent in that gaze; it was really fucking irritating. "Although, if you wanted to take a break and visit with your friend for a moment, Fushimi-kun..."

The idle flip of pages halted. Saruhiko frowned down at the book, hesitating, and suddenly Yata didn't want to hear him refuse the offer.

"Yeah, I've got work soon, so I'm gonna go." He shifted his gaze as soon as Saruhiko looked up and met his eyes, feeling tense and bothered, and shot one more scowl in Munakata's direction before turning to leave. "See ya."

As if it was a parting blow, the only response he got came from that stupid professor. "It was nice to meet you, Yata-kun. I'm sure we'll cross paths again one day."

Not if I can fucking help it. Yata clenched his teeth, fighting the urge to respond with something rude as he stalked back down the hallway, suddenly itching to hop on his skateboard and get away from there as fast as possible. His chest felt like it was burning, and his stomach was tied up in uncomfortable knots.

He really didn't like Munakata Reisi. At all.


"How interesting."

Fushimi glanced warily at his boss, but apparently that comment wasn't directed at him. Munakata was still gazing after Misaki, looking faintly amused. "What?"

"Nothing terribly important," Munakata responded, with a mild, pleasant little smile that immediately sparked suspicion in Fushimi's chest. "Your roommate wouldn't happen to be one of Suoh Mikoto's students, would he?"

That habit of honing in on facts he had no business knowing was really annoying. Fushimi clicked his tongue. "Should I even ask how you managed to guess that?"

Munakata chuckled. "Pure intuition. You had asked me about Suoh once before, so it seemed logical to assume someone near you was studying under him." He paused for a brief moment before adding, thoughtfully, "He also seems to attract a certain type, in his particular program."

Fushimi frowned at that. He wasn't particularly curious about Misaki's precious 'Mikoto-san', but for whatever reason, he just felt like pressing a bit. "It sounds like you know him pretty well."

"We've known each other for some time." There was nothing in Munakata's expression that gave the slightest hint that he was taken off-guard by the question. "I could certainly introduce you if you're interested."

The tiny amount of interest he'd had evaporated at that. "No thanks."

"I see." Even after he'd turned away, it was like he could feel that canny gaze on the back of his head. "Feel free to let me know if you change your mind."

I won't change my mind. Fushimi didn't bother to respond to that out loud, sliding back into his seat with an irritated sigh. He wasn't even really sure why he'd asked in the first place. Misaki showing up at his workplace must have surprised him enough to scramble his wits. It had definitely been unexpected, although not... exactly unwelcome.

A tiny part of him wondered if maybe that sudden rush of adrenaline and the accompanying increase to his heart rate was the same reaction Misaki got when he showed up at the cafeteria.

Somehow, he liked the thought of that.

I'll watch for it tonight. That decided, Fushimi stowed the math book in his bag and turned back to the assignment he was grading.

The following two hours went by slowly. Over the past week, the small amount of satisfaction that came with printing the failing grade on the more idiotic papers had lost some of its shine - leaving him with only the irritation of having to slog through the pathetic efforts some of Munakata's students scrawled out. Out of all of the things he'd been asked to do so far - including attending the security team meetings - grading was the worst. Even photocopying was preferable, despite being tedious.

Honestly, it was better if he was being asked to prepare assignments and quizzes. The only thing that soured it a little was the knowledge that he'd be grading the results in the end.

By the time his designated work hours were up, though, he'd managed to finish his task. "I'm heading out," he said shortly, pushing himself to his feet and reaching for his bag.

Munakata looked up from his own desk. "Give my regards to Yata-kun when you see him," he responded, and smiled again, looking faintly amused. "I hope we'll have an occasion to meet again someday."

That cryptic attitude really was irritating. Fushimi lifted the strap of his bag over his head and clicked his tongue, not even bothering to try and puzzle through the meaning behind those words. "See you on Wednesday," he said, instead of answering, and left the room, pulling the door shut behind him.

The usual sense of anticipation he got when he was walking from the office to the cafeteria was still there, but it had changed from last week. Fushimi pulled out his cell phone, briefly checking to make sure his last message from Misaki was still the same - a derogatory remark about how much he 'cheated' at the fighting game they'd played - before typing out a response. Then he waited.

Generally speaking, Misaki answered texts immediately - especially if it was something insulting or teasing, which never failed to get a rise out of him. He didn't seem to care enough to go back and fix his typos and he wasn't self-conscious when picking out what to say, so the average response took ten to thirty seconds, depending on what he was doing at the time or how much of an angry tirade he'd been goaded into. It was still just as invigorating as ever, although something about the feel of it had changed after the weekend. Fushimi wasn't particularly concerned with that. As long as Misaki filled his dull existence with that same thrill, nothing else mattered. And since that time...

The memory of how Misaki's wrist had felt in his hand that morning was still so vivid; it made him shiver a bit, thinking about it.

Somehow, though, the response wasn't coming back this time. Fushimi frowned down at his phone for a moment, before giving up and setting it back to sleep mode. Maybe Misaki was serving customers. There were a few who came in before the dinner rush. It might have even been a larger group this time, which would explain the delay.

It doesn't matter. He stowed the phone back in his pocket, approaching the cafeteria front entrance. He'd be finding out for himself soon enough.

As the door opened, he could already hear Misaki's boisterous voice, with an unexpected level of enthusiasm, even before he stepped into the building and caught sight of his roommate at his usual till.

Misaki wasn't looking over as he came in, though. In fact, Misaki's full attention was on the other side of the counter from him, in between his till and Totsuka's. There was a red-haired man standing there, leaning casually against Totsuka's counter with one hand in his pocket while the other two chatted at him.

Something tightened in Fushimi's chest; he could feel his frown deepening. Who is that?

" - should be there next time!" Misaki's voice reached him, loud and excited and somehow beyond irritating. "You'd show them a thing or two, right, Mikoto-san?"

Mikoto. So this was him. Fushimi eyed the man surreptitiously, approaching the counter with a certain amount of wariness. Something about Suoh Mikoto gave off the feel of a lion, lazing about in casual circumstance but with an aura of raw strength behind that lethargy. It was uncomfortable to think about; Fushimi let his eyes slide back to Misaki instead, who was leaning over the counter, braced up on his elbows and grinning like an idiot. How annoying.

Totsuka was the only one who seemed to notice him walking over; he glanced up with the usual warm smile. "Saru-kun! How are you feeling?"

So he knew about the illness. Fushimi clicked his tongue, deliberately not looking back to Misaki now that attention had shifted to him. "Fine."

"Oh, really?" Totsuka didn't seem to notice his lack of enthusiasm - or maybe he did, but wasn't bothered by it. "Well, I'm glad - that means Yata took good care of you, right?"

"T-Totsuka-san!" When he risked a glance, Yata looked mildly disgruntled - and a bit embarrassed. "Of course I did! You're not saying you doubted me, are you?"

Some of the tension in Fushimi's chest eased off a bit at the more familiar behavior. "You're so easy to doubt, Misaki," he drawled, putting a certain emphasis on the name. "Honestly, I'm kind of surprised myself that I'm not dead."

The scowl he got back was gratifying. "Saru... you bastard..."

"Calm down, Yata," Totsuka said cheerily. "I'm sure Saru-kun was just teasing, right?" He turned to the man leaning against his counter with a cheeky grin. "Don't you think so, King?"

Mikoto's gaze shifted to him. "You don't need to keep calling me that." His voice was slow, measured and deep - the kind of tone that belonged to someone with easy confidence and authority.

The uncomfortable feeling that had started to stir within Fushimi was shifting again as he heard it.

"Eh? But you totally have that air around you!"

Misaki had already turned away again, leaning over the counter as if he wanted to move as close to Mikoto as possible. "That's right, Totsuka-san! Mikoto-san would be an amazing king!"

The irritation from before was back now, too, lashing over him in waves. Fushimi clicked his tongue, feeling the corners of his mouth edge down. Something about the look on Misaki's face right then was seriously unpleasant. And he was saying so many stupid and uninteresting things, too... "I'm getting food," he mumbled, turning away sharply.

He hadn't expected a response, but the fact that he didn't get one still seemed to turn inside him, cutting like the blade of a knife. Fushimi deliberately took only small portions of meat and rice, and then loaded a bowl with ice cream, more bothered by the second as the stream of voices behind him continued to prattle on about unimportant things. Misaki probably hadn't even glanced his way.

So what does it matter if he doesn't? He was acting like an annoying idiot, anyway - who would want that kind of attention?

The good mood he'd built up on the way over had completely crumbled; Fushimi was toying with the idea of eating quickly and leaving the cafeteria as soon as possible when he stepped up to the counter. As he moved towards them, though, he noticed that Mikoto had pushed away from Totsuka's till. "I'm going back," he announced, even as Fushimi set his tray down.

"Huh? Already?" Misaki had the gall to look disappointed, too, not even sparing a glance for the tray on his counter. "It seems like you just got here, though!"

"Sorry." Mikoto reached into his pocket, pulling out a packet of cigarettes. "I need to be somewhere soon."

"Oh, that reminds me - King!" Totsuka shifted his gaze to smile at Fushimi again. "You haven't been introduced to Saru-kun yet. He's Munakata's new TA, you know."

"Yeah?" Mikoto had already shaken loose a cigarette and braced it between his lips to pull it from the package. He turned toward Fushimi with a casual interest in his golden-eyed gaze.

Something about that look was disconcerting - it was unflatteringly similar to a mouse being stared at by an owl out on a hunt. The feeling of helplessness and impotent frustration was palpable; it was something he hadn't experienced in a while, but the familiarity rose up strong and fast at the back of his throat, like a flood of bile. Fushimi pushed it down, as ruthlessly as he could, and held his gaze. This isn't the past. He wasn't helpless, and no one here had any hold on him.

He still didn't see what there was for Misaki to admire so much about this man, though.

Mikoto's face softened just slightly in a smile. "Suoh Mikoto," he introduced himself. "Just 'Mikoto' is fine."

The new expression didn't make him feel any better. "Fushimi Saruhiko."

"Fushimi, huh?" Mikoto tilted his head, just slightly. "Yata's roommate?"

"Ah - right!" Misaki beamed up at his teacher - if he was a dog, he'd have been wagging his tail furiously. "He's my roommate! You remembered that, huh, Mikoto-san? I think I did mention it once..."

"Yeah." Mikoto slid the cigarette box back into his pocket and turned to leave. "Just remember what I said last week," he added, and then turned to Totsuka. "Later."

The air immediately felt less stifling once he'd gone. Fushimi breathed out slowly and then filled his lungs again before looking to Misaki again - and blinked. His roommate's face had gone almost completely red; he was staring after his teacher almost wildly, mouth working silently.

That was somehow even more annoying than before. Fushimi clicked his tongue, narrowing his eyes. "What's your problem?" he muttered.

Misaki's gaze shot back to him, and their eyes met for maybe half a second before he was glancing away, clearly flustered. "H-Hah? N-N-Nothing! Y-You don't need to know!" He scrambled to punch the numbers into his till, and Fushimi noticed that the flush had spread all the way to the tips of his ears. "Just forget it!"

A thin tendril of something icy and unpleasant seemed to curl around his ribcage; the accompanying thought snuck into his head without warning. Don't blush like that for someone else...

He didn't even know why it bothered him. It was stupid. Annoying. Fushimi clicked his tongue again, thoroughly irritated with himself. The whole encounter with Suoh Mikoto had left him feeling bothered and restless; there didn't seem to be any good points to even focus on. He didn't like the man at all.

"HAAAAAH? What the hell is this?" Misaki seemed to have finally noticed the tray; he was glaring at it, like the food had personally offended him.

Oddly, that reaction felt like it cleared the air a little. Fushimi raised his eyebrows condescendingly, happy to fall back into the more familiar pattern. "Dinner. What did you think it was?"

"That is not dinner, goddamnit! You have more ice cream than real food, for fuck's sake!" Misaki raised his glare from the tray up to Fushimi, the side of his mouth twitching with clear agitation. "You're going to get fucking sick again, you dumbass!"

And if I did, you'd just take care of me again, right? That thought was almost appealing, if it didn't come along with the inconvenience of actually being sick. "Somehow, I've managed to avoid that without your help before."

Misaki scowled at him for a moment, then heaved a frustrated sigh. "All right. Seriously. Screw this." He pushed his way out of his station and snatched up the tray sharply, stalking towards the food selection. "I am going to pick you out some goddamn nutrition, and you are going to eat it, you fucking idiot!"

For a moment, Fushimi was so taken aback that he could only gape. What... is he...?

Behind him, Totsuka chuckled; Fushimi shot him an irritated glance, and he smiled back, resting his check on one hand. "Yata's a little crude sometimes," he pointed out, eyes somehow knowing, "but I think this kind of thing is his way of saying he cares."

Somehow, that thought - Misaki caring; specifically, about him - brought a mildly uncomfortable warmth to his face. Fushimi scowled back. That really is an annoying habit he has.

"Well, I'm sure you have your own way of doing things," Totsuka continued, not seeming bothered in the slightest by the negative reaction. "But, you know, I think Yata would be happy if he got some kind of sign from you too, Saru-kun."

Fushimi clicked his tongue, shifting his gaze towards where Miskai was energetically loading his plate. This wasn't a subject he wanted to examine closely; it was bothersome to think about. "Can you not call me that?" he muttered, instead.

"Ah, you finally asked, huh?" When he turned back again, Totsuka looked pleased with himself. "See, that's what I mean - you need to express your feelings more directly, Fushimi-kun." He gave a one-shouldered shrug. "It doesn't have to be in words, necessarily - but I think it's important to be clear. Right?"

What a pain... Fushimi deepened his frown, trying to think of a way to respond that would turn the subject to something less unpleasant, but Misaki's sudden return spared him the trouble.

"Done!" His roommate slapped the tray down on the counter, and stepped back with a triumphant smile, obviously pleased with himself.

A quick glance over the tray had Fushimi furrowing his brows. "... You didn't put vegetables on there."

"You wouldn't eat them if I did, would you?" Misaki pushed his way back into the station, folding his arms and frowning back. "Listen up, though - you'd better clear this plate, after I went to that much trouble. D'you know how hard it is to build a balanced meal without proper greens?" He pulled a face. "To be honest, this still isn't great... but it's still at least a hundred times better than what you had! And I picked through it for you to fit your ridiculous fussiness, so be grateful!"

The strange, aggressive thoughtfulness was kind of unnerving. Not really in a bad way, though. Fushimi shifted his gaze from Misaki's attempt at a stern expression to the plate of food. It didn't look unappetizing. There were a few things he was going to pick off regardless of what anyone said, and his ice cream was starting to melt, but...

Maybe it wasn't that much of a bother.

"I don't need to be grateful for something I didn't ask for," he responded, without much bite.

There was an uncharacteristic pause; when he looked up again, Misaki's frown had deepened and his eyes narrowed. "You were grateful enough for that stupid book," he muttered, gaze darting to Fushimi's bag and back up again.

The resentment in his tone was clear. What? Just because he had to deliver it? Somehow, it was a bit gratifying - after suffering through that scene with Suoh Mikoto, he liked the idea of Misaki being put out in some similar way. "Not really. I didn't ask for that, either."

Misaki's eyes met his, wary and bright with some emotion Fushimi couldn't place, and it touched off a little spark at the pit of his stomach. He was conscious of the beating of his heart, how the rate and intensity of it surged, and the shiver that ran along his skin as his body was flooded with unfamiliar feelings.

It was as intoxicating as it was overwhelming - a veritable storm with him standing at the center.

"R-Right, so." Misaki broke the gaze, looking a bit awkward about it, and cleared his throat, focussing on the till again. "I'll just - I'll ring this up before it gets cold."

Fushimi reached into his pocket for his wallet, almost mechanically. The remnants of that sudden, unexpected rush still lingered, trembling at the tips of his fingers and prickling along his skin. It wasn't unpleasant, though... more like...

Watching Misaki fumble with the debit machine and curse as the cord tangled, he had to admit, I really don't dislike it.


Tuesday morning felt even more like an ordinary day than Monday had.

Still, Yata didn't hesitate this time when he was measuring the rice - didn't even think twice when he started cooking up the portion size that would feed two people. There was a level of confidence in his heart that he wasn't sure where he'd gotten - but he wasn't going to complain about it.

That Munakata guy never cooks him breakfast, does he?

Somehow or another, that thought made Yata feel pretty satisfied with himself.


The smell of breakfast in the room was just as strong on Tuesday morning as it had been on Monday.

Fushimi took his time getting out of bed, allowing himself the luxury of lying there for the first moment or two as his brain adjusted. When he climbed down the ladder and padded over to the desk to unwrap the still-warm plate of food, the corners of his mouth had already edged up into a small, satisfied smile.

He doesn't cook breakfast every morning for Suoh Mikoto.

In the locked corner of his heart, where he banished the more uncomfortable thoughts, Fushimi felt strangely vindicated.

 

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