Konomi's, not mine
a/n: Akutsu/Dan for todaythesamesky. This is a ship I'd much rather read than write, but when needs must ... there's consolation in the fact that no matter how bad this is, studying for my exam on Friday would be infinitely worse. I spit on renal haemodynamics. Be told.
Akutsu hadn't seen Dan Taichi since he'd started high school. Oh, maybe every so often he'd wandered past the Yamabuki tennis courts -- or swung by the Kantou tournament grounds -- or checked up on the tea shop they'd gone to once or twice to make sure it hadn't burned down and see if it needed to yet. But it was a bit like playing hide-and-seek; once Dan didn't see him, it didn't count. So far as Akutsu could tell from these fly-by glimpses Dan hadn't changed in general looks, and Akutsu could only hope he'd grown or evolved some kind of survival instinct.
His hopes were not bourne out on Dan's first day of high school, when he came right up to Akutsu and chirped, "Hello Akutsu-senpai-desu, how are you?" His eyes were as much like big wet berries as ever, and Akutsu found himself more leaning against the locker behind him for support as opposed to lounging insolently against it. The problem with Dan was that he couldn't envision a world where it wouldn't be okay for him to look up Akutsu like an old Boy Scouts buddy. So, if Akutsu ignored him or told him to go away in the particularly colourful way he had, Dan wouldn't dream of blaming Akutsu. He'd think it was something he himself did, like not being polite enough, even though Dan would have made a Victorian governess weep tears of joy and pride.
So Akutsu mumbled something that might have been 'Hi' and might have been 'I'm a badass and I rule this school' but neither one of which could have stood up in a court of law. The bell rang, Dan jerked like a marionette on a string and bounced off to class. The navy of the Yamabuki High uniform seemed to make his legs go on forever, and the blazer swamped him.
Akutsu was a bit disappointed that Dan wasn't still wearing that old headband of his, but he pretended real good that he wasn't.
It was only chance that the best place Akutsu had found for sneaking a cigarette was right near the Yamabuki High tennis courts. Predictably, Dan showed up on the first day, as bright and eager as two gigantic buttons. He was soon scurrying around, leaping on stray tennis balls like it was the best thing that had happened to him all day. He was popular with the other freshman and he appeared to have culled some of the excessive 'desu's. Fortunately for his future career in tennis, he'd developed muscles where before he'd had only weedy arms and legs.
Not everything was the same, of course. In the past Akutsu couldn't have been within forty feet of Dan without Dan sniffing him out. Maybe he'd got better at hiding, for Dan didn't notice him or the plumes of smoke issuing from his mouth at regular intervals as he passed by. There was no way Akutsu was going after him, of course. Their friendship, if friendship it was, had been entirely based on Dan forcing his company on Akutsu and Akutsu grudgingly accepting it in lieu of any better showing up. The world would tilt on its axis if it worked any other way.
At a loose end he hadn't expected to be, Akutsu ground his cigarette into the gravel and mooched away. He'd blown off his other friends in favour of this supposed cigarette break. All he could come up with instead of finding them was homework.
In the middle of maths equations he was sure had never been solved before, let alone taught, he wondered if the world hadn't tilted after all. He wondered even more when he finished off the whole problem set before getting out his phone and scrolling through the numbers in the farfetched hope that Dan's hadn't changed. He only stopped wondering when it turned out that it hadn't.
"Yeah," grunted Akutsu. He still wasn't quite used to Dan's phone manner, which bore more than a vague resemblance to the sound of wind chimes in a strong gale. "What's up, Dan?"
"The thing is, senpai, I have a science project desu. And I was hoping you could help me with it."
"A science project? I don't even take science."
"But you take metalwork desu."
"Yeah. So?" Akutsu didn't even bother to ask how Dan knew what subjects he was taking. He'd probably inveigled them from the school secretary, or found the timetable that Akutsu had lost on the first day. What was for sure was that he hadn't got it out of Akutsu.
"I have to build a robot desu, and I've designed it and everything but --"
"You designed a robot? To do what?"
"To play tennis desu!"
"Right." Akutsu slapped his forehead, glad Dan couldn't see him. "I really, really should have guessed. D'you want I should come over now?"
"Now?" repeated Dan uncertainly. "It's eleven o'clock at night, senpai!"
"So?" Belatedly, Akutsu realised that Dan was probably subject to things like curfews and bedtimes and house rules. "Oh, well, tomorrow then?"
"That would be great desu! Are you free after school?"
"Sure, but ..." Akutsu felt the words forming in his mind and said them before he had time to think better of it. "Can I bring my homework with me to do at your house?"
Dan was turning out to be a terrible influence on him.
Five minutes in Dan's house was enough to show Akutsu where he'd got that sparkle thing from. It'd rubbed off on him from every available surface -- mirrors, floors, walls, cupboards, even the toilet seat (which had a sign reminding him to put the lid down, and a frilly pink seat cover). Dan's room was crazy neat, with every item of clothing hung up and his Western-style bed made with hospital corners, right down to the carefully folded velvet throw. In fact, it looked just like the kind of room Akutsu'd wanted when he was younger and there was nothing in his environment that wasn't grubby, broken or both. That was before Akutsu had learned it was assimilate or die.
As it was, Akutsu sat down gingerly, afraid he'd leave a trail of slime like an oversized snail.
Dan brought up tea and snacks, and Akutsu honestly felt the kid inside of him break down. To cover it up, that sad loser side of himself that belonged hidden if not dead, he said brusquely, "What about this robot, then?"
"Ryuk," said Dan. Akutsu gave him the slow long stare that made teachers twitch and forget they'd called on him. "The robot, desu! I called him Ryuk."
If he ever looked back, which was not something he was overly given to doing, Akutsu could have pinpointed it. Right there, right then, was when he'd fallen in love with Dan Taichi.
"Fu --" Akutsu started to say, and changed at the last moment to "-- lute, damn, why do I have an extra screw?"
"It's all right senpai." Dan looked up from where he was sitting cross-legged on the floor and shook his hair out of his eyes. It got in them a lot, but Akutsu still hadn't asked him about the headband and lack thereof. "I got lots of screws."
"Yes, but I had sixteen for this part and now it's finished and there's one left over." Akutsu clenched his hands into fists and glared down at the offending torso. Dan grinned around the paintbrush in his mouth. He'd spent the last hour painstakingly daubing in Ryuk's facial features, getting at least a quarter of the paint on himself in the process.
"Honestly, senpai," said Dan in a sing-song voice that was as close as he came to teasing, "the teachers aren't going to count the screws and grade me down because there was one left out."
"They might if Ryuk falls apart in front of them," grumbled Akutsu, but he let it slide. "What's next, the arms?"
"No, I think we can attach the head now." Dan touched the tip of his little finger to Ryuk's face. "Yup, he's pretty much dry. Have you got the other screwdriver there?"
"Hang on." Akutsu carefully picked up Ryuk's torso and slipped off the bed to sit beside Dan. "You'll have to hold it steady for me."
"Sure thing, senpai."
Dan placed his hands where Ryuk's ears would be had he any, and curled the tips of his fingers just around the edge. Although he was still a titchy kid, his hands were nearly as long as Akutsu's. Akutsu hunched over to see better, screwdriver at the ready. He was almost done when he nicked his finger between a screw and the edge of the screwdriver. He snatched his hand away and bit back the slew of expletives that sprung to his lips, ready to fire at will. He choked out yet another 'damn' and cradled the rapidly swelling finger loosely in his other hand.
"Oh no senpai!" Dan's cool fingertips brushed the sore spot. "Wait here, I'll get some ice."
Akutsu nodded, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He'd been hurt far worse than this before and he knew how to cope with it. He was quite proud of the fact that, even under duress, he hadn't sworn in front of Dan.
In very little time -- he must have flown down to the kitchen -- Dan was back, with ice cubes in a teatowel. Akutsu remembered to say thanks.
"Hey," he said a little later, when Ryuk's armless, legless body was sitting jauntily against the dresser, "you know, Dan, you could call me Jin if you wanted."
Dan's eyes widened, and Akutsu felt a sudden vicious stab of jealousy for the woman who'd get to wake up to those every day. "Really, senpai? I mean, Jin-kun?"
"Would I have said it otherwise?" Akutsu pretended to scowl, but Dan knew him better by now than to take it seriously. Then Dan was up against his side, smelling of boysweat and mint-flavoured shampoo.
"The swelling's gone down a bit," he informed Akutsu importantly. "And, Jin-kun? You don't have to not swear in front of me."
"What?" Akutsu dropped the melting ice cubes right into his crotch.
"You don't have to not swear," repeated Dan. "I'm not completely innocent --" Akutsu, staring at the delicate shell of Dan's ear, begged to disagree "-- and even I say 'fuck' sometimes too." Dan being Dan, he managed to pronounce the quotation marks.
"You do?" croaked Akutsu.
"Sure. Although not very often, of course." Dan adopted a conscientious expression. "And never in front of a teacher, desu! But I know you like to swear. I don't want you not to because of me, Jin-kun."
"But I want not to because of you," said Akutsu, wondering what the hell he meant by that, and suspecting that he knew very well.
"Okay." Dan shrugged. "It's getting late. You could stay the night ...?"
"Your mother wouldn't mind ...?" asked Akutsu, equally uncertainly.
"Of course not!" Dan's face lit up like fireworks against a dark night sky. "I'll get out the spare futon."
In the end he needn't have. They stayed up late working on Ryuk, and fell asleep half against the bed, half against each other. Akutsu had never before known agony like the cramp in his neck the next morning, but he'd got to see Dan's eyes flutter open, still liquid with sleep. And for that it was worth the pain.
Akutsu's scientific career had been explosive, if truncated. People tended to remember him. Maybe it was the height, or the dyed blonde hair, or the juvenile record most teachers kept to hand. In any case, Tanaka-sensei recognised him immediately he strolled into the hall where the science fair was being held. His brow darkened and he hurried through the chattering throngs to fetch up somewhere beneath Akutsu's nose.
"Akutsu-kun, just what do you think you're doing here?" he demanded, jowls a-quiver.
Akutsu reined in his temper for Dan's sake. It was getting strangely easier to do. "To see the projects, sensei," he said, even thought it was so tempting to say 'wreak bloody havoc, and light fire to some stuff.'
"Don't be fresh with me, young man." Tanaka waved a chubby finger in Akutsu's face. Akutsu recoiled. "Don't think I don't know your reputation, or that I forget what you did in the chemistry lab with the soap and the potassium crystals! Go on, get out of here before I give you a week's detention."
"You can't do that! I haven't done anything!"
"Yet," snorted Tanaka. "Hurry up, or it'll be a fortnight."
"I refuse to leave. I want to see the projects, and you can't punish me for just existing."
"Watch me try." Tanaka had a snarly expression on his face, and detention for two weeks wouldn't leave Akutsu with much free time -- not now that he was doing his homework most every night as well.
Akutsu wrestled with his conscience and, for the first time in the history of Akutsu Jin, his conscience won. He buttoned his lip and turned on his heel, but not fast enough to miss Tanaka's parting shot: "See the projects, indeed. Like a delinquent would know anything about team work or dedication."
Akutsu's conscience rested on its laurels for a second too long. Akutsu's long arm shot out and smashed some kid's papier-mache castle to the ground. The kid was too old to cry, but he did anyway. And Akutsu got a month's detention. And he never got to see Dan and Ryuk at all.
Akutsu was kicking holes in the plaster -- a pastime that had yet to pall -- when Dan rang the doorbell. Akutsu opened the door with five o'clock shadow, an inside-out t-shirt, cigarette breath and feet covered in white flakes. It was a stark contrast to Dan's pristine appearance.
"What do you want?" snarled Akutsu. Lesser men had quailed before Akutsu's current expression, but Dan stood his ground.
"I don't like Ichiriki-kun," Dan stated baldly and apropos of nothing. "I'm glad you wrecked his project. He deserved it. He lies under the basketball bleachers and tries to look up girls' skirts."
Akutsu wanted to point out what a futile exercise this was, but that would give away the fact that he'd done it. At least he'd been nine at the time, not going on sixteen.
"What the fuck has that got to do with anything?" Akutsu leaned against the door jamb and wrestled another cigarette out of his back pocket. "I didn't punch up his toy castle because I'm some kind of avenging fucking angel. I was mad and he was the closest, that's all."
Dan looked discomfited. "I'm sorry you have detention."
"Yeah? So'm I. Life sucks like that." Akutsu rubbed one foot against his calf, trying to get off some of the plaster. "Was that all?"
"I guess." Dan took a deep breath. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
Akutsu shrugged nonchalantly. "You're finished your stupid project now, aren't you? I don't have to go round your place any more."
"I'm sorry," said Dan quietly. "I thought you liked coming over."
Akutsu wasn't sure what to do with blatant honesty. He settled on attack as the best form of defence. "You're breaking my heart, kid. Now fuck off and leave me alone."
"If that's what you want," said Dan, his voice dogged.
"That's what I want." Akutsu smiled brilliantly and cruelly. "Bye now."
He slammed the door and kicked the plaster wall so hard he broke it.
Akutsu roamed the streets, disappointed in the knowledge that he was the worst they had to offer. He would have welcomed some challenge to his authority, a chance to smash and break with reasonable justification. He could have been heartbroken if he'd ever acknowledged that he had a heart, let alone that it could be touched by some dumb freshman who owned a shelf full of plushies.
When he was a kid he'd sometimes nicked a few of Kawamura's manga. He'd liked the adventure ones best, of course, but Kawamura wasn't the most discerning of readers and he'd take romance as easily as shounen sports. For a while Akutsu had been reluctantly enchanted by the idea of the perfect princess, the one that heroes fought for and over and from whom a smile was better than a blowjob. Akutsu had had plenty of experience of blowjobs and hardly any of smiles. Maybe he had found the closest thing to that princess and lost him. Maybe he was just drunk out of his mind. Either way he found himself perched on Dan's admittedly roomy windowsill, ready to tilt off at any moment and crack his head open like a stupider version of an egg.
Dan's bedroom door was open a crack, limning the furniture with a golden rim. The longer he stared, the more Akutsu could make out the features of the boy under the heaped blankets. Dan slept with his cheek pillowed on his hands like a little kid, his girlishly long lashes curling like tiny fans. As he breathed, his lips moved slightly.
Akutsu felt his heart speed up in a way that was righteously painful. He also felt his grip slipping. He pitched forward, banging hard against the window.
Everything happened at once. Dan sat bolt upright and reached for a switch. Light flooded the room and Dan-san burst through the door. She met Akutsu's eyes and screamed. Akutsu was used to that reaction, and did the next best thing to clamping his hand over her mouth -- he jumped.
"Robber! Thief! Burglar!" he could hear Dan-san screeching after him, as he fell awkwardly into a rosebush and rolled. He'd be scratched as all hell when he sobered up, but for now the pressing concern was getting away. He entirely missed the part where a tousled-headed Dan leaned out of the window and said, "Jin-kun?" in tones of mingled amazement and delight.
Akutsu had a lot of places to go and drink. Drinking at home was just depressing, and highlighted the squalor rather than fogging it. Sitting on a barrel in a patch of wasteland, watching a bunch of yobs set fire to a milk crate, moved the whole experience slightly closer to the realm of amusing.
How Dan found him there Akutsu didn't know, but he hoped it was through tailing him and not by asking directions. The sort of people who needed to ask directions to this place shouldn't be going there. Indeed, they didn't have a chance to get there, because asking directions was a shortcut to a lengthy stay in hospital.
Dan came to stand in front of him and fix him with a solemn gaze. Akutsu wanted to say something like sorry, and needed to say something like what the fuck is a boy like you doing in a place like this, but he couldn't make his mouth work. Mutely, he gestured with his beer bottle to the nearest available barrel. Dan nimbly hoped aboard and plucked the beer out of Akutsu's hand.
Dan only took a small sip, wincing at the taste. He kept hold of it, though, rolling it between his palms as he looked into the leaping flames. The yobs had started dancing now, perhaps moved by some primitive urge to give thanks for the heat and light, or most likely too drunk to differentiate between walking and falling.
"I want to talk to you," said Dan, after a long time. "I'm afraid you'll spit at me but I still want to talk to you. I think of you as my friend, Jin."
Akutsu nodded, still suffering from paralysis of the lips. The yobs started singing Seishun Amigo at the tops of their voices. Dan swung his gaze between them and Akutsu's frozen face. Coming to some internal decision, he handed Akutsu's beer back to him and jumped off his barrel.
He's leaving! screamed a voice in Akutsu's head. Make him stop leaving!
So Akutsu said the only thing he could think of.
There were only a few things that Akutsu could remember clearly about that night. The way the flames leapt higher and higher until it seemed they were consuming the sky. The endless repetitions of Seishun Amigo, complete with dance moves, performed by the yobs once Dan had yielded to compulsion and corrected their warbling lyrics. Dan nestling under Akutsu's arm, sometimes rubbing his head against the soft arch of skin there. How that made Akutsu feel, soft and hard and heavy and light, all at the same time. The twelve times Dan begged him to say it again, and the nine times he did, and the three times he said, "Can it already, Taichi."
But mostly, and greatest of all, Dan's glowing, disbelieving smile.
Akutsu hadn't had sex so terribly often that he'd grown bored of the whole process. In fact, in a really honest (or pissed) mood, he'd admit that usually he was in a great hurry to get to the main act because there was every chance his body would bail on it before he did.
Which made it doubly strange how chary, how almost scared, he was of touching Dan. They'd thrashed the 'are we boyfriends or boys fooling around?' question out early on, mainly because Dan wouldn't submit to the fooling around if he didn't get the boyfriend part first. Akutsu, for all his griping, secretly enjoyed just hanging out with Dan. Even when he ended up doing really childish things like going to Disneyland, because unlike all the other losers going there he got to kiss Dan in a whirling teacup while the centrifuge pressed Dan up against him over and over.
If Dan's parents weren't aware of what Akutsu was to their son, they were the next best thing. The guest futon never looked even remotely slept on, and they didn't comment on it; just like they politely averted their eyes from the boys' stubble-dashed chins at breakfast. For his part Akutsu was glad, because for all their funny little ways he really liked Dan's family. He doubted they liked him, but there wasn't anything novel in that.
Sometimes the awareness of Dan, right there, was enough to make Akutsu feel hot and bubbly on the inside, like an erupting volcano. Yet he never felt any need to force Dan, to pin him down and have his way with him. He did feel the need to frame Dan's narrow face with his hands and kiss him slowly, with open mouths and tongues, until breathing became gasping. But that was okay because of how much Dan liked it too.
Eventually Akutsu withdrew, panting. He kicked off the sheets because they burned like a brand and leaned his flushed face against the windowpane. Dan curled his knees to his chest -- like it was going to hide anything, but that was Dan all over.
"Jin?" Dan's voice came thick, like clotted cream. Akutsu nearly wanted to kiss him again, but he knew if he did he'd lose his mind.
"D'you remember that old headband of mine? Did you ..." Akutsu almost bailed right there, hating the thought of sounding pathetic "... lose it, or what?"
"Lose it? Of course not!" There was a rustling, and Akutsu shifted to see Dan rummaging under his pillow. "I keep it under here for safe keeping, desu."
"Safe-keeping?" Akutsu raised his eyebrows. "It's hardly the Koh-i-noor. What d'you think's gonna happen it?"
"It got stolen before," said Dan, his forehead wrinkling the way it always did when he was cross. "That nasty Ichiriki-kun. I really do dislike that boy."
"I see," said Akutsu, who did, and was more affected than he'd ever let on.
"That reminds me -- you need something of mine, now." Before Akutsu could stop him, Dan hopped out of bed and took Ryuk down from a shelf.
"I can't take him!" protested Akutsu.
"Sure you can. I'm asking you to." Dan smiled, as if he'd long since realised Akutsu could never refuse him anything.
"All right. But ..." Akutsu invented madly "... I think I want to keep him here. My house is a mess, he'll get broken or stolen -- for real -- if I leave him there. You'll have to look after him for me."
"Okay." Dan scooped up the headband and wound it around Ryuk's head. "There."
Akutsu grinned. Dan smiled, wound his arms around Akutsu's neck and dragged him down. And even when Akutsu would have pulled free because the danger time was approaching, Dan held on, and on, and on.
Five days later, someone stole Ichikiri Takashi's entire underwear drawer and distributed its contents -- all carefully labelled by Ichikiri-san -- around the lockers of the prettiest girls in school. No one ever found out why. He later became a chartered accountant.
And, after all, it was Akutsu who was the one who waited. But just when he thought he was going to go mad, or worse, cry, Dan took his hand under a blooming sakura tree. It was Dan, after all. He'd probably been waiting for spring just so's he could use that properly romantic setting.
"I love you too, Jin," said Dan Taichi.