Rohan twirled his pen around his fingers, staring ahead at the front door.
After taking a peek through his drawing room window to look at the doorway, he already knew who it was waiting on the other side. This week's manuscript had been finished a minute ago, and for those sixty seconds, his mind was a peaceful, relaxing blank. Leave it to this idiot to somehow know when the worst opportunity to show up was.
He could just ignore him. He often did. Most people in the neighborhood knew by now that it was pointless to come knocking on his door, even when they had good reason to. His house could be burning again and nobody who lived in the nearby area would probably even bother trying to let him know.
As for the idiot, he could always just get a dog. He disliked the thought of having any other lifeform around that he had to look after and – heaven forbid – take care of, but it would serve him well if it would discourage him from stepping in his yard. Whenever he showed up, Rohan knew that trouble was sure to follow and it pained him to even think about what he wanted this time.
If he waited there for long enough, he figured he would assume he was out and would go away.
But nope, he was still there. The doorbell just rang again and his feet were still stubbornly glued to the mat at the front door which may as well have read “If Your Name Is Higashikata Josuke, Please Leave.”
It was getting unnerving, knowing that he was just standing there, waiting him out. If the doorbell rang one more time, then he was going to be left with no choice but to use Heaven's Door to tell him he could never come back again. (Why he even chose to come back around would be anyone's guess. The last time they spoke, Josuke had barely wanted to share a seat on the bus with him.)
He rang the fucking doorbell again.
It was on.
It was on like a cage match and all he knew was that Josuke better be prepared to eat his own shit because that was what Heaven's Door was going to make him do.
He unlocked the door at the speed of light and threw it open, his eyes barely registering him through the blinding rage he felt. Josuke at least had the courtesy to flinch and back up a step when he saw him, holding his hands up to his chest defensively.
“Back for another game? You fucking better be, because I'm going to beat your ass so hard-”
Josuke stopped him by waving around his hands, shrinking back more and more as Rohan's fury grew. “No, no, stop, hey... Calm down.”
“Calm down...?” he echoed, on edge. “It would be one thing if we ran into each other at the café or the book store or some other place, but you just crossed the line. Coming back to my fucking house? You must be suicidal.”
Josuke wisely backed up a couple more steps, reaching the very edge of his porch. “Look, I know I really pissed you off, but that's the thing. I can't stand having a friend mad at me-” Before Rohan could protest his use of the word 'friend', Josuke stopped him again. “I know. You're going to say we're not. But in this town, there aren't many people like us and I'm sure you know how important it is for us to stick together, so...”
He had his ears now.
Josuke bowed his head and held out his hands to him. That was when Rohan finally realized that he had been holding something this whole time. It was a blue plastic bag; one of the kind you'd get from down at Owson's. “I realized that I never properly apologized to you for what happened with your house. And I know you don't really give a shit about your house and all you care about is your manga, but I felt a lil' bad and I know there's, like, bad water between us still, so I wanted to clear that up and... I brought a peace offering.”
He raised an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest. “What's this? No more games after all?”
Josuke shook his head and a bit of hair got unstuck from his pompadour and fell in front of his face. He flinched and quickly attempted to make it rejoin the rest of his powerfully permed hair. That moment took all of a second but it showed Rohan that he wasn't trying to deceive him, at least. He looked about as nervous as he should be, standing on an enemy's doorstep.
Rohan hooked a finger in the edge of the bag and pulled it toward himself to take a peek inside.
Josuke nodded and straightened himself up. If Rohan weren't so confident in his own abilities, he might have been intimidated by this freakishly tall high schooler.
“Not just pie,” he said, sounding a little nervous. “It's a special cherry pie from Tonio's Italian place. I spent the last of my allowance on this.”
The urge to roll his eyes was irresistible. “Allowance?” He laughed, tilting his head to the side so he could glare at Josuke from the corners of his eyes. “Why am I even talking to a kid like you?”
“Just trust me,” Josuke insisted, sounding suspiciously adamant about it, his knuckles practically turning white as he gripped the handle of the bag. What the kid probably didn't realize was that trusting him would be more than a difficult feat. He already disgraced him on numerous occasions and here he was, expecting him to accept a gift as if that would patch up all he had done? No, that just wasn't going to fly.
“No thank you,” he said, getting ready to close the door.
The immediate, positively crestfallen look on Josuke's face was what made him pause.
“Do you... not like cherry? I can go exchange it for a different kind real quick. I mean, it's autumn, so... Pumpkin? Would you prefer pumpkin pie instead?”
Rohan sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of his nose to try to keep a headache from forming. “It's not the kind of pie that matters to me.”
“Cherry's fine then?” he asked hopefully.
For some reason, Josuke stepped forward as if he were going to enter the house. Rohan quickly blocked him, putting a hand on the door jamb to keep him from getting any farther.
“What do you think you're doing?”
“We're going to have the pie together now, right?”
There was no stopping that headache now. Rohan had a feeling that he should just start affectionately referring to all headaches as 'Josuke' because he was usually the cause of them. He sighed loudly and used his other hand to prod Josuke in the chest and push him back. “I never said you could come in, I never said I was accepting your gift, and I certainly don't recall you saying that you wanted us to enjoy it together. What do you take me for?”
Josuke paled. “I-I don't know what you mean. I'm really not trying to fool you this time.”
“So you were trying to fool me the last time...”
“Look, can we just let that one go already? Sometimes you just have to start all over and that's what I'm trying to do here.” He put some space between them and lifted the pie out of the bag to let him have a better look at it. “Tonio made this special for us. 'A pie to mend hearts', is what he called it. Trust me, that guy is a culinary genius. If you eat a slice of this and don't feel something... Then you never have to talk to me ever again, how about that?”
Now he was talking. Rohan had never met this Tonio fellow before but he had heard some noise around lately about a new little Italian restaurant that was suddenly getting a lot of business and hot reviews. Maybe Josuke was serious about this if he had gone out of his way to get an item that special. It even sounded like a custom order.
But the best part of this was that last bit. Sure, it wouldn't hurt to give the pie a try, especially if he were ever interested in trying the restaurant out by himself, but if he didn't like it then he was going to make Josuke eat his words for sure.
“You've got a deal,” he accepted with a grin. “I've never hoped for a dessert to taste shitty so badly in my life, I'll have you know.”
Josuke looked confident. “Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm sure you're going to love it.”
He was skeptical, but this was a challenge he was willing to accept. However, he had one more condition in mind. It would be unfair if Josuke got to have this completely his way. “One more thing,” he said, keeping his arm blocking the way. “I won't let you forget about how severely you humiliated me last time, so I think it would only be fair for you to agree to do something for me in return.”
“Hey, I'm already giving you pie, man. What more could you ask for?” Josuke asked with an unsteady smirk.
Rohan glared at him lecherously from beneath lowered lashes, just to see if he could unnerve him further. This would be the icing on the cake and nothing would please him more than if he agreed to it. “We'll have the pie together, yes. But I want you to personally feed it to me. With your hands.” He tapped a finger to his bottom lip for punctuation. “I don't think it's too much to ask, is it?”
His request seemed to make Josuke visibly uncomfortable but he conceded after a moment's hesitation anyway.
“Fine. The proof's in the pie as they say. Doesn't matter how you eat it, I'm sure you're going to love it.”
“That's not how the phrase goes,” Rohan sighed. “And why does it sound like this is suddenly about making sure I enjoy the pie... You didn't put something in it, did you? I'm sure you understand my skepticism.”
Josuke laughed in that off-putting way again. “T-there's really nothing to worry about! I mean it. I know that things might stay weird with us for a while but I want to try to patch things up with you.”
An innocent man's face wouldn't have any reason to turn red like that, though. Josuke was playing at something again, but Rohan couldn't put his finger on it. Unlike last time, he really didn't want to sacrifice another finger for the sake of finding out the truth and he would sooner die than ask Josuke to heal him again. If he had one flaw, he knew that it was his own persistent curiosity.
Damn if he wasn't curious to find out what he was up to this time...
“Alright, you can come in,” he said, finally lowering his arm. “If you think you can keep yourself from getting any of it on the furniture, we can have it in the sitting room.”
This would make Josuke only the third person he had personally invited into his home. That other time where he and Okuyasu found their way into his drawing room didn't count for obvious reasons. That was an interesting house warming party for sure. Things got out of hand that time, but by the end of it, he wasn't too disappointed. He already figured out that Josuke was an insufferable dickhead, capable of flying into blind rages, but at least he gave him some interesting material for the trouble that time.
He showed him to the living room and gestured toward the couch for him to take a seat but it looked like Josuke was too busy absorbing his surroundings, his head swiveling all over to check out every corner of the room. Rohan hadn't given much thought to the furnishings yet, but the room was probably more than anything Josuke had at his home. The couch alone probably cost more than anything Josuke owned.
“If you want to take a seat, I'll go get us some plates,” he said. He kept a wary eye on him just in case.
“Alright. I won't wreck anything.”
How reassuring, he thought. Heaving a sigh, he retreated to the kitchen. Somehow, he still had a bad feeling about this. He just couldn't place his finger on it yet, but it felt like Josuke had an ulterior motive for coming over. If he hadn't thought of his condition for this then he was sure this would have been the most awkward experience of his life; sitting in silence, eating pie with him of all people...
After he retrieved a pair of plates from the cupboard and a knife and some forks from the silverware drawer, he returned to the living room. Josuke had placed the pie on the low coffee table in front of the couch and he was sitting there calmly, fiddling innocently with some loose thread on his jacket. Nothing appeared to be out of place...
He silently set the plates and silverware on the table.
“Would you mind if I...?” he asked, suggesting that he cut the dessert himself. The lower the odds of any funny business taking place the better.
“Oh. Sure, go ahead,” Josuke said, sounding like he was coming out of some deep thoughts.
This guy was going to give Rohan a heart attack just because he could tell he wasn't being straightforward. He could just Heaven's Door him now... But then if he really were telling the truth, doing something like that would completely insult the effort Josuke was making – if he was really being honest to start with.
He cleared his throat and slowly lifted the lid on the pie. Hesitantly, he leaned forward to get a scent on it and it was... Pleasant. It smelled exactly like one would expect a cherry pie to smell like: freshly baked dough and warm cherries. If nothing else, it did seem kind of special that he had brought it over while it was still warm. He must have bought it and then ran straight over to his house because otherwise, a hot pie would go bad from being closed up so soon.
“Smells good,” he said, allowing him a small compliment.
“Great. I can't wait to see how you like it.”
Rohan snorted. “Don't forget, you're the one who's going to be feeding it to me. I know I brought two forks, but we're only going to be needing one.”
He sat down next to him at the couch and began cutting the pie, sliding the knife through it three times to get six pieces of a decent size; not too big or too small. He used one of the forks to get two pieces out and served them onto his and Josuke's plates. The pie looked totally normal on the inside as well. In fact, one could say that it looked very appetizing.
Maybe he was being suspicious of him for nothing.
“I think I'll give you the benefit of the doubt,” he said, sliding Josuke's plate toward him. “I'll even take the first bite.”
He handed Josuke his plate with a grin. It looked like all of Josuke's emotions were in conflict, his expression a queasy combination of embarrassment and something else. It made Rohan wish that he had a sketchpad nearby to capture it, but he was satisfied to take it in with his eyes for now, committing it to memory.
Payback was sweet indeed.
“What are you waiting for?” he asked, leaning toward him, closing his eyes and opening his mouth slightly. He wouldn't antagonize him too badly, lest he decide to shove the dessert in his face.
“Are you sure I can't use a fork?” Josuke asked.
Rohan cracked open an eye to glare at him. “No. I said you would use your hands.”
“I-If you say so, Mr. Rohan...”
Picking up pie in his hand was probably going to be a bit of a task. Without even a fork, it would be hard to separate just one piece from it to feed to him. The logical option would have been to pick up the entire thing at once and let him try to bite it off himself, but if he tried that, then Rohan was ready to refuse. He wanted him to struggle with it as much as possible.
As if he could hear his thoughts, he attempted to pull off a piece from the end between his fingers. For a second, it made Rohan wonder if he had washed his hands recently but the thought was trumped by the overwhelming need to find out what his hands tasted like.
No, the pie. Had to keep his focus.
He cracked his eyes and watched Josuke's adam's apple slowly bob as he swallowed heavily, holding out the piece for him to eat. There were a ton of reasons why Josuke could find this embarrassing. Namely, how intimate the gesture was. Even if there was something seriously fucked up about this pie, he was going to be sure to give Josuke a time to remember as payback.
Rohan closed the gap, reaching out to curl his fingers around Josuke's wrist so he couldn't get away with popping the piece into his mouth and then trying to pull his hand back. He slid his tongue under his fingers and sucked them into his mouth along with the morsel.
“W-what are you doing?” Josuke asked in dismay.
Rohan savored the taste of the pie and rolled his tongue around each of his digits just to be sure he got every last bit of pie filling off of them. “I'm making sure that you won't get any of it on the couch. That's the problem when you're using your hands to eat, you know.”
It looked like he had totally thrown Josuke off his game now, which was good. It looked like he was more concerned with keeping himself steady now than worrying about the pie. It gave Rohan a second to think about what he had just eaten.
It tasted like cherry pie. The piece he pulled off wasn't very big so there was only one cherry in that bite but it was a very plump one. When he bit into it, the juice inside of it filled his mouth with its slightly tart-yet-sweet flavor. The crust tasted sweet but not too sugary, which was just the way he liked it as well. Not like he would admit it, but cherry was his favorite kind of pie.
He tightened his grip on Josuke's wrist.
The pie tasted totally normal, but it felt like something was wrong. Or not wrong, but... different. His throat was starting to feel dry. The hair on the back of his neck was standing on end. His heart felt like it was suddenly pumping at double its normal speed and when he looked back up at Josuke, it only seemed to make the condition worse.
“When you said... When you said 'feel something', what did you mean? Because I definitely feel something but I don't think it's something good.”
Josuke's eyes widened. “No, I meant something good. Tonio's food can have, um, some interesting effects on people, but I'm sure it's not going to make you sick or anything. D-Do you want me to go get you some water?” He moved to set down the plate and quicker than Rohan could even explain what he was doing, he was shooting his other hand forward to grab Josuke's other wrist to keep him from putting it down.
“No. I... I'm sure I'm just overreacting. Give me another piece.”
He wasn't overreacting. It literally felt like he was going to have a heart attack now which cleared all doubt from his mind that there was something going on with that pie, but he wanted to figure out what it was. He felt compelled to figure out what it was. He felt compelled to eat more of it. It was just so good.
He released Josuke's hands and rubbed his fingers over his temples. What was going on? Was he losing his mind to a piece of pie?
It felt like no amount of self-control would be able to keep him away from it now, though.
His body acted on its own again. There was no thought in his mind stronger than how much he wanted to eat more of it and it drove him to wrap his lips around Josuke's fingers again without a second thought. The taste seemed sweeter this time and it was like the scent of it was all around him, filling his head with a foggy, hazy lust for more.
“More,” he said, disgusting himself with how lewd his voice sounded. That was the least of his concerns now, though. He felt like he would burst into flames if he didn't get more of that pie and the taste of Josuke's fingers.
Josuke gave him another piece, then another until he was practically eating it from the palm of his hand. At some point, it seemed that he had found his way closer and now he had a leg between Josuke's, leaning so close to him that he could smell his breath. He still didn't know what was going on anymore, but that felt like a small matter in the face of other things. Did he always find Josuke this handsome?
Ah, that's right. He did, didn't he.
That was just a part of why he found him so insufferable. It was enough that he hated him, but to find him attractive too? It made him want to puke.
“Are you alright?” Josuke asked, tentatively holding out another piece for him. They were nearing the crust on his slice now and Josuke hadn't even touched any of his yet. That seemed a little unfair.
Rohan merrily accepted the piece he held out to him, nipping at the tips of his fingers before he pulled his mouth away. “Me? I feel great. But I am a little disappointed that you haven't eaten a bite of yours yet. Since you've been so kind so far, I wouldn't mind returning the favor for you.” He kept his knee between Josuke's legs and leaned to the table to pull a piece off of Josuke's pie for him to taste. “Go on,” he said, holding it in front of his lips.
“I-I don't think I-”
While Josuke was busy trying to protest, Rohan spotted his opportunity and shoved the piece into his mouth between his words. To make certain that he wouldn't try to spit it out, he held his thumb under his jaw to keep his mouth clamped shut. Josuke's eyebrows furrowed and he whimpered but he did as Rohan wanted and chewed it and swallowed.
While Rohan was feeling slightly more lucid, he still had no idea what was going on. He didn't understand the feeling that came over him when he was eating the pie or why he felt so compelled to keep eating it, why it made him want to sit closer to Josuke when he would normally want to run away from him. It reminded him of the effects of alcohol, but he didn't think there was any alcohol that could affect a person that quickly and that profoundly.
He watched Josuke's face carefully, waiting to see his reaction. It was slow, but the effect it was having on him seemed to be similar to the way it made him feel when he first tasted it. His lips quivered and he gripped a hand into the couch cushion. His other hand pressed down against the thigh Rohan had between his legs, but it didn't make him flinch away. For some reason, the touch sent a flare of adrenaline through him and made his head swim, that hazy feeling and desire returning.
“Well?” he asked. “Do you like it?”
Josuke nodded numbly, his expression yet an enigmatic blank. “It's good. It's really good.”
“Do you want more?”
He nodded again and Rohan leaned back again, this time picking up the whole slice in his hand.
There was a little smudge, he noticed. Just beneath Josuke's chin where he had placed his thumb before, there was a smudge of pie filling that he must have left behind. That new and frightening feeling stirred in his chest. Unable to ignore it, he leaned in and dragged his tongue over his chin, leaving the spot clean.
Did he ever respond? Rohan felt like he couldn't hear anything anymore over the rushing of his own blood in his ears. Right, he remembered. He nodded for him, which was as much response as he needed in the state he was in. He didn't know what it was that made that pie so special, but just looking at the slice he had in his hand made him want to shove the whole thing in his mouth. The erotic implications of that made his entire face feel hot and it took all of his willpower to focus himself again to return his attention to Josuke.
He lifted the slice in his hand and opened his mouth. “Say ahhh.”
Somehow, he wound up straddling Josuke's lap. No matter, it made it easier to feed it to him from there. Josuke put his hands on his hips and leaned forward to take a bite off the end. That little loose piece of hair had come unstuck again and was hanging in front of his face, now clinging to his sweat-dampened forehead. Rohan could smell him and the pie, could feel the weight of his hands on his hips, the way his thumbs were brushing the exposed skin of his waist.
Just one little bite couldn't hurt. Josuke looked so absorbed in it himself that he probably wouldn't even notice if he took a bite of it at the same time.
It wasn't until he had a hand at the back of his neck, his lips pressed against Josuke's with pie filling smearing across their faces that he realized what he was doing.
And he just didn't fucking care. He didn't know what it was about that pie, but it had awoken something in him and it looked as though Josuke was experiencing the same. Neither of them were protesting, although that one part of him at his core, the skeptic in him, still wanted to know what was doing this to them.
When they parted, they had the remains of the pie covering their faces and hands, staining their clothing and there was even some on the couch, much to Rohan's chagrin.
“What did you put in that pie?” he asked, trying to catch his breath.
Josuke shook his head. “Nothing. Tonio was the one who handled it all but what he says is that it's the customer that determines the food.” He looked to be as out of breath as Rohan felt himself. “Something like that.”
“What do you mean? Is he one of those holistic weirdos?”
Josuke laughed, lifting one of his hands to wipe some of the pie off his face and licked it off his fingers. “It's sort of like that. He makes food that can cure people of ailments and things, so I asked him if he had something that could help me make up with someone and he baked me this pie. I didn't even say what I wanted. He just went in the back and returned with the pie, saying that it would help 'mend our hearts'.”
Rohan felt a little sick suddenly.
“So you intend to make me believe that this pie made me...”
He nodded. Rubbed his nose nervously. “If it makes you feel any better, it did the same to me.”
This was priceless. “Are you sure he didn't misunderstand you? 'Make out with' can sound a lot like 'make up with' to a foreigner. I can see how he could have gotten confused.”
“No, I was pretty clear and so was he about the heart-mending bit.”
They sat together in silence for a moment, Rohan leaning forward slightly with his hands hiding the front of his pants to protect himself from further embarrassment, yet too reluctant to stand and leave Josuke's lap.
“Well this is... unexpected and embarrassing.”
Josuke lowered his head, that ridiculous pompadour of his keeping Rohan from seeing his face. “Yeah,” he said softly. “Sorry about this... Looks like I screwed up again, huh.”
“Hell yes you did.” The fact that his arousal wasn't going anywhere infuriated Rohan more than anything else he had done yet, but. There was still a feeling lingering at the edge of his mind because of that pie. Or maybe it was because of Tonio's food that he was able to feel it in the first place, like it had always been there until it was brought forward.
“But,” he said quietly, “your little peace-offering certainly made me feel something, so...”
The fact was, Josuke knew how to make him feel things he had never felt before. A number of people he met in Morioh were pretty interesting like Koichi and his friend, but Josuke was somehow different. He brought trouble with him every time he came around, but whenever he came around, he managed to make Rohan feel like he was living in a manga.
Josuke kept his hands resting gently on his thighs and he was smirking to himself, looking rather proud. Even if Rohan were starting to understand what this other feeling was, that look still pissed him off.
“I think you should leave for today,” he said, finally willing himself to get out of his lap even though he could smell the scent of cherry lingering on Josuke's lips.
“Aw, really? So soon?” He looked disappointed but that didn't stop Rohan from grabbing him by the lapels of his coat and hoisting him onto his feet. After he straightened out the front of his coat, Josuke glanced down at what remained of the pie on the coffee table. “You can keep the rest of it, by the way. Maybe... save some and we can eat the rest together next time?”
Of course there would be a next time. This was a mystery quickly unraveling by its seams and although the thought of finding out the conclusion scared Rohan a little, there was nothing he could do to stop himself once he was on the trail of a mystery.
“It would take me a long time to eat a whole pie by myself anyway, you know. No matter how delicious that guy's pie may be, I do have some self-control in me.”
“Alright then.” The happy smile he gave Rohan made his heart do some kind of painful constricting thing. It looked like the pie had its own effect on Josuke, erasing some of that nervousness that he had in him when he first came to his house. Now he looked a lot more relaxed and the comfortable smile he had made it even more frighteningly obvious to Rohan how handsome he found him.
No better reason to get him out of his house. He was going to need some time to think about what that was all about.
“Fine, fine,” Josuke laughed. He stepped around the table and before leaving, he turned and quickly gave him a peck on the cheek.
For which Rohan gave him a black eye.
That next Sunday, Josuke rang his doorbell again and Rohan didn't feel the same hesitation to open the door. He took the pie from the fridge and joined him in the living room.