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A Lesson in Painting

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    “You got me… paints?” Yusuke tilts his head to one side, reforming the statement into a question as he peels open the unmarked plastic bag between them with one finger.


    The question settles in the air between them as the two fall into silence, their quiet breathing and the muted rustle of Yusuke’s finger twisting in the plastic of the bag, the only noises in the otherwise quiet attic. Faintly, Yusuke can hear the sounds of Sojiro closing the cafe below them, the occasional clatter of coffee cups or muffled rattle of coffee beans in glass jars drifting through the uninsulated space between cafe LeBlanc's ceiling and the wooden floorboards of Akira’s room.

    “You like them?” Akira hums, and for some reason he makes the question sound more suggestive than Yusuke thinks the situation warrants.


    He shifts on the floor, bare feet scraping on the large strip of canvas that Akira had rolled out on his bedroom floor before Yusuke had arrived. Akira just grins a bit wider, the expression peeling back his lips in a sort of smirk that splits his whole face open, his manner unabashed and inexplicably smug.

    The intensity of his stare is one that Yusuke has learned Akira has specifically on his own. Grey, sparkling eyes smiling along with the upward turn of his lips. It’s a look that suits him, although he’s fairly certain any look would suit Akira. Yusuke would tell him so, he’s never been one to mince words, but he’s afraid speaking might break the air of confidence that floats off Akira in waves.

    Instead he tries to distract himself by tugging out his phone from his pants pocket, flipping it open to the last text that still sits open in his inbox.




Hey Yusuke, I know you’ve been in a slump lately and I’ve been trying to think of ways I can help. I think I’ve got it figured out.


Can you meet me at leblanc in an hour? I have a surprise for you.


    With Akira giving no sign of elaborating on the text, or the unmarked bag of small paint containers that sits half opened between them, Yusuke finds himself growing more and more confused as he taps the phone screen and watches it flick to black.


    “I appreciate the gesture, but I don’t understand. I have more than enough paints already. How are these supposed to help inspire me?”


    As if it were even possible, Akira’s grin stretches even wider, his eyes glinting with something mischevious that reminds Yusuke of when he’s just found a treasure chest in a palace. Yusuke watches as Akira shifts forward in his seat, leaning closer and closer to Yusuke until he can feel Akira’s warm breath on his cheek, Yusuke shivers, which he doesn’t entirely understand considering he’s fairly certain the room temperature has risen several degrees in the past few seconds, that’s the only explanation for his sweaty palms and the flush that he can feel rising on his cheeks. He thinks he might have to excuse himself, because obviously he must be getting sick, and it would be horribly unmannerly of him to give a cold to Akira when he had invited Yusuke over to give him a gift. He even gets so far as to clear his throat and lift one hand between them to excuse himself, when Akira finally speaks.


    “Yusuke… it’s not just paint.” His voice sounds soft and warm in Yusuke’s ear, and when he glances over his eyes almost cross from Akira’s sheer proximity to his face. It’s only now that he notices the blush that creeps down Akira’s neck into the collar of his shirt, and perhaps Akira isn’t feeling well either? It would explain the strange text, and his unusual behavior.


    “I don’t understand. Akira, are you feeling alright? I’m not really sure why-”


    “-It’s edible paint.” It’s spoken in a clandestine whisper, and this time Yusuke does shiver, because Akira’s fingers have curled around his on the bag that sits between them, cool digits wrapping around his own and raising gooseflesh up his arm.


    “Then why would I want to paint with it?” He asks automatically, his brain still turning in knots trying to decipher what angle Akira is playing. And really, it’s only reasonable that he should ask, because even though Akira means well, he’s not at all sure how new paints are meant to inspire him. Especially when there are so few pigments.


    Akira deflates slightly, puffing out his cheeks and reclining back onto his seat on the canvas. He’s giving Yusuke that look that usually means he’s missed some sort of social cue, and he’s beginning to think that maybe Akira had ulterior motives for giving him edible paints. He’s not even certain where Akira would find such a thing, Yusuke frequents every art store in the city several times a week, and he’s never even heard of paints that can be ingested. He hums in thought, racking his mind for reasons Akira may bought the paints for him- unless.


    “Akira, does this have anything to do with you wanting me to eat more?”


    Yusuke smiles at his own cleverness, certain that he’s figured out Akira’s meaning behind the gift. He straightens his back a little and waits for Akira to congratulate him for figuring it out, watching the flint swirl of his eyes shift from to excitement to… confusion? That wasn’t supposed to happen.


    Akira blinks a few times before he sighs dejectedly and untangles his fingers from Yusuke, who only now realizes that they were still tangled between his own and the bag. His hand feels colder at the loss of Akira’s grasp, and he tries not to frown at the sensation as Akira raises his free fingers to run them through his black curls as if he’s thinking of what to say.


    “Yusuke, you don’t- I mean… they are edible but that’s not really what I had in- I mean to say, you’re supposed to paint with them.”


    “I see…” Yusuke feels as if someone has plucked him up from a turbulent river and placed him into a tempestuous ocean, if anything, he’s even farther away from understanding why on earth Akira would buy him the paints. “I suppose that makes sense. What did you have in mind? Is the media edible as well?” He asks out of honest curiosity, eyes immediately glancing down to the canvas beneath them in confusion.


    The color drops from Akira’s face in an instant, and he looks as if he’s about to speak, before it returns in full intensity, his cheeks burning a concerning shade of red as he opens his mouth twice, just to close it with an audible click. Yusuke reaches forward a bit out of worry, and Akira waves away the concern, taking a few deep breathes before he straightens his back and speaks with the utmost sincerity.


    “Well… I was… that is- I figured… I could be the canvas.”


    “But why would I-oh….” Oh. The light clicks on instantaneously, and Yusuke is immediately so overcome with inspiration that he can’t even smother the undignified breath that catches in his throat if he tries. “Why have I not thought of this before? It’s the perfect expression of living art, a flawless consummation of shape and movement- Akira, this is brilliant.”


    “I… uhh… that works. So, where do we start?” Akira huffs, suddenly looking like this whole conversation was a lot harder than he anticipated it being.


    Yusuke isn’t sure why Akira had felt the need to beat around the bush, there’s nothing to be embarrassed of. If anything the idea was terribly thoughtful, Yusuke can’t imagine a better way to get out of his artistic slump than to turn one of his models into actual art, he’ll have to thank Akira later, for volunteering for such a thing, and for coming up with the idea. But for now, Yusuke is almost too excited to speak, automatically pushing up his sleeves and spilling the paints out of the bag, setting them in a neat row across the edge of the canvas mat.


    “Well, obviously the first thing to do would be to have you remove your shirt.”


    “Right. Right. Of course.” Akira mumbles, fingers already wrapping around the bottom of his sweater. He crosses his arms and begins to peel up the shirt, revealing a sliver of smooth pale skin that expands as he pulls it further over his torso.

Yusuke watches the fresh skin as it’s exposed to the air, tracing the light muscles of Akira’s stomach as he tries to decide what his theme will be and where on Akira he’ll start.


    Akira speaks again when the sweater is pulled halfway over his head, voice muffled by the shifting fabric, “This stuff comes off skin easily but I’m not so sure about clothes. You should probably take yours off too.”


    Oh. Yusuke thinks for a moment, watching where Akira has paused, completely still, with the sweater tangled around his face, as if waiting for a response.

“Yes. Of course. I suppose that does make sense.” Yusuke answers thoughtfully, working his own shirt up and over his shoulders. Akira has since been freed of his own shirt, now watching Yusuke curiously as he folds his shirt neatly and sets it to the left of the canvas.


    Yusuke takes a moment to look Akira up and down, tracing the curves and dips of his body with an artist’s eye before he unscrews the first paint cap and positions his fingers to frame in Akira’s torso.


    “So, where are the brushes?”


    “Brushes?” Akira repeats, head tilting to one side.


    “Brushes. For painting.”


    “I figured you could just use your fingers… was that wrong?” Akira asks in the most innocent possible way, legs crossed beneath him as his eyes shift from Yusuke, to the paints, back to Yusuke.


    “My… fingers?” Yusuke mutters, because surely Akira is joking. He looks over to where his bag would normally be had he came over after school and not been invited over by a spur of the moment text message.


    “Yeah. Like this.” Akira hums, his confidence seemingly returned as he leans marginally forward and picks up the container of black paint.


    Yusuke watches as he unscrews the paint cap, his tongue peeking out from between his lips in concentration as he sets it down on the floor between his knees. His eyes skip up to Yusuke’s and he smiles mischievously before raising his hands in a mock imitation of Yusuke and frames in the other man’s stomach. Yusuke snorts at the gesture, unamused as Akira dips two fingers into the black paint and stretch them towards Yusuke’s exposed stomach.


    There’s a short moment where both both pause, Yusuke scarcely daring to breath as Akira’s paint dipped fingers hover an inch from his bare torso. It only stretches another second like this before Akira presses his fingers to the skin of Yusuke’s ribs, his fingers cold and wet and eliciting a small gasp from Yusuke that shoots up his spine and settles in the base of his neck. Akira wastes no time in spreading the paint around his stomach, every few seconds humming to himself or tilting his head to get a better angle. During this time Yusuke practices sitting very still, the sensation of Akira’s fingers gently swooping over his ribs occupying every part of his senses. He almost loses himself in the feeling, letting his eyes droop shut as Akira makes two dots above his belly button.


    After a moment Akira lets out a satisfied “done” and returns to his seat, his paint covered hand reaching up to subconsciously push up his glasses, leaving a wet smear of black on the bridge of his nose. This made him look like a kid, and Yusuke would probably find it endearing if he wasn’t still hyperfocused on the lingering feeling of Akira’s cool touches across his abdomen. He shakes the thought from his head and glances down, eyes squinting at the smudged canvas of black that covers his stomach.


    “What… is this?”


    “It’s Morgana.” Akira answers confidently, trying to wipe the black paint from his nose and instead smudging it down his lip. His tongue swipes out and tastes the black paint, and Akira gives a sheepish smile before muttering something about it tasting like chocolate.


    “It’s…this…. Morgana?” Yusuke covers his own mouth with his hand, stifling a laugh as he tilts his chin down to get a better view of the stick figure Akira claims is in resemblance to their friend.


    Akira’s cheeks stain a light pink, contrasting against the black on his lips as he stammers out a response, “Yeah… so what?”


    “Akira, this is horrible.” Yusuke answers truthfully, and he almost has the decency to feel bad before Akira blanches and waves his painted hand in the air, a strip of black splattering onto the canvas.


    “Well, you’re the artist. I was just giving an example.”

“I appreciate it.” Yusuke answers, and even though Akira’s is most definitely not an artist, he does. The gesture was sincere, and Yusuke half closes his eyes for a moment, chasing the feeling of Akira’s fingers dipping over his ribs. “Now, I’ll need you to lay down.”