There were probably more embarrassing ways to realize how inadequate your command of Mandarin really was, but right at the moment Waya couldn't think of one.
The bone-shivering bass wasn't helping.
"Uh," Waya said.
"Oh," Isumi said.
Someone squeezed past Waya, brushing deliberately against his back, and Waya decided abruptly that this was all Isumi's fault. After all, Isumi had been to China before, and had learnt more kanji in school, and it was much easier to blame Isumi than to think about how long it had taken Waya to realize that all of the people twisting and twined around each other were male.
Next to him Isumi darted quick, flustered glances at the dance floor. Lights flashed across his face, blue and red, sweeping through the smoke haze, and Waya could see his throat bob, quick and unsettled.
"Let's go!" Waya couldn't hear his own voice over the techno, so he tugged on Isumi's arm. Isumi blinked, then nodded, fervently.
In the abrupt silence outside the club Waya still felt like he was vibrating, his ears ringing, his face hot. The bouncer watched them with deep and flat dismissal as they left, but Waya was too distracted to take offense. The walk back up the alley was full of the shape of the air between them, and the way it changed with the rhythm of Isumi's steps, the swing of his arms.
It was awful. Waya cleared his throat. "Did we take a wrong turn?"
"I must have misunderstood Yang Hai when he gave me the directions," Isumi said. There was something tight in his voice, and Waya suddenly didn't want to hear any more. He bunched his shoulders up, feeling his shirt shift against his back.
After they had traced their steps back to the main street, Isumi said, "Waya." He was looking straight ahead, his expression the one he had during a game, focused and opaque. "What would you do if I said I might be interested in going to a place like that, sometime?"
"You idiot." Something hot and clear rushed through Waya's chest. "I'd ask if you wanted me to come along! What the hell did you expect?"
"Oh," Isumi said after a moment. He ducked his head. Waya thought he might be smiling. Several steps further Isumi added, sounding pleased and diffident, "Thank you."
"We could go back," Waya blurted, because Isumi still wasn't looking at him; and maybe he wasn't quite sure exactly what he was offering, but he did know that thank you was not the right answer, and that this was hugely, terribly important. He stopped, in the middle of the street. Someone made an irritated noise and pushed past him, but he barely noticed. Isumi had only half turned around. Waya jammed his hands in his pockets and cocked his head in challenge. "We can go back right now. If you want."
Isumi looked up, and he was smiling, that rare smile that welled up from somewhere deep inside him. "No," he said, and put an arm around Waya's shoulder, half a hug. "No. Let's go home."
Waya thought he might understand a little better now. He leaned into Isumi, just a little, just enough to find out how neatly his side fit against Isumi's, like they'd always been meant to go together.
"Think that will be more fun than clubbing?" he said, grinning.
"Maybe," Isumi said, pink, and left his arm around Waya's shoulders all the way back to the hotel.