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Des Aeva had learned four things after three months of “fake dating” Leo Spindler.

*****

Firstly, Leo was an animal magnet. Whenever they had a “date” at Cherie Park near Cafe Ardent, the single men and women would flock to Des, but the animals in the vicinity would flock to Leo. Literally all the dogs would run up to the shorter man and fight for his attention. Des didn’t mind it - the dogs would also nudge him for pats as they wait for their turn with Leo. Leo would patiently pat each dog on the head, ruffle its neck affectionately and then told it to return to its owner.

And then there were the birds that liked to land on him.

Leo told him a small story that made him infamous in the city they were in: four years ago (two years before Des moved to Paris to set up his cafe, so there were bound to be some tales he hadn’t heard yet), a lion escaped from the local zoo. People were absolutely terrified when they caught sight of the rogue beast, and Leo had the wonderful luck to be seen by the lion as it prowled the streets. It was practically plastered to his side, purring and wrapping its tail around his legs, persistently rubbing its head against his side until Leo nearly fell face-first onto the ground from a particularly powerful nudge. The tour guide had to drag himself to the zoo as people gawked and pointed. The lion was returned to its enclosure area, of course not until Leo got permission to visit the lion anytime he wanted. Leo even showed Des a photo taken on his phone of him and the lion (he named it Kat, funny), in which Leo was smothered by the lion’s massive paws as it attempted to hug him around the neck.

*****

Secondly, Leo was very physically affectionate. Specifically, with Des.

Des caught onto this fact pretty quickly from watching the way Leo interacted with the people in his cafe. Leo was always patting other people on the shoulders or back, poking at them good-naturedly, and most people didn’t seem to mind it. And Des probably would’ve dismissed this as simply a habit of Leo’s, if not for the fact that on closer inspection, Leo actually shared very little physical contact - a pat or a finger poke didn’t count much. When it came to Des, it was a different story. He hugged Des frequently. When they went out, his hands were often on Des’ waist, or secured on the small of Des’ back. He liked to lean into Des’ personal space and mess with his hair (for heaven’s sake, did the man even know how much effort he put into his hair every morning?). It made their facade quite convincing, but sometimes Leo did these things even when they’re alone together, and it was getting harder and harder to convince himself it was all for the fake relationship. So Des simply came to the conclusion that the tour guide seemed to genuinely enjoy physical contact with him.

(Des enjoyed it immensely too, maybe a bit too much, but he’d never admit it out loud.)

There was a time when they had a “couple” picnic at the park, and Leo had complained about being sleepy. Des had pulled Leo’s head onto his lap, his long slender fingers tangled in Leo’s ruffled dark locks (so much softer and silkier than they looked) and hushed at him to take a nap. It didn’t take long, and Des could’ve sworn to every deity above (and below, he’s not picky) that Leo purred. Like a giant warm cat in his lap. Des had a goofy smile the entire time Leo snuggled closer and mumbled in his sleep.

*****

Thirdly, Leo practiced martial arts.

… OK, maybe it wasn’t much of a surprise because Leo told him outright. He had been joking about his spaghetti arms and teasing Leo, asking how the tour guide got “such shapely biceps”. Maybe it was a compliment and a shitty attempt at flirting, and maybe Leo’s cheeks turned a bit too red at the question. The point was, Des didn’t expect an answer. Leo told him he did martial arts, and was apparently quite proficient at it. He then invited Des to practice with him in the morning, and that he could teach the taller man the basics.

That was how Des found himself bleary-eyed and half awake at 5:00 am on a Tuesday, sitting on a bench in front of Leo’s house, yawning into his fist as he watched Leo go through his usual routine. Des was shivering in his thin cardigan (he didn’t expect it to be so cold in the early mornings, OK, he could barely function, let alone select proper clothing). Leo didn’t seem fazed by the chill at all: he donned a black form-fitting sleeveless turtleneck and white sports pants that hung a little low on his hips. Then Leo moved, and suddenly Des wasn’t as sleepy anymore.

Leo was a creature of motion, beautiful in his movements, elegant and fluid, and he carried himself with grace and strength. There was no redundant action, no flourish - every move was sharp, efficient, and performed with deadly precision. And when Leo turned his back to Des, he could see the edges of a winged tattoo on the shorter man’s shoulders. Leo was all well-sculpted muscles, sinewy arms and torso, and the clothing showed off the most desirable features of his physique. Meaning, all of his body. He was lean and slender, his hips and legs were full and shapely, and there was a lovely dip on either side of his hips. And when Leo stood with his hips slanted to the side, Des tried very hard not to let his eyes follow the lines of Leo’s body.

… Damnit, he really wanted to drag his hands along those hips and feel them quiver beneath his fingers.

*****

The fourth thing was a recent discovery.

A few days ago, Des and Leo were having another one of their “dates” when one of Des’ suitors walked up to them and started chatting. Des disliked suitors immensely - they were loud and obnoxious and persistent, and they didn’t seem to understand a “relationship” when they saw one. And this one was one of the most persistent ones.

So Des was being very civilized and polite, and tried to answer the suitor with as much interest as he could feign. Which wasn’t a lot, since the talk was just arbitrary, mundane subjects such as the weather, the neighborhood and Des’ cafe. Leo didn’t even cared that much, he just looked really annoyed. Mainly because he was holding a half-eaten crepe in one hand, and he really wanted to finish the damn crepe. But it was considered rude to eat in front of people when they were talking to you.

The same for imposing one’s presence upon others when they were clearly not interested.

When the annoying man started to shift closer to Des, however, that pulled a reaction from the tour guide. His eyes narrowed at the intruder, and he shifted closer to Des so that their bodies were practically plastered together. Leo’s hand tightened on the taller man’s hips, a show of influence and possession. Still the suitor couldn’t take a hint.

Selective blindness, was it? Des didn’t care - the only thing he knew is that the longer he had to talk to this guy, the more he wanted to take out a knife and commit seppuku.

The suitor placed his hand on Des’ shoulder, and it took a lot for Des not to cringe and shy away from the unwelcome touch. Leo seemed to notice his discomfort, and he looked more and more irritated the longer that cursed hand was anywhere on Des’ body. Des could’ve sworn he heard a low growl emit from Leo’s throat.

Leo was amazingly possessive. And Des was enjoying every second of it.

When the suitor reached for Des’ hand and held it, Des could tell Leo decided he was done with this nonsense. Leo wrapped both arms around Des’ waist, and, with a complete 180-degree turn, stalked off in the opposite direction. Des let out a yelp as he was dragged away, but quickly recovered and relaxed his body. Leo’s grip was almost vice-like, almost painful, making him wince a little, and he tugged at Leo’s sleeve to signal his discomfort. Leo did loosen his hold, but not without a few disgruntled mumbles under his breath.

The sight of a grown man dragging another grown man (who was a head taller than him, might Des add) by the hips like a rag doll was probably the most hilarious thing the entire street had seen all day.

Des couldn’t stifle his giggles. “Leo, we’re not even real lovers, there’s no need to get so worked up. Unless…” He pressed closer into Leo’s chest and whispered in a conspiratory manner.

“Why, Mr. Spindler, are you jealous?”

The shorter man didn’t answer right away, but his cheeks immediately became five shades darker.

“... I am. Very much.” He looked like a petulant child, lips pressed tightly into a pout, eyes narrowed in annoyance and bashfulness.

This time Des laughed out loud, leaning down to kiss Leo’s forehead and nose affectionately. Leo only grumbled in response and leaned up to press a kiss to Des’ lips.

Des froze. Leo’s lips were soft and warm and insistent, mouthing and molding perfectly against his. His hands were clenched so tightly into Leo’s shirt his knuckles turned white, and he couldn’t do much but clung to Leo’s shoulders as the other man lowered him to a more suitable height. It wasn’t a mistake, and Leo was making sure Des knew it. One hand tightened possessively on his hips, and another trailed down to brush the inside of his thighs.

Leo pulled away after giving Des’ lips a lick, a promise of what to come the next time they were alone together, and that pulled a full-body shudder from Des.

“Guess what?” His breath ghosted on Des’ neck, prompting a full-blown flush to spread from Des’ cheeks down to his collarbone. “I have a reason to be jealous now.”