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The Navy Haired Cherub

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Arisato Minato considered himself a quiet guy.  He usually kept to himself, not prying into people’s personal business unless they came to him for advice (which, for some reason, they seemed to be prone to do based on his experience in high school).  So, he couldn’t understand his curiosity about two of the underclassman he had become friends with over the year.  Specifically, curiosity about their relationship. 

He met Narukami Yu first in a political science class Minato was taking to fill out an elective requirement.  Yu was also kind of a quiet guy who was an international studies major, so this was one of his required courses.  Although he was quiet, however, it was in a much different way from Minato.  Where Minato was laid back and liked to keep to himself, Yu was more of a natural leader and had a hidden odd sense of humor that would occasionally pop out.  Minato got along well with Yu and appreciated having a fellow smart student to study with and occasionally grab a coffee with between class (even if Yu only seemed to drink tea).

So, he was surprised to find out a few weeks later that Yu was actually best friends with another underclassman of his he had met at work – Hanamura Yosuke.  Yosuke and Minato both worked at a music shop right off campus and had quickly found that they had a shared appreciation for music and very similar tastes in artists.  Yosuke, however, was completely different from Minato and Yu in personality and was a carefree, bright guy who liked to ramble and talk to everyone.  He was actually really good at sales too, and he used his charming personality and gift of chat to talk people into buying when they came in to browse.  Minato found his energy refreshing, especially when he heard from Yu that back in Inaba where they had met, Yosuke wasn’t always treated well.  It was hard to see that now as he was slowly blossoming at college, back in his element in the city.

Yu and Yosuke got along very well the times that Minato happened to see them together, like when Yosuke would pop in during their coffee break or Yu would show up to visit with Yosuke at work or walk him back to their apartment after his shift.  They were definitely best friends, but little things they would do would make Minato feel like it went beyond friendship.  Like when Yosuke would sling his arm around Yu or hang all over him when they hung out, or the affectionate gaze that Yu used only when watching Yosuke when he thought the brunet wasn’t watching.  Minato had been privy to these little signs and moments for months, and he finally found he couldn’t take the curiosity any longer.

The navy haired young man brought it up casually to Yu one day when they were sitting in their favorite coffee shop after class.  Yu had an iced green tea, while Minato was trying the new cold brew with a cold foam topping.  They had been quietly enjoying each other’s company before Minato interrupted it with his question which seemed to come out of left field to Yu.  “So, what’s with you and Yosuke?” Minato asked, taking a sip of his drink and watching Yu immediately squirm under his steady gaze.

He looked surprised Minato would ask and he could tell the gray eyed boy was trying his best to come up with a response.  “What do you mean?” he finally asked carefully, his normally smooth, calm voice sounding a little shaken.

“You both seem very close,” Minato pointed out.  “I have a best friend too, back from high school.  His name is Junpei.  While we’re also very close, it’s nothing like the level you both are at.”

Yu was blushing now and was gripping his cup a bit tighter than he probably realized.  “Ah, Yosuke and I are just friends,” he replied, trying to sound nonchalant.  His normally stoic expression was failing him with his obvious blush, however.

“That’s bullshit,” Minato replied, causing Yu’s eyebrows to raise.  “Friends, even best friends, don’t hang all over each other the way you and Yosuke do,” he pointed out, counting it off on his fingers.  “They don’t look at each other like they’re the most precious thing on earth either,” he added, continuing to mark off.  “Also, they don’t usually refer to each other as partners unless they’re cops,” he mused, counting off another.  He would have continued on, but he noticed that Yu seemed to be withdrawing into himself and decided to drop it.  He liked the guy and had felt a sort of bond with him the moment they had met, and he didn’t want to push him too far.

So, he instead sighed and set his cup down on the table loud enough to capture Yu’s attention.  Yu looked up, and Minato gave him a small smile.  “Look, I won’t push it if it’s going to make you upset.  But I do think there’s more going on with both of you, and it’s not just from you.  It’s from him too.”

Yu lightly shook his head before sighing into his drink.  “Trust me, it’s definitely not from him,” he murmured, almost to himself.  It was Minato’s turn to raise his eyebrows, and he decided it was time to look into Yosuke next.

When he brought it up to Yosuke at work the next day as they were stocking some new music, he was surprised by his vehement response which was the complete opposite of Yu’s withdrawn one.  “What are you trying to say?” Yosuke had asked, his voice sharp and high pitched as a dark blush flooded his face.  “We’re just friends!”  His voice had kind of a bite to it, but Minato could tell that it came from panic and not from him actually being mad at him.

So, he decided to push.  “Really, you can tell me with a straight face you’re both just friends and that you don’t feel something stronger for Yu,” he replied coolly.

“Look, partner and I are not gay,” Yosuke immediately said defensively, and Minato finally understood.  He frowned slightly and took a deep breath, choosing his words carefully.

He then bluntly asked, “Do you care more about saving face or about your feelings for Yu?”  Yosuke’s eyes widened, and he nearly dropped the stack of albums he was holding.  He quickly set them down, obviously looking shaken.  “Because even if you try to deny it, I can tell they’re there.  And you’re also dismissing Yu’s feelings in the process by denying them,” he added evenly.  “He may be bad at expressing it, but I can tell he’s been hurting that he’s had to hold them back because of you.”  He said the last part pointedly, and Yosuke gripped his hands tightly before storming off, telling their manager he would be taking his break before disappearing into the back.

“What’s up with him?” their manager asked, for Yosuke generally stayed in a cheerful mood.

Minato shrugged in reply, but he couldn’t help but let his eyes linger where Yosuke had disappeared moments earlier.  He hoped he hadn’t made things worse, but he figured that Yosuke would eventually come around after being confronted openly.  Yosuke was quiet and withdrawn once he returned from his break and focused on stocking shelves instead of chatting like he usually would.  Minato gave him his space, figuring that would be the best course of action for now.

The next day is one of those rare days where Minato doesn’t have class or work.  He’s lounging in his apartment – a one bedroom that was a perfect size for him but would occasionally get crowded when one of his friends from high school decided to visit and crash for a few days – and reading a book.  He had decided to become a literature major upon entering college for lack of anything else to come up with, deciding he may as well do something he enjoyed.  He had briefly considered music, but unlike Yosuke who was a music major, it was more of a hobby for him and he didn’t have a natural talent for it.  He was surprised when his peaceful morning was interrupted by a text from the very same young man.  “Sry I was a jerk,” the message read.  He followed up with, “U free?”

Minato smiled slightly before messaging back he was and asking if Yosuke wanted to meet up for coffee.  While Yu was a tea drinker, Yosuke relied heavily on coffee to get through the day and could appreciate it like Minato.  “Ya, meet u @ the usual in ~15?” Yosuke replied, and Minato confirmed before closing his book and getting ready to head out.

He placed his usual headphones around his neck, small gray ones that were loose like earbuds but still covered the ear like headphones.  They were a sharp contrast to the large, orange ones that Yosuke always wore.  He then grabbed his wallet and keys before heading out, since the coffee shop he and Yosuke frequented wasn’t far from either of their apartments.  When he arrived, he saw that Yosuke was already there, nursing an iced coffee and looking nervous.  Minato ordered himself another cold brew before sitting across from him and waiting patiently.

“Uh, thanks for meeting up with me.  And, sorry again about being a jerk yesterday,” Yosuke greeted.

“It’s fine.  I kind of sprung it on you,” Minato shrugged.  He then waited again, watching as Yosuke grew increasingly uncomfortable.

He finally broke the silence, saying softly, “So, maybe you were right yesterday,” while nervously running his hand through the back of his hair.  He was staring down at his drink.  “I, uh, may have been struggling with this for awhile now.  It was just easier to deny it than to admit to anything,” he said with a sigh.  “And I honestly didn’t think Yu felt the same way until you brought it up yesterday and…I began to think back to some things that make a lot more sense in hindsight.”  He looked back up at Minato, a miserable expression on his face.  “I have been hurting him, haven’t I?” he asked, looking sick at the thought.

“If you didn’t know then you didn’t know,” Minato replied.  “Now that you do know, it’s up to you what you want to do next.  If you don’t mind me asking, though, why were you so afraid in the first place?”

“I’m not sure if Yu mentioned it before, but in Inaba my family isn’t well liked,” Yosuke explained.  “Junes built a store there which caused a lot of the local stores to struggle, and since my dad’s the manager my family got a lot of heat from the locals about it like it was somehow our fault.”  Yosuke was tapping his fingers nervously on his drink as he spoke.  “And I already got a lot of things said behind my back and pranked at school.  And Inaba’s a small town so like…if that had come out?  I can only imagine how much worse it could have gotten.”

He let out a sigh before looking down.  “Besides, I still do like girls too.  It’s just…I like Yu more,” he finally admitted, looking surprised that he finally said it aloud.

Minato was frowning at Yosuke and his family’s treatment in Inaba, now understanding why Yu looked a bit heated when he had mentioned in before.  But, he knew that right now he had to focus on the problem at hand.  “There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way,” he said gently, and Yosuke’s brown eyes raised up to meet his steady blue gaze.  “What I want you think about now is what you want and what makes you happy,” he pressed.

Yosuke blushed slightly before taking a sip of his drink.  “I wouldn’t even know where to begin at this point,” he admitted.  “Do you have any ideas?  Of how I can…” he suddenly broke off, flushing even brighter at the thought.  Minato knew that Yosuke would just become a stuttering mess if he tried to continue and grinned before giving the guy a hand.

“The cultural festival is coming up,” he suggested.  “Our poli-sci class is going to have a booth where we’ll be polling students for a class assignment.  I can make sure Yu gets scheduled his break at a time that works for you.”

“Ah, yeah, I’ll be there with the radio club hosting a live show,” Yosuke nodded.  “I’ll only have to work in the morning though so I’ll be free in the afternoon.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Minato grinned, and Yosuke beamed back, obvious relief on his face.

“Thanks, dude,” he said, and they soon fell back into their usual chatter about music and a new band Yosuke had discovered yesterday and was planning on introducing on his next session running the college radio station.

Soon the day of the cultural festival arrived, and Minato found himself working with Yu as they passed out sheets to students to fill out and drop anonymously into their ballet box.  He didn’t even want to think about how long it would take them all to sort through and crunch the data later, even if they did have one of those machines that could read the bubbles that were filled in.  Yu had been quiet while they worked, uncharacteristically so even for him, and Minato finally asked what was going on when they had a lull.  “I think I did something to piss off Yosuke,” Yu replied, looking down.  “He came home upset from work the other night, and he’s kind of been avoiding me ever since.”  Minato felt a bit guilty, since it was actually his fault, but he listened patiently.  “Usually he’s much more upfront about what is bothering him so I don’t know what to do,” Yu added.

“Yosuke will tell you whatever has been bothering him when he’s ready,” Minato replied sagely, keeping his cool façade.  He couldn’t ruin the surprise for Yosuke.  “You both know your friendship is stronger than whatever is going on with him.”

Yu nodded but still seemed worried.  Therefore, when Yosuke showed up just as he was going to break and asked him to hang out at the festival, he was pleasantly surprised.  Yosuke was jittery and obviously nervous, but Yu could tell it wasn’t because he was upset about something.  His eyes narrowed thoughtfully as they walked off, obviously trying to figure it out, and Minato gave Yosuke a thumbs up behind his back which caused Yosuke to grin and mouth, “Thanks!”

Yosuke, meanwhile, was incredibly nervous as he walked off with Yu.  He knew now that Minato was probably right and Yu more than likely returned his feelings, but it was still nerve-wracking.  He couldn’t even begin to fathom how to bring it up, after he had spent the past few days trying to come up with what he would say and when.  He knew he wouldn’t live it down with Minato if he didn’t confess today though.  He and Yu wandered the different booths, trying some of the food a lot of the clubs had prepared for fundraising, taking especial interest in the international club area which had some traditional food from the countries they represented.  Yosuke idly chatted as they walked, dominating their conversation more than usual which was a sure sign to Yu that he was wound up about something.

When they finally stopped for some boba tea and stepped under a tree in the school courtyard for some shade from the heat, Yu finally brought it up.  “What’s got you so jumpy today?” he asked carefully, wincing when Yosuke choked on his drink.  He carefully patted the other young man on the back as he coughed.

“So, you noticed,” Yosuke finally squeaked, voice a bit high pitched.

“Kind of hard not to,” Yu smiled fondly.  Yosuke ran his hand through his hair nervously, before looking around, trying to figure out a quiet place where they could talk.  His eyes widened when he realized one place that should be empty today – the radio club room.  They had moved all their equipment outside for the live broadcast.  “Come with me,” Yosuke said, tugging at Yu’s sleeve and immediately leading him inside.

Yu curiously followed, feeling confused when Yosuke brought him to his club room and closed the door.  It was quiet in the college since mostly everyone was outside enjoying the weather and the festival.  Yosuke then turned to face him, setting down his drink and taking a deep breath before letting it out.  “Partner, I have something to say,” he said, and Yu stared at him, head slightly tilted.  “I…” Yosuke faltered.  “I’m in love with you,” he finally bit out, his voice cracking at the effort.  He immediately felt faint and wanted to sit down, and was surprised when Yu ended up leaning heavily against one of the desks in the room instead, also setting down his drink.  He looked weak and had shock written all over his face.

“What?” Yu asked dumbly while Yosuke stared at him.  He had never seen Yu look so surprised in all the time they had known each other.

“I love you,” Yosuke said more clearly, watching the emotions roil in Yu’s gray eyes.  He was more surprised at Yu’s reaction now than by the fact he had finally said the words.  “And I’ve apparently been a big jerk and have been hurting you for a long time because I didn’t want to admit it…” he started to ramble, but he was cut off when Yu suddenly flung his arms around him and buried his head into Yosuke’s shoulder.

“You’re not a jerk, Yosuke,” Yu said, and Yosuke could tell that Yu had tears in his eyes by the slight damp impression that was now on his shirt.  Yosuke carefully wrapped his arms around Yu, gently pulling him closer and rubbing his hand comfortingly on his back.  “I love you too,” Yu said into his shoulder.  “And have for so long…”

“How long, partner?” Yosuke asked curiously.

“I think the moment you crashed into that trash can,” Yu replied.  “It was love at first sight.”

Yosuke stiffened at that comment, trying to figure out if Yu was trolling him right now or being sincere.  “Seriously?” he asked, and Yu nodded into his shoulder before pulling away.  He looked directly into his eyes, and Yosuke could see the honesty.

“I have,” he said simply, and Yosuke blushed.

“Well, I don’t think I realized that early, but it’s been pretty long for me too,” he admitted.  “I think the first time you made me something to eat, honestly.”  He was smiling at the memory, and Yu couldn’t help but smile back.

“Looks like I’ve gotta thank Minato then,” Yosuke said with a sigh, and Yu’s eyebrow raised.

“He talked to you as well?” he asked curiously, and Yosuke nodded.

“Yeah, he kind of pissed me off at work the other night, but he got me thinking and I realized it was probably time to get my head out of my ass,” Yosuke replied, and Yu thought back to his conversation with Minato earlier and chuckled.

“So, it was his fault.  I thought I had done something wrong,” he commented, shyly reaching forward to take Yosuke’s hand in his.

Yosuke blushed lightly but accepted it firmly, interlacing their fingers together.  “Yeah, like I could ever stay mad at you that long, Yu,” he grinned, and Yu squeezed their hand.

“Maybe we should send him a picture?” he suggested, and Yosuke nodded before pulling out his phone.

“That sounds like a great idea,” he said, pulling out his camera app and getting it set up for a selfie.  As a result, he completely missed the mischievous look that had briefly crossed Yu’s face.

Thus, when Yosuke held up the camera at a good angle, ensuring that it captured both of their faces and had good lighting, he wasn’t prepared when right as he moved his thumb to tap the camera shutter button, Yu tilted his head to press his lips firmly against Yosuke’s cheek, causing the young man to immediately become flustered as he took the picture. 

“You little,” he started to say, as Yu laughed and pulled his phone way to look at the picture.  He was looking up at the camera with a devious expression on his face as he kissed Yosuke, who was blushing bright red in surprise.  He quickly sent himself the picture, ensuring Yosuke couldn’t get rid of it, while Yosuke desperately tried to swipe his phone back.  He then sent it to Minato with a quick thanks, laughing as Yosuke finally grabbed it back and looked in dismay to see that it was too late now to do anything.

Before he could get mad though, Yu rested his head on Yosuke’s shoulder in a back hug and said, “You looked too cute, partner,” causing shivers to run down Yosuke’s spine from his smooth voice.  Yosuke couldn’t help but grin slightly though, realizing how happy he had made his best friend and true partner.

“Whatever, Yu,” he replied, pretending to be grumpy and shrugging him off his shoulder while Yu smiled.  Yosuke then took Yu’s hand back, trying to look cool and unaffected as he did so and failing miserably, but Yu smiled and accepted the effort gracefully.  “Ready to head back out?” Yosuke asked, and Yu nodded.

Minato, meanwhile, glanced down at his phone when he got the message from Yosuke, smiling widely when he opened it up to see the picture.  He then slid it back into his pocket, deciding to allow them both some time to explore their new relationship and saving his congratulations to be in person later.  ‘They make a cute couple,’ he decided, pleased that his rare moment of nosiness had produced great results.  He couldn’t wait to see Yosuke at work tomorrow, already planning the different ways he would tease him.