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“Yeah but, like, it’s not illegal for us to suggest that he break into the house,” Suga said, doing his best to sound persuasive.

 

“No, it’s just illegal for him to actually do it,” Daichi responded just as seriously.

 

“Semantics.”

 

Asahi joined the conversation. “Why would we tell him to break into the house when he could just google a picture or something? That seems easier? Oh! Unless it’s valuable or something?”

 

“I still can’t believe we’re still entertaining the idea of telling someone to break into a stranger’s house to steal one of their houseplants.”

 

“C’mon, who hasn’t thought of a bashing a window in because they saw a plant and absolutely had to have it?”

 

Daichi groaned. “Literally only you. This has got to be the dumbest conversation we’ve ever had.”

 

“I dunno,” Suga snickered. “We’ve had some pretty stupid conversations.”

 

Asahi swallowed audibly. “Are we going to lose listeners over this?”

 

“They’re already gone, Asahi. They left twenty minutes ago.”

 

“Nah, they’re around” Suga said. “You’re just a pair of weenies, which is not news.”

 

Tanaka Ryuunosuke saw the blenders come to life, familiar enough with the sharp whirring that cut through the lively chatter in his favorite smoothie shop that he’d recognize it in his sleep, but he didn’t hear anything over the voices that blasted through his headphones.

 

He'd followed quite a few podcasts over the years, but the only one he listened to religiously was One Two Three. He subscribed to it just after its inception two years earlier, and the podcast had been his constant incorporeal companion ever since.

 

It had even inspired him to create his own.

 

The idea of carving out a Tanaka-centric space in the podcasting multiverse had occurred to him before he’d started listening to OTT, but he'd always had an excuse to put it off. 

 

Creating a podcast from scratch was too much work. He had never created content for anything other than his personal social media accounts. He didn’t have the education to make his opinions credible. He was too busy trying to make ends meet in famously expensive city to put energy he didn’t have into a pipe-dream. Finally, even if he did manage to put something together, who in the world would listen?

 

Somewhere between ribbing each other without mercy and laughing at their own jokes, and despite Tanaka's best attempts to tear himself down, the guys behind OTT managed to motivate him to speak his piece and, as of standing in line for his biweekly protein shake before losing half of his body weight in sweat at hot yoga, Mediocre Me had four glorious episodes, a solid handful of good reviews, and a slowly (but steadily) increasing number of subscribers.

 

Tanaka relaxed the muscles of his face, stretched his jaw, and smiled to himself.

 

They were really something, those guys. He didn’t know them personally, but he sure felt like he did. 

 

Sawamura Daichi ran the podcast like a sadistic GM but had been the only one ever to cry while recording. Tanaka gave it to him though, as did the rest of their listeners. He’d probably cry openly if someone asked him about his feelings on dog adoption.

 

Azumane Asahi had been doing podcasts the longest but somehow managed to sound like each episode was his first time with a microphone. His soft, hesitant voice tethered their conversations, like he if weren’t there the other two would drift too far apart.

 

Finally, there was Sugawara Koushi, who was something else entirely. He’d have Tanaka doubled over in laughter just as soon as he’d have him fifteen pages deep down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. He’d coo into the mic like a long-lost lover and in the same breath send his listeners running for cover.

 

The aforementioned host was speaking into Tanaka’s ear when someone brushed against his shoulder. He glanced in the direction he thought the person would’ve gone as they walked past him but, instead of finding a retreating back, found himself staring into someone else’s face at point blank range.

 

They were just a few inches shorter with a head of thick, silver hair and delicate cheekbones, one of them rising to carry a single mole. Their eyes were wide with shockingly obvious curiosity, so intense that Tanaka gulped. Looking deeper, their light brown irises reminded Tanaka of the fossilized amber from Jurassic Park, and he distracted himself momentarily with the notion that baby dinosaurs might pop out of his eyes and scurry around the shop. A laugh erupted in his throat, easing his self-inflicted awkwardness.

 

“Sorry,” he said, raising his hands in surrender. He shifted so they could get by while he kept his place in line. “My bad.”

 

They examined Tanaka’s face while a small smile played at the corners of their mouth. He might’ve had more time to dwell on being subjected to such intense scrutiny if he hadn’t realized how handsome they were. Suddenly, he regretted having rescheduled his yoga class so soon after his morning dog-walking appointments.

 

They moved their lips and Tanaka rushed to remove his headphones. “Hm?”

 

“What are you listening to?” They asked, unfazed by having to repeat the question.

 

Their voice was familiar. He felt like he’d just been addressed by an old friend but was damn sure he would’ve remembered meeting someone so pleasing on the eye. “Oh, uh, just a podcast,” he answered out of politeness.

 

“Really? Which one?”

 

Again with that voice! Tanaka closed his eyes tightly, took a breath and opened them again. The stranger was still standing in space, but they had taken a step back. “There I go, running my mouth to strangers,” they said with a pout. “I was just curious because your face journeys have been really fun to watch.”

 

Tanaka scratched the recently shaved back of his head. He’d given up on processing the situation and fell back on his tried-and-true method of dealing with too many unknown elements. He started to ramble. “Oh, uh, no, don’t worry about it. I was listening to One Two Three, dunno if you’ve heard it? It’s super good, one of my favorites. You should check it out if you’re into that kinda thing, like fake but real advice shows. Except comedy. They're super funny.”

 

He wasn’t sure what he expected from the stranger, but it definitely wasn’t a megawatt smile. “It’s a very good one! And I’m glad they have expressive and, well,” they said, eyes dancing over Tanaka’s face, then trailing over his chest and down his arms, “jacked fans.”

 

Tanaka choked on his breath right as the customer in front of him moved away from the counter. It was his turn to order, and his yoga instructor would have his head if he was late again. He shoved his disappointment as deeply as any unwanted feeling could go. “Thanks?” He gestured to the person eyeing him from behind the register. “But I gotta get my smoothie.”

 

Regret momentarily marred their face, but it disappeared in favor of a mischievous grin. “I’ll get out of your hair, though I just wanted to say that you should reach out to them, the guys who do OTT. They’d love to hear from you.”

 

He’d thought about it, of course, but figuring out the exact right thing to say had never been one of his strong suits. Chikara helped him produce Mediocre Me, but he doubted he could convince his friend to write personal messages as well.Then again, that was the point of doing his podcast; he was tired of the voices holding him back. “You’re totally right,” he said, returning the grin with a toothy one of his own. “Thanks for the push.”

 

“Anytime. I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Tanaka cocked his head as they waved and walked away, willing his eyes away from the stranger’s backside and relying purely on muscle memory to order his drink.

 

The stranger’s familiarity ricocheted inside his skull like a stray bullet while his smoothie came together, and, when it was ready, Tanaka swiped it off the counter and took an aggressive sip. His phone vibrated, a visceral reminder that he couldn’t waste his day beating himself up over every stray thought that popped into his head.

 

He put his headphones back over his ears, suppressing a whine when he realized he hadn’t paused the episode.

 

“Suga, you can’t answer this one and you’re banned from answering for the rest of the hour,” Daichi said.

 

“But the people love me!”

 

Tanaka stopped so abruptly that the soles of his trainers squeaked against the linoleum floor.

 

That voice.

 

He’d just been talking to none other than Sugawara Koushi. 

 

Sugawara Koushi, the self-proclaimed Number Two of One, Two, Three, who happened to be exceptionally handsome, had just smiled at him and ogled his muscles.

 

And it was the Sugawara Koushi who had just let Tanaka babble about the guy's own podcast like the world's biggest idiot.

 

He rubbed his face and braced himself for the wave of embarrassment that never came. In its place, an idea bubbled to the surface, fully formed and absolutely perfect. He almost dropped his phone as he scrambled to unlock his phone. He tapped at the screen and pressed "Tweet" before he could talk himself out of it. 

 

So who knew @suganotwo spent his days creeping on face journeys at Smoothie World?

 

Chapter Text

Tanaka ignored the set of elevators in the lobby and strolled toward the staircase hidden around the corner. The apartment building was nice enough that he assumed most of the tenants worked fancy office jobs during the day, so he hopped onto the staircase and took them two at a time, thumping his way up to the eighth floor.

 

He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead and jogged down the familiar hallway, pausing at the last door on the left until he heard the telltale click of nails against hardwood and a soft whine. He unlocked the door and slipped into the apartment.

 

“Ku-ru-mi-chan!” He sang in soft staccato. “How’s my best girl?”

 

The tricolor Shiba Inu pitter-pattered around his ankles and wagged her tail while Tanaka pocketed the apartment key. He fell to his knees, allowing her to lick his face as he ruffled the skin around her neck.

 

“Such a good girl,” he said, kissing her right between the eyes. “The prettiest girl! Aren’t you? Aren’t you Kurumi-chan? Is my pretty girl ready for...” Tanaka hung on to the last word for dramatic effect. Kurumi-chan looked him straight in the eye with comical canine seriousness. “Walkies?!”

 

She jumped in the air and twisted her body, unable to stop wiggling even when all four of her paws were firmly back on the floor.

 

He’d walked a lot of dogs over the years and knew it was bad to pick favorites, but some favorites chose themselves. Kurumi-chan pranced around the cozy apartment like she’d just won the fluffy dog lottery. “I’m a weak man,” he said solemnly, putting his face into hers when she sidled up to him again.

 

He was still kneeling on the floor when Kurumi-chan stilled in his arms. Light footsteps approached in the hall outside of the apartment and the dog flung herself past him, nearly knocking him on his ass.

 

A moment later, keys jiggled in the lock. The person on the other side fumbled, caught off guard by the already unlocked door.

 

Tanaka jumped to his feet and clenched his jaw. He’d checked and double-checked his appointments before entering the building, and no one had ever been at the apartment when he’d taken her for walks. He stood up a little straighter and puffed out his chest. Kurumi-chan was such a great dog, Tanaka reasoned, so her person couldn't be that terrifying, right?

 

When the door opened and the guy behind it was revealed, Tanaka’s jaw went slack.

 

“Mi-chan!” Suga said happily, throwing his keys on the small table by the door. “I’ve only been gone an hour! Why are you so worked up, oh! What the hell?”

 

Tanaka sputtered unintelligibly.

 

“Are you some kind of super fan who sneaks into people’s apartments?” Suga’s happy smile fell from his face, replaced by a feral smirk. He cracked his knuckles and Tanaka wondered if he’d ever been more afraid of anyone in his life. Suga advanced on him. “Do you get off on that? Hm? Should I call the cops? Oooh, should I take care of this myself?”

 

Tanaka wouldn't have been able to identify the expression on his face, even if he held a mirror to it, but it was contorted painfully enough that Suga paused long enough for Tanaka to make a valiant effort to catch up. He was vaguely aware of Kurumi-chan standing next to Suga and gestured in her direction. “No! I’m not, Kurumi-chan, wait,” he stopped, catching up with Suga’s threats. “Is this your apartment?”

 

“Looks that way,” Suga said in a low voice. He folded his arms over his chest. "But the real question is what are you doing here?"

 

Kurumi-chan, displeased with the lack of attention, trotted over to Tanaka and angled herself so she could put her front paws on Tanaka’s thigh. She waited patiently for him to rub behind her ears, which he did, grateful for a moment to process the situation.

 

He’d only communicated with Kurumi-chan’s person through the app, a guy called Sawamura-san. Tanaka's palm itched with the urge to hit himself in the head as he considered the distinct possibility that Kurumi-chan's Sawamura-san was OTT's Daichi. And, if that were the case, there was an even higher probability that he and Suga lived together. He wished he had something to hold on to as he spoke. "So, Sawamura-san..."

 

"Hold on," Suga said abruptly, holding both hands firmly in the air like Tanaka was an oncoming vehicle. "Do you know who I am?"

 

Not for the first time, Tanaka wished he was a better liar. His shoulders sagged. "Yeah, but I only found out after seeing you in Smoothie World, I swear. And I didn't know Sawamura-san was Daichi-san until like five seconds ago."

 

Suga was still glaring at him, but the hard edges of his expression relaxed slightly as he raised an eyebrow. "So why are you in our apartment?"

 

It was excruciatingly difficult for Tanaka to consider the ramifications of the revelation that Suga and Daichi lived together when Suga was standing there, in the flesh, silver hair tamed by a yellow beanie pushed back on his head and chin tucked into a plush scarf wrapped at least three times around his neck. They’d tweeted playfully back and forth a couple times since their random encounter at Smoothie World, but those minor interactions were nothing compared to seeing him in person, even if he looked like he'd had no compunction about punching him in the face. Suga watched the way Kurumi-chan leaned into Tanaka’s touch, reminding him of the very legitimate reason they were involved in this situation. 

 

“Sorry for scarin' you,” Tanaka said, choosing his words as carefully as his racing heart allowed. “But Sawamura-san, or Daichi I guess, wanted me to walk Kurumi-chan this morning. You know, through the app?”

 

"You're the Tanaka that walks Daichi's dog?" As soon as Suga voice the realization out loud, he leaned back with a groan. “Shit! I knew I forgot something.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“I might’ve forgotten to tell Daichi that my trip fell through last night and I could watch her this week.”

 

He wasn’t sure want to do while Suga raked his hands down his face, but Kurumi-chan danced impatiently at his feet. Tanaka pushed his conflicting feelings about seeing Suga, learning he and Daichi lived together, and being out an hour of cash aside in favor of the small dog who desperately had to go outside.

 

“I guess I’ll get going then so you can take her out then? She’s doin’ her pee dance and everything.”

 

Suga stopped rubbing his face and peeked through his fingers before clasping them in front of his chest, reminding Tanaka of a scheming super villain. He braced himself. “No, no, this could work! You take Kurumi-chan out so you can take Daichi's money and I’ll come with you, to observe!”

 

Tanaka tried his best not to laugh. Kurumi-chan and Suga were looking at him with the same thick eyebrows and glittering eyes. Their mutual excitement made his heart stutter uncomfortably. “You really do have a thing for watching people then?”

 

“So what if I do?” Suga said with a shrug. “I’m a writer, people-watching comes with the territory, and it’s not like I can say no to watching a hot guy walk the cutest dog in Japan.”

 

“Right,” he said weakly. Kurumi-chan whined, mercifully distracting him from the way his stomach flipped. “Right,” he said again, this time to the dog. “Let’s get you leashed up.”

 

Kurumi-chan shot toward her leash, coiled on the same table Suga had thrown his keys minutes before, and Suga bounced on the balls of his feet. Tanaka snorted as he hooked the matching leash to Kurumi-chan’s pink collar.

 

“What’s so funny?” Suga asked.

 

“I dunno,” Tanaka said, stifling another laugh. “It’s like I’m not sure who’s more excited to go for a walk, you or the dog.”

 

“Is that right?”

 

“Yeah. Oof!”

 

Tanaka felt Suga’s knuckles hit his ribcage before he registered the movement and suddenly understood exactly why Asahi and Daichi made such a big deal of Suga’s fists. He held the soon-to-be bruised spot on his side, and Suga laughed.

 

He felt his jaw drop again, the reaction rapidly becoming a regular part of his interactions with Suga. He was frozen in place by the crinkles in the corners of Suga’s eyes and the way he clutched his stomach. It was one thing to hear Suga laugh on a pre-recorded episode, but it was another thing entirely to experience it in person. They were close enough that he noticed little details, like Suga’s slightly crooked front teeth and the way his right eye closed a bit tighter than the other.

 

“C’mon,” Suga said between peals of giggles. He pushed Tanaka toward the door. “Thought you said we were going for a walk?”

 

Tanaka allowed himself to be pushed out of the apartment and followed Kurumi-chan and Suga as they led him to the elevators. He bit back a smile and quietly admitted that he might’ve been the one most looking forward to their walk.




Right after leaving Suga’s apartment, Tanaka’s phone buzzed. He swiped at the Twitter notification to see a picture of Kurumi-chan’s face peeking out from under the kotatsu in Suga and Daichi’s apartment. Her eyes were closed and her tongue poked out from between her teeth. 

 

One walking date with @mediocremecast and someone is wiped! When are we getting the dog walking episode we deserve??

 

Very shortly after tweeting Suga the first time, he realized he had used his podcast handle instead of his personal one. It had sent him into a mild panic at first, but Suga hadn't mentioned it and Tanaka figured the guy was probably inundated with tons of other podcasts, enough that he wouldn't bother listening to some unknown dude and his nascent show. He took a screenshot of the tweet to prove to himself later that it was real, that Sugawara Koushi not only knew about Mediocre Me and wanted another episode. 

 

In his excitement, Tanaka didn't put much stock into Suga's word choice. 

Chapter Text

After his fortuitous walk with Kurumi-chan and Suga, Tanaka was sucked back into the gaping maw of his hectic life.

 

He went back to juggling his jobs, dogwalking and helping out at a sports store close to his apartment, searching for yet another flexible part time gig, recording his podcast, doing hours of research in front of the computer and at various sports clubs and classes, cajoling his friends into helping him and getting lectured by a stern but very patient Ennoshita Chikara, who knew more about writing scripts than Tanaka ever imagined necessary.

 

Twitter notifications from Suga’s very public account didn’t go unnoticed or unanswered, but their conversations never evolved further than the typical internet banter between people who were barely acquainted.

 

Which, in a way, was fine. Tanaka wasn’t sure what to do with the newly budding feelings he had for a guy he’d only physically talked to twice. He’d definitely listened to Suga enough to feel like he knew him, but the reality was that he didn't. 

 

On their podcast, Suga, Daichi and Asahi dove head first into the lives of others and offering mostly unsolicited and useless advice but they rarely shared personal details. There was a decent amount of interpersonal prodding but the jokes at each other’s expense never revealed anything other than how close they were and how well they got along. 

 

His own podcast was very different. He presented himself with a hint of podcast persona, but he wanted Mediocre Me to be intensely personal. He wanted to expose his constant inner struggle, how he fought against his intrusive thoughts every day and lifted himself through thoughtful exercise. He wanted to document the trials, triumphs and everything in between. It wasn’t always glamorous and fun, but he wanted to put it all on the line so that, hopefully, someday, someone would feel a little less alone in facing their own demons.

 

Tanaka hadn't considered how it only seemed like the guys on OTT laid themselves bare. Unlike him, they were good writers or exceptionally good actors, or both, and their reticence could only mean they didn’t want the world to know their business.

 

He'd never won a game of Clue in his life, but the pieces of this particular puzzle weren't hard to put together. It was possible that the silly little crush he'd developed on Suga wasn't real, and even if his feelings were legitimate, the crush wasn't on a guy so much as the person the guy had created to put on a show. 

 

The universe seemed to enjoy throwing them together and watching Tanaka make a fool of himself, and that was all it was. He was grateful to have met Suga, which was, he admitted fully and freely, pretty damn cool, and Daichi still wanted him to walk Kurumi-chan, so he had no reason to complain.

 

And who knew what the future held? He was only just getting started. He’d meet more people in the podcast community, from the badasses that were paving the way to the people who were still testing their ideas, and maybe he'd accidentally run into one of his own fans, just like he had with Suga.   

 

He might've had one or two (or ten or fifteen) dreams about that very distant future or parallel universe in which he'd made a name for himself, where someone might recognize him. He and his best friend had concocted and acted out what felt like hundreds of scenarios in which he'd meet someone who loved his show, scenarios in which a pretty someone recognized him in a zumba class or while he was out jogging. In these fairy tales, they’d connect over something inconsequential like having similar water bottles or wearing matching shirts or liking the same energy gels before living happily ever after. 

 

Tanaka punctuated his train of thought with a grumble as he wrapped up his last set of reps for the afternoon and dropped the kettle bells he was using on the mat by his feet.

 

Suga was very pretty someone, and he at least knew about Tanaka’s podcast, even if he wasn't technically a fan. And they both loved Kurumi-chan! They had things in common!

 

He sat down on the bench and took a long sip of his sports drink, gargling it obnoxiously at the back of his throat in the hopes that he could distract himself with the noise. It only worked long enough to be noticed by the other couple of people in the free weight zone, who glared at him with steely eyes until he swallowed.

 

Pushing his breath over his lips, he made notes on his phone about the Instagram workout he’d finished and double checked the original post, feeling the strain in his deltoid muscles just from holding his phone and definitely not wondering if Suga worked out. 

 

Finally, he slunk into the locker room and undressed to shower. He nudged his phone in the process of grabbing his towel, which lit up the screen. There was a notification that OTT had posted their next episode. Tanaka bit his lip, debating whether to drop everything and leave sweaty to listen or ignore his favorite podcast in favor of getting in the shower so he could get on with his day.

 

It only took a moment for him to unlock his screen. He promised himself he’d read the description, slip his phone back into its waterproof bag, and then hop into the showers.

 

 

Episode 135: Another Date?

 

The boys get personal in a heated debate on the nature of dates. For a podcast with numbers in the title, it seems like one of the boys can’t count.

 

How does one explain to someone that spending a half hour walking someone else’s dog with a stranger absolutely does not count as a date, especially since said stranger had no idea it was a date in the first place? How can you have another date if you’ve never even had a first one? Daichi attempts to use reason, but does he succeed?

 

Talking points: Daichi’s dog, Annoying Podcast Meta, Not Actual Dating Advice, Asahi has an Opinion, Suga Can’t Be Trusted

 

Later that evening, Tanaka had to make an impromptu trip to the mall, where he swore to the person behind the counter that his phone had launched itself out his hands and mysteriously found a puddle in which to immerse itself. They stared at him in silence until he handed them the correct amount of cash needed to replace his waterlogged phone. 

 

Chapter Text

Tanaka listened to the 135th episode of One Two Three at least seven times over the next couple of days and had it memorized by the third, but mouthing the words along with the hosts did nothing to help him make sense of the fact that Suga had thought their walk was a date.  

 

Suga had used the word in his tweet after their walk with Kurumi-chan, but Tanaka had taken it at face value, just another day on the calendar. It had been hard enough to push through the idea that Suga might've actually listened to his show, let alone consider the ramifications of what the term might've meant.

 

According to OTT's newest episode, however, Suga had been adamant that their walk in the park with Kurumi-chan was a date, a romantic-leaning meeting. 

 

His name wasn’t mentioned specifically, but his mind caught hold of its tail and ran in circles. Was the mind-blowing possibility that Sugawara Koushi would want to get to know him better really more absurd than believing that Suga walked his roommate’s dog with a rotating cast of near-strangers who showed up randomly in his apartment?

 

For reasons that had Tanaka wanting to hit his head against a wall, the latter felt more plausible.

 

A thin layer of sweat cooled under his shirt and the chill brought him out of vicious thought cycle that had held him hostage for practically half a week. He stared up at his ceiling as he lied on his back, inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for six, but was only able to relax for another minute before his phone reminded him of his next dog walking appointment.  

 

“Who's fucking life is this?” Tanaka whispered into the stale air of his apartment. He paused after the question, casting a quick glance around the place like there might’ve been someone to answer.



He credited muscle memory for the fact that he happened to end up in the park where he and Suga had walked Kurumi-chan together. It wasn’t the most convenient place to bring his two small charges, further away from their apartment than was reasonable, and he entered the front gates carrying two fawn-colored puffs of fur.  

 

“New place, new things to sniff, new critters to see, am-I-right?” Tanaka asked the Pomeranians securely tucked against his ribcage. “What could be better than that?!”

 

Toshio-san’s tongue lolled to one side after he’d tried in vain to reach up and lick Tanaka’s face. Takeo-san ignored him and panted, unphased by Tanaka’s gibberish and his brother’s shenanigans.

 

Once they were well within the park limits, Tanaka set the dogs down so they could meander and sniff until they wore themselves out. It took about a half hour for them to slow down, and they stared up at him with baleful black eyes until he found somewhere for them to rest all ten of their combined weary limbs. He scooped each dog up like they weighed nothing and plopped down on the nearest bench, allowing Takeo-san and Toshio-san to get comfortable on his lap while he let his head fall back on his shoulders.

 

The January sky was a clear, shocking blue. Tanaka was jealous of its clarity.

 

“So much for that,” Tanaka mumbled. He wasn’t going to say that he’d been hoping to run into Suga, but the deep frown etched into his face exposed his disappointment. “Shoulda just listened to Chikara.”

 

He'd bribed his friends with drinks the day before and they'd all weighed in on his predicament. Predictably, Ennoshita had the most sensible idea. You're already connected on social media, just send him a direct tweet. Tanaka scoffed at the memory. He'd been right, he always was, but that didn't mean Tanaka couldn't throw a small, confined tantrum.  

 

He stretched his neck again, winced when it cracked in two places, and thought of a short yoga video he’d stumbled upon earlier that day. It was part of a series meant for the salary-person that spent long hours at a desk, digestible enough for beginners and quick enough for the people who swore they had no time to exercise. They'd be good to incorporate into this daily routine, and then into his podcast, which was what he should be thinking about. He'd tested fate by coming to the park and lost, and it was time to throw himself at Ennoshita's feet and promise to listen when he was given sound advice. 

 

It was only when Tanaka gathered the dogs in his arms and peeled himself off the bench that he noticed the two people who’d just entered through the gates closest to them.

 

Suga strolled along the path, walking arm in arm with a person Tanaka didn’t recognize. They looked comfortable together, like this was something they’d done a hundred times before.

 

They were far enough away that Tanaka felt safe observing them. The other person was much shorter and also blonde, though their hair was slightly warmer in color and cut closer to their head. From where he stood, Tanaka could make out the person’s features. They were cute in their own way, with a button nose, dainty lips and large eyes, and reminded him a bit of Toshio-san and Takeo-san. Tanaka snorted, hoping the mental image would help combat the dread that was slowly pressing the air out of his lungs.

 

The voices started before he could stop them.

 

Suga was an expert storyteller. There was a reason OTT was so popular, and why Tanaka enjoyed the podcast as much as he did. Suga and the guys took a situation and manipulated it to extract the best parts, the ones that would make it interesting and entertain their wide audience.

 

He didn’t doubt that Suga was delighted by the coincidence of their meetings, or that he enjoyed calling Tanaka out on social media. Their previous interactions certainly made a good story, and his heart squeezed for reasons he didn’t dare name because he shouldn’t be hurt.

 

Of course Suga was dating someone. If it wasn’t Daichi, who he lived and worked with, then it would be someone else. Someone better. He hadn’t wanted to date Tanaka as much as he wanted to make people laugh at the absurdity of their serendipitous acquaintance.

 

The voices reminded him of how easy he’d made it for Suga to use him as imaginative fodder and how stupid he was to have thought that he might’ve actually earned Suga’s attention. 

 

Without warning, Toshio-san started to bark and he attracted the attention of everyone within the park limits, including Suga and his companion. Tanaka nodded toward them out of politeness before he planned to make his escape, but Suga’s smile of recognition was so radiant that he was stuck cursing under his breath until they caught up.

 

“Tanaka-kun!” Suga said, slightly out of breath from an impressive bout of speed walking. He cooed softly at Takeo-san and Toshio-san. “I was gonna say something about being mad that you were cheating on Kurumi-chan, but look at these faces. I can't even be a little mad. Are they even real?”

 

Suga’s companion nudged him hard enough to almost knock him off balance but he took the hit in stride and laughed under his breath, torn between addressing the person next to him and lavishing more attention on the wiggling Pomeranians. It was incredibly endearing, and Tanaka hated himself for thinking it. “Sorry, sorry,” Suga said happily. “Yakkun, this is Tanaka-kun, of Mediocre Me fame.”

 

“Yaku, preferably” his companion corrected, bowing in front of Tanaka, who returned the gesture.

 

“Ah, oops! I forgot how much you hate it when anyone else calls you that~”

 

Yaku scowled, but he addressed Suga like a parent would chide their son for eating an extra piece of candy. “Any time you want to apologize, I’m all ears.”

 

“Sorry,” he sang, holding the apology in the air like he was dangling a feather in front of a cat.

 

“I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone sound less sorry.”

 

Tanaka still hadn’t added anything to the conversation, feeling increasingly awkward as he watched them trade barbs with gentle smiles. His phone buzzed in his pocket and, for once, he was grateful for the reminder that he had somewhere to be. “So I’ve gotta get these lil’ dudes back to their house before they drop. Nice to see you again Suga-san and nice to meet ya Yaku-san.”

 

“You’re a busy guy,” Suga said quietly, almost to himself. Then he reached for Toshio-san, allowing him to sniff his hand. “It’s hard to let such handsome gentlemen go without a fight.”

 

Tanaka looked down at the dogs. Takeo-san had a little drool hanging off his lips and Toshio-san was content to be dead weight, all four of his paws dangling limply in the air. “These guys take the handsome cake for sure.”

 

Someone groaned loudly, and Tanaka started when he realized the deep, grating noise had come from Yaku.

 

“Ha?”

 

“You and Kuroo, I swear to god. Disaster humans,” Yaku murmured, his voice resigned. “I have to do everything myself.” He fished around in Suga’s jacket pocket, pulled out a phone, unlocked it and handed the device to Tanaka. “Please put your number in Suga’s phone so I don’t have to listen to him whine about missed opportunities anymore.”

 

Tentatively, Tanaka put the dogs down. He looked to Suga for approval. He worried his bottom lip and shrugged sheepishly, so Tanaka took the phone.

 

“That wasn’t so hard,” Yaku said when Tanaka had handed the phone back to Suga.  

 

“You’re a lifesaver, Yaku-gun,” Suga drawled in a deeper voice, earning a light kick to the back of his calves. “And you,” Suga said, directing his attention to Tanaka. “Can you pick up those dogs again?”

 

Tanaka picked up Takeo-san and Toshio-san without a second thought. 

 

“Do you mind if I take a picture?”

 

“No?”

 

Suga emitted a high-pitched sound of excitement and moved his phone until he was satisfied with the view. He smiled into the screen. “I won’t post this publicly.”

 

“Oh, I, uh,” Tanaka winced. He hadn’t even thought to ask. “Thanks.”

 

“Privacy and consent concerns aside,” Suga said, tapping at the screen a couple times. “If I don’t have hard proof, I won’t be able to convince myself that this actually happened.” He gestured to the dogs, and then toward Tanaka himself.

 

Even Yaku nodded in agreement. “You’re not wrong, but maybe we can stop objectifying him and let him get on with his day?”

 

Suga’s shoulders drooped.

 

“You know I have a point,” Yaku said, pulling the lapels on his peacoat. “Tanaka-kun, it was nice to meet you, and Suga, I’ll be waiting up the path. If you're not there in five minutes, I'll volunteer you to listen to Kuroo rehearse his lecture material." Suga paled, which must've been the intended reaction, because Yaku bowed one more time in Tanaka's direction before taking off. 

 

When he was out of earshot, Suga cleared his throat. “Have you listened to our latest episode?”

 

Tanaka nodded. 

 

“Did you like it?”

 

He could do ten sets of squats without breaking a sweat but he was genuinely afraid this was the day his knees would give out. “I thought it was good, uh. Really good.”

 

“Good.” Suga cleared his throat and squared his shoulders. “I was talking about you, you know.”

 

Tanaka blinked, suddenly feeling very warm around the collar. “Me?”

 

“Yes, you! Was that okay, saying we went out on a date?”

 

He had done nothing but think about what it would mean if Suga wanted to date him, but it was hard to find the right words when the object of his affection was looking at him like he might jump out of his skin before hearing Tanaka's response. “It’s hard to believe, honestly,” he said. “Not because I don’t want,” he said, motioning between them. Suga frowned, and Tanaka swallowed the lump in his throat. He wondered briefly if his sudden rush of raw emotion was from latent endorphins or whether it was from Suga's words and the way they had sunk their teeth into the necks of the voices that had been so loud just moments before. "It’s hard to believe ‘cuz you’re so much and I’m just… Me.”

 

He gasped when Suga stepped close enough that when he raised his hand, Toshio-san licked his fingers. “If you’re just you," Suga said calmly, "Then I’m just me.” He alternated between allowing the small dog to lick his hand and scratching behind his ear. “And we’re both awesome. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.”

 

“Can’t argue with that,” Tanaka croaked. He steeled himself for his next question. “So you’re not with Yaku-san?”

 

“No,” Suga said, smothering a laugh.

 

"Daichi-san?"

 

"Nope. And since we're on a strict time limit, I'm not seeing anyone, so... Where does that leave us?"

 

Tanaka was afraid to answer, like it would shatter the moment into a million irretrievable pieces, but Suga was patient. He pet Takeo-san and smiled as he watched his hand disappear into the never ending sea of fur. He waited until Tanaka found his voice. “I dunno, but I think I date-like you.”

 

He hadn't realized how tense Suga had been until he let his shoulders fall with a sigh of relief. "I think I date-like you too,” Suga said, a fresh blush blooming on his cheeks. “I’ll text you later?”

 

“Okay,” Tanaka said, holding his breath.

 

 

They stood together for a moment longer before Suga nodded one last time and bounced past him, sending a smile over his shoulder and linking his arm through Yaku’s. Tanaka watched their figures recede until Takeo-san started to wiggle in his arms. He set the brothers down, made sure their leashes were secure around his wrists, and then launched himself into the air.

 

“Yes!”

Chapter Text

By the time Takeo and Toshio-san were let back into their apartment, Tanaka had a string of texts from Suga. They ranged from questions about their safe arrival and what he was doing with the rest of his afternoon to providing detailed descriptions of his time with Yaku at the apartment he shared with his partner, including three pictures of a chubby black cat sprawled next to a heater.

 

Suga texted like they were old friends, and Tanaka struggled.   

 

He’d never prided himself on knowing the exact right thing to say at the exact right time, and the feeling was especially acute with Suga. While they continued to exchange messages over the next few days, he wrote and erased responses until he got dizzy, and had to shove his phone under his mattress more than once to physically separate himself from the device.

 

How was a guy supposed to maintain his composure enough to come up with something clever to say to the person he had a crush on who was also sort of famous because he was good with words?

 

It took some time and quite a few sleepless nights, but Suga kept texting him, and Tanaka kept texting back, and he was as surprised with the entire situation as he was elated that Suga’s name kept popping up on his screen.

 

He usually had texts waiting for him, but if there weren’t, Tanaka shared bits of his day, like almost dropping a barbell on his toe during free weights or how he’d accidentally kicked a wall during a cardio kickboxing class and would have to go back later in the week to patch up the hole.

 

His self-consciousness ebbed each time Suga responded, and it had receded so far back that he considered sending a selfie. 

 

He got the idea when he walked by a long mirror in a client’s house. The lighting was too good to pass up and, driven by the memory of Suga wanting a picture of him with Takeo and Toshio-san, he spent an embarrassingly long time trying to balance a chocolate-colored toy poodle in one arm and his phone in the other. Tanaka was a little bummed he couldn’t post the picture, because it had turned out even better than he hoped: his biceps flexed, his shoulders bulged under the thin fabric of his athletic shirt, and his small curly-haired charge looked right into the lens.

 

Tanaka sent the picture before he could talk himself out of it, and one hundred and thirty agonizing seconds later, he got a text from an unknown number with a picture of Suga clutching Kurumi-chan and burrowing his face in the fur on the back of her neck.

 

>Congrats, I think you broke him.

 

With a single photo, Tanaka got Sawamura Daichi’s personal number and found a way to fluster the indomitable Sugawara Koushi, so selfies with the dogs he walked became an integral part of their exchanges.

 

The selfies, funny stories, and Suga’s never-ending questions were more than he could’ve ever hoped to have with the man, but thing that amazed Tanaka the most about their fledgling relationship was that he could share the bad stuff along with the good. He could reach Suga when he was about to claw his eyes out after accidentally deleting a voice bit or when he considered running the length of Japan instead of posting his next episode and Suga would be there.

 

Even if his words dripped with anxiety or read like a punch to the gut, Suga responded. His replies didn’t always dispel the darkness and sometimes it took him a couple hours, but Suga always texted back.  

 

There were also times when Suga responded so promptly that Tanaka had to paw at the air gracelessly to grab his phone before it clattered to the floor.

 

He tuned out the idle chatter of the customers milling around him while he stood in the middle of the produce aisle of the grocery store near his apartment and focused intently on his phone. He’d texted Suga offhandedly about the sale on produce and how pumped he was to stock up, and not five seconds later he got a request to share his location and Suga asked if he could wait twenty minutes for him to get there.

 

From: Suga 

>Daichi always eats like a man who has just discovered that food is delicious, so the cheaper, the better!!

 

Tanaka stared at his phone for a solid five minutes, right up until the telltale tingling at the end of his fingers warned him that his arm was about to fall asleep. Shifting his basket into the crook of his elbow, they made plans.

 

They were quiet at first, but the voices clawed at him from the shadowy corners of his mind. They asked him why Suga would want to drop whatever he was doing just to join him on an errand. They scolded him for believing that Suga might want to come just to spend time with him. They told him that Suga would get there and turn around, or he wouldn’t come at all. They reminded him that he wasn’t enough to keep a guy like Suga.

 

Tanaka filled his lungs with oxygen with a gasp, and the breath sunk into his diaphragm. He counted to himself as he exhaled.

 

One, two, three.

 

One, Two, Three .

 

In the face of his demons, anticipation bubbled up in his chest and he grinned to himself in the middle of the supermarket. Powerful pulses of joy sent the voices spiraling back into the darkness as he looked at his phone, at their conversation. Their words were proof; Suga wanted to meet him.

 

He grabbed a couple of bags on the way to the main entrance, where he waited until a bony shoulder bumped into his. Even though they’d just made the plans, he still needed a minute to appreciate the way Suga looked up at him, clutching a reusable bag like it might escape if he loosened his grip.

 

Instead of greeting him, Suga peered into Tanaka’s basket and snorted. “What the hell are you going to do with all that spinach?”


Three hours and a round of frenzied cleaning later, Tanaka set the third glass of green liquid in front of Suga, who was perched on one of Tanaka’s bar stools. He cast an inquiring gaze over Tanaka’s offering. “This looks exactly like the last one.”

 

Tanaka tightened the strings of his apron, not missing the way Suga’s eyes flitted to his waist. He leaned against the counter as casually as he could, pretending that he was totally at ease instead of slightly light-headed from the attention. “This one’s different,” he explained. “It’s got the protein powder you liked from the first smoothie, less banana, and hemp milk instead of soy. And no yogurt this time.”

 

“Thank god.” Suga’s shoulders relaxed and he raised his glass. “To no more yogurt smoothies!”

 

“To no more yogurt smoothies today,” Tanaka said cheekily. He ignored the way his stomach flipped when Suga stuck his tongue out and clinked their glasses.

 

“Yogurt is an abomination,” he shuddered, “but if you’re implying that there are more healthy Tanaka-approved smoothies in my future, I can’t complain.”

 

Tanaka choked on the sip he’d just taken.

 

“Just ignore me.” Suga flicked his wrist with an air of nonchalance, but Tanaka noticed the corners of his lips as they tensed. He didn’t say anything else before he took a tentative sip. He swallowed, and then went back for a longer, deeper gulp. “It’s good!” Suga cheered. There were no traces of the frown he wore just moments earlier. “I feel like I could rip a phonebook in half. Wait, can you do stuff like that?”

 

Thrown by Suga’s abrupt change in demeanor, he cleared his throat. “Nah,” he said. “But maybe someday. Pulling that off would be sick.”

 

“It’d be pretty intense,” Suga agreed.

 

Their conversation lapsed, and Tanaka added their empty glasses to the growing pile in the kitchen sink. He took a moment to consider the shadow that had fallen over Suga’s features. It had passed quickly, but something about the way Suga pretended it never happened made his skin crawl and suddenly Tanaka couldn’t go another second without letting his thoughts spill clumsily into the space between them.

 

“I’ll make you smoothies anytime you want, by the way,” he said, turning around. “Honestly, you’re kinda doing me a favor. It’s always good to have an extra opinion, especially if you’re puttin’ it on a podcast. Makes the whole thing more credible.”

 

Suga raised an eyebrow. “One extra opinion is still a pretty small sample size.”

 

“You’re probably right,” Tanaka babbled, “But my podcast isn’t a cooking show. It’s about healthy experiences and how they can pull you out of dark places, yeah? Like, you might have a smoothie ‘cause you gotta eat on the run or get your daily recommended veggies or replenish electrolytes and the smoothie’s just some ingredients in a cup, but when you’re makin’ one for someone and sharing it and talking and laughing, a smoothie’s not just a smoothie. It becomes a thing when you’re not alone, something bigger because you’re doing it together.” He swallowed the lump in his throat. “And I like doing it together... With you.”

 

He winced as he finished, half-expecting to Suga to run out the door holding his hands over his ears, but the man was still seated at his kitchen counter, and his smile was so wide that Tanaka averted his eyes. “Do you cook?” Suga asked.

 

Tanaka eased himself into the way Suga changed the subject with a good-natured huff. “Nah, I just mentioned it for comparison’s sake. Puttin’ things in a blender is about it for me.”

 

“That’s perfect,” Suga hummed. “Don’t ask why, but Daichi won’t let me in the kitchen without supervision anymore, but I do want to get better,” Suga said, reaching his arm high over his head and stretching. “We can learn how to cook together!”

 

Tanaka tried to pull his two warring sides together. On one hand, he couldn’t imagine anything better than standing next to Suga in his tiny kitchen. On the other, he didn’t want his kitchen and his dignity going up in flames. “I’m sure there’s something else we can do-“

 

“Ah, wait,” Suga interrupted. “You just said it really well.” He paused to chew on the inside of his lip as he narrowed his eyes in thought. “We should learn to cook because I want to do it together, with you.”

 

“Oh,” he said, not bothering to wipe the look of disbelief off his face. He gripped the counter behind him, if only just to feel something solid beneath his grasp.

 

Suga, on the other hand, looked completely at ease. “Having dinner is quintessential date stuff, so we’ve gotta do it, and I’d rather be here with food we made than at some yuppy restaurant in an uncomfortable button-up talking about the weather. Plus,” he added, “Cooking is healthier, and there’s the potential to integrate what you learn into content for your podcast, if you choose to go that route.”

 

He was just about caught up when Suga waggled his eyebrows. “Plus, if we’re at your place and you’re into it, we could kiss whenever we wanted.”

 

When he told the story later, Tanaka would conveniently leave out the part where he hid his face in his hands until Suga promised he wouldn’t say stuff like that without finding a way to warn him first.   

Chapter Text

Valentine’s Day wasn’t that big of a deal.

 

Tanaka corrected himself. It wasn’t that a big deal in the sense that there were elaborate public confessions and fancy reservations and heaping bags of beautifully sculpted handmade chocolate.

 

He just assumed he and Suga wouldn’t celebrate it at all.

 

The thing between them was still new and the demands on their lives only increased in the days leading up to the holiday. Tanaka picked up another part-time job, curbing his already minuscule amount of free time, and Suga was preparing for One Two Three ’s first live tour.

 

He thought he was fine with dreaming of the next time they’d get to see each other, understanding the demands of the universe and their very real life needs, but it only took ten minutes with his sister and three sips of beer before he was face down in the crook of his elbow whining about the universe’s terrible timing while Saeko held his shoulder and relieved him of the rest of his drink.

 

It was only a matter of time before he’d be forced to cough up details about whatever he and Suga were doing -- the glowing embers of his sister’s curiosity were hard to miss -- but she held  her burning questions back in favor of pinching his cheeks and reminding him that he was in charge of his own damn life and, in her immortal words, the universe could go fuck itself.

 

Tanaka wasn’t able to appreciate the sentiment until his second glass of water the next morning, but Suga didn’t seem to mind his rambling texts. After they finagled plans for the holiday, he tallied the texts and Suga had outdone him by five whole messages.

 

If he pumped his fist in victory once or twice, that was for him to know and no one else to find out.




At quarter to eleven at night on February 14th, Tanaka stood at the door of Suga and Daichi’s apartment, slightly out of breath from sprinting from the train station, with a bag of food from his night gig at the fast food joint, a small box of generic store bought chocolates, and the fancy grain-free treats that made Kurumi-chan wiggle out of her skin. He didn’t even get the chance to knock; Kurumi-chan’s nails clicked rapidly on the other side of the door and Suga ripped it open to pull him inside.

 

At quarter to four in the morning on February 15th, Tanaka laid in bed, wide awake.

 

What he thought would be a cozy night on the couch with his arm around Suga’s shoulders was actually a blood-curdling nightmare.

 

He shuddered, pulling the blankets tighter around him and tucking them into his sides. It was one of the great mysteries of life, he decided, or the eighth wonder of the world, how someone who smiled like an angel could enjoy movies that came from the bowels of hell itself.

 

With just an hour before his alarm, Tanaka ached to close his eyes but every time he did he caught a shape in the shadows of his room and opened them again with a sharp intake of breath. He didn’t know which was more terrifying, the hobbling mangled ghost corpse that was definitely waiting for him to get out from under the safety of his blankets or his embarrassing lack of manliness.

 

Tanaka rubbed his bleary eyes and let out a defeated groan as he remembered the night before, how Suga had to coax him out from where he’d shoved himself between the cushions of the couch.

 

His heart sank into his chest as he sunk back into the mattress, but his wallowing was cut short by a thud outside of his bedroom that was definitely not his obnoxious neighbors and was most certainly a warning from the terrifying demons that had jumped out from Suga’s television screen and followed him home.



Tanaka pushed back against his weariness. He completed his dog walking appointments in the early morning, recorded a new episode of Mediocre Me with Nishinoya, kicked his own ass on the weight benches at the gym, and faced his six hour shift at the restaurant like it had challenged him to a high stakes duel.

 

He reacted normally to most of his customers, stumbling over his words when a cute person bit their lip as they chose their soda flavor and puffing out his chest when a handsome dude changed his mind and ordered four burgers instead of three, but customers’ orders ran together like static between his ears and he got chewed out at least once an hour by his manager for typing out the wrong burger toppings.

 

At the very end of his shift, he was sure his lack of sleep was making him see things, because he swore he saw Suga step up to the counter, his face framed by wild curls like a tropical oasis in the desert of his exhaustion.

 

Only when he spoke did Tanaka concede that the man in front of him was very real.

 

“Did you order a shirt too small on purpose? Because it looks like it might rip literally any second.”

 

“Suga?!”

 

“Hi,” he said coyly.  

 

The prying eyes of his co-workers bore holes into the back of his head and, suddenly wary of the manager who had the ability to both to see through walls and hear pins drop, he swallowed the butterflies that erupted in his stomach and gathered in his throat. “Hey! Uh, what can I getcha?”

 

Suga seemed to ponder the question, feigning a look at the menu with a hum. “Some time after your shift is over?”

 

His heart leaped at the thought but the dull thudding of a headache he’d been trying to ignore knocked it to the ground. Tanaka hoped he’d be able to sleep long enough to dream about throttling the universe. “I wanna, like, really bad, but I don’t think I’m gonna make it ten minutes without passing out,” he admitted with a frown.

 

“Gotcha,” Suga said. He leaned forward on the counter and raked his eyes intently over Tanaka’s face, like he was piecing together a complicated puzzle instead of staring at the double bags under his eyes . He sighed. “I don’t know how you do it.”

 

Tanaka cocked his head and looked down at his ugly fast food uniform. “This job isn’t that hard?”

 

“Nah, not just what you’re doing now, I mean all of the things you do,” Suga said. “The dog-walking, your podcast and all of the work that goes into that , exercising, getting another job. All of it! You’re really amazing, you know? Anyway,” he waved his hand in front of his face, drawing Tanaka’s eyes to the blush on his cheeks, “Text me when you get home, so I know you didn’t collapse on the side of the street?”

 

Tanaka nodded, dumbfounded, as Suga turned to leave and he could almost taste the surge of adrenaline that sent his arm across the counter. His hand rested lightly on Suga’s sleeve. “If you wanna walk me to the station, that’d be cool. I mean, that’d be nice. If you don’t mind waiting until we close. I understand if you don’t want to though,” he backtracked, “because that’s like a half hour from now.”

 

“I brought a book!” Suga said, perking up immediately and patting the bag at his hip. “And I can bring back some food for Daichi. The guy only had two dinners and I don’t want to listen to his stomach growl through the wall all night. It’s perfect.”

 

Tanaka snorted as he took Suga’s order, and again as he watched Suga take a seat at an empty table near the window and brandish the book from his bag with a dramatic flourish.

 

He wouldn’t have chosen “perfect” to describe the evening, or even the past couple days, but, glancing at Suga over the shoulder of the customer that was blabbing about not wanting a single soggy fry, he couldn’t help wonder if maybe that was exactly the right word.  

 

Perfection was one of those things that he’d looked at as something at the top of a never ending staircase, something lofty and huge, only attainable in theory but not in practice.

 

It was something that the voices in his head used against him, an easy way to excuse his failures and prevent him from starting something new, whether it was not wanting to try out a new class at the gym or start a podcast.

 

His epiphany might’ve been nothing more than his brain trying to deal with extreme sleep deprivation, but he followed the convoluted paths of his wandering mind until he considered that maybe “perfect” didn’t mean all that, and the concept wasn’t always as big as the dictionary or culture or the annoying voices in his head made it out to be. “Perfect” existed in the smaller things, like the tingling warmth that pooled in his chest cavity every time he glanced at Suga, his nose buried in a book.

 

Suga, who was waiting for him .

 

And  maybe, just maybe, “perfect” was simply a way of arranging all of the imperfect things the universe threw at you in a way that made you feel like you were soaring.

 

Tanaka repeated his sister’s advice under his breath. “It’s my own damn life!”  




When his shift was over, Tanaka found Suga waiting for him on a bench outside of the restaurant and he dug around in his bag while they walked toward the station.

 

A couple minutes of searching yielded a small red box, presented to Tanaka in Suga’s outstretched palms. It was just a standard, mass-produced box of heart-shaped chocolates, and he recognized it immediately from his own Valentine’s Day shopping just a couple days before.

 

“I was going to wait until White Day,” Suga said, “but I decided that it was stupid and I didn’t want to wait a whole month, which ended up actually biting me in the ass because, as you know, I can’t use the kitchen without supervision so I couldn’t make you any chocolates and these were the only ones I could find.” He looked down at the box, smoothing a finger over one of the corners that was crumpled. “It was much more romantic in my head, I swear.”

 

Tanaka’s breath hitched as he took the box, handling carefully like it hadn’t just been smashed in a bag. The weight of it in his own palm served as yet another reminder that Suga was not only there, but there with him. “It’s perfect,” he choked.

 

“Are you crying?”

 

“No,” he mumbled, using his other sleeve to wipe the suspicious wetness from the corners of his eyes. Suga cocked an eyebrow. “Just tired. Didn't sleep well last night."

 

Suga leaned in until Tanaka felt the outline of his bony shoulder, softened by winter layers. “Does it have anything to do with the movie last night?”

 

“No.” His voice cracked like it couldn’t hold up under the weight of his lie and Tanaka grimaced. He took one look at Suga, eyebrow raised, and shook his head. “I didn’t get any sleep at all,” he admitted, leaving out the fact that about half of his worry had been whether or not Suga would want to look him in the eye after finding out he couldn't handle a movie.

 

“I’m sorry."

 

His words sounded earnest but Tanaka caught the ghost of a smile at the edges of his mouth. “You don’t look real sorry,” he teased.

 

Suga wrapped his arm around Tanaka’s and fingered the ends of his sleeve. “You could’ve said something when we started watching!”

 

“I didn’t even know movies like that existed! Shit like that shouldn’t be available to human eyes.”

 

“You sayin’ I’m not human?”

 

Tanaka shrugged. “If you can sleep after watching something like that, I seriously have my doubts.”

 

“If that’s the case” Suga said, suddenly pensive, “Then what’s your stance on kissing non-humans? Me, specifically, right now?”

 

They’d arrived at the entrance to the station just in time for Tanaka’s knees to give out. He caught himself before he fell, but his weakened mental muscles were not up to the task of figuring out a clever comeback. Blunt honesty suited him better anyway.

 

“Yes,” he blurted out. “Human or not-human. Just you.”

 

Suga’s eyes widened, and Tanaka squeaked as he was yanked behind one of the concrete pillars of the station’s facade. Suga looked around once before he stood on the tips of his toes and looked up at him through thick, silvery lashes. He put his hand on Tanaka’s chest to steady himself and brought their lips together like it was the most natural thing in the world.

 

Time didn’t stop, but it slowed down enough for Tanaka to realize Suga’s warmth soothed all of the voices except for one.

 

Perfect , it whispered.

Chapter Text

“I’ve got a confession to make.”

 

“You don’t have to tell us every time you need to perform a bodily function,” Ennoshita said without looking up from his laptop. His headphones were pushed back so one ear was uncovered, his normally sleek hair sticking straight up like feathery tufts on a fully crested tropical bird.

 

“I’m serious!”

 

Kinoshita laughed under his breath. “Dude, honestly, you can’t blame him. The last time you told us you had a confession to make, you burped for like three straight minutes.”

 

“No bodily functions.” Tanaka crossed himself in a way that toed the line between light-hearted joke and downright blasphemy, then added with a smug smile, “I gotta admit, that was hella impressive.”

 

“Is that word for it?” Ennoshita murmured.

 

“You did remember it though...”

 

Narita took another chip from the bag they were passing between them. “He has a point, Ennoshita,” he said, popping the snack into his mouth and passing the bag to Nishinoya, who snatched the bag and shoved it securely into his lap, earning a low whine from the group.

 

He crossed his arms over his chest, unmoved by his friends’ grumbling. “No chips until the man talks.” He batted his short eyelashes at Tanaka. “Ryuu?”

 

“I was just sayin’...” Tanaka started, but the words caught in his throat. He’d stupidly assumed his grand confession would’ve been easy with his closest friends but, with four sets of eyes staring at him and waiting, he considered just burping again to break the tension. He’d earn a few punches and a night of Ennoshita’s cold shoulder, but that was familiar territory. This was something else entirely.

 

Tanaka shook his head. If he couldn’t say it then, how was he supposed to say it to the person that actually needed to hear it?

 

Thoughts of Suga elbowed their way around his nerves, and he laughed out loud with the sudden mental image of those thoughts having Suga’s bony elbows. Like a champagne bottle uncorked, the words tumbled out of his mouth.

 

“I’m a man in love.”

 

There was a single beat of silence before ringing peals of laughter blasted it to smithereens.

 

“You guys,” he wailed.  

 

Nishinoya scooted over from his place on the floor, still commandeering the bag of chips, until he was close enough to pat Tanaka’s thigh. “Ain’t that just the thing,” he said with a dreamy sigh.

 

“I’m serious!”

 

“You’ve professed your undying love for approximately a hundred people in the last year alone,” Ennoshita said, finally pulling off his headphones. They settled around his neck like his hair settled back across his forehead.

 

“And we listened to you and Nishinoya pine after Kiyoko-san,” Narita said.

 

With a lively voice, Kinoshita added, “For literal years.”

 

They weren’t wrong, Tanaka admitted. A frown tugged at his lips. He’d never been one to shy away from announcing his feelings, however fleeting, about someone he thought was attractive, and he conceded, wholly and completely, that Kiyoko-san was not only the most beautiful woman on the planet, but also the kindest and most intelligent. Even then, at that very moment, he might’ve dropped everything to be at her beck and call if she’d asked.

 

But they weren’t entirely right, either, and he’d come too far to back down.

 

“I forgot about those people, like, right after, and I respect Kiyoko-san and Michimiya-san’s relationship!”

 

“Even if it was a teensy bit heartbreaking.” Nishinoya heaved a dramatic sigh.

 

Tanaka patted his friend’s shoulder knowingly. “Don’t I know it.”

 

Once again, the group lapsed into awkward silence.

 

He still had his hand on Nishinoya’s shoulder as he struggled to find a way to explain how Suga’s touch lingered even after he pulled his hand away.

 

He wanted them to rest their hands over his heart and feel the way it stuttered every time Suga’s lips parted before they kissed.

 

He wanted to tell them how he laid in bed, tired to the core of his being, but didn’t sleep because he couldn’t stop thinking about the way Suga’s hair caught the moonlight and shimmered more beautifully than any diamond in a shop window.

He wanted them to feel how he yearned for Suga while he was away on tour, how happy and proud and amazed he was while also missing the guy in a way he’d never known a human could miss another human.

 

There were so many things he wanted to say, but it all boiled down to a single truth.

 

“It’s different this time because I want Suga to be my boyfriend.”

 

The sounds of the city permeated the apartment. Cars zoomed by and the harsh zip of a motorbike wove through traffic on the street below. Tanaka wasn’t surprised by the silence of the rest of them, but, in all the years he had known Nishinoya, he’d never seen him shocked into speechlessness.

 

It was unnerving for all sorts of reasons, none of which he wanted to deal with at very same moment of his groundbreaking revelation. “Forget it,” he muttered.

 

“No!”

 

Tanaka jerked back in surprise to see that Nishinoya had jumped off the floor and rose to his full height. “We’re not forgetting anything!”

 

“And I doubt you’d let us forget it, even if we wanted to” Ennoshita said, peeking out from behind him.

 

Kinoshita nodded enthusiastically and elbowed Narita. “Oh,” he said, “yeah, I guess we didn’t think you’d want a, ah,” he paused, “boyfriend?”

 

Understanding hit him like a ton of bricks and Tanaka’s head fell, caught between his hands. He’d never shied away from expressing his interest in the aesthetic value of the opposite sex, but he’d bypassed that moment entirely, the one where he slapped a label himself and unveiled it to the world. That moment was important to a lot of people, but he still wasn’t sure about his label, and wasn’t sure he’d be. The only thing he was sure about was that he wanted to be Suga’s person, and Suga to be his.

 

He told them as such, and, when he was done, Nishinoya pretended to wipe a tear from his eye. “My good dude, you know we love, support and cherish you, right?”

 

Ennoshita shrugged. “It’s not like it’s a big deal. You usually do what you want anyway.”

 

“Did you just smile?” Tanaka asked with mock accusation. He pointed at his friend’s mouth and looked around the room for confirmation.

 

“Never.” Ennoshita's deadpan, however, was betrayed the quirk of his lips, and Nishinoya cheered as he jumped on his back, nearly knocking his laptop to the ground.

 

Narita pursed his lips in thought. “But does he want to be your boyfriend?”

 

The room went quiet again.

 

“I don’t know,” Tanaka said grimly.

 

“Dude,” Nishinoya said, “Suga-san has mentioned you on OTT at least twenty times since you met and promotes literally every episode of Mediocre Me  on his personal twitter. And he got you Valentine’s Day chocolates!”

 

Tanaka bit the inside of his cheek. It was hard to argue with the facts when they were laid out so succinctly, and he knew on some level, buried deeply under layers of insecurity, that Suga wouldn’t give him so much of his precious little free time if he weren’t invested.

 

He liked the Suga more than he knew what to do with, but he still had a hard time figuring out exactly what he would get out of being his boyfriend.

 

There was no sense in dwelling on it, however, and no place to move but forward. Suga would be back in town in another two weeks, and there was only one way to know if Suga wanted to be his boyfriend.

 

“I guess I gotta woman-up and ask him.”

 

Ennoshita put his headphones back over one ear and settled his laptop more firmly on his knees. “No shit, Sherlock,” he huffed. “Now can we get back to working on your podcast?”

 

Chapter Text

After deciding once and for all that he wanted to ask Suga to be his boyfriend, the last two weeks of One Two Three ’s tour were brutal.

 

Tanaka likened his suffering to the time before their unexpected meeting, when he had to listen to old episodes of OTT to tide him over until the next episode aired. Suga’s texts were understandably sporadic, given his travel schedule and the amount of work the guys had to do between each appearance, so Tanaka read and reread their previous messages until he was sure he could recite them at will.

 

The comparison fit especially well because Daichi, Suga, Asahi scheduled a full episode to air while they were away, and Tanaka could pretend his rattled nerves came in anticipation of the new content and hearing Suga’s voice as opposed to the fact that, the next time he saw Suga, he’d have to lay all of his feelings on the line.

 

It had worked for the most part, the pretending, but Tanaka tried in vain to get Ennoshita to edit out the high-pitched shriek that accompanied the notification of the new episode, which had happened right in the middle of one of his own recording sessions.

 

He was pretty sure that Ennoshita would cram the undignified yelp into as many clips as possible, but he found that, as launched himself out from behind his microphone and into his bedroom to listen to the episode in peace while his friends cackled in the other room, he cared less and less about the inevitable memes and more about the relief he felt upon hearing Suga’s laugh in OTT’s intro bit.

 

As the episode went on, Tanaka was flung back and forth between the pleasant stirring in his gut at the sound of Suga’s recording voice and the hollow ache of knowing that he couldn’t see the man in person.

 

When their commercial break came, and Tanaka cupped his hands on his ears and pressed his headphones closer. OTT always recorded their commercial breaks live, and he didn’t want to be distracted for even a single second. He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.

 

Daichi’s voice boomed in his ear as he went through their normal routine. He thanked their listeners, reminded them of the next couple dates of their tour before they packed it in, and spoke a little bit about their tour sponsors. Then, he sighed, the way he did whenever he was about to improvise, and Tanaka heard Asahi’s low laughter in the background. It was muffled, like he was standing a few feet from the microphone Daichi used. 

 

You’re probably wondering why Suga isn’t here, recording the intermission like he was supposed to - because it’s his turn! - but luckily for you all, Asahi is getting real-time footage of Suga’s grumpiness, all of which you will be able to see on Twitter!

 

There was a loud bang, like a door slamming shut, and a sharp cry, and Daichi made a half-assed attempt to muffle his laughter but it only gained momentum until he was wheezing and had to take a deep breath before speaking again. 

 

Anyway, if you’d like to see what goes on when the three of us try to share a tiny room and Suga is in a mood, head over to our Twitter tonight. Maybe Suga will stop moping long enough to defend himself.

 

There was another thump, and Tanaka heard Asahi say “Hey!” before Daichi signed off and the pre-recorded content started again.

 

It wasn’t until much later than night, after he had to throw himself at his friends’ feet for bailing in the middle of their recording session, walk a couple dogs that had to be coaxed slowly and meticulously to go outside, cover part of someone’s shift at the restaurant last-minute, and glance at the notes Ennoshita had made earlier that day, that he was able to sit still long enough to check up on OTT’s Twitter account.

 

He scrolled until he found the thread that Daichi had mentioned during the commercial break, and it started with a video, retweeted from Asahi’s personal account and beginning with his voice, a tentative, “Suga?”

 

Asahi held the camera in front of him, pointed at a wooden door, and pushed it open to reveal Suga, seated in a nest of papers with a bandana holding his hair back from his face. The way the light hit him, Suga’s eyes glowed, like a cat’s eyes did when they were caught in a flash.

 

Tanaka paused the video to take a screenshot. Suga looked like a scraggly dragon on his hoard of scribbles, and he was cuter than any possibly-more-mythical creature-than-human ought to be. He felt his chest tighten as he tapped the screen to continue the video.

 

Suga hissed at the camera, and Asahi said, in his most soothing voice, “You’re supposed to be reading the announcements to-, hey, Suga?”

 

The dragon that might've been Suga rose slowly from his den of papers and approached the camera slowly, his eyes narrowed like a predator sizing up his prey, and Daichi’s voice filtered through the background as he read the announcements Tanaka had already heard in the recording.

 

Suddenly, Suga lunged for the camera, and the man attached to it, and Asahi shouted the pained “Hey!” That had made it onto the episode recording.

 

The video was blurry as it continued to record during the struggle, and Daichi was now laughing louder, having finished the announcements while Asahi groaned in pain, and it cut off with another howl of laughter from Daichi.

 

The picture posted after the video showed Asahi doubled over in pain. 

 

@OneTwoThreeCast

Asahi is still alive, I think.

 

@Suganotwo replying to @OneTwoThreeCast

You sure about that?

 

@OneTwoThreeCast

In light of recent events, you can send your condolences to our PO Box.

 

@Suganotwo replying to @OneTwoThreeCast

In the form of a generous financial donation, please!

 

@SawDaichi replying to @Suganotwo

And look at that, he’s back.

 

Tanaka rubbed his eyes until he saw stars, already bleary from his exhaustion. 

 

He didn’t like the way he felt, the way he missed Suga like a piece of him had been ripped away, and how unbelievably happy he was for him while also dealing with the voices that tried to convince him that none of his emotions were valid, that he was jealous, of Suga’s relationship with Asahi and Daichi, that they got to spend so much time together, and that Suga got to tour and he didn't. 

 

His positive emotions towered over any small amount of jealousy he thought he felt, but he was weighted down by guilt nonetheless, and wondered if a guy with those kinds of thoughts would ever be worthy of being Suga’s boyfriend.

 

The minutes crept past until the clock struck one, and Tanaka was still stuck, staring at his phone without actually seeing it until he accepted that it was unreasonable to text Suga at that hour (or possibly even at all), and then took deep even breaths. He pulled air in through his nose, held it, and then exhaled slowly, until his eyelids were heavy enough to fall against the will of his mind and his rampaging thoughts.

 

His alarm went off four hours later, and it wasn’t until after he fumbled through his rounds of free weights at the gym on auto-pilot that he noticed the unread text message sitting in his inbox. It was time stamped at 2:17 that morning.

 

From: Suga

> I miss you.

 

A week and a half later, on the night of Suga’s return from their tour, Tanaka whirled around his apartment at 11 o’clock at night, having just kicked a pajama-clad Nishinoya to the curb with a free pass to all of the food he could eat from the restaurant and a promise that they were still on for the next day, when they would record Nishinoya’s guest spot on Mediocre Me.

 

They had planned to rehearse all night, before Suga returned, but, when a handful of texts interrupted them, Nishinoya had already started packing his bags.

 

From: Suga

> I know we’re going to hang out tomorrow night, and this is kind of last-minute, and I understand that you’re busy, but can I have Daichi drop me off at yours in 20 mins?

> I miss your biceps.

> And also you.

 

The buzzer went off just as Tanaka had thrown all of his used plates, cups, chopsticks, utensils, and bowls haphazardly into his sink, and he realized with horror that he was also still in his pajamas, the patterned Super Sentai ones Kinoshita had gotten him as a joke for his birthday last year but had swiftly become his favorite pair.

 

With no time to change, he swallowed the lump in his throat. “God, Ryuu,” he whispered as he jogged to the door. “Pull yourself together, man!”

 

Unsurprisingly, he was unable to pull himself together and calm his fluttering heart, but he ripped open the door anyway.

 

Suga stood in the hall, a heavy shoulder bag slung over his chest with a strap that bunched up his coat around his neck. He ran a hand through his hair and winced when his fingers got stuck in a knot. Tanaka couldn’t help but notice that his usually confident smile was undercut by the purple bags under his eyes and the patches of grease on his face. “Hi,” he said.

 

“Hi,” Tanaka said back.

 

They stared at each other for a moment, and Suga shifted on his feet. “I’m sorry for barging in like this, and I look like I just crawled out of hell, which I kind of did, but… Wait, what are those?!” He pointed at Tanaka’s pants.

 

“I know, I know,” Tanaka said weakly. “But they’re really soft?”

 

“They’re amazing, I mean, they kinda suit you,” he said, gesturing towards him with an open, honest expression and a smile tugging at his lips.

 

“I dunno if that’s a good thing,” Tanaka mumbled.

 

“Well, the pants are amazing, and so are you, and you should probably let me in so that I can feel how soft they are. You know, for science.”

 

Tanaka stepped to the side with an enthusiastic nod while Suga crossed the boundary into his apartment, dropped his bag unceremoniously at the threshold and toed off his shoes. He coughed into his hand like it would loosen up the words he wanted to say, the right ones, like I missed you and I’m so glad you’re back and I think I’m in love with you , but all it did was accentuate the awkward silence, and he was just about to curse himself into oblivion when Suga stepped into his space and looked up at him with discernible worry.

 

“It’s really okay if you don’t want to hang out tonight,” Suga said. He tugged a loose string on the hem of his jacket. “Daichi is in a perpetual state of owing me, so he can swing back around.”

 

“No! That’s not it,” Tanaka said. He cringed at the way his voice caught in his throat and his heart pounded in his chest, but he took a big step back and bowed deeply. Eyes firmly locked on the carpet and heart pounding in his chest, he squeezed his fists together at his sides. “Suga-san! Will you be my boyfriend?”

 

He saw Suga’s feet come into his line of vision before he felt the tap on his shoulder and barely rose up to his full height when Suga wrapped his arms around his waist and pulled their bodies flush against each other. Suga gripped the back of his baggy shirt like a lifeline and Tanaka held him against his chest, allowing the unruly wisps of matted silver hair to tickle his chin.

 

Without thinking and without letting go, he kissed Suga’s forehead, letting his lips linger. “Is that, uh, that a yes?”

 

He jumped when Suga pinched his back. “Of course that’s a yes,” he huffed.

 

Tanaka looked up to the ceiling, unsure of who to thank in the skies above, and squeezed Suga a little tighter. He opened his mouth to ask if Suga was sure, really sure, but he was stopped by a soft snore. “Suga?” He whispered. When there was no response other than the even puffs of breath on his neck, he pulled back just enough to confirm that Suga’s eyes were closed.

 

He bit back a smile as he hooked his arm under Suga’s knees and supported his back. Suga didn’t open his eyes, but he looped his arms around Tanaka’s neck and allowed his body to go slack. “‘M glad those muscles aren’t just for show,” he breathed.

 

“Yeah, me too,” Tanaka hummed in agreement as he carried Suga to his bedroom, where he had planned to leave him for a place on his futon, but Suga caught him around the wrist before he could leave and asked him to stay.

 

When he asked if Suga was sure, the hand around his wrist tightened, and he was yanked into his own bed with the sort of strength he doubted any force of nature would ever defy.