Chapter 1: Hot Under The Collar
With the AC and Director Ton breathing down her neck, Retsuko needs a miracle to get her work done. Or a very helpful co-worker...
Summer months meant a constant battle of the ac unit. Some workers were content with it being on, others, like Retsuko were positioned directly below the fan unit. Not only was her work getting everywhere, but her neck was getting stiffer and stiffer.
A piece of paper flew across to Haida's desk and she winced, her muscles complaining when she leant over for it. "Sorry," she huffed. "Blame the fan."
"O-oh no it's fine," he blushed, his crush still ever present. "Um, here," Haida closer the gap so she didn't have to reach as far.
He subtly watched as she sat back down and glared up at the ceiling, her eye twitching. "...Is everything fine with you?"
"Hm?" She blinked at him and then smiled. "Oh it's nothing really." Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Ton turn the temperature down even further and she shivered, smile getting more strained. "I'm p-perfectly fine."
She was not perfectly fine.
Haida opened his mouth to talk, hesitated, but then did it anyway. "Want to swap seats? The fan doesn't get me here," he gestured to his workstation. Piles of papers, although messy, were staying in one place.
Retsuko dared to glance at Ton, fanning himself with the work he was meant to be doing. Work she would probably end up doing.
"I don't think Ton would appreciate that," she muttered, mouth tight. Ton wouldn't dare do something to benefit her after all.
Haida grinned at her and got up. "I've got a plan."
He walked over to his boss' desk, clearing his throat nervously. "Hey, boss, I was just-"
"What do you want, Haida? Can't you see I'm busy?"
Haida glanced at the papers that were coming loose and fluttering to other people's desks. "Um, very, Sir. I was just hoping I could enjoy the benefits of the air conditioning like you are, get my work productivity up."
Ton raised his eyebrow as if to say go on.
"Retsuko's desk is right below one of the fans," he tilted his head towards it. "I don't suppose you'd mind if I swapped?"
Ton squinted. "What's in it for me?"
"I-it would get my productivity up?" Haida repeated, then added, "Plus, it would put Retsuko closer to you, you'd be able to keep an eye on her."
Looking at where Retsuko was shivering away at her desk, Ton nodded. "CALENDAR!"
Retsuko's head popped up, immediately nervous. "Y-yes, Sir?"
"Swap with Haida, he needs the fan more than you do."
"Thank you, Sir," Haida said respectfully and hurried back to his desk to make space for Retsuko's laptop.
Papers in her arms, she got everything set up for herself.
Haida was flipping his computer around, careful to not unplug anything. Thankfully he had the reach, so it wasn't hard to do from Retsuko's desk, especially with her chair raised the way it was.
Retsuko plopped into Haida's and sighed a little. She was almost at the floor.
Haida looked up and forced himself not to laugh. All he could see were her ears. Her cute perfect fluffy ears- okay now he was blushing again. "N-need any help, Retsuko?" he asked.
"I'm fine," she leant under the seat and hitched it up until she was at the right level and smiled at him. "We should have swapped chairs too huh?"
"Heh, yeah." He finished turning the computer around.
"Thank you, by the way. This is much better." She opened her laptop, paused, and then looked up at him again. "You used Ton's own prejudice against him, huh?" she said quietly, "That was smart."
"Oh well, it was nothing," Haida blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. Which was already getting stiff. "You really think so?"
"Mhm!" She grinned at him, blushing a little herself now.
She was touched Haida had done that for her, in fact, he was always doing things for her. Being helpful and the like. It was... what friends did after all.
Fenneko had been listening into the whole thing, and glanced quickly at Retsuko to make sure she was back doing her work. "It was nothing huh?" she grinned, her eyes on her work but her focus on Haida.
"Don't you start," he muttered, his own focus drifting at how nice Retsuko's work area smelled. "She needed help, so I helped her."
"Of course. Still got a crush on her huh?"
"Shush!" Haida glanced at Retsuko, but she cleared hadn't overheard, busy with her own thoughts.
"You should tell her, it's been months. Or get over it already."
"Two!" Haida protested, ignoring her last comment. "She needs space, okay?"
"Enough space to allow some other guy to jump in sure. You just need to grow a pair," she deadpanned, though there was a smirk on her face.
Haida blushed heavily. "I have a perfectly-" he cut himself off before he could dig himself into a hole even further. "Just mind your own business." he muttered, trying to focus on work. But heavens her perfume was so nice, it made him want to burying his face in her neck and-
"R-retsuko! I wasn't- heeey what's up?!?" He leant on his elbow, hand pressed against his cheek to cover up how red his face was. He was suddenly very grateful for the cold air from the fan. "S-something wrong?"
Retsuko looked at him for a moment and then smiled politely. "You left a folder on your desk," she offered it across.
"Oh uh, yeah, thanks."
Smiling again, Retsuko got back to work.
Haida glared at Fenneko. "You're the worst."
"Yup," Fenneko agreed and got back to work. Rolling his eyes at her first, Haida did the same, thoughts of Retsuko put to one side for now.
The only one that couldn't seem to concentrate now was Retsuko.
Her thoughts kept drifting to all the nice things Haida had done for her, and how he'd confessed that night in the hospital. At the time of course, things had just ended with Resasuke, so it had been too soon. But it had been a couple of months now since Tadano, and Retsuko found herself missing that feeling.
Surely she wouldn't find that in Haida though. He was just a friend. She glanced at him and tilted her head slightly. Was he even still interested? He couldn't be, right? Or he would have asked her out again for sure.
Retsuko shook her head and pushed the feelings aside. She need to catch up with her work before-
She shot up. This was going to be a long day.
Chapter 2: Riding Through The Night
Haida offers to drive Retusko home after a late night at work, but it's nothing like what she expects.
i cant stop writing for this ship, help
After finally getting through all the extra work Ton had added, Retsuko was beat. Her face was on the desk, ears flat.
A clink next to her made her jump. "...Haida? I thought you'd gone home?" she rubbed her eyes.
"I uh, came back. Wanted to make sure you were okay. Plus I forgot some stuff from my desk," he chuckled nervously, adding in that last excuse to make sure he didn't seem too weird. "And I made you tea, since you looked pretty tired." He offered it to her.
Retsuko's eyes shone and she smiled. "Thank you," she took the tea and sipped it. He'd made her favourite.
"A-anyway, I'll just grab my stuff," he knelt down and opened one of the draws, picking out random things. "And uh-" Ask her out , he told himself, just ask her out now. "And… I'll see you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow is Saturday," Retsuko tilted her head. Was he…?
Ask her out! This is the perfect opportunity, dumbass! The voice had becoming scarily close to Fenneko's. "Oh uh, yeah um, it uh, sure is..." Just ask her out already. "Heh, my mistake."
Oh. She smiled anyway. "It's fine. See you Monday?"
"Yeah, see you," he waved and headed for the door, turning back last minute. "Retsuko?"
"Yes?" she looked at him hopefully.
He blushed a little, nerves getting the better of him again. "Don't stay too long, yeah? It's getting kinda late."
She smiled. "I'm just finishing up now."
Haida paused. "Want me to wait for you?" he blurted out, kicking himself mentally for it soon after. "O-only if you want me to that is?"
"It's fine, but thank you." She finished her tea, smiling at how perfect it was.
"You… say that a lot," Haida said quietly, it was something that had been bothering him for a while. "Usually when things aren't fine," he tilted his head a little. Had he done something wrong? Apart from acting like a lovesick fool that is.
Retsuko blinked. "N-no really it's-" she caught herself before she said fine again. "I'm just tired is all. Long day." She sent him a strained smile.
"I could drive you home then?" Haida suggested. "You'd get there faster."
"...Okay," she smiled properly now and closed her laptop, all her work saved and ready to submit in the morning. "You sure you don't mind?"
"Okay? Oh, right, great! And nah, it's no bother, really!" he grinned, blush returning.
"Great!" Retsuko repeated. "I'll just get changed and meet you back here."
Haida nodded. "Sure."
He waited until she joined him by the door and then turned the light off, heading down the halls with her. Just like he did every weekday for break. Except now it was different. There was no Fenneko snickering away at him, no chatter from the rest of the building. It was just them.
They looked at each other and laughed nervously, Haida's hand rubbing the back of his neck again. "You can go first if you want?" he told her, doing so easier than continuing on with his own line of thought.
"Oh, I was just wondering what you forgot?"
And suddenly it wasn't easier. "Oh, you know, just stuff," he tried to shrug it off. He could hardly admit he'd gone back just for her.
"Stuff," Retsuko nodded, not wanting to intrude. "Got it. What um, what were you going to say?"
Welp, back to this then. "I was just going to say how quiet it is, heh." Which was, at least, half of the truth.
"Yeah, it's nice, huh?"
Haida blinked at her, because that was the other half of the truth he'd wanted to say. He smiled and looked out through the windows, cheeks red. "It is yeah. Very peaceful."
Retsuko smiled up at him, glad they were on the same page.
It was a little odd to not be on her own after work, but also… nice. Haida's presence was comforting - she always felt safe around him. Another thought that made her blush. Instead of fixating on it, she pushed it to the side again, stepping into the elevator instead.
Haida followed and hit the button for the car park, walking out and heading for his bike.
It was only then that it hit him how close they were going to be. As usually, he hadn't really thought before thinking, and now he was going to pay for it.
"Um so, I have a spare helmet…" he mumbled, waiting for her inevitable questions.
She was surprised sure, but then again it was also rather exciting, she'd never been on a motorbike before. In fact, her mother forbade it. But what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.
And so Retsuko grinned and took the helmet off him. "Okay."
Luckily enough they both had big ears, so it fit nice and snuggly once she adjusted the strap.
Haida thought she looked rather adorable in it, but didn't say anything, just blushed and got on the bike. "So um, just, hop on and h-hold tight. Where is your place anyway?" he tried to concentrate on that, listening as she told him her address and how to get there. But she felt very warm behind him, arms holding his sides.
"Is this okay?" she asked, just to make sure, her own heart fluttering a little.
"Mhm, yup, perfectly fine," he used her phrase. "Here we go!" He kicked the ignition and backed up before zipping out of the parking lot and onto the streets of Tokyo.
At least driving he had something else to concentrate on, weaving between traffic and watching the roads around them. He knew some drivers didn't always check for bikes on their left, so he was always extra cautious. After all, it wasn't just his safety he was responsible for tonight.
There was another thing too - riding on a bike meant conversation was almost impossible, so Haida couldn't possibly embarrass himself further.
Until they had to stop at some lights that is.
"Are you doing okay?" Haida craned his head back, glancing at the lights before and after he did. He didn't exactly want horns directed at him if he missed them.
"Mhm!" Retsuko grinned at him, quite enjoying herself. "Your coat hood is nice to lean on." It was also inevitable that she did lean on it, since it was right in her face and she had to hold tight or risk slipping off the back.
"Heh… good to… know," he said slowly, his attention back on the lights as he noticed it turn to amber. And then they were off again.
And of course now that he knew about it, he could feel her leaning, only slightly, on the back of his coat. It was enough to make him blush once again - honestly he needed to stop blushing so much around her, there was no way she didn't notice. Probably assumed that he spent his whole life blushing. How would she ever believe he was edgy now?
"Haida!" Retsuko tugged a this sleeve, "You missed the turn!"
"Oh, sorry!" he called back, taking the next one and looping around until they were heading in the right direction. He needed to snap out of it.
Luckily enough it didn't take much longer for them to get to Retsuko's block of flats.
Carefully she got off the bike, and gave him the helmet back. Her fur was stuck up all over the place and Hadia thought she looked adorable. "Told you it'd be quicker," he grinned at her.
"Yeah, you did," she smiled, "thanks for the ride."
"No problem yeah, just let me know if you need another." There was the blush. Again. "I'd rather you got home safely than get home earlier myself. Or um…" Okay big moment, he could do this. "Or if you ever want to go somewhere else. With me. O-on the bike." He looked away, bashful.
Retsuko's heart fluttered again. "I'd like that."
"G-great!" Haida's grin widened as he looked back at her, tail thumping against the now empty seat behind him. "I'll message you then!"
She nodded and then headed up to her apartment, waving down at him and smiling to herself.
Okay so… maybe he did still like her. Maybe.
Chapter 3: Date Night Advice Line
Whether or not Haida wants it, he's getting advice from Fenneko.
I have a hc that Haida makes sure his fur sticks up at the top of his head for Maximum Edginess. Proof? My heart
It was very hard for Haida to sleep that night, especially since Fenneko wouldn't stop blowing up his phone.
Fenneko : Did you ask her? 21:31
Fenneko : Haida, did you ask her out or not? 21:36
Fenneko : Let me make fun of you already! 21:45
Haida : Yes, I asked her, let me sleep. 21:53
Fenneko : Wait you actually did?!?!? 21:53
Fenneko: Also it's Friday, you don't need to sleep. Tell me everything. 21:54
Haida : No. 21:59
And then his phone rang.
"Fenneko, I'm tired," he groaned as he picked the phone up. He wasn't really, but it was as good an excuse to any.
To all but Fenneko of course. "No you're not. We're going out, usual place. See you in five."
Just as quickly as she rang, she hung up.
Haida sighed and got ready, making sure his hair was still styled up at the top. He grabbed his leather jacket and headed out the door, getting to their usual bar before Fenneko did, which was nothing new. Sitting down, he ordered himself a beer while he waited.
He didn't have to wait long.
Before his drink even arrived, Fenneko was marching over to his table. "How did you ask? How much did you blush? And stutter? Did you make sure she knew it was a date?"
"With great difficulty, a lot, also a lot, and…" then it dawned on him. "...No? Not explicitly?"
"You idiot," she shook her head and ordered her own drink when the waiter dropped off Haida's. "Okay so for all she knows it's just a hang out. Great work."
Hadia frowned. "I did the best I could!" he protested. "She said yes, that's the important thing."
"Okay, so, when are you going out with her? And to where?"
"Uh… I said I'd message her?"
Fenneko let out a sigh. "You're a disaster."
Taking a swig of his beer, Haida could hardly protest. Though he could hardly protest regardless. He was well aware of what he was.
"Luckily, you have me," she started tapping away at her phone.
"Mhm, lucky," Haida put the glass down and rolled his eyes, though a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
After a moment, Fenneko held up her phone for him to see. "Scenic motorbike route through Tokyo, all the best views, little traffic, and with a nice sushi place at the end of it so you can take her out to lunch too."
"H-how did you know we'd planned a bike ride?" he asked confused.
"Simple." Fenneko began talking quickly. "You had to reapply your hair gel, so obviously you rode your bike to and from work today. You managed to ask Retsuko out which you've never been able to do at the workplace so it had to be somewhere else. You didn't answer my messages until almost ten when you usually get home at half nine if you stay late. So you took her home. She must have liked the bike ride for you to have the confidence to ask her out, and that was the first thing that came into your head since it was something you already knew she'd like and you could pass it off as not-a-date-but-actually-a-date."
Haida blinked. "I hate it when you do that."
"So, what do you think," she wiggled the phone again.
"Uh, sure?" he took a proper look at it. "Though I was just gonna drive around the suburbs… So we could talk and that."
Fenneko looked at him. "Riiight, because that's where you shine. Talking."
"I have to get to know her somehow!" he huffed, folding his arms and leaning back in his seat. "I want to get to know what she's really like and not just what I think she's like. Maybe then I'll manage to stop blushing around her."
"I hope you don't. It's hilarious."
Haida reached for his beer again. "Gee thanks," he scowled at her over the glass. "I'm so glad I came out for this talk."
"Okay, you want some actual advice?" Fenneko stood up, leaning across the table a little. "Bring her a jacket for the bike, even if it's big for her, it's better than nothing if the worst happens. Make sure you check on her, but not too much or it'll be weird. Compliment her outfit, no matter what it is, you'll find something to compliment her about I'm sure. Make sure you ask her what she wants and if she asks you what you want, double check that it's okay with her. "
Haida was sitting up now too, though leaning back a little. "Right…" he was trying to take a mental note of everything she was saying.
"Don't get handsy-"
"I wasn't going to!" he blushed heavily, waving his hands in front of him.
"Treat her with respect, and most importantly of all…"
He tilted his head. "Yes…?"
"If it goes well, ask for a second date. And make sure she knows it's a date!" she added, finally sitting back down and sipping her drink.
Haida stayed quiet. "What if… what if it doesn't go well?" he looked up at Fenneko, worried.
"Oh for- it will . Just take tomorrow to plan everything out and let her know you'll pick her up on Sunday morning."
"Why not just go tomorrow?"
Fenneko rolled her eyes. "You don't want to seem desperate. Plus she'll be asleep now, you can hardly expect her to get up bright and early tomorrow morning after the night she's had."
"I should be asleep now," he muttered, his drink almost finished.
"Hush." Fenneko still had half of hers left. "I've almost done. Now you just need to tell me what happened."
Despite the fact that she'd already figured most of it out, Haida conceded and told Fenneko about the trip back to Retsuko's place. He tried to miss out the more embarrassing details, but Fenneko managed to squeeze them out of him, snickering accordingly.
"I can't believe you were worried about her figuring out you weren't edgy." She drained her glass and put it with Haida's empty one. "We all know you're not edgy."
"I am so! See," he lifted the collar of his leather jacket. "Edgy."
"Mmmhmm. Very," she deadpanned.
He huffed, standing up and walking with her to the door of the bar. "The music I listen to is edgy. You've got to give me that at least."
"You mean the music you try to sing along to in your bedroom into a hair brush?"
"...Point taken. Also don't tell Retsuko about that."
Flustered by the idea of Retsuko finding out, Haida stopped dead, then rushed after Fenneko as she turned down her street. "You'd better not! I mean it!"
Fenneko just waved, disappearing off around another corner.
Haida knew she wouldn't tell Retsuko, of course, so left it with a shake of his head. It was definitely time for sleep now. Tomorrow, he had plans to make.
Chapter 4: Trying Out The Sushi
It's time for the... date?
"That one- no… the other- are you sure this isn't a date, Retsuko?" Gori asked, Retsuko's outfits strewn around her.
Retsuko shrugged. "He didn't say it was… besides, he's just a friend."
Washimi and Gori exchanged eye contact. "Mhm, the guy that's always there for you when you need help and offered to take you around for a ride, is just a friend."
"He is!" Retsuko insisted. "I don't want to get my hopes up…"
"She has a point."
"Washimi!" Gori couldn't believe she'd say something like that. "Why can't she dream a little, huh? Do you like him?" she turned back to Retsuko, who just shrugged. "Well what's that supposed to mean?"
Retsuko held another outfit up to herself. "I don't know. He's a great guy but… isn't it weird to date your co-worker?"
The other two women exchanged another look. "No."
"But, what if things go wrong? What if I date him, we find out we're too different and have different life goals and then, suddenly we split up and I have to deal with seeing him at work?"
"You're overthinking this," Washimi rooted through the outfits. "Here, try this one," she held up a burgundy dress. It was simple, but to the point. Not too flashy, but not plain either. A sort of middle step between the two.
It was a dress that said 'maybe this is a date'.
Retsuko hadn't worn the dress in question in a long time, it might not even fit her. "You think this is the one?" she asked, holding it up to herself.
"Yes." Both friends nodded.
And so when the next day came around, Retsuko was wearing the selected dress, as well as a leather jacket to protect her arms. She realised it was slightly ironic given she had her legs bare, but hopefully the boots would be enough coverage there.
Soon enough, she heard Haida's bike in the distance and waved as he pulled up.
"Hi Retsuko-" and that was when he noticed her outfit. "Wow…" She looked incredible, the dress showed off all her lovely curves and it matched her fur so well and matched his own outfit too - had she done that on purpose? Wait no, there was no way she could have kn-
He blinked, he'd been staring at her. "Uh… y-you look very nice," he blushed, not wanting to go overboard. "Heh, glad you've got your own jacket. The one I brought would have drowned you."
"You brought me a jacket?"
"Yeah," he nodded and lifted the seat to pull it out, first handing her a helmet. "I figured safety first, yeah?" He chuckled nervously, hoping it didn't make him sound like he was a stickler for the rules. He wanted her to think she was cool after all.
He'd been concerned about her? She blushed herself and smiled at him. "Thank you, that's really thoughtful of you."
"Guess I should have just rung you though huh?" Haida shrugged and put the jacket back. "Either way, ready to go? Y-you look really nice by the way." He blushed again, even more so when she got on the back of the bike and wrapped her arms around him. He could feel her a lot more now he wasn't wearing his coat.
Retsuko giggled a little. "You already said that. But thank you. You look nice too." She'd also noticed how their outfits matched.
Almost like they were a couple.
"R-really?" his eyes shone and he blushed even harder, more so at the compliment than his own mistake. "Thanks." He smiled back at her. "Anyway, off we go."
This time around, Haida drove slower, taking the scenic route Fenneko had shown him. Retsuko shifted so she just had her hands on his shoulders once she realised that was safe enough, something that actually helped calm Haida's nerves.
When she was too close, it was all he could think about. Imagining her arms around him, his chin rested on the top of her head while she pressed her face to his neck, maybe even kissing-
"E-enjoying yourself?" he asked carefully, wanting to check up on her and distract himself.
"Mhm!" Retsuko grinned, and Haida could hear it in her voice. "Everything is so beautiful, I've never seen this part of the city before."
And indeed she hadn't, especially not like this.
It was so freeing, to ride down these roads and not have to worry about anything, just being able to take in the view. That was something that surprised her - that she wasn't worried. She trusted Haida. After all, if he'd managed to get to her place during the busy night, going slower down a few less traversed streets shouldn't be an issue.
"I'm glad you like it," Haida smiled, looking back at her as he waited at a crossing.
Soon enough, they reached the sushi place, though both seemed reluctant to end the ride so quickly. Neither mentioned it to the other out of politeness, simply blushing instead.
Because this was the language of morons who couldn't admit their feelings.
Haida held the door open for her as they walked in, picking up the menu and deciding what he wanted.
"I'll have a beer please," Retsuko told the waiter, "and the hamachi sushi platter."
"Tea for me," Haida put his menu down. "Driving, remember?" he explained when Retsuko tilted her head at him. "As for food, omakase." He generally preferred the chef to decide for him, especially when it was a place he hadn't been to before.
The two lapsed into silence for a moment until Retsuko spoke up, "So how did you hear about this place?"
"Oh, uh, Fenneko suggested it." He shifted nervously. "It's meant to be pretty good."
"Ah she'll have done her research then, you know what she's like," Retsuko smiled. "I'm surprised she didn't come with us actually."
Haida blushed. "Well this is a…" He really tried to say the word date, he really did. But in the end: "...a two person trip, on my motorbike I mean, heh. Can't exactly strap her to the handlebars or something." And it's a date so she wasn't invited.
Retsuko laughed softly. "I suppose not."
Gosh her face, Haida didn't think he could find her any more wonderful and yet. There she was, rosy cheeks and cheery smile, laughing at his joke.
It gave him that little confidence boost he needed to talk with her for the rest of the afternoon.
When it came to dropping her off and saying goodbye however...
"So um, m-maybe we could…" Haida swallowed and scratched the back of his neck nervously. "Y'know, do this again sometime?"
Retsuko smiled, eyes shining.
She'd had a wonderful time with Haida, even if she wasn't clear on the nature of the outing. "I'd like that. It's… nice to just hang out with a friend now and then," she said, testing the waters. If he still liked her, surely he'd correct her.
"Y-yeah of course," Haida was screaming inside. He wanted to ask if they could date, wanted to ask if they could be more than friends. Imagine if he could hold her hand! They could be a couple, but, at the end of the day... He wanted to respect Retsuko's feelings more than anything else. That was what was most important.
And so when he eventually did find his tongue, he said: "We should have more uh, friendly hang-outs."
"Mmhm…" Her smile fell ever so slightly, eyes showing a little strain, and it was hard to keep the disappointment out of her voice. But, that was that then.
He really had gotten over her.
Okay so I've been spoiling y'all with getting this out so quickly, I usually don't update this fast lol. Anyway, I'm also going to be travelling next week so that will delay further updates. I have parts of chapter 5 written (bc why write in order when you can shove bits and pieces together) so who knows if I'll get that up before I leave, but otherwise, it'll be July before the next update. Thank you all for reading the story thus far, and hopefully these idiots eventually get together xD
Chapter 5: Steaming Up The Breakroom
Back to the daily grind, with a little added tension.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CALLED IT A FRIENDLY HANG OUT?" Fenneko was furious. After all her work! He'd just thrown it away just like that. What an idiot. "Please tell me you're not lying down in a-"
"I'm at home." Haida rubbed his face and shifted the phone to his other ear, picking up a can of beer. "She called me a friend, what else was I going to do?" he grumbled.
"Ask if you could be more than friends, duh!"
Haida tossed the now empty can with the rest. "I'm a dumbass remember." He heaved a big sigh, pausing for a moment while he grabbed another beer from the fridge. "I did try you know," he eventually said, voice low. "I was going to tell her it was a date. But she looked so happy and carefree and… and like she didn't need me ruining her-"
"Okay enough of that. You have to stop feeling sorry for yourself every time you miss your chance." Fenneko told him sternly. "And put the beer back in the fridge."
"...How did you-" he shook his head. "Doesn't matter." He popped the tab.
Fenneko frowned. "Put it back, or I tell Retsuko everything. Including how exactly you ended up in hospital back before Christmas." She waited for him to reply and instead heard the sound of the fridge slowly opening and the beer put back.
"Blackmailer," he huffed, though he was secretly glad. He had really drunk too much already.
"You're welcome , now go to sleep."
"Okay, Mom." He snickered a little now. "See you at work tomorrow morning."
There was a doubtful hmm at the other end of the line. The chance of Haida getting to the office on time tomorrow was slim to none.
Sure enough, next morning he was running late, fumbling with his tie as he rushed out the door.
When he eventually got to work, everyone was sat tapping away at their keyboards, Ton clacking on his abacus. Haida tried to get to his - well Retsuko's seat - as quietly as possible. But of course, nothing escaped the director's attention.
"Haida! You're late!"
"S-sorry, Sir!" Haida rushed forwards, stopping before Ton's desk and bowing a little. "It won't happen again I promise."
But of course Ton had to give him a dressing down.
After a one way shouting match that could rival those the director had with Retsuko, Haida was dismissed and returned to his desk, ears flat and his tail lower than usual. Not quite tucked between his legs - he had some sense of pride - but it wasn't far off.
Retsuko glanced at him nervously, wishing she had backed him up but… just the idea of standing up to Ton made her fur stand on edge.
Instead she buckled down with her work.
Occasionally she'd meet Haida's eye, blush embarrassed, and duck her head down. The guilt just kept rising. She should have done something! Haida always did things for her and now when he needed her...
She stood up and headed to the breakroom, she needed a drink to calm her nerves.
Haida watched as she left, then peeked around his computer to check if Ton was paying attention. Sure enough he was practising his golf swings.
The coast was clear.
When Haida walked into the breakroom, he found Retsuko standing on a stool to reach the cupboards up above. "Um, need help?" he offered, leaning against the door frame.
"Oh?" she glanced at him, nerves instantly flaring. "Oh Haida, n-no I'm fine, don't worry."
"Is this an actual fine, or a you fine?" he asked with a smile, walking over to grab the cup she was trying to reach. "Here you- Wait is this my cup?" Now he was confused.
"I-I was going to make you a cup of tea to…" She suddenly realised how close he was, her head just about level with his. A thought ran through her head and her face flushed bright red, butterflies fluttering anxiously in her stomach.
Oh no, she definitely liked him.
Either that or guilt felt very similar to the crushes she'd had before.
"Retsuko? To what? You okay?" Haida was worried, and pressed a hand to her forehead. "Your forehead is heating up."
"Mmmm… it's nothing!" she shook herself and finally took the cup from him. "It's just the steam in here, you know what it's like." She hurried to get down, letting out a squeak as she wobbled and felt her centre of gravity shift dramatically as the stool moved underneath her.
And then she was fine.
Retsuko opened her eyes and found herself in Haida's arms.
He'd caught her.
One of his hands was carefully supporting her back. The other held her forearm, keeping her secure with little effort.
His touch was warm and… nice.
"A-are you okay?" Haida asked nervously, their proximity making his own face flush, though not as much as usual. Perhaps he was getting used to it, or perhaps his concern for Retsuko's wellbeing was taking centre stage, as it tended to do when she needed his help. "I think we need to make sure there's a more secure way to reach up there in here huh?" He set her down carefully on her own two feet.
"I'm sorry I didn't help you with Ton!" she blurted out. "I was going to but my legs just felt like jelly," a little like how they felt now, "and, and…"
Haida knelt down quickly and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Hey it's okay, is that why you…?"
She nodded, and held his cup close to herself.
He smiled gently, if nervously, and held his hand out for it. "How about I make us both tea? It'll give you time to calm down, yeah?"
Not that he was calm, but hey, that's what tea was for.
She smiled. "S-sure that sounds-"
"I heard you and Haida went out yesterday!" Kabae exploded into the breakroom.
Haida yelped a little and stood up immediately, putting his cup down on the side before he dropped it. "W-we just-"
"Did you both have a good time?" Kabae bounced between the two, talking fast and not really listening to what Haida was saying. "What was it like? Have you found each other? Are you dating?"
Retsuko's smile was strained. "It wasn't a date, Kabae. We just hung out."
"Heh, y-yeah. We're just friends."
"Awww, well that's a shame. You two would make a cute couple!" she told them with a big grin before she hurried off out of the breakroom as quickly as she had arrived.
Haida glanced at Retsuko and blushed, looking away swiftly. "That's Kabae for you huh?"
"Y-yeah…" she was blushing too. "So."
"So- heh. Sorry," he rubbed the back of his neck. "You go first."
Retsuko ducked her head. "I was just going to mention the tea," she shrugged and then looked up at him. "I'll put the kettle on at least?"
"That works yeah."
Between the two - not that making tea requires two people - they soon had full cups, and were sipping them amicably.
Usually the silence would be uncomfortable, but this just felt… natural. Especially once they'd both gotten over the embarrassment of Kabae interrupting them. Right now it was just about them relaxing away from the stress of work, hiding away together in their own private bubble.
Like 'friends' did.
If Fenneko had been there, she would have rolled her eyes at how domestic the entire scene had been.
Instead she was simultaneously working and scrolling instagram for thigh pics; so for now, the pair got to enjoy a moment of calm.
But then, it's always calm before the storm.
just a heads up that chapters will come slower now, I'm staying with my parents for a while so have limited privacy/me-time to write
Chapter 6: Fake It Til You Make It
When all else fails, fake dating is here to shove two idiots together.
Days passed with little development. Retsuko's scent dissipated from her old seat, leaving Haida to catch it whenever the air conditioning eased for a moment; and Ton was glaring at anyone that dared to strike up a conversation at their desk.
It was, quite simply, much easier to just get tea with Retsuko. Which Haida did, frequently.
Once Fenneko caught on - not that it took her long - she very subtly timed her own tea breaks differently, so as to not interrupt their little bonding sessions.
So far, they boiled down to chatting about their day, or bitching about the work they had to do.
It helped ease both of them back into the friendship they'd previously had without the awkwardness of having gone on a date-but-not-really-a-date-because-they-hadn't-actually-said-it-was-a-date-even-though-it-had-very-much-felt-like-a-date-but-they-should-forget-about-that-part.
And they did.
Until of course Retsuko remembered Haida's kindness, or Haida got flustered about the idea of asking her out again.
All in all it amounted to them getting closer to slipping in the d-word, but then balking at the last minute and taking a sip of tea instead. It was stalemate. Both wanted to go for it, but neither actually dared to for fear that the other had already moved on.
Ironically, Fenneko's presence would have cleared the whole matter up rather quickly.
Th first push did instead come from a familiar face, one very similar to Retsuko's but with age lines and faded fur. It was another mother invasion.
And she had found the red dress.
"Why didn't you tell me you'd been on a date?" she enthused, showing off the crumpled dress from the hamper.
"Mother!" Retsuko snatched it off her. "Stop looking through my laundry!"
The older woman huffed. "I was doing your laundry young lady, honestly it's like you haven't done it in weeks!" She grabbed it back and put into a pile with other colours. "So was it a date then? Can I finally call off the search?"
Now this made Retsuko pause. Her mother would actually stop trying to set her up if she thought she was dating someone, this was true she had before… And she was sure she could convince Haida that her mother had just misunderstood her, he'd be okay pretending for a while, just until her mother was out of town again. Right?
"Yes! Yes, I went on a date."
Her mother gasped and jumped up, holding Retsuko by the shoulders. "That's amazing news! What's his name? How old is he? Does he have a good job? Can I meet him?"
And now this was a different kind of hell.
Considering the entire thing was a lie already, or rather, not entirely the truth, Retsuko told the truth as best she could, twisting it a little when necessary.
"So, when's your next date?"
"We haven't agreed on one yet, we just get tea and coffee together at breaks like I said."
Her mother sighed and sat down. "You know when I met your father he took me on so many wonderful dates, to the park, to see the fireworks at new year's, to the fanciest restaurants in Tokyo…"
"I get it," Retsuko shoved her washing in the machine. "I'll ask him about it tomorrow at work okay?" And tell poor Haida what she'd done.
Because he was sure to be disappointed by the change in situation.
Next day during their usual morning break, Retsuko fully explained the situation as Haida made them tea.
"I'm sorry you said what?" he blinked at her, not sure he'd understood right. "Y-you want to-"
"Pretend we're dating yes." she accepted her tea when he offered it and leaned against the counter. Or rather the cupboards since she couldn't reach the counter. "I'm sorry, but she found the dress and I guess misunderstood what this whole thing was about. It would make things easier while my mother is visiting if we just rolled with it, please?"
Haida didn't even have to think about it. "Y-yeah absolutely. Definitely. I can do that. I mean we can do that."
Retsuko sighed in relief. "Okay good thank you, I promise it won't be for long."
They fell into their usual amicable silence for a while, slowly finishing their drinks and glancing at each other from time to time.
It was Haida that eventually talked up first. "So… what does fake dating involve exactly?"
"I'm not sure, heh," Retsuko smiled up at him apologetically. "I suppose we'd have to go on at least one fake date - my mother wanted to know if we had one lined up - and possibly hold hands if my mother wants to meet you."
"I see." That sounded a lot like dating to Haida. Especially the part about holding hands in front of her mother. "...For the sake of convincing your mother," he rubbed the back of his neck, "we could go on more than one fake date. I-if you want to." And kiss , though he didn't dare say that part out loud, his face was already bright red he was sure of it.
Retsuko nodded. "S-sure yeah, she usually stays around for around two weeks."
"Two weeks. Right. No problem."
She looked up, worried she was asking too much of him. "I could ask her to leave sooner?"
"N-no!" Haida burst out before he could stop himself then fumbled to recover. "I mean uh, y-you don't have to do that. I'll be fine, really."
"Are you sure?" she had a soft look on her face.
Haida nodded. "Positive yes, we'll be fine!" he chuckled, a little nervously.
Before they left the tea room, they decided on a location for their first fake date: a picnic in a small park close to Retsuko's residence, mainly to prevent anyone from work seeing them and spreading rumours. Resasuke was the only one that took the same train as her, and he barely talked at all so there was no worries there.
"Should we tell Fenneko so she doesn't start social media stalking us when I tell her I'm going out this weekend?" Haida suggested, already knowing how frustrated she was going to be.
"I suppose so, she'll understand, right?"
Understand he was a complete idiot. "Sure. I'll let her know after work so she can't corner me in the lunch room about it," he joked.
"Yeah," Retsuko giggled and stood on her tip toes to wash their empty mugs.
"Alright, see you- well at your desk," another neck rub followed by a wave as he headed out the door. Okay. So. Fake dating, sure, he could do this. Just pretend he wanted to be with her while also hiding the fact that he… really really wanted to be with her.
Haida sighed and flopped down in his seat.
"You failed to ask her out again didn't you?" Fenneko was right on it, not taking her eyes off her screen and keeping her voice to a whisper.
"I'll… tell you what happened later," he grumbled quietly, sitting up properly.
Fenneko was about to insist he tell her now when Retsuko returned to her own seat, successfully shutting her up. But she'd find everything out soon enough, mark her words. She would know each and every little detail and poke Haida until she got it out of him.
But it turned out, she didn't have to.
True to his word to Retsuko, Haida sent Fenneko several texts explaining the situation, waiting for her to send back the inevitable-
Fenneko : You're a complete idiot 19:18
Haida : I know 19:18
But what else could he do?
Sorry for the wait after uploading the previous chapters quickly, this is my usual pace once the hyperfocus has worn off lol
Chapter 7: Putting on the Leather
When an outfit plan changes out of spite, you know there's going to be consequences.
Phew, finally found a lil time to write, plus I can kind of see again now (had eye surgery a couple of weeks back) so yay for that lol
The rest of the week passed by very quickly.
Neither Retsuko nor Haida mentioned the date again at work, managing to chat and whine about whatever nonsense Ton was having them do this time.
The only hints at the up coming date were the constant calls from Retsuko's mother, asking her if she was with Haida right now and if she should take extra food to work for him. "Your future husband should know that you'll be able to feed him, you know!"
Retsuko neither wanted to point out all the reasons this was wrong, nor wanted to admit that actually neither of them could cook.
That in itself would be an issue. If they were actually dating that is.
Which they weren't.
As it was Retsuko just had to grin and bear the constant visits and calls.
Of course, by the time weekend rolled around, Retsuko's mother was ecstatic, and, currently, nit picking and fussing over her daughter's choice of outfit.
"Well I'm just saying," her mother sighed on the other side of the door, "why not go for something a little more you, hm? Oh! Don't you remember all those pretty pink dresses you loved wearing when you were young?"
"You mean all those hideous frilly things you loved making me wear?" she muttered.
"What was that dear?"
Retsuko popped her head out of the bathroom, "Nothing!" she forced a smile and then got back to applying her make up. Nothing too fancy of course, it was just a date in the park. A fake date in the park , Retsuko reminded herself firmly, frowning at herself pointedly in the mirror.
"No falling in love," she whispered, wagging her finger firmly at her reflection. "It only causes trouble. Especially when he just wants to be friends."
"So." Fenneko's voice spoke through Haida's phone. "Are you going to try to kiss her?"
Haida spluttered and almost dropped his tie. " No! Stop suggesting that."
"Fine, fake kiss her."
" Fenneko! "
There was a scoff on the other end of the line. "You knew what you were asking for when you called me up for advice. Also don't wear a tie."
Haida stopped fumbling with it. "Why not?"
"Because it's a fake casual date. It's not like you're meeting her mother."
"She was on about that being a possibility," he muttered and threw the tie back in his draw. "Not this fake date but another time, to stop her mother from asking questions and that."
Fenneko hummed while she thought. "What if she asks when the wedding is?"
"She's not going to! Stop trying to fluster me," Haida huffed, sorting the tuff of fur on his head out as per usual.
"Aw but you make it so fun," Fenneko snickered.
Haida rolled his eyes and took a step back from his mirror. "Okay, no tie, shirt but paired with casual pants, leather jacket for the bike…"
"In the middle of the day?"
"It's for protection - and stop snickering like that, you know what I mean. I can take it off when I get there. Stop laughing at that too! "
On the other side of Tokyo, Retsuko was having a similar argument with her mother, though without the innuendos.
"Oh but it doesn't suit you at all sweetie. Why doesn't he leave his bike here and you both walk to the park, hm?" the older woman suggested, still looking through her daughter's closet. Retsuko had already picked her outfit out and was waiting for her mother to leave before she got dressed. "Wouldn't that be better?"
Retsuko sighed. "It's too far to walk it."
"But it would be a much safer option, motorbikes are terribly dangerous you know. Honestly I don't know why he hasn't got a car. Like that nice man you dated beforehand, he had a limo."
"And also didn't want to get married or have children," Retsuko reminded her.
"Well… yes… there was that," her mother sighed, then her face lit up. "Does that mean Haida does want to get married? How soon can I expect the grandkids-"
Blushing bright red, Retsuko whined loudly. " We haven't discussed that, Mom! "
"Ah well, in time." She hummed to herself, she could always ask him when Retsuko introduced him after all. "I suppose, unconventional though it is, you could always drive there? Hm?" she suggested, trying once again to find another way to control her daughter's form of transport.
Retsuko raised her eyebrows. She really wish she'd leave already. "I don't have a car, Mom. And I can't rent one at such short notice."
"I just think you need to be careful that's all."
" That's why I'm wearing a leather jacket, Mom! " How many times did she have to tell her?
Finally closing the wardrobe, Retsuko's mother let it go, grabbed her bag, and headed towards the front door. But she couldn't help having the final word. "At least wear a pretty dress underneath it. I'll be wanting pictures, dear!"
"Fiiiine!" Retsuko stomped up to the door, sighing heavily. "Oh I'll get you pictures, alright," she muttered as she slammed the door.
Once the next hour ticked by, Haida rang Retsuko's bell nervously, hands in the pockets of his jacket. He really hoped this was going to go well. Hell, he didn't even know if a fake date was supposed to go well. What if it was just meant to be like a regular hang out? ...Like their last one had been. Yes. Platonic.
He was startled from his thoughts as the door opened and he gasped loudly, face bright red. He thought her last outfit was amazing, this one was even more so.
Retsuko's was in a short skirt, much shorter than the red dress had been, and her boots now had spikes. As did the bracelets on her wrists, and the choker on her neck. She looked like she'd just rolled up from a punk concert, her leather jacket bringing the whole outfit together.
"Woah…" He was stunned. "You look…"
"Like my boyfriend is a bad influence?" she grinned, eyes bright and surrounded with mascara she'd added on. "That's the idea." She might as well have fun with this after all. She grabbed the helmet Haida held out and got onto the back of his bike, holding him tightly around his waist. "Let's go."