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Fight or Flight

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Kenma doesn't mind bar work as much as people usually expect. He's always kept unsociable hours, so the late nights don't bother him, and although he doesn't usually like a lot of noise, he's not expected to socialise with anyone behind a bar. The club he works in hosts mainly rock and metal bands, so conversation is pretty much impossible. All he has to do is take drinks orders and clean up empties for a few hours. Easy.

Easy until Kenma realises he's got a regular.

It takes a couple of shifts for him to notice, but there's a guy who's started coming to see new bands. Kenma never sees him on throwback nights, but he comes to gigs at least once or twice a week. Sometimes he comes with friends, sometimes alone; sometimes he's drinking, and sometimes he just gets glass after glass of water. But every time he comes to the bar, he buys his drinks from Kenma.

"You've got an admirer, huh?" Kuroo yells at him when the rush at the bar has died down, and the moshpit is roaring.

"Die," Kenma yells back, because there's literally nothing worse than Kuroo figuring out someone has a crush on him.

Kuroo slings an arm around his shoulders and pulls him into a sweaty, one-armed hug. "I'm so proud of you," he says, before pretending to cry.

Kenma jabs him as hard as he can with his elbow, and Kuroo makes a satisfying choking sound. Having dealt his mortal blow, Kenma wriggles out of Kuroo's limp grasp and leans against the bar so he can peer out across the dance floor.

There isn't much to see under the strobing lights, except for a small island of indistinguishable heads and limbs flailing in the semi darkness. Even if he could pick out individuals at this distance, his regular is short—shorter than Kenma at least—and is probably buried somewhere in the crush of people.

As Kenma watches, the music crescendos, and the pit rolls before spitting someone out into the rest of the crowd. The someone lands on their backside, but they quickly scramble to their feet again, and Kenma recognises his plucky regular for a split second before he dives back into the moshpit, laughing. Looking back later, Kenma will identify this as the moment he fell in love.

 

 

The next time Kenma sees his regular, the bar is quiet. The band they had lined up for tonight had to pull out, but a local group filled their spot at the last minute. They're not as well-known, but a small crowd has turned out to watch, and Kenma's regular is among them.

The guy approaches the bar in the break between sets. There's no queue for drinks, so Kenma has no excuse to avoid him.

"Hey!" the guy says, looking far too excited for the quality of the music.

"What can I get you?" Kenma asks in a flat voice. The bar area has UV lighting, which makes the freckles on the guy's face and neck stand out. It also throws the bruises on his arms into sharp relief.

The guy leans on the bar. "What do you like?"

Kenma frowns at him. "I don't drink while I'm working."

"No, of course, that totally makes sense!" he says, grinning. He pushes up the sleeves of his t-shirt, rolling them at the shoulder. He has nice biceps. "I just wondered, if you were drinking, what would you—"

"Whiskey and coke."

"Ah! I've never tried whiskey. Is it good?"

Kenma shrugs.

"Well, I guess I'll try that!"

Nodding, Kenma sets about making the drink. It only takes a few seconds, then he puts the drink down and holds his hand out for payment.

"You work here a lot," the guy says, picking up his drink. He takes a sip and makes a strange face, as though he can't quite decide if he likes it or not. "Are you a student or something?"

"Or something," Kenma says, waving his hand under the guy's nose more insistently.

"Oh! Just a second, sorry."

While Kenma waits for the guy to dig through his pockets for his cash, he counts the bruises he can see. There are at least five, in various stages of healing, as far as he can tell in the shitty lighting. He's surprised when the guy laughs and taps a bruise on his upper arm where Kenma has just been looking.

"It's pretty wild, right? It's from a gig last Thursday, I don't think you were working that night. The band were great, you'd have liked them."

Kenma stares at him in mild disbelief. He isn't sure which surprises him more: the fact that his absence was noticed, or that a total stranger seems to think they can predict his music tastes.

"I'm Hinata, by the way," the guy says, beaming at him. "Hinata Shouyou."

"This is Kenma," Kuroo says from just behind him.

Without hesitating, Kenma jabs his elbow back, but Kuroo has already moved out of the way. Kenma turns and glares at him instead.

"Kenma!" Shouyou says loudly, grin spreading from ear to ear. There's an ominous chord from the stage as the next band warms up for their set, and Shouyou glances over his shoulder quickly. "Ah! I have to get back. Talk to you later, Kenma!"

"Well," Kuroo says, from just outside Kenma's reach. "He seems nice."

Kenma just barely restrains himself from chucking a bottle in Kuroo's direction, because he doesn't want to get stuck cleaning it up.

 

 

After that, Kenma can't stop noticing Shouyou.

Shouyou still waits for Kenma to serve him every time, even if the line is shorter at the other end of the bar, and he always tries to make conversation despite Kenma's reticence, or the overwhelming noise from the stage.

"Just ask for his number already," Kuroo tells him one night, when Shouyou has spent longer at the bar than usual, and Kenma can't think of anything but sinking his teeth into Shouyou's throat, and giving him a few new marks to go with the rest of his ever-present bruises.

Kenma glares at him. "You're missing the point," he tells Kuroo.

Kuroo grins. "Which is?"

He's not dignifying that with a response. Kuroo doesn't need any more excuses to needle him.

A little later, when the final band have started playing and most people have moved back to the stage to listen, Kenma takes the opportunity to slip out to the bathroom. Normally they get to use the staff-only bathroom backstage, but it's been out of order all week, and Kenma tries to hurry so that he won't run into any customers. Just as he's washing his hands, the door opens, and Shouyou spills through the door, a little drunk and clumsy, laughing at something someone has said to him in the corridor.

Kenma's shoulders tense, but he doesn't turn just yet. He waits until he hears Shouyou's little gasp of recognition.

"Kenma!"

Lifting his eyes, Kenma meets Shouyou's gaze in the mirror. "Hey."

"You're not behind the bar!" Shouyou says, openly staring at him. He glances across at the urinals, then back to Kenma. "Um, I gotta—but then, maybe we could talk? Just for a minute?"

Kenma should get back, and a refusal is on the tip of his tongue. But they're quiet tonight, and Kuroo and Yaku can handle it between them for a little while. "Just for a minute," he says.

Shouyou beams. "Okay! I just gotta…" He takes a step closer to the urinals, but Kenma doesn't move. He doesn't especially want to watch Shouyou pee, but he wants to see what he'll do.

To his pleasant surprise, Shouyou doesn't quail under his stare; he moves to the urinals, glancing once over his shoulder before he unzips his jeans.

Kenma waits, his hands in his pockets, until Shouyou is finished.

"I'm really glad we ran into each other!" Shouyou bubbles as he comes to the sinks and starts to wash his hands. "Are you enjoying the band?"

Kenma shrugs. "Are you?"

"They're okay," Shouyou says, which Kenma gets the impression means no, but Shouyou seems like someone who's enthusiastic and generous, even about things he doesn't really enjoy himself. He straightens up and dries his hands on his jeans. "Can we go outside?"

It's really time Kenma got back to the bar, but instead he nods and leads Shouyou out to the street.

"So, tell me what you like!" Shouyou says excitedly. "What kind of music are you into? Do you like to dance? Oh! What's your favourite animal?"

Kenma glances over at him. "All kinds, no, and tigers."

"Tigers!" Shouyou exclaims, eyes shining. "They have tigers at the zoo, we should go sometime. It's a shame you don't like dancing, I really wanted to dance with you."

"Why?" Kenma asks, bemused, and yet fairly certain that Shouyou just asked him on a date.

Shouyou shrugs, but Kenma is pretty sure he's blushing. He's cute. Too cute for Kenma.

"How old are you?" Shouyou asks.

"Twenty-seven. You?"

Shouyou licks his bottom lip. "Twenty-four," he says, then adds, "don't tell me I look younger. People always tell me that."

"I wasn't going to," Kenma promises. Shouyou is short, and his wide brown eyes do give him a young, innocent appearance, but Kenma suspects he isn't as clean-cut as he seems. He smells faintly of sweat and booze, but also something sharp and citrusy. He clearly doesn't know how attractive he is. Kenma briefly considers dragging him back into the alleyway behind the club, but he pushes it down again. He's ruined things before by getting impatient. "I have to get back to work," he says after a moment.

"Wait!" Shouyou says, reaching out to take hold of his wrist. Without thinking, Kenma grabs his arm, squeezing tightly, so that Shouyou releases him again with a yelp.

"Ah...sorry," Kenma mutters, letting go of him. "You surprised me."

"I'm sorry," Shouyou says, watching him with wide eyes. "You're strong!"

Kenma blinks at him. Shouyou is watching him with a new intensity, surprise and interest clear in his wide, brown eyes. Interesting; Kenma can work with this.

"I know you have to go," Shouyou says. "But...can we talk again sometime?"

Kenma bares his teeth in something almost like a smile. "Sure."

A visible shiver runs down Shouyou's back. Kenma takes a step back, still watching him intently. "See you later, Shouyou."

Shouyou nods. His chest is heaving. "B-bye, Kenma."

Kenma goes back inside the club, and takes a couple more minutes to calm himself down before he slips back behind the bar.

"Well well," Kuroo says, watching Kenma with his slow, cat-like gaze.

"Get bent," Kenma tells him.

Kuroo cackles. "Your boyfriend's back, by the way."

Kenma turns and easily picks Shouyou out of the crowd; his white t-shirt glows under the UV lights, and he's standing close enough to the bar that Kenma can see the supple blue curve of his throat when he tips his head back to drink.

"Who's playing on Friday?" Kenma asks.

Kuroo shrugs. "I dunno, some new band. I thought you weren't working Friday."

"I'm not."

Shouyou looks over, his gaze lingering, the corner of his mouth a little question mark. He's so cute. Kenma wants to tear him apart.

 

 

Kenma shows up late on Friday night. The second band are already halfway through their set, but there's still plenty of night left. Kenma gets himself a drink—whiskey and coke—and finds a quiet spot away from the dancefloor. He spots Shouyou almost immediately. His dancing is fairly reserved for once, but that could just be because this particular band is less rowdy than the usual fare. His friends aren't here tonight, which is just the way Kenma wants it.

He watches Shouyou for twenty minutes or so, until Shouyou finally realises he's being watched, and his wide, brown eyes track across the room until they find Kenma. Shouyou's expression lights up, and he glances across at the bar before looking at Kenma again with a question riding on the curve of his eyebrows.

Kenma shakes his head, and holds up his glass to indicate that he's drinking himself. From across the bar, he can see Shouyou swallow, his pale throat working. Kenma is suddenly hungry. The band have finished their set, and the club is comparatively quiet, only the low background music being played while the headliner for the night sets up their gear. Kenma drifts into the mass of sweaty bodies, watching Shouyou lose him and begin to search, eyes darting over the crowd. Kenma makes his way around the edge of the throng, and falls in silently beside Shouyou, so that when he turns, Kenma is waiting.

"Hi," Kenma says, as Shouyou stumbles backward, wide-eyed, his mouth parted on a startled exclamation.

"Kenma!" Shouyou yelps, finding his voice after a moment. "You shouldn't sneak up on people."

The corner of Kenma's mouth tilts, almost a smirk. "Why not?"

Shouyou frowns, considering this for a moment, before he finds the answer he's looking for. "Well—it's scary!"

Kenma's fingers tighten around his glass. This is almost too easy. He leans closer, lets his fingertips drift up Shouyou's forearm. There's a bruise just above his right elbow. Kenma brushes his thumb over it lightly before withdrawing. He asks, "Are you scared, Shouyou?"

There's a brief pause; the slightest hesitation. Shouyou shakes his head, but his breath is coming faster, and he hasn't taken his eyes off Kenma's face.

"Did you know that fear makes you more likely to experience sexual attraction?" Kenma asks, leaning closer. He can smell the scent of Shouyou's shampoo, and there's the shadow of a fading bruise just above his collarbone. Kenma drags his eyes back up to Shouyou's, which are wide and unblinking. People are always surprised when they see this side of him.

"What if—if I'm already experiencing it?" Shouyou asks, his voice sliding up the register.

"Mm." Kenma's smile widens, and he bares his canines at Shouyou as he continues. "Have you ever thought about how similar they are? Being turned on, and being afraid?" He sets his drink down on a nearby table and moves a step closer, so that he and Shouyou are almost touching. He moves his mouth close to Shouyou's ear. "The breathing gets faster, the pupils dilate, your heart starts to beat faster..." Here, Kenma lifts a hand and whispers his fingertips down the length of Shouyou's bare arm again. "You flush, maybe you start to tremble."

Shouyou jumps, spilling his drink on himself in the process. He barely seems to notice, his eyes fixed on Kenma. His mouth is still slightly open, and the light catches on his bottom lip, the faint glisten of his tongue.

Kenma decides to go for the kill. "Have you ever been fucked by someone who frightened you, Shouyou?"

"N-no," Shouyou stammers.

His words hang in the air. Kenma leaves them for several moments, before curling his hand around Shouyou's hip, and asking, "Do you want to be?"