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You got me right here in your jean pocket

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Eiji leaned against the counter, tilting his head a little so he could see the young man sitting across the shop from the corner of his eye. He had seen him sit there, what felt like, a million times before, and Eiji was always struck by how beautiful he was. It was completely unfair. Eiji looked away, and then looked back, his gaze drawn to him like a magnet. The sun was on his blonde hair, bringing out the rich gold colour, highlighting pale blonde strands that looked softer than silk –


A soft thump and an irritated noise to Eiji’s left made him look down then to his side. Yut-Lung had just dropped a bottle of water in front of him. “For your thirst,” he said flatly. Eiji felt himself blush; he turned around so his back was to the store. “Why don’t you just ask him out already and put us all out of our misery?”


The heat in Eiji’s face intensified, he glared at Yut-Lung, not mad, but terrified his co-worker’s voice had carried. In an angry whisper that came out more exasperated than anything, Eiji replied, “I  can’t !”


Yut-Lung gave him a look. He sighed deeply and looked at Eiji with a mix of pity and worn out patience. “I know he’s way out of your league, but I’ve seen him talk to you, he’s flirting back.”


Eiji chose to ignore the insult and went straight for the part that most concerned him. “You think he’s flirting with me?” He probably sounded too eager and hopeful by half, but Eiji worked in customer service, he had no dignity anyway. Yut-Lung didn’t reply to that, just rolled his eyes. Eiji bit his lip on a smile, and then abruptly shook his head. “That’s not the point,” he said quietly, “Ash is a customer, it’s so weird to hit on customers! You know how creepy it is when people hit on us, I can’t do that to him!”


This time Yut-Lung didn’t say anything right away, it seemed as if he was considering Eiji’s point. Then he shrugged dismissively and said as he walked away, “Then perish.”


That was exactly what Eiji was doing anyway; he was  dying .


“Excuse me?”


Eiji jumped and turned around quickly.


“Can I get more hot water, please?” It was the young man he had been admiring; Ash.


“Of course!” Eiji took the cup from him and poured the water. He noticed that Ash was carrying a book with him. Eiji spoke before he could think better of it. “Oh, I had to read that last year.” He gestured briefly to the book.


Ash smiled, it made Eiji feel hotter than the water he had just poured. “Yeah?” Ash said. “What did you think?”


The shop was relatively slow. It was that in between time after breakfast and before lunch when there was a bit of a lull, so there weren’t many customers. Ash and Eiji stood by the counter and talked. Eiji told him about his class, and his thoughts on the books they read. Ash told him about all the times he had reread the book, feeling like he got something new from it every time. Eiji loved to hear him talk. Another very unfair thing about Ash was, not only was he outrageously good–looking, he was also clearly very smart. Every time he came in Ash was reading something new. And, the way he talked about things, it wasn’t authoritative like he was trying to lecture Eiji, it was enthusiastic and unselfconscious, nothing more or less than his honest thoughts.


It wasn’t the first time they had started spontaneously talking like that. From their previous conversations Eiji knew they both went to the same university, that Ash was a year below him, but two years younger, that he was a double major, he had an older brother that he had lived with until recently, and, most importantly, that when he smiled, like he was doing now, it made Eiji’s heart flutter.


In a slight lull in their conversation Ash glanced down at his watch, then back up at Eiji, he looked apologetic. “I have to get going.”


“Oh, okay.”


Ash seemed to hesitate for a second, adjusting his grip on the thermos he always brought in with him. “I’ll probably be back tomorrow, around the same time.”


I’ve seen him talking to you, he’s flirting back.


“I’ll be here.”


Ash smiled at him, and Eiji smiled back. Ash gave him a small wave, and then left. Eiji watched him go, feeling like Ash was taking all the warmth of the day with him, and when he was no longer in sight Eiji sighed deeply and leaned against the counter again. He didn’t see the exasperated look Yut-Lung shot him.








Ash bumped his fist against Shorter’s and they both set off down the street. Shorter kept shooting him looks, Ash had a feeling he knew why, but he wasn’t about to help him out.


“Well?” Shorter finally demanded after a moment where they walked in silence.


“Well what?”


Ash couldn’t see his eyes behind his sunglasses, but he would bet money that Shorter had just rolled them in annoyance.


“What happened with the barista? Did you ask him out yet?”


I knew it , he thought. Out loud Ash said, “I told you, I’m not going to do that.”


“And I told  you , you’re deliberately being difficult!” Shorter pointed a finger at him, quickly withdrawing it when he almost hit another pedestrian. “You’ve basically trapped the both of you in some shitty limbo! What if that’s his thing too, so he won’t ask you out either? What, you guys just never mention it? I’ve only seen the guy once before, but he was super into you. And - ”


Ash didn’t hear the rest; he fought against the sudden warmth coming into his face. He was way passed being embarrassed by anything Shorter did or said, they had known each other for ages, but the suggestion that Eiji might like him back –


“Are you listening?”


“No.” Ash replied immediately, not even a little repentant. He could practically feel Shorter rolling his eyes again.


“Look, man,” Shorter said, with the air of a patient older brother, which was something Ash both loved and sometimes chaffed at. “You can’t stay like this forever, just say something, you know you won’t be a creep about it.”


Ash shook his head. “I’d basically be cornering him, he can’t go anywhere if my asking him out makes him uncomfortable.  I  can leave yeah, but what if he feels he has to say yes? I can’t, the power dynamics of asking someone out who’s working, especially in a customer service position, are messed up, I can’t do that to him.” Ash was adamant about this; they had argued this point already a couple of times. But, Ash himself had worked various customer service jobs, and people asking him out while he was working, regardless of how nice or otherwise they were, was always some degree of unpleasant for him. He really,  really  didn’t want to be that guy.


There was a slight pause, and then Shorter sighed. “I hate when you’re right.”


Ash smirked, glancing at Shorter from the corner of his eye. “That sucks for you, since I’m right all the time.”


“Smartass,” Shorter punched him on the arm, there was no sting to it. Ash punched him back, just as friendly. “Seriously though, what now?”


Ash bit the inside of his cheek. “Honestly? I have no idea.”



Eiji rushed into the shop heading straight for the staff room. He was already five minutes late. It wasn’t like he would get in trouble, probably, but he wasn’t the type to rest easy while other people picked up his slack.


He was still a little sweaty from practice, Eiji pulled out his towel from the duffel bag he carried and quickly dried himself off, running it through his hair for good measure. He threw his uniform on, shoved his things into his locker, and sped back out.


Bones was the one working with him today, so there was no irritated look shot his way when he startled at the sight of his favourite customer. There was however a knowing smile tossed in his direction that Eiji did not have eyes for at all.


Ash caught his gaze a second later, looking up from what he was reading, and smiling. Eiji’s stomach did a funny little jump at that look, and then when Ash got up and came over. As he did a string of other customers came up to the counter too. Eiji shot him an apologetic look, but Ash just waited patiently at the side. When Eiji passed the last customer their drink, he moved out from behind the coffee machine to see Ash still standing in the same spot.






The quality of Ash’s smile suddenly changed, from warmly pleasant to amused. “Your hair,” he gestured to the right side of Eiji’s head, “it’s sticking up there.” Eiji felt himself flush as he hastily tried to pat it down. Ash laughed a little, his expression making it clear he wasn’t laughing  at  Eiji, and that helped ease his embarrassment, just a little. “You got it,” Ash said. “It did look cute though.”


The word ‘cute’ rang in Eiji’s ears; it sounded to him suddenly like the loveliest word in the English language. “Thanks,” he said, sheepish, “I’m always in a rush after practice.”




“Yes, I – Just a sec.” Another customer had come up and Eiji quickly stepped in to make the order while Bones cashed them out. There were a few more after that and Eiji worked quickly, not to be efficient but so that he could get back to Ash who he had left waiting at the side again.


“I asked for low–fat whipped cream.”


“Yes, it is.”


The woman looked at her cup dubiously. “It doesn’t seem like it.”


Eiji bit his tongue on the retort that there was really no  visible  difference between regular and low-fat whipped cream. He only offered to make it again, uncomfortably aware of the woman watching him keenly as he did. She hadn’t taken a drink of her original latte at all, and the rule was to dump drinks that were made over, but Eiji hated the waste.


Now that there was another lull in the store again, Eiji picked up the drink and went over to Ash.


“People really say crap like that, huh?” Ash said, looking at the door where the woman had recently exited through.


“That wasn’t even that bad,” Eiji said, dryly. He held out the drink, feeling stupidly daring, “Want this?”


Eiji had never tried to give Ash anything for free. He was worried it would seem like flirting, like maybe he was asking Ash for something in exchange, he was worried he might upset the delicate balance between them. Eiji was aware that that was more than likely just his crazy mind over analyzing, but it was hard to convince himself otherwise. He still wasn’t convinced, but he held out the drink.


There was only one second of hesitation in which Ash glanced down at the cup, but then he took it, easily, like this was a regular occurrence.


“What is it?” Ash asked, already bringing the straw to his mouth.


“Iced Chai Latte.”


Ash nodded. “I guess I didn’t need to ask, chai has a really obvious flavour.” He took another sip, adjusting the straw.


“True, it’s one of my favourites.”


As casually as Ash had taken the drink from him, he extended it now. “Want some?”


The very first thing that ran through Eiji’s mind was:  indirect kiss!  He quickly pushed that thought away, annoyed it had come up in the first place. Was he a middle schooler?  He was aware of how trivial this was, but couldn’t shake how pivotal it felt. Like this meant something, as if sharing drinks was a gateway drug, first they shared a drink, and pretty soon they’d be sharing –


Eiji took the cup back and took a sip. It was cold, sweet, and a little spicy. He made a point of trying the whipped cream, which did in fact taste low–fat, because he knew how to do his job, damnit.


Eiji handed the drink back like it was no big deal, like it hadn’t just made his thoughts spiral out in ridiculous directions. 


Ash took it back, biting the straw as he drank. “I’m glad it’s not fall,” he said, holding the now bitten tip of the straw and stirring the latte.




“Because,” Ash wrinkled his nose, “this would probably be pumpkin spice.”


Eiji smiled at the expression on Ash’s face, a cute childish pout.


“Don’t like pumpkin?”




Eiji blinked in surprise. Ash flushed, and looked away, stirring the drink harder.


“I mean,” Ash said, as Eiji watched him in amazement, he had never seen Ash flustered before, it was extremely endearing. “It’s just, uh, not my thing.” He looked back at Eiji, and seemed to see something in his expression because he went on, “Look.” Ash leaned over the counter, and Eiji unconsciously copied him. “Pumpkins, Jack – o – lanterns actually, kinda – freak me out.” Ash said quietly, dropping his gaze to the cup in his hands.


He looked young suddenly, pink cheeked, and his guard down completely. There was a beat of silence, and then Eiji’s shoulders began to shake.




Eiji laughed. He brought one hand up to muffle his laughter and the other he held out placating. “Sorry, sorry,” he said, breathless, “it’s just -” he giggled.


Ash was pouting harder now, “Now I’m not going to tell you the story behind that.” He leaned back from the counter.


“Oh, no,” Eiji said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. “Please tell me.”


From the corner of his eye Ash regarded him. He lifted his chin and took another drink. “Maybe next time, if you’re nice.”


“Sorry,” Eiji said, trying not to grin.


He saw Ash’s lips twitch.



“So, what’s the game plan?”


“There is no ‘plan,’ and there’s no ‘game’ either.”


“Just winging it, huh? Yeah, I can see that.”


Shorter reclined in his seat, throwing his arm over the back of the empty chair beside him. Ash rolled his eyes at him, but Shorter just smiled. He knew both those things already, but it was hard to let opportunities like this pass, Ash so rarely lost his cool. Being teased was good for him; it reminded Ash he was a regular teenage guy and not just a literal genius.


They sat in the coffee shop at Ash’s favourite spot by the window. Ash insisted that they weren’t waiting for Eiji, but Shorter didn’t buy that for one second. The young barista wasn’t there, and despite his protests Shorter knew Ash was stalling. He had said they would head out once he was done his coffee, which he had been nursing for two hours now.


It was fine though; they didn’t have urgent plans. Shorter was prepared to indulge Ash, plus, he wouldn’t mind staying a little longer. One of the baristas working right now was cute.


A minute later someone came bursting in through the door. Shorter, who was facing the opposite direction, turned to look.


It was Eiji, dressed in a tracksuit, his face red, with a big duffel bag under his shoulder; he was breathing hard, like he had run there. Eiji paused at the entrance to wipe his feet on the mat, his shoes a little muddy.


When Shorter turned back to shoot Ash a knowing grin, he found Ash’s seat empty. He whipped back around to watch as Ash walked casually over to Eiji.


Eiji had stepped to the side so as not to block the door, close to the garbage and recycling bin. Ash threw out his cup and said, like he hadn’t been waiting two hours for the chance, “Hi.”


A sweet smile that made a very good case for Ash’s stalling appeared on Eiji’s face. “Hi.” Eiji said.


Shorter reached blinding for his own cup, he was on his third iced cappuccino, he didn’t want to miss a second of this interaction. It was like watching a high school drama. Shorter could picture them in black button down uniforms standing under a cherry blossom tree like they did in anime. He smothered a laugh when he imagined Ash calling Eiji, ‘ Senpai .’


“You’re working today? Are you running late?”


“Yeah,” Eiji said. “No.” Ash gave him a look. “I mean, I am working, but no, I’m not running late. I just,” Eiji’s red face managed to get a shade brighter. “I, um, there was a bee.”


Shorter smothered more laughter, but Ash didn’t even try to hide his amusement.


“It’s not funny! It chased me for a whole block!”


Ash continued to laugh; Eiji gently shoved him. Shorter didn’t fail to notice that bit of physical contact, and he knew Ash wouldn’t have either.


Ash gestured to Eiji’s outfit, “Were you out for a jog?”


“Oh,” said Eiji. “I was at practice. I have an exhibition coming up.”


“Pole vaulting?”




“Cool. That’s really awesome, I bet it would be really fun to see.” 


Shorter sat up straighter.  Yes!  He thought.  An opening, ask him out! 


But Ash said nothing more, and Eiji replied, disappointingly, with, “It is! I’m really looking forward to it!”


The game over music from Pac-Man played in Shorter’s head.


Silence. Ash and Eiji looked at each other. 


Shorter watched in silent agony. It was like they were both sending out telepathic ‘Ask me out!’ signals that somehow missed each other and instead hit Shorter so hard he took psychic damage.


“Well, I have to get going, I left my friend waiting,” Ash gestured to Shorter without looking away from Eiji.


“Oh, okay, sorry to keep you.”


“No, I came to you.” A pause, Shorter held his breath. “Good luck at the exhibition.”


“Thank you.”


“See ya.”


It was physically painful to Shorter to watch Ash walk away. He turned back in his seat and waited for his friend to sit down too.


Ash didn’t, he stood by the table and nodded his head toward the door. “I’m done, let’s go.” Obviously seeing Shorter’s expression he added, “Don’t.”


Shorter bit his tongue, an idea occurring to him. “Fine. You go ahead though, I’m gonna get some bread or something, all this coffee is making me jittery.”


“’Kay, I’m gonna use the restroom.”


Shorter got up and went to the counter. As soon as Ash was through the door he turned to the barista, the cute one he had noticed earlier and said, “Eiji Okumura, you’re his friend right?”


The young man gave him a look. His expression was haughty and offended. “We work together.” He said with dignity.


Shorter rolled his eyes, which he knew the young man wouldn’t see. “Yeah, but you know when his exhibition is, right?”


The barista gave him another look. “And, what if I do?”


Shorter gestured to the doorway, speaking quickly. “You saw that train wreck, you have to be just as tired of their awkward dancing around each other as I am. If you tell me, I can bring Ash, he’ll ask Eiji out, they can date, and none of us will have to watch anything like that again.”


The young man seemed to consider him. Shorter glanced at his nametag, ‘Yut–Lung Lee’ it said, a Chinese name if Shorter ever saw one.


Yut–Lung swept his long glossy braid over his shoulder and said, “I can’t give away information about employees.” Shorter felt defeat sit heavy in his stomach, everyone was such goody-two shoes. Yut-Lung took a pen out of his apron and grabbed a napkin. “But,” he began to write, “if I happen to write the time and place of the exhibition on this napkin and lose it, well, that can’t be helped.” He slid it over the counter to Shorter.


Shorter grinned at him as he took it. “Thank you,” he said, sincerely. Yut–Lung, nodded once. Shorter was about to leave, then turned back and leaned against the counter. “What about you, will you be there?” He pushed his glasses down a little so he could look Yut–Lung in the eyes.


He looked very unimpressed. “Really?”


Shrugging, Shorter straightened, “No? Okay, thanks for this though, and sorry about that.”


Turning away and pocketing the napkin he heard Yut–Lung call out, “I will be.” Shorter turned back. “I will be there, I mean.” His fair skin showed colour so easily.


Shorter smiled and saw Ash come back out of the bathroom from the corner of his eye. “Good.” He said.



Ash cut across the grass as he walked through campus. It was odd that Shorter wanted to meet up here, and stranger still on this particular section. It was away from the major streets, and generally an area they didn’t visit.


Cresting a hill Ash noticed there was a crowd of people, he was coming onto the racetrack, and saw there was something set up there. It looked like –




Ash turned to see Shorter waving at him. He had a sneaking suspicion he suddenly understood why Shorter had asked him to come here specifically.


He walked over, “Hey,” he said, bumping Shorter’s fist. “Well, shall we go?”


Ash watched Shorter’s eyebrows spike up. He affected a casual air that didn’t fool Ash at all. “We’re already here though, and  oh hey , something’s going on over there. Let’s see!”


The impulse to be contrary, to call Shorter’s bluff, almost won out over Ash’s genuine desire to see what was happening, almost. Shorter had absolutely zero tact, but Ash would ignore his obvious lie for now. He let Shorter lead him closer to the track.


On the track the bar was set up for pole-vaulting, Ash tipped his head back to look at it. On the left side of the bar was a big plush mat; a fair distance from this set up on the right was a little stage. A mic-stand sat there, and people in tracksuits stood on the stage behind more official looking adults holding clipboards, whistles around their necks, coaches, probably.


“Isn’t this exciting?” Shorter said, elbowing Ash.


Ash elbowed him back, a little harder than necessary, but didn’t say anything; he had spotted Eiji. His favourite barista stood on the stage with the others, wearing a navy blue tracksuit and talking to one of the coaches. It was so strange to see him outside of the coffee shop, strange and kind of wonderful.


Finally, one of the coaches turned to the mic, switched it on, and spoke.


“Hello everyone!” They said. “Welcome to our annual pole-vaulting exhibition!” The crowd cheered. The coach went on to introduce the athletes; they waved and nodded one by one. When they got to Eiji, both Ash and Shorter cheered the loudest. Ash thought Eiji looked their way, but he was far enough that Ash couldn’t be sure if Eiji had actually seen them.


There was a brief explanation about pole vaulting’s history, dating back to the ancient Greeks. While this was happening the athletes made their way off the stage. Ash watched as they took off their tracksuits, all of them wearing small shorts and tank tops.


One by one they performed. Ash thought he had never properly appreciated what an incredible sport this was. There were so many different skills at work, it would take a great amount of training to get them all to this place, where they could make the sport look effortless and natural.


When Eiji finally came up, Ash hardly breathed. They gave him the okay to go, Eiji adjusted his grip on the pole, his face set with determination, and then he took off. Ash watched unblinking.


Eiji ran forward, when he was almost at the base of the bar he put one end of the pole down on the ground, bending it, and launching himself up with the spring back. As he went up, he followed the momentum and kicked upward turning his body so his feet were in the air, and then twisting when he reached the bar, his body arching over it. Then, it was over, he fell onto his back on the mat, bounced once, and landed on his feet.


The crowd cheered, Ash and Shorter practically roared.


Everyone went again, at a slightly higher bar. Ash was enraptured; Eiji was like dream, seeming to fly more than jump. He was beautiful and graceful, and so obviously talented. 


I’m in trouble , Ash thought.


Because it was an exhibition there was no winning. When it came to an end, everyone having gone again a couple more times at increased height, the coaches announced the upcoming meets and encouraged everyone to support their competitors.


Shorter whistled low. “Eiji sure is something, huh?”


There was a small crowd around the pole-vaulters now, and Ash couldn’t see him anymore. He looked at Shorter, “Yeah,” he said.


Shorter gave him a knowing smile, and Ash remembered he was annoyed with him.


“So, this was your scheme?”


Shorter made a brave attempt at a wounded expression. “’Scheme’? Me?”


Ash rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe you actually managed to pull it off.”


“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?”


He was about to reply when a voice caught his attention.




He turned, it was Eiji.


“It really is you,” Eiji sounded pleased, he looked it too. “Hi,” he added, including Shorter in the greeting.


“Hey,” Shorter said easily, smiling. “You were fucking amazing.”


Eiji laughed. “Thank you.”


“Is your friend around?” Shorter asked.


“Friend? You mean Yut-Lung? He’s – “


“Great, thanks!” Shorter took off when Eiji pointed, before he was done speaking. Eiji watched him go looking bemused and then turned back to Ash.


“I’m glad you came.” Eiji said, “I would have asked you to come, but I didn’t know – I mean I wasn’t sure – “


“Yeah,” Ash said, knowing exactly what he meant.


Eiji smiled at him. He was still a little red, his hair a bit damp at the edges, making it curl. This close Ash could really appreciate how  strong  Eiji looked. He also noticed just how small his outfit was, there was a lot more light brown skin than he was used to seeing.


“What is it?”


Eiji’s biceps were bigger than Ash would have imagined. There was something incredibly -- and there was no other way to say it --  hot  about seeing the lines of definition on them.


“Nothing, just – “ For one second, Ash must have lost his mind. He reached out, touching the curve of muscle he had been admiring with the tips of his fingers. It was a feather light brush, barely a second, but it was completely involuntary.


Eiji looked a little surprised, and Ash felt heat hit his cheeks hard. 


Oh. God.


“Sorry!” He said, withdrawing his hand like he’d been burned, thinking fast, frantically trying to play it off. “I thought there was a – “ he racked his brain, “a bug.” He finished lamely.


“Oh,” said Eiji, “thanks.”


There was a slight awkward pause. Ash was not only kicking himself internally, he was beating himself up to within an inch of his life for the dumbest thing he had ever done and said to date. 


Aslan ‘Ash’ Jade Callenreese , he thought,  genius and human disaster. 


“You were really great,” Ash said, attempting to salvage the situation, and distract from what he had just done.


Eiji smiled at him, warm and lovely.  God .


“You think so?”


“Of course!” Ash stared at him. “Are you kidding? Shorter was right, you were fucking amazing.”


The tips of Eiji’s ears turned pink. Why was he so damn cute?


“Thank you. I still have a way to go, but I really love it.” He said, modest, of course he was modest.


“You’ll get however far you want,” Ash said with confidence. “You’re incredible.”


Eiji was smiling at his feet now. He had his arm across his body, left elbow held in his right hand. When he looked up, brown eyes looked intently into Ash’s green ones.


“Would you – “ Eiji paused, he swallowed, Ash was hanging on his every word, anticipation and disbelief warring in him. “Would you want to, um, have dinner some time?”


A million different ways to say, ‘Yes. Fuck, yes,’ ran through Ash’s mind. He had to swallow down the words or risk shouting them at Eiji, and probably scaring him away forever. He made himself take a breath, and then replied with all sincerity, “I’d love to.”


Ash had fallen in love with Eiji’s smile the very first time he had seen it, sweet and uncomplicated, but it was nothing to the bright smile he gave Ash now. Eiji seemed to glow, which was exactly how Ash himself felt, like he was radiating all his joy.


Eiji gave him his number, and then with an apologetic smile, explained he had to go back. Ash waved goodbye as he went, Eiji turning to look back at him one more time before he re-joined his peers.


Ash owed Shorter the biggest favour.


The day was bright and sunny. Summer was in full swing and the shop was fairly busy. Yut–Lung suspected, no, he  knew  it would be less busy if Eiji would just do his damn job.


On the other side of the counter Eiji took his time handing over a cup to his boyfriend. They leaned in toward each other, all fond looks, and soft smiles. Ash deliberately put his hand over Eiji’s when he took his drink. Eiji  giggled .


Yut–Lung regretted ever helping that stupid purple Mohawk, no matter how good looking he was. He heard Ash laugh softly; Yut–Lung rolled his eyes. This wasn’t worth minimum wage.