Kiryu checked the address from Date's text again as he came to a stop in front of the restaurant. It was taking him longer than expected to keep track of what was where in Kamurocho, especially considering the high business failure rate. Still, he had found Bacchus again with no trouble resulting in a subtle smile. He pocketed his phone before he entered the bar, the ringing of the bell alerting a few of the patrons to his presence.
Makoto Date was one of them, waving Kiryu over from a table in the back of the bar. Kiryu sat down at the seat across from him, eyes landing on the whiskey on the rocks sitting in front of him, the ice half melted. Date noticed him examining the drinks and raised his own for a drink, "It's for you. It's a good thing that you got here before the ice melted."
Kiryu reached out and took a sip, allowing the warmth to spread down his throat. He closed his eyes for a moment, letting the sounds of the bar and the taste of good alcohol surround him. When he opened his eyes he noticed his forgotten companion was staring at him, a small amused smile on his lips. Kiryu placed his glass back down in a hurry, the ice clinking together. Kiryu began to say something to save face but was only able to produce an "uh."
"Take your time, it's probably been years since you had a drink like this."
"As soon as I was released I went for a drink," Kiryu started, remembering his more recent visits to Serena's with no small amount of unpleasantness, "but I couldn't enjoy it at the time." Date's smile faltered, a wince in sympathy, as he reached towards the condiment stand to his side for the menu.
"I'll bet whatever homebrew you were able to score in jail was pretty terrible anyways." Despite how much Kiryu did not want to talk about his time in jail, he appreciated that Date had moved the conversation back to something as mindless as alcohol.
"I never tried it." Date raised an eyebrow at that, staring right at Kiryu. "It smelt like bleach," Kiryu clarified with a shrug which Date accepted by leaning back and taking another sip.
"No alcohol, no sex, no good food either I'd imagine," Date let out a low whistle, his gaze had returned to the laminated menu, "Let's see if I can fix two of those." He placed the menu on the table and slid it across to Kiryu, one finger pointing at something called a Reuben dip. By the description it sounded heavy, fattening, and not at all what Kiryu needed after just having restored his old strength. He looked up to turn Date down but the words died on his tongue.
Time slowed to a crawl as Date looked at him expectantly, fitting in so perfectly with the surroundings. His face lacked most of it's usual restrained, his happiness showing through. The lights of the pub defined his jaw while deepening the frown and worry lines he was too young to have. The whole of him was welcoming, from his stubble to the wear and tear on his trenchcoat. Of the few people who had welcomed him back and the smaller section who had honestly appreciated his return, Date was the only one who seemed intent on helping him for Kiryu's own benefit.
Kiryu's heart clenched, causing him to be drawn out of whatever headspace he had been in. He shook his head to clear away the rest of the feeling as Date put the menu back.
"At least try it Kiryu, it could help you relax some." Date stood and made his way to the bar, leaving Kiryu to sip his drink and stare at the empty seat in front of him. Whatever had just happened had been strange, to say the least. He hadn't felt that way since Yumi's birthday, the thought of which turned him dizzy with guilt. He emptied his drink at the memory and placed his glass down with more force than needed. This was supposed to be a relaxing night, all he had to do was find a safe topic to think about.
Date's return was a safe topic, a bottle of something in his hand. He took his seat and poured Kiryu another glass who quickly took a drink. It was the same whiskey as before, warm and weathered. Date replenished his own glass, his eyes flicking up to inspect Kiryu. Apparently, he wasn't a fan of whatever expression Kiryu had dawned by thinking about the past. Kiryu found himself mentally begging for Date not to ask.
"What do you think of the Buffaloes chances for the pennant?" Kiryu held back a sigh, baseball, as safe a topic as one could get. He slipped into mindless chatter with Date, the tension bleeding out of him with each mention of retiring managers and star players. Date's interest with baseball was much like how he was with most things, charmingly normal. The food came quickly, a steaming platter of cheese, sausage, potato, and soda bread to dip in it.
He scooped up some of the dip with a chunk of bread, the mess of yellow foods sinking into his stomach already. Despite the probably negative health effects of the food, he found the taste studied him and made him feel as warm as the whiskey, as Date's smile. His companion had yet to take a bite of his food, going about an intricate ritual with the meal. He had dipped his bread deep into the mix, their tips peaking out like tiny icebergs which he watched intently.
His heart was gripped again by some unidentified force and he couldn't help but want to know more about his friend. He could sit where he was forever, listening to Date explain underrated opinions on baseball and eat unhealthy food. Date fished one of the chunks of bread out of the mixture and popped it in his mouth, smudging a bit of molten cheese on his lips and Kiryu was struck by how much he wanted to kiss him.
Oh. So that was it. The pieces slotted together as Kiryu's heartbeat louder in his chest. His mind worked against his will to squash the bubble of warmth building in his chest. Why would Date ever want him? He was an Ex-Yakuza and a single father with very few prospects for his future. But then again, Date had almost the same baggage. It might work, and besides, he could be happy just sitting here. It was as close to true happiness as he had been in ten years.
"I'd have hoped this would calm you down," Date gave Kiryu a disappointed look as he cleaned his fingers with a napkin.
"I am. This is relaxed for me." Kiryu replied, his honestly causing Date's face to go wide with shock for a second and then collapse into worry.
"If this is relaxed for you then maybe you should consider getting a masseuse." Date let out a scoff before muttering "or therapy" under his breath and having another piece of dip soaked bread. Kiryu nodded and pretended he had not heard the justified second comment. He took another sip of his drink and considered his words carefully as to not overstep.
"I may still be stressed," he began with, an understatement to say the least, "but this is the most relaxed I have felt in years." That was true, and Date's face lit up slightly at it. He carefully schooled the expression back down, but Kiryu had seen it and couldn't help the grin forming on his own lips. Ten years of being trapped in between, his agency stripped and his life beaten down to the bare essentials would not leave him soon, or perhaps ever but with Date- with Date he saw that happiness was possible for him in something other than stolen moments.
"I'm glad," Date met his eyes as he took another sip, "That was one of the reasons we're here." Date's expression shifted somewhat, and while his eyes were focused on Kiryu they looked beyond him. Kiryu raised his eyebrow at Date's comment as Date fished out another piece of bread.
"One of the reasons?" Date let out an amused huff at that and kept his eyes low when he responded.
"I wanted to relax you for one, but I'll admit I have a few other reasons." Date's hands twitched towards one another, surely symptoms of some nervous tick he had trained himself out of. Kiryu privately wished that those hands would inch close to his instead.
"What other reasons?" Kiryu had never been known for his subtly.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Date prefaced his statement and let out a heavy sigh while he considered his words. Kiryu practically glared down Date with the intensity of his stare.
"I just wanted to spend more time with you." His voice was hushed as he spoke, the clamor of the bar almost canceling out his admission. Kiryu's breath caught in his throat, unsure of what exactly that meant. He continued to stare as he carefully thought out his reply, but Date spoke again in a rush of air, quick to clarify.
"When I saw you after you came out of prison you looked alone in a way you hadn't been all those years before. At first, our partnership was half necessity and half pity but I realized you were lonely in the same way I was." He looked to Kiryu, meeting his gaze this time. "I didn't realize how much it was weighing on me until I had someone to share that loneliness with. That's the other reason, I wanted to tell you that and to ask you if you'd like to go out for dinner again sometime." Kiryu stiffened at that, guilt burning in his gut. He couldn't do this to Date, so he stood up to leave.
"Wait!" Date objected, reaching out for Kiryu's sleeve, "I know what that sounded like." His voice was dripping in the same guilt gripping Kiryu's chest.
"It's not that," his cheeks burned because that was exactly what he wanted, "it's not right to base something like this off loneliness." Date's bushy eyebrows furrowed and his frown deepened the worry lines on his face.
"Let me rephrase. I wasn't alone, there were plenty of people around me but none of them saw anything but a divorcee who had ruined his chances with nothing interesting to say. I treated them the same way because they were all hotshots who would end up exactly where I was in a few years. But then you came back into my life, and I didn't just want to get to know you, I wanted to be someone worth getting to know." Date's eyes were still locked onto Kiryu's, who lowered himself down again slowly as Date let go of his sleeve. Both men hung on bated breath as Kiryu put together the right thing to say.
"When I returned from prison, there were people who waiting but none of them were really there for me. They were waiting for a pawn to return to the board, a favor they needed, or the sins of their past to be wiped away. The two people who had honestly cared for me had twisted me up in their minds into something to blame or to idolize. You're the only one who cared for my safety for its own sake. That makes you a man worth knowing." Kiryu paused for breath, his words heavy on his tongue and his heart beating hard. He reached out his hand to place it over Dates, their fingers intertwining as both men adjusted their grips to match.
"Thank you," Kiryu spoke again, his eyes drifting down to where they had grasped hands, "and yes."
With that Date leaned and Kiryu met him in the middle. The kiss was far from perfect, considering the table digging into Kiryu's stomach and how the end of Date's tie was dangerously close to falling in their dinner, but it was better than anything Kiryu had felt in years. It was the warmth of the Whiskey, of Date, and of the future rising steadily to meet them.