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The movie is at the bottom of Akira's bookbag, tucked beneath his notebooks and pencil case. It's one of Ann's favorite movies, and she decided he had to watch it. Although he mentioned watching it together with her, even offering to buy her dinner for the affair, she refused.

"I think this is something you need to see for yourself," she had said, pigtails falling past her shoulders as she leaned down to grab the movie from her bag. And then it was in Akira's hands, the plastic case with the colorful cover. He didn't recognize any of the actors' names, but the plot snippet on the back piqued his interest: two male lovers, pushing back against the society that abhors them.

It's important to Ann, so he plans on watching it when he has time. He enjoys being able to slip into the lives of the people around him, no matter how commonplace it all might be for them: tagging along with Ann for a modeling shoot, working out with Ryuji at the gym, visiting art galleries with Yusuke. It's all special because his friends make it a more vivid experience.

When Akira makes it back to Leblanc, he slinks up to the attic and sets the movie next to his small television. He's wondering where the remote to the DVD player might be — he asks Morgana about it, but he just yawns and curls up for a nap on the bed — when his phone vibrates.

Of everyone who could be texting him, it just happens to be Kitagawa Yusuke, asking if he would like to spend the evening together. The proposed plan is to meet up at the station by Leblanc and partake in the activity of people-watching, as Yusuke seeks inspiration for his next painting.

A shiver runs through Akira when he thinks that there could be more, too; if Yusuke is in a pleasant mood, he might be able to convince him to come back to the cafe with him afterward so that he can cook for him. He likes watching Yusuke eat, wide-eyed with wonder at all the flavors and textures that make up the culinary delights of the world. Even more important than that, though, is just making sure that Yusuke eats something better than the things he ends up digging out of the trash. Akira still remembers how excited he was to find some radish leaves in the garbage.

It would be more enjoyable if he were able to cook for him, but eating out at a restaurant would be fun, too. Burgers, sushi — whatever it is that Yusuke wants to eat, Akira is up for the venture. He's willing to spend a large portion of the money he makes from his part-time jobs on Yusuke, but his friend doesn't know that. Part of him wonders if he would take advantage of him if he knew, coming over every day to ask for the basic necessities he knows his friend often lacks: food, money for the train. Part of him doesn't mind the thought of being able to see Yusuke each and every day, no matter what happens to bring him to his doorstep. It doesn't matter to him that Yusuke is terrible with the money he receives from his scholarships, whether that be the purchasing of overpriced dolls or a pair of lobsters that he lovingly named after famous painters and keeps in a tank in his closet, even now. It's what makes him happy, and Yusuke's happiness is what makes Akira's heart swell with joy.

They meet at the station, as planned. Yusuke is wearing his long, teal coat, and his hands are tucked inside his pockets. Akira recalls when they had been at the mall and he was able to convince his friend to buy it. He needed a new winter coat, anyway, and that one just happened to catch Yusuke's eye with its glossy buttons and soft fabric. Maybe Akira had even slipped enough money into his pocket for him to buy it, one hand brushing against his hip as the other pointed out something else on display. He doesn't even remember what it was; he just remembers the smirk he had to bite back as he distracted Yusuke and the way it felt to touch him. Yusuke had been wearing jeans that day, the denim rough against his hand.

Although Yusuke looks good in everything — in Akira's opinion, anyway — there's something special about that coat in particular. It brings out Yusuke's elegance for all the world to see, shining like a star, and it makes Akira fall in love with him even more.

But what is even better than watching Yusuke — the way his eyes light up with passion, the exaggerated gestures he makes, how he tucks his hair behind his ear when it falls over his eye — is being seen by him. He notices every flaw, every stain, every scar, and for most people, Yusuke's gaze is overwhelming. Akira relishes his inquisitive eyes, for he finds the beauty even in darkness, even in a person's deepest insecurities. Flaws are what make people different, unique, and human, and that is where true beauty lies.

To his credit, Akira does try to join Yusuke in his people-watching. He really does. Yusuke taught him to see people in a whole new light, and now he notices all sorts of details. It's not just about the clothes people wear or how they style their hair; there is a story in the way they carry themselves, too. Some people radiate confidence while others try to blend in with the crowd, slipping into the shadows of others.

It's just more fun to watch Yusuke. Sometimes he'll lean back, shoes scratching against the pavement, eyes twitching with interest. Akira can't quite picture what is swimming through his mind, with all the intricate shapes and complementary colors, but he likes to try.

When Yusuke turns to look at him, eyes radiating with that usual passionate glow, Akira tucks his chin into his turtleneck sweater. He tears his gaze away to stare out at the sea of people making their way through the station, on their way to destinations near and far.

"You don't seem to be enjoying this," Yusuke says. Akira can still feel his eyes on him, boring into him, picking out all of the bits and pieces of himself that he never knew he had on display.

"I am." It isn't entirely a lie. "Really."

Yusuke still doesn't always pick up on the subtext or mood of the room, no matter how obvious people try to make it for him at times, but Akira remembers when he used to pick up on even less. It all comes back to Yusuke seeing him, truly seeing, and it's not just the freezing wind that makes Akira shiver. It's the fact that Yusuke can see that he is bothered by something.

But then Yusuke's stomach rumbles, loud and roaring, and it's easy for Akira to change the subject. He mentions that he could make food for Yusuke if he comes back to Leblanc with him, and he tries not to sound like this is what he had hoped for all along. It's greedy of him, in a way — wanting to pamper Yusuke — but his offer is accepted before very long.

"Yes." Yusuke nods, eyes looking not at Akira but through him, likely imagining all of the delicious wonders he will be able to consume. "That would be wonderful."

Maybe people-watching didn't turn out quite as Yusuke had planned, but Akira has him back home at Leblanc now, warm and safe. As they take off their jackets, Akira wonders if Yusuke found the inspiration he was seeking. Usually he would be telling him about it, but he's quiet as he sips the first cup of coffee Akira makes him. Almost too quiet.

Akira prepares him a salad for his first dish, garnished with thin slices of avocado. Their hands touch when he slides the bowl across the counter, and Akira turns back to the kitchenette to hide his smile. He doesn't think Yusuke would ask about it, with him being engrossed in eating his food now, but it's almost exhilarating to keep these feelings secret, buried deep. This passion. If Yusuke knew how much love and affection he has built up inside him, he might push him to find a way to express it. He already does that, though: with his cooking, with his eyes always ready to soak in the expressions Yusuke makes, his ears starving for every sound of his voice.

Next, he prepares a soup with seaweed and chunks of tofu. There's still more left even after Yusuke has had his second bowl, and halfway through his third, he pauses to look up at Akira.

"Are you not going to eat? It is delicious."

When Akira doesn't reply, he offers his bowl to him. It's black with a glossy lacquer and red interior; as Yusuke might say, it is its own tiny piece of art. Akira is staring at the rim of the bowl where Yusuke's lips touched, and when he slurps down the last of the soup, he thinks he can almost taste him.

Yusuke is patting his stomach, turning to stand up off his stool, and Akira nearly asks him to stay. There's more food, more coffee; if they run out, he can pick up more from the convenience store down the street.

Just stay, he wants to say. Please. Just a little while longer.

Apparently sated, food is no longer on Yusuke's itinerary. He glances outside, mentioning how late it is, and Akira blurts out an offer for him to stay the night. Yusuke looks at him with curiosity brimming in his eyes, but he doesn't question Akira's proposal. He thanks him for his hospitality as they make their way up to the attic, where Akira starts setting out bedding for him on the floor while Yusuke's gaze wanders. Morgana greets them with a yawn before returning to his nap on the bed.

Akira had forgotten about the movie up until the moment Yusuke asks about it, turning the case over in his hands. His body itches to leap across the room, to pluck the movie out of his grip before he has a chance to realize what it's about. Before he has a chance to judge him. But instead, Akira merely watches, clenching his hands into fists to stop them from shaking.

"We should watch this," Yusuke says. He pops open the case, and it's the sound that shocks Akira out of his silence.

"It doesn't bother you?"

Yusuke isn't even looking at him now, unperturbed as he puts the disc in the DVD player. "Why would it bother me?"

Akira doesn't have an answer for him. Maybe he could say "because society says it should," but knowing Yusuke, it would be an absurd reply. It has been his life as a Phantom Thief that led him to meet Yusuke, and it has been their defiance of society and its standards that brought them closer together. It might have been strange for him to assume that Yusuke, of all people, would think less of him because of his sexuality. But that has never curbed his anxiety, especially not for when Yusuke inevitably finds out who Akira is in love with. Things will change then, Akira is sure of it. He just hopes it'll be a change for the better.

After turning the couch so that they can both comfortably view the television screen, they wrap themselves up with one of the extra blankets, not wanting to deprive Morgana of the one on Akira's bed. Their shoulders bump, arms brushing together, and for a while, it's all Akira can think about.

But then the movie sucks him in. The characters' expressions and voices are so animated that he feels drawn into their plight: a snobby man from a wealthy family falls in love with another man, who his parents had hired to teach him to play the piano. The musician is quiet and reserved, saving his words up as if he only has a limited supply, and whenever he does finally speak, it always shakes the other man to his core.

When the parents find out about their relationship, Akira is left thinking about his own family. He always tried to hide his relationships from them, but after everything that has happened in the past year — his probation, being sent to Tokyo — he wonders if they would even care enough to be angry.

He feels for the characters: their fear, worries, love. By the end of the movie, Akira has realized why Ann said he should experience it alone. His eyes are watering up at how much he related to the characters in the movie, and despite the happy ending, his body feels tired and sluggish. Drained. He tries to wipe at his eyes before Yusuke can see, but it's too late; there's a hand on his arm, pulling it away from his face, and when Akira looks up at his friend, he isn't quite sure how to parse his expression. The light of the screen flickers across his face, giving him an eerie glow, but he still feels safe in those deep, thoughtful eyes.

"You look beautiful," Yusuke says before he reaches out to take off Akira's glasses, setting them on the table beside them. His movements are slow, as if he's worried any sudden movement might startle him. It's at this moment that Akira realizes it's restraint he sees in his eyes, and it amazes him because he's never known Yusuke to keep himself from pursuing whatever it is that his heart desires. Yusuke is ravenous for beauty and joy, for whatever makes his mind whirl with whimsical thoughts and images.

Morgana left the room sometime during the movie, leaving nothing but an indentation of where he had slept and a few strands of hair. Akira is alone with Yusuke now, and it's never felt this thrilling and intimate before. When Yusuke cups his cheek, running his thumb over his skin as if to study the very shape of him, he almost closes his eyes. The touch is gentle and yet overwhelming, but even more exciting is the way he looks at him like he is a piece of art.

And then Yusuke is leaning in, thumb brushing over his mouth before he kisses Akira. His lips are soft but strange, full and flushed against his own. No dream or fantasy could have ever prepared him for the real thing, and even as his hands creep up out of the blanket to touch the front of Yusuke's shirt, it still doesn't feel real. It can't be.

When the moment is over, Akira can't help but ask him why. It's just a single word, and yet it means so much: Why did you kiss me? Why now? Why me?

Yusuke smiles, and his answer is honest but cryptic. "Why not?"

"How long have you known?" Akira asks, continuing their chain of questioning, full of amazement and disbelief.

"I think you have things backward," Yusuke says. "It is me who has pined after you, always begging to spend time with you. To drink in the very magic of your presence..."

That's all it takes for Akira to kiss him this time, brushing their lips together, starved for affection. His hands touch Yusuke's neck, feeling his pulse thrum, quick and sure. His fingers are ice, but every other part of his body is warm, so warm. He inches closer, blanket bunching up between them before he tosses it to the floor. Their chests are pressed against each other now, and Akira almost forgets to breathe through his nose because it's all too much, too soon, but he wouldn't have it any other way. Yusuke's hands are around him, pulling at the back of his shirt despite there not being any more space between them. His sighs of contentment touch his lips, making Akira fall that much easier into their embrace.

He's trying to untangle himself from Yusuke for a moment, just to put some distance between them, when he first feels him against his leg. All he can think about is how it's because of him; the body that is entrancing Yusuke's is his own. It is his lips, his body, his fire — and no one else's.

"Yusuke." He tries to steady his voice, failing at hiding the lust pooling beneath his words, pricking at his skin. "You're hard."

This time, Yusuke's response is to reach for Akira's hand, leading it to the front of his pants. Despite touching himself like this when he's alone in bed, teasing himself, the sensations that course through him are new, exciting. It is Yusuke beneath his hands: the man he cooks for, the man he lusts for, the man he loves.

Lips trail down Akira's neck, shaky but warm. "Is this all right?"

Akira says nothing; it's more than just right. When he uses his free hand to undo Yusuke's belt, the buckle is cold and it clangs against the floorboards as it falls to the ground. He sneaks his hand up beneath his shirt, right above the waistband of his pants, just to feel his skin. Then he's dipping his hand lower, resting his hand over the hardness inside his underwear until Yusuke sucks in a sharp breath, hands twisting in Akira's shirt. The teasing isn't intentional, as he's still trying to sink back down into the reality of it all. Yusuke, in all his enigmatic wonder, wants him, and the idea that there could be more, that this won't end in a single night of flurried passion, has him pressing onward.

Finally, he wraps his hand around his arousal, grip loose at first as he wonders just what Yusuke likes. He trails his finger all along the length of him, reveling in his warmth, in the unique feel of him, and Yusuke shudders. Akira can feel it ripple through his body as he bucks his hips into his hand. He thinks about how Yusuke will look when he comes, how he'll sound, how he'll taste. All of the little tells that show him that he is experiencing the greatest pleasure — in time, Akira will memorize them all: every sound, every gesture.

Yusuke pulls away to tug off his pants and underwear, and once they've joined his belt on the floor, he doesn't have to ask Akira to continue. Their lips meet again in a rush, and although Akira wants to see him, it's almost easier with their eyes closed like this. Instead of focusing on Yusuke's face, he can feel every movement his body makes as he rocks his hips into his hand.

"You feel amazing," Yusuke says, voice lower than usual, thick with lust. And it's all because of Akira.

The closer he is able to bring him to the edge, the harder Yusuke grabs at him. His hands are steel around his neck, holding him in place, despite there being nowhere Akira would rather be. Hums of pleasure leave his lips, filling Akira's ears, and it is the most remarkable sound — to be able to hear Yusuke so unwound. Akira's wrist aches at the repetition, but he perseveres because it is everything he has ever wanted and more.

It's when Yusuke touches the front of his pants that he gasps, so focused on giving pleasure that he wasn't expecting to receive it. Just moments before, he had been smirking into Yusuke's neck, reeling from his moans, but the hands on him are distracting. His body almost shies away from the touch, preferring to focus on Yusuke rather than his own pleasure. But if Yusuke feels the same way about him, even if just a fraction, then he doesn't want to deny him that.

Next to hit the floor are Akira's pants and underwear, then both of their shirts. It doesn't feel strange to be naked in front of Yusuke; instead, it's exhilarating as their hands wander. Yusuke is so thin, his limbs long and skin soft beneath Akira's hands. When they kiss, he trails his fingers along Yusuke's collarbone, feeling the dip of skin just above it. He tries to scoot closer, knees bumping, and Akira can feel the moment their arousals brush together. But then Yusuke is wrapping his hand around the both of them, pumping them, and Akira moans because he has never felt anything quite like this. Every nerve inside him tingles as they rock their hips together, and this time, it is Yusuke's mouth that finds his neck, pressing kisses into his skin.

"You don't have to do that," Akira says, even as his body shakes, but Yusuke seems to disagree. Their arousals being wet with pre-come makes it even more mindnumbing as Yusuke's hand tightens around them, and suddenly Akira doesn't know what to do with his hands. They run down Yusuke's neck, then along his shoulders, until finally he's distracted with kisses again and he's moaning into his lips, feeling that jolt inside of him winding up.

Akira doesn't want it to end; he wants Yusuke to touch him forever and to touch him in turn. He's never fought his own orgasm before like this, fingers squeezing Yusuke's shoulders as he pulls back just enough to say, "If you keep going, I'll —"

And just like that, Yusuke's hand is moving faster, as if challenged by Akira's words. His body trembles, and when he presses his forehead against Yusuke's, he can feel the sweat, making his hair stick to his skin. He's trying so hard, and he loves him for that; he loves him for his voice, his words, and for the way he looks at Akira. When he thinks back, maybe there was pining in Yusuke's eyes at times. Maybe Yusuke always wanted to touch him like this, imagining what he might look like beneath him or towering over him, and it's that thought that sends Akira over the edge. Yusuke is still stroking their cocks together even as they come, dirtying their stomachs, their legs, and the couch itself. It's Yusuke who falls back first, panting as he brings Akira with him. His lips find Akira's neck, sucking at the skin, and he hopes it leaves a mark. He hopes that's what Yusuke wants, too.

Yusuke's hand runs along Akira's stomach, spreading their come up to his chest, his fingers moving with such calculation, as if he is working with fine paints. If it were anyone else, it wouldn't feel this good as the tips of his fingers caress him, running along the planes of his chest and circling his nipples. He doesn't even have to see to make Akira's body into his own work of art, trusting his hands and sense of touch.

They don't speak, not with Yusuke's lips still on his neck, kissing the other side now. Burning him, marking him. Akira's turtlenecks and high-collared jackets might hide it in public, but he'll know they're there, pulsing beneath the fabric, just out of sight.

As they sit up to stretch — the aches finally starting to set in after crushing themselves together for so long — neither of them speaks. Yusuke's hands are on his neck again, caressing the marks he's made, the skin he has flushed dark and red. There's a yearning in his touch, as if he isn't quite ready to let Akira drift away from him just yet. Akira doesn't know how to convince him that he isn't leaving, that he won't slip away, neither physically nor emotionally. He's here to stay by Yusuke's side.

"Amazing," Yusuke says finally, chest still heaving as he sits back to frame Akira with his fingers. Akira can't help but smile at this, at the thought of anyone finding him attractive right now with his sweat-drenched, come-stained skin and tousled hair. Yusuke is unique in that aspect, in finding beauty in even the darkest corners.

Akira's glasses are still on the table, and he thinks about putting them on for the meager amount of confidence they provide. When he wears them, it's easier for him to slip through crowds unnoticed, to seem unassuming. But he doesn't need that with Yusuke, especially not now. He doesn't need them for what he wants to say, no matter how he might itch to reach out for them.

"I love you," he says, even as Yusuke still watches him through the frame of his hands. His skin is cold without Yusuke's body against his, and he rubs at the goosebumps on his arms.

"And I love you." Yusuke's hands fall to his lap, eyes no longer seeing through him. "Though it amazes me that was ever in question."

They could debate the point for hours on whether any of their affectionate glances had been obvious, but it doesn't matter now. Akira does have one question, though — whether or not this all would have happened if he hadn't ended up teary-eyed while watching the movie — and when he asks, Yusuke isn't sure. It's nice to think that they would have ended up here eventually, but then again, maybe they wouldn't have. Maybe they needed this push.

"We should thank Ann, then, I think," Akira says.

Confusion paints Yusuke's face, brow arching as he ponders Akira's words. "What does Ann have to do with this?"

"She let me borrow the movie," Akira explains.

"Ah, well. Then I am grateful to her." Yusuke leans in close, thumbs running along the marks he made on his neck; they will fade eventually, but maybe he will make more. Akira hopes there will always be more, an infinite fountain of bliss. His hair tickles Akira's jaw, but as he cradles him in his arms, feeling his warmth seep back into him, there is no place he would rather be.

"We should thank Ann, indeed," Yusuke murmurs into the hollow of his throat.