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Muse

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Aki stepped out of the art supply store and let out an exasperated sigh. He was emptyhanded yet again. One day he’d learn to call ahead first and check if they had what he wanted in stock. Now he had to go out of his way to visit the other store which always had his materials but was an annoying hour away.

He shook his head then dug through his messenger bag until he found a pack of cigarettes. He removed one, lit it, then took a drag and held it for a moment before he finally exhaled. Aki had cut back on the amount he smoked but when he was overly stressed or anxious, it was the only thing that could calm him down. His nerves already began to mellow out. Aki took another puff and looked around.

The sidewalk was littered with people all focused on doing whatever daily chores they had. No one paid him any mind, nor him them. The world was full of worker ants doing the same thing on repeat. It was boring. Not to mention uninspiring.

Aki hadn’t drawn in nearly two weeks because of an astounding lack of inspiration. With multiple due dates fast approaching he could confidently say that art block was an outright bitch. He took a few more puffs off his cigarette then dropped the butt and stomped it out. Well, he guessed it was time to head home and continue to not make any progress with his work.

Aki looked both ways then crossed the street. There was a place on this side of the road that had decent enough coffee and he could use a cup.  He headed past three stores that weren’t interesting in the slightest then stopped dead in his tracks. While flower shops didn’t interest him in general, he could appreciate their use of color to attract customers. Vibrant enough petals would get anyone’s attention for at least a moment.

The eye-catching display wasn’t what got Aki to stop, however. It was the fact that he saw a pair of wings in the middle of it all. He blinked a few times before his brain finally registered that they were attached to a backpack. The mystery person stood upright and Aki’s eyes widened.

A vision. It was the only way to describe this ethereal being with medium-length silken hair and skin that looked as delicate as porcelain. The sun seemed to avoid everything else and shine directly on this person that was surrounded by a gorgeous array of colorful flowers. Aki was left breathless. His fingers itched with a familiar feeling he hadn’t felt in quite some time and he was too stunned to move.

The ethereal being he couldn’t bring himself to call a human looked up from the flowers and turned towards Aki. He tucked his long hair behind his ear then looked on either side of himself curiously. He finally looked back at Aki and asked, “Can I help you?”

“Oh! Do you, uh, work here?” Aki motioned towards the flower shop. He wasn’t sure what else to say when caught staring like that. Ah, the guy’s voice was as soft and sweet as one would expect. Aki had a hard time believing this person was even real.

The stranger shook his head, and those silky locks flowed with the motion in the most distracting way possible. He glanced at the flowers and replied, “I don’t. I just thought they were pretty.”

Correct as the guy was, not a single flower on display could hold a candle to him. Aki had no idea what to do with that information. His cheeks burned as blush darkened them without his permission. Probably the worst part of this was that he was still staring. He couldn’t force himself to look away. There had to be some sort of witchcraft afoot. A higher power that kept him positively captivated.

“What is it?” The lovely stranger asked.

“Nothing!” Aki immediately shrieked.

“That’s a lie.” The stranger’s reply was quick and to the point.

“It’s just–! You look like you stepped right out of a painting standing there among the flowers!” Aki admitted before he could stop himself. He watched the guy make a face at that. Aki immediately shook his hands and head at the same time. “Sorry, that was weird. Let me start over. I’m Aki and I’m an art student at the nearby university. I can’t help but admire beauty when I see it.”

There was a pause to let that sink in then the beauty finally replied, “My name is Angel.”

Winged backpack aside, there was no way that was a coincidence. Aki hadn’t ever seen such an alluring person before in his life. It felt like his slumbering inspiration finally awoke and he had the most incredible urge to draw. One of the strongest he’d ever felt. Aki knew that would be wasted if he went with some boring old subject matter. That was when he had a crazy thought.

“Listen, I was sort of wondering if… and feel free to say no to this…” Aki paused and rubbed the back of his neck. There was no need to worry about seeming strange now, he’d already achieved that much. The worst that could happen would be this guy called him crazy and they never saw each other again. The way his fingers itched with the desire to draw told him it was a risk he needed to take. He let out a soft sigh then asked, “Would you let me sketch you?”

Angel tilted his head and blinked at him. It looked like he needed to figure out if this offer was serious or not. After a few moments of Aki neither laughing nor taking back his words, he seemed to reach a conclusion. He blinked and asked, “What would I have to do?”

“Nothing at all,” Aki explained. He’d never been more grateful for the fact that he didn’t leave the house without his sketchbook in case he found inspiration. “We’ll find a comfortable spot then you just sit still and let me observe your features as I draw.”

Angel nodded and replied, “That doesn’t sound overly tedious. Sure, I don’t have any other plans today.”

“Great! Let me just… buy something real quick…” Aki really hoped he didn’t sound half as awkward as he felt. “Wait here.”

Aki had no idea if Angel would actually wait. Heck, if the situation was reversed he’d use the chance to get away from the crazy person for sure. All he could do was hope. He hurried into the shop, made his purchase, then power-walked back out again. It was a relief to find that Angel was still there and had gone back to admiring the flowers like earlier. Aki wasn’t sure what to call the strange sensation in his chest.

He motioned over his shoulder with his thumb and said, “A great spot to do this would be over by the fountain near the ice cream shop. Do you know it?”

Angel turned back towards him and shook his head. “I’m new in town.”

“Ah. Then welcome.” That actually made a lot of sense. If someone as alluring as Angel had been around before Aki was sure he’d have run into him at least a time or two. This place wasn’t that big, after all, and the guy definitely stood out. He smiled then hummed, “After I sketch you, how about I get us some ice cream too? As thanks. It’s the best in the world, in case you didn’t know.”

“That’s quite a claim,” Angel replied. The corners of his mouth curved upwards in the faintest of smiles and he added, “I’ll be the judge of that.”

Aki’s heart fluttered in his chest. How the heck had a simple smile made this guy even prettier? He didn’t know. He couldn’t focus on it. That’d make the situation way weirder. For now he was just grateful that the guy hadn’t run away or called the cops on him for being creepy. He noticed Angel’s gaze fall to his hand then remembered his purchase.

He held up the single rose and chuckled nervously then said, “This is for you. I know you were admiring them and I think it will be a nice prop for the sketch and uhh…”

“Thank you.” Angel took the rose and brought it to his nose so he could sniff it.

The sight took Aki’s breath away. His fingers twitched yet again. If he didn’t draw something soon he might go mad. He quickly turned around so there was no way Angel would see the blush in his cheeks and said, “The fountain is a three-minute walk in this direction. We’re close.”

“Lead the way.”

Aki did his best to ignore the racing of his own pulse. He needed to focus so he could finally draw something. It had been way too long and he’d finally found his muse again. He planned to make the best of it.

 

*

 

Aki tossed his bag onto his bed then fell face first next to it before he let out a loud groan. He couldn’t believe himself. Of all the idiotic things to do! He rolled onto his back and thought about the last hour. Aki dug through his bag and pulled out his sketchbook then turned to the newest page. His gaze traveled over the drawing in awe. The sketch had gone even smoother than he could’ve imagined. Not that he was surprised with such an inspiring subject.

He’d taken a few creative liberties with the drawing. The biggest one was probably that he’d given Angel actual wings instead of that cute backpack. After that came the halo, of course. Aki’s eyes traveled over the ethereal being that smiled at the rose he held. Gorgeous. Yet somehow it had nothing on the real thing. Aki himself wouldn’t believe such a claim if he hadn’t seen it with his own two eyes.

Aki was still adding finishing touches to the drawing even as they ate their ice cream together. He was glad to find that Angel really seemed to enjoy the flavor he tried. Once the drawing was finished Aki showed it off. The way Angel smiled when he saw the sketch was so sweet that Aki probably wouldn’t ever forget it. He’d been half a second away from letting the guy keep it when Angel said that he had to go. Aki didn’t get a chance to say anything before he was thanked for the flower and ice cream. Just like that Angel was gone.

He closed the sketchbook and dropped it onto the bed then let out another groan, this one even more pathetic than the last. Stupid. Stupid. He couldn’t believe himself. He should just sit in a corner and think about his dumb mistake.

“What’s with all the groaning in here, man?” Denji asked from the doorway.

Aki didn’t even look at his roommate. He didn’t have to. He’d lived with the guy long enough to know that he had a stupid look on his face and a slice of pizza in his hand like always. Aki draped his arm over his eyes and muttered, “Get out of my room.”

“We have the right to know!” Power exclaimed.

Of course she was here too. Those two were peas in an idiotic pod. Aki still didn’t know how the heck he’d ended up living with both of them. Still, some small part of him wanted to discuss this. He finally sighed, “Ugh. Fine. I met an angel today.”

“Did you die or some shit?” Denji asked.

“That’s not what I meant.” Obviously. This guy was so damn ridiculous that Aki didn’t know why he even put up with him most of the time. “He was just… really beautiful.”

Denji turned towards Power and asked, “Does that sound like reason to groan to you?”

“Not really.” Power shook her head. “If I liked a guy I’d send him pictures of my cat.”

“Ohh, that’s a good idea!” Denji exclaimed. “You should do that, Aki!”

“I can’t send him anything!” Aki yelled. He couldn’t help it, these two knew how to press all the wrong buttons. “That’s the problem. I didn’t get his number.”

Silence followed his declaration. For one heartbeat. Two. Part of Aki wondered if the others had just walked away. Of course he wasn’t so lucky.

“That was stupid,” Power snorted.

“Out!” Aki tossed his pillow at the pair and they both ran off. He could hear their ridiculous laughter echo through the apartment.

He was glad there was another pillow because he grabbed that one and held it over his own face. If he was lucky, he’d suffocate and not have to think about how right his roommates were. Aki couldn’t believe he’d been so caught up in his time with Angel that he’d made such a rookie mistake. At least it was Friday night and he didn’t have any plans this coming weekend. He could wallow in his own self-pity in peace.

 

It sure had been wishful thinking that he didn’t have plans and could relax. As it turned out, Aki’s mind had a totally different idea. It was occupied with one thing. Thoughts about Angel and the hour they’d spent together were all he could focus on. His roommates tried to bait him into their usual bullshit, but Aki wouldn’t bite. No, he had a mission.

He stared at his sketch so much that he could still see it with his eyes closed. It was time for him to take action. There was only one thing Aki could think of. He rolled out of bed, made himself look presentable, then headed back to that flower shop in town. The chances that he'd meet Angel there again were slim to none, yet he had to give it a try.

After just under three hours of wandering around and carefully observing everyone he passed on the street with no luck whatsoever, Aki gave up. It was a shame since he’d bought a single rose just like last time. He'd known it was a long shot in the first place, but that didn’t make it suck any less. He walked back towards his cramped apartment with his head hung in shame. His roommates would probably never let him live it down.

Somehow, even with that failure he hadn't gotten it through his head that the situation was completely hopeless. If he had, he definitely wouldn’t have visited that flower shop again the next day and bought another rose. He waited around as long as he could justify, but finally went back home with the same failure looming over his head. Damn.

By the time Monday arrived Aki was exhausted. He almost didn’t go to his classes because he needed to catch up on sleep. It was when Denji caught him sleeping in and said his school was closed so they could hang out all day long that Aki finally found the motivation he needed to get out of bed. It was amazing what could motivate a person. Though he was still so tired he almost regretted it. He currently sat in one of the school’s many lounge areas half-asleep in a chair that was uncharacteristically comfy.

Just as he was about to doze off, he heard a soft, angelic voice. Aki's eyes snapped open and he turned toward the sound. His breath hitched in his throat when he saw a familiar mini backpack with little angel wings protruding from it. Impossible. After all the searching he'd done this past weekend, what were the odds? He jumped to his feet and hurried over to the person in question.

That silky hair, and the flawless hand that held a phone to their ear, there was no question. It was him. Aki watched Angel say bye to the person on the phone then hang up. Then he put a hand on the shorter man's shoulder to get his attention. When Angel turned around to meet his gaze, Aki's eyes widened and his cheeks instantly darkened. Yeah, it was absolutely the same guy. No one else possessed such a power.

“It's really you!” Aki said a bit louder than he meant to. He could squeak with joy he was so thrilled.

“Hello, again,” Angel replied softly.

“I've been thinking about you,” Aki blurted out before he could stop himself. Angel’s eyes widened ever so slightly and he quickly realized how that probably sounded. He held up his hands in surrender then clarified, “I mean I've been thinking about how I forgot to give you my number the other day. Here, I'll give it to you now.”

Aki reached into his messenger bag and tore the corner off the first paper he grabbed. He didn't even care what it was. He quickly scribbled down his number as legibly as possible with his hand shaking then offered it to Angel with a crooked smile.

Angel took the piece of paper then studied it for a second. He looked up at Aki, his gaze shifted to the side, and he asked, “Do you happen to know where the cafeteria is?”

“Yes, of course.” Aki nodded.

There was a blush so faint in Angel’s cheeks that one would miss it if they weren’t looking for it as he asked, “Would you like to have lunch there together?”

“Yes!” Aki was startled by his own outburst. He cleared his throat then replied, “I mean sure, if you're not busy I guess.”

The corners of Angel’s mouth curved upwards in a little smile and Aki’s knees felt weak. He had no idea how they didn’t give out.  It was a good thing they’d be able to sit while they had lunch or he probably wouldn’t make it out alive. He offered Angel a crooked smile then lead the way to their next destination. Aki could hardly believe he’d almost stayed home today of all days. He made a mental note to buy that brand of ice cream Denji liked next time he was at the store. For once the kid actually deserved it.

 

Aki spent quite a bit of time with Angel after that first lunch. The two of them hung out whenever they had free time during the school day. They went out on the weekend a few times as well. Nothing serious, just to events that seemed mildly interesting. The last one was a festival where neither of them managed to catch a fish. It was a surprising amount of fun.

It didn’t take Aki very long to realize that he was quite taken with Angel. That much was pretty obvious since the first day they met. It was the fact that Angel seemed to enjoy his company too that Aki found hard to believe. He was grateful for it, shocking though it was. His motivation had returned tenfold and all of his outstanding projects were finished before he knew it. Honestly, Aki hadn’t ever experienced anything like it. He bet Angel didn’t even realize what power he held. It was amazing.

He sketched Angel quite a bit over the few months they’d known each other. Sometimes he had a live model, others it was from memory. Aki had practically filled a sketchbook with the guy alone. Though he was sure no one could blame him since he had such an appealing muse. None of his drawings held a candle to the real thing, but they were lovely just the same.

“Hey, Angel, I was wondering something.” Aki said without looking up from his current doodle. It was just a silly blob with wings. He wasn’t even sure what the heck to call it. Just a thing he was inspired to doodle while sitting across from his muse in a café.

“Hmm?” Angel looked up from his milkshake and blinked curiously.

Aki erased some extra lines and blew on the page. He didn’t know what it was, but Angel looked extra cute today. Maybe he had on eyeliner, or perhaps it was the cute shorts with the little wings stitched on the back pockets. Yeah, Aki noticed those earlier. Of course he kept his observations to himself and focused his attention on a drawing instead. He continued to study his sketch as he asked, “Do you want to come watch a movie at my place?”

Angel used his straw to stir his drink. He stared at the shake and mumbled, “You’ve never invited me over before.”

“Yeah, my roommates are… I’ll just say a handful.” Aki looked up from his sketchbook and waited for Angel to meet his gaze. “That aside, I’m asking you now.”

Angel took another sip of his milkshake then pushed it aside. He wiped his mouth with his napkin then nodded as he hummed, “All right.”

Part of Aki hadn’t really expected a yes. He needed a moment for that to register. Once it did, he put his sketchbook away then stood. He was more than ready to go knowing they wouldn’t have to part ways. His apartment was walking distance from their current location so they got there in no time.

Aki could only pray that the place wasn’t a complete disaster as he unlocked the door and waited for Angel to step inside. He followed closely behind with a mutter about forgiving any mess as he hadn’t planned on bringing back a visitor.

“There’s a bra on that lampshade,” Angel said as he pointed to it.

“Ah! That’s!” Aki jolted in surprise then quickly grabbed the garment and tossed it aside. He gave Angel an apologetic look and said, “One of my roommates is a slob, sorry.”

Angel raised a curious eyebrow in his direction. He didn’t say anything else and simply looked around the apartment. Whatever he was thinking stayed in his own head.

Aki let out an exasperated sigh then explained, “Don’t worry, they’re both on a camping trip so we have the place to ourselves.”

Angel glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and asked, “Is that so?”

“Not that we need it! I mean…” Aki’s cheeks immediately darkened with blush. How the heck they’d been in his apartment less than three minutes and he already found himself a flustered mess, he didn’t know. “I don’t– uhh…”

Angel covered his mouth with a single knuckle and chuckled softly. He had a little smile on his face as he hummed, “You’re so jumpy it’s kind of funny.”

“I’m glad you’re amused,” Aki replied with a nervous chuckle.

He showed Angel to the living room and told him to go ahead and make himself comfortable on the couch. Then he gave him the remote and said that he should choose whatever movie he wanted. Aki left to go make them some popcorn and look for drinks. Thankfully there were actually some cans of soda left in the fridge. It was always a fifty-fifty shot with his ridiculous roommates.

As soon as the popcorn was done he put it into a large bowl then took it and the sodas to the living room. He found that Angel had queued up a movie already. Aki had to wonder if this was some sort of dream. He sat down on the couch and set the popcorn between them. Then he offered his guest a soda. “Sorry I don’t have any candy to go with.”

“That’s OK I’ve got it.” Angel picked up his mini backpack from the floor, unzipped it, then pulled out a bag of M&Ms. He placed the backpack down again and showed Aki.

“Do you always carry that with you?” Aki asked.

“Not always.” Angel shook his head. “I’ve been doing so a lot recently, though.”

Aki couldn’t even fathom why that would be. He didn’t get to ask, either. Angel had already turned his attention to the television and pressed play on the remote. He had no idea what they were about to watch and honestly didn’t care. It wasn’t like he’d be able to focus with his lovely muse so close that he could put an arm around his shoulders. Aki’s heart skipped a beat at the thought. He did his best to act as normal as possible. By that of course he meant he stared so hard at the television that he’d probably burn a hole right through it.

They were about halfway through the movie when Aki realized that his and Angel’s shoulders were touching. He certainly hadn’t moved an inch so that meant the other guy was the one that slowly scooted closer. Aki glanced at Angel out of the corner of his eye and saw that he had the popcorn bowl in his lap and the bag of candy in his hand. He was alternating bites of each. Aki smirked at the sight.

For someone with such a slim frame Angel sure could eat. Aki hadn’t touched the popcorn and it was almost gone. To be honest, Aki thought it was really cute, just like he did all of Angel’s little quirks. He kind of wanted to draw lots of candy now. Maybe an angel sitting on a throne of sweets. He’d have to log that idea away for later.

Angel picked up his soda then popped the top. A spray of liquid immediately shot from the hole and they both yelped in surprise. Pure fizzy chaos was all they knew for the next few seconds before it finally came to an end. Then there was silence.

Aki looked down at himself and found that he was lucky enough to have avoided the mess. When he looked at his guest, he saw that Angel’s shirt was soaked. He swore under his breath and started to apologize then jumped over the back of the couch and hurried to get a towel. He practically ran to the bathroom. How could he have forgotten about Denji’s tendency to shake soda cans for no discernible reason? Shit.

Aki almost walked right into his guest when he stepped out of the bathroom. He shoved the towel at Angel and exclaimed, “Sorry! Here!”

“Thanks.” Angel took the towel and rubbed it on his wet shirt. He motioned towards the bathroom then asked, “May I?”

“Of course,” Aki stepped aside. He watched the door close behind Angel and was left to wonder just how the heck to apologize for this ridiculous situation. He let out an exasperated sigh then headed into the kitchen to get some paper towels so he could make sure the couch was dry too.

Once his task was done he plopped down onto the couch and dragged both hands down his face slowly. The evening wasn’t a total disaster yet. He was sure that it was still salvageable somehow. As soon as Aki figured that part out, he’d be golden.

“Is the couch all right?”

“Huh?” Aki looked up from his hands and had to hold back a gasp. Angel stood before him wearing a black sweatshirt that was clearly too big for him. It hung off his shoulder awkwardly and the sleeves were way too long. Not only that, but the hem reached his mid-thigh and it gave the illusion that it was the only thing Angel was wearing. His long hair was pulled back into an adorable ponytail, save for some shorter strands in the front. Aki’s heart skipped a beat and he was sure that all the air left the room for a moment.

It finally registered in Aki’s head that he’d been asked a question and he stiffened then said, “It’s fine… is that my, uh, shirt?”

“Yeah, your hair tie too.” Angel tucked the strands of hair that were just a tad too short to reach the low ponytail behind his ear. The action caused the hem of the hoodie to rise up just enough to show the bottom of the shorts he wore. He tilted his head and asked, “Is this ok?”

Ok? It was beyond ok. It was incredible. Amazing. Probably the cutest thing Aki had ever seen in his life, or ever would see. He couldn’t complain about it since the shirt looked way more appealing on Angel anyway. He should just let the guy have it. He gulped then nodded. “Sure.”

Angel smiled then sat down next to him. This time there was no space between them and he leaned his head against Aki’s shoulder. The movie continued to play but neither of them watched it. The air around them was so thick it could probably be cut with a knife.

“Sorry about that earlier…” Aki mumbled.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” Angel replied softly. Another few silent moments passed without either of them moving a muscle. It was Angel that finally broke the silence when he hummed, “Can I ask you something, Aki?”

“Of course you can,” Aki immediately replied.

“Is this a date?”

Aki stiffened and bit back the surprised noise that tried to escape him. He had to think of something to say. Anything. He couldn’t just sit there in silence. He scratched his left cheek and muttered, “Uhh, no? Actually, I don’t really know. I mean, it could be if you wanted it to… but it also doesn’t have to be if you don’t…”

That was smooth. Aki held his breath as he waited for a response. He had no idea how he was supposed to explain that his world was flooded with colors he couldn’t even begin to describe ever since they met. Meeting Angel had unlocked the creative spark within him and it was glowing brighter than ever.

Aki inhaled sharply when he felt a soft kiss pressed to his right cheek. He turned to look at Angel to find him still facing him. Now they were nose to nose and Aki’s pulse raced shamelessly in his chest. They stared into each other’s eyes in silence for longer than he could count. When Angel’s eyes finally fell shut and he lifted his chin ever so slightly, Aki had no choice but to oblige. His body moved on its own as he cupped Angel’s cheek then pressed their lips together.

Of course Angel was every bit as soft as he looked, from his flawless skin to his sensuous lips, everything about him was perfect. Aki’s entire body felt like it was aflame. He tilted his head just slightly to get a better angle and was met with a soft hum of approval. The sound sent a shiver down Aki’s spine. He could hardly believe this moment was real. His fingers itched with that familiar urge again.

Aki broke the kiss and kept his eyes shut as he whispered, “I want… to draw.”

“That’s a first,” Angel replied just as softly.

“No, what I mean by that is,” Aki paused to kiss his forehead. He looked Angel in the eyes and said, “You, my beautiful muse, constantly inspire me to create new art.”

A soft smile spread across Angel’s face and the faintest blush darkened his cheeks. His gaze fell to Aki’s lips then he asked, “Can you create new art after you kiss me breathless?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can handle that,” Aki hummed as his eyes fell shut and he leaned in to continue where they’d left off. He paused right before their lips touched and muttered, “But I’m absolutely going to draw you in that outfit before you leave.”

“Aki…”

Aki chuckled then finally pressed their lips together again. This time they wrapped their arms around each other as they melted into it. He, for one, absolutely couldn’t wait to see what drawing this moment inspired.