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Fujiki Naohito

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When Aki comes back from America, she doesn't exactly expect fanfare or anything. Just maybe a comforting hug, a welcome back, or even a handshake if nobody was comfortable enough.

She gets none of the above. Instead, she's standing in the bus depot surrounded by families and friends reuniting after what was probably a long trip--or she assumes anyway. The wind chills her as she walks towards the nearest train station; the wheels of her suitcase rolling on the rough ground echo behind her.

--

The familiar restaurant looks suddenly daunting as Aki stands in front of it. She inhales, thinking that this is a bad idea. She should just go straight home and forget about stupid boys, and that one especially stupid boy who she had lost contact with a week into her leaving. Well, actually, he stopped emailing back a day into; her last message was a week later.

Still, she grits her teeth and steps in. As soon as she walks in, her suitcase makes a noise thump at the entrance. Aki freezes as a table of four familiar boys all turn in her direction. They blink, mostly reflecting back confusion in their eyes before Aki waves awkwardly. "Hi."

"Aki-chan!" Ryosuke chirps, sounding more than a little drunk as he stumbles towards her. "You're late!"

Aki raises an eyebrow. "I didn't know I was expected."

Ryosuke throws an arm around her shoulders, pushing her forward. Her suitcase clatters behind them. Aki's eyes catch Daiki's who looks more pensive than he should when drunk. "Of course you were!" Ryosuke says, gesturing her towards the seat at the head of the table before he falls back into his own chair. "I told the guys that you were coming back today and said, 'Aki's totally going to come here first.' Didn't I?"

Teppei nods enthusiastically. "Yes, yes he did! And look, you're here!"

Aki stares. Her mind flashes to images of the four drunkedly greeting her at the bus depot. Knowing them, there'd be signs and poppers and loud, oh so loud and embarrassing yelling. She shakes her head and assures herself that it was a better idea that they hadn't come pick her up.

"How was America?" Akira asks.

"It was--" Aki starts, unsure of what she wants to say as she takes a seat. "America," she ends up saying. "I don't really know what I could say about it." Out of the corner of her eye, she spots Daiki staring at her before taking a large gulp of beer, finishing off his drink. He wipes off his lips with the back of his hand before slamming the plastic cup onto the table. The four at the table jump a little.

He pointedly stares straight at Aki and she sucks in a breath. "Welcome home," he says.

Aki blinks. "Glad to be home," she says honestly. Her suitcase sits forgotten near the front entrance.

--

Her apartment doesn't feel like home just yet, uncomfortable and strange even though she'd been away for only a few months. Not long enough for it to be weird. When she goes back to the university though, right back to the lab where she'd spent with the idiots (she says the term fondly), it doesn't make her skin crawl with uncomfortably. Instead, she smiles and settles into a seat.

--

Daiki isn't usually around, Aki finds. "Probably off chasing answers," Ryosuke says over his drink.

"So you guys don't usually see him here?" Aki asks, trying not to look too curious.

Akira smirks, like he knows exactly why Aki's asking. She takes a big gulp of her beer. "That guy just comes and goes really. I mean, one morning I came by the restaurant and there he was, just sitting next to the door, conked out with no care in the world."

Teppei cackles--his laughter always sounds more evil the more he drinks. "As though anyone would do anything bad near here when they know you live here!"

Akira practically jumps out of his chair when he leans over to grab Teppei by the collar. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, nothing," Teppei meeps as he shakes his head.

Aki watches, a grin on her lips as Akira sits back down, eyebrows still furrowed.

"Why do you want to know anyway?" Ryosuke suddenly asks, draping an arm over Aki's shoulders. She turns and glares, except she finds that he's closer than she's ever comfortable for him to be. She backs up a little and turns her head back round only to see Akira and Teppei looking at her with amused, smug grins on their faces. Aki's half-tempted to throw the rest of her beer, as little as it is, at both of them.

"No reason," she mutters, staring down at her mug. "Was just curious is all."

"Uh-huh," Ryosuke sing-songs next to her, except he pulls away finally.

She gulps down the rest of her beer.

--

Aki runs into Ryosuke and Daiki just as she's leaving for the day. Ryosuke salutes her with a cheerful smile before entering--likely to flirt with Reiko again as he does pretty much daily. Aki resists from rolling her eyes. Instead she blinks up at Daiki who's staring down at her with the same, stupid pensive look he had the day she'd come back.

"What?" she snaps, looking away abruptly and pretending to fidget with her purse.

"Nothing," he half-laughs. "Are you heading home?"

Aki nods before starting to walk. She can feel Daiki following closely next to her. "How about you? Where are you heading?"

"Wherever I feel like going."

This time, Aki doesn't refrain from rolling her eyes. "And what do you feel right now?"

"I feel like walking you home. Is that a problem?" She freezes in her stops, turning towards him. He's staring down at her curiously and she huffs, feeling her cheeks start to heat.

"No problem at all." She squares her shoulders and starts walking down the path again.

"Ne, did you get the autograph?"

Aki blinks. "What autograph?"

"Denzel Washington!" he says with emphasis. "Don't tell me you didn't get it!"

"Stupid," she snaps. "I told you there was no way I'd meet him."

"Aki-chan," he half-whines. "Why? Why couldn't you get it? Shouldn't it be easy in A-meh-ri-cahhhh?"

Aki snorts. "Then get me an autograph of... Fujiki Naohito. Should be easy, right? He's in Japan."

For a moment, Daiki's quiet and Aki considers this a win for her. Except when he next speaks he says, "Okay. I'll get it."

"Daiki, this is Fujiki Naohito we're talking about here. Big Japanese star? There's no way you'll meet him."

"I'll get it," he repeats, his voice firm.

Aki scoffs and keeps walking. Daiki's silent--a once-in-a-lifetime kind of silence--the whole way through.

--

Daiki disappears for a length of time and the other boys start taking bets. "Really?" Aki says dryly. "This is what you want to do with your time?"

Ryosuke grins. "Aki-chan, we've been rooting for you all this time!"

"So why is one of the bets 'she'll smack him upside the head like the brute she is'? And by the way, when I find out who said that..." she glares at each three in turn. Teppei's the only one who cowers--but that could likely be because he's just the type to cower, even if he's not guilty.

"All in good fun," Akira says, to which Ryosuke holds out his glass towards him and Aki watches as they toasts.

She huffs. "Why do I spend time with you idiots?" she asks before taking a drink.

"Because we're the bestest friends you have!" Ryosuke says.

Aki sighs, only because she knows it to be true. "That's not grammatically correct," she says instead.

Ryosuke laughs from beside her and says, "You're our bestest friend ever too."

--

She falls into a routine at the forensics lab, helping Reiko teach the newest batch of Forensic Science students, as well as taking her own medical classes. Aki tells herself that she's so busy that she doesn't even notice that Daiki's gone for a number of days--weeks--hasn't been a month yet, right? She knows he must go to school because the boys talk about how they randomly see him rushing from one place to the other, barely having enough time to wave.

"He's really serious about this, Aki," Akira says.

"When isn't he serious about something?" Teppei asks, shaking his head. "Daiki's the picture of serious like Hanei's the picture of scary."

Akira hisses next to him, face so close that Aki half-wonders if he's going to give Teppei a kiss on the cheek. "Say that again."

Teppei purses his lips together, eyes in that familiar wide-eyed look. He just shakes his head. "Hmph," Akira says, sitting back.

Ryosuke chuckles, sitting back in his chair. At some point, Akira and Teppei get into an argument about some manga, and Ryosuke nudges his chair closer to hers.

"What is up with you and personal space lately?" Aki asks.

Ryosuke shrugs. "You spend time with Daiki and not get used to people getting right in your face."

"I have had him do that to me."

"Ah," Ryosuke murmurs. "That's very true."

"Anyway," Aki coughs, "What did you want?"

Ryosuke's smile is slow to grow but it's there when he leans over and whispers almost conspiratorially, "Last time I talked to Daiki, he said he was really close."

For some inexplicable reason, Aki swears her heart skips a beat. "Doubtful," she snorts, before drinking some beer. "There's no way Daiki can get that signature." Ryosuke's eyebrows raise a little, which prompts Aki to add, "Besides, this is only important to him because he wants to prove that he can get a signature while I couldn't."

Ryosuke laughs then. "You don't really think that, Aki-chan."

Aki just gulps down the rest of her drink.

--

Daiki is sitting across from the lab's door one day. Aki blinks and inches forward, crouching to see at eye level only to realize that the man is sleeping at the moment. "Baka," she sighs fondly.

The word seems to wake him up as his eyes flutter open. Aki's own eyes go wide in surprise. Before she can think of what she should be doing, Daiki's hand comes out to grip her left arm. "What--" Aki starts before Daiki shakes his head. The words fall from her throat.

"I got it," he says simply.

She gapes, blinking at him. "Why?" she asks. "Why would you go this far? Where did you even go? How did you even manage it?"

"Aki-chan," he laughs, "One question at a time."

Aki frowns. "You don't follow that rule, why should I? Why?"

Daiki smirks. "Because you should."

"No," she says petulantly. "I want to know how this happened. How could you possibly get Fujiki-san's signature? You didn't do anything illegal right? I mean, I know you're determined someti--" Aki is cut off by Daiki suddenly jerking her forward, his lips easily finding hers. Her eyes go wide and she wonders if that strangled noise of surprise actually came from her. Aki thinks in hindsight that maybe trying to be like Daiki was a bad idea, because he gets the same urge to shut people up like they do to him.

When he pulls back, Aki is stunned. Her hand, without her noticing, has slowly traveled towards her lips. In front of her, Daiki stands, brushing off any dust. "Let's go?" he asks then, extending a hand out to her.

Aki stares up, feeling like her eyes will stay wide-eyed forever. "Huh?" she asks.

"Come on," he says, not clarifying, but she takes his hand anyway.

--

When they get to the usual place, Daiki hasn't shown any sign of letting go of Aki's hand. Her face burns a little--a faint pink covers her cheeks--when she catches sight of their friends already at the table. "Ah! Daiki!" Ryosuke says happily, waving them over. "You're finally back."

Teppei catches sight of their hands first. "Oh!" he squeaks, pointing. Akira smacks his hand down.

"Didn't your parents teach you to not point?" he snaps. Teppei looks faintly guilty, Aki notes with amusement as she finally lets go of Daiki's hand, settling into a seat.

"So how'd it go?" Ryosuke asks. Daiki smirks at all of them, before pulling out a napkin from his bag and placing it on the table. Akira whistles, Teppei half-gasps, and Ryosuke whoops.

Aki just leans forward and squints. "Doesn't that just say Fujita?"

Ryosuke seems to blink before he says, "Huh. I think so."

Daiki's proud face quickly falls. "What, no way! It was definitely Fujiki Naohito!"

"I don't know, are you sure you didn't think it was Fujiki and just got someone else to scribble a signature?" Akira asks.

"Hanei would know something about that, wouldn't he?" Teppei laughs. Akira doesn't even have to glare, just flexes one of his arms and Teppei squirms in his chair.

"It's okay," Aki laughs. "You can admit you failed."

Daiki turns his head towards her, eyes narrowed. "Not going to happen because I totally got it! Why would you even say it looks like Fujita when it doesn't?"

She leans forward, grinning. "Why do you think I'd do that?" He huffs then sneaks a quick peck in before pulling back.

"Ah!!" Ryosuke yells, jumping up from his chair and pointing down at them. "When did this happen?"

"Saa," Daiki says, leaning back in his chair. "I wonder." He glances over at Aki, and they both tilt their heads to the side and say in unison, "Ne?"

"You two are sneaky," Akira snorts. "After we were trying to be good friends and everything."

"When was that?" Aki says. "I don't remember that ever happen."

"I thought we were your bestest friends!" Ryosuke says with a pout.

Aki laughs, shaking her head. Maybe, she thinks--but she wasn't about to say that out loud. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches Daiki winking at her and she hides her grin.

"Did you just wink?!" Akira asks fiercely.