Shouji knows he's not the brightest light bulb in the box. And he's okay with it – he's not that stupid that he doesn't even know that. He knows he probably would've gotten kicked out of school already if it weren't for his family's connections. His parents are a bit disappointed in him, they always are, but they've mostly given up on him already and moved their expectations on to his older sister and younger brother. (Being the middle child is hard, okay?)
But even he's not so stupid as to not realize when someone is totally awesome, like Takaba-san, who was the chaperone on their school trip this year.
Man, that trip was so awesome! He thought it was going to be lame going around looking at old buildings and stuff, but boy, was he wrong. He even managed to get in a fight or two, and Takaba-san didn't chastise him for the last one! He has a feeling that it would've been totally lame like he thought it would be if Takaba-san weren't there, which just proves how totally awesome Takaba-san is.
In fact, Takaba-san is probably the most awesome person Shouji's ever met which means quite a lot in his opinion, because Shouji's met some pretty amazing people before. Shouji totally wants Takaba-san to be his senpai, so he plans on tracking him and asking.
Except it turns out that finding Takaba-san is harder than he thought it would be. Mizuno and Hiyama don't know anything (Shouji is shocked and offended on Takaba-san's behalf! You'd think with all the trouble Takaba-san went through to get them into that inn they wanted to visit so badly, they'd at least have found out his contact information so they could properly thank him later), and the teacher refuses to tell him anything.
Shouji's not going to give up without a fight though. Shouji might not be good at a lot of things, but fighting is definitely not one of them.
Shouji glances at the address written down on the paper and looks back up at the apartment complex before him, trying to figure out if the two match.
Out of the corner of his eye, he catches sight of a vaguely familiar limo pulling out of the complex's parking lot. Where has he seen that limo before? Shouji has only seen a few in his entire life, but he couldn't be bothered to remember such trivial things. Ah, it probably doesn't matter. Back to the task at hand.
Shouji marches up the three flights of stairs to arrive in front of Takaba-san's door – or what he hopes is Takaba-san's door. He could be in the wrong place or maybe he has the wrong address, but there is no way to find out if he doesn't try. Shouji knocks on the door, loudly, several times.
He hears some crashing coming from behind the door, then silence. Shouji stares at the door, waiting. Then, he raises his hand, ready to knock again.
"What?!" The apartment's owner pulls open the door quickly before his fist and the door could meet again. The wariness in Takaba-san’s brown eyes bleeds into a look of confusion. "S-Shouji-kun, what are you doing here?"
Takaba-san looks slightly disheveled with his untamed hair even more messy than usual, sticking up in every direction, and his tank top and shorts all wrinkled, like they had been pulled on in a hurry. Perhaps Shouji woke him up from sleeping. Takaba-san doesn’t seem to Shouji like the type who would go to bed early – it is only 10 o'clock after all – but then Shouji remembers that Takaba-san is an adult and therefore probably has a job. Ah, in the future, Shouji reminds himself, he will be more considerate and tell Takaba-san that he is coming beforehand.
Shouji opens his mouth and begins to explain.
Eventually, Takaba-san invites Shouji into his apartment because he doesn't want to disturb his neighbors. Shouji has always been told that being a loudmouth would get him nowhere, but now he definitely had something to prove them all wrong. It gets him into Takaba-san's apartment after all.
Takaba-san's apartment smells of a weird mash-up of chemicals, not too pungent but not something Shouji's ever smelled before either, and vaguely, of cigarette smoke. Takaba-san makes him tea (Shouji doesn't like tea) and hands him a box of Pocky sticks (Shouji does like Pocky though) and tries to explain to Shouji that he doesn't think he has any advice to offer him.
Of course Shouji knows that Takaba-san is being modest because he is totally cool (again proved by the fact that Takaba-san has fed him Pocky) and totally would be an awesome senpai to Shouji.
In the end, he somehow gets Takaba-san to hesitantly agree, but only because it's getting late and Takaba-san thinks he should go home.
He wheedles a promise out of Takaba-san to call him so they can eventually meet and then Takaba-san can give him all his sagely advice. Shouji is especially keen to learn how Takaba-san managed to take down that one bully back in Kyoto so effortlessly without causing a scene.
Except three days go by without a single call from Takaba-san, and Shouji knows this because he's been zealously checking his phone. Patience is definitely not one of Shouji's strong points, but he remembers that Takaba-san is an adult, and is probably very busy.
Then Shouji realizes that maybe he should just follow Takaba-san around – it might even be better than taking advice from Takaba-san – because what better way to learn to be cool like Takaba-san than to be Takaba-san for a day. Or two. Or, you know.
So Shouji goes about following Takaba-san for a few days and sees that Takaba-san is indeed a busy adult! He tries to his best to quiet and unobtrusive as possible because he does not want to get in Takaba-san's way, but being quiet is not one of Shouji's strong points either. Still, he must be doing a good job since Takaba-san has not noticed him yet, even if the people on the street are staring at him oddly for hiding behind a mailbox like he's a stalker or something.
Shouji has found that Takaba-san goes to Club Sion very frequently and realizes that Takaba-san must be a person of great importance and high status! After all, the club is super, super exclusive, even more exclusive than that inn Takaba-san managed to get them into in Kyoto since Club Sion is members-only, and one must be a person of importance to obtain a membership card. Or be a waiter in the place, but Takaba-san is so not a waiter and waiters don't usually walk in through the front door anyway.
Even more than that, Takaba-san walks in everyday in his normal clothes while all those old geezers and ladies have to dress up in ridiculous outfits. And the bouncers at the entrance don't even bat and eyelash when he saunters in while they check everyone else's membership cards because it's like Takaba-san is just so cool that he totally belongs there.
Still, Shouji is very irritated that the bouncer won't let him in as well. He's Takaba-san's kouhai after all! And how can he learn to be awesome like Takaba-san if he doesn't get to see what Takaba-san does in this totally cool place?
"Takaba," Asami growled, possessively wrapping his arm around the younger man's waist as Takaba sat on his desk. "Who is that brat that's been following you recently?"
Takaba chuckled nervously. "He was one of the kids I was looking after in Kyoto. He wants me to be his senpai or something."
"Is he a nuisance? Shall I get rid of him for you?"
"Ah, it's alright. I'll deal with him myself. He's a bit of a delinquent, but he's a good kid at heart. He saved me from Hiyama Norio. Remember him?"
How could Asami forget. Asami had made sure that the old man was appropriately threatened and punished for his misdeed, but that was hardly enough. He instinctively tightened his grasp around Takaba's wrist.
"Ow, that hurts! Let go, you jerk." Asami loosened his grip slightly. "Anyway, he wants me to give him advice... I don't know what I can tell him. But, hm, I used to be a troublemaker as well. Maybe I do have a few things to say."
"I know you were," Asami purred. "I read through your police file. Actually, I'd still say you are a troublemaker now, causing me problems all the time."
"You read through my police file?! Hey, what makes you think you have the right to dig through my privacy like that, you asshole? Who do you think you are—"
Whatever other protests Takaba had were soundly silenced by a kiss.
Takaba-san calls him the next day and tells Shouji he wants to meet. Finally! Takaba-san has advice for him.
They meet in a coffeehouse (Shouji doesn't like coffee either, but Takaba-san buys him a delicious pastry), and as he's almost finished, Takaba-san says to him, "Shouji, stop following me." Takaba-san's voice isn't angry, but he doesn't sound happy either.
Shouji's heart sinks. So he was noticed. And apparently bothersome to Takaba-san. But he thought Takaba-san would have real advice for him! "But how can I learn to be cool like you if I don't see what you're doing?" he complains.
Takaba-san's lips twitch slightly. "Shouji-kun, you should be going to school every day, not following me around." Shouji sputters. "You can't be a better man if you don't get a good education," Takaba-san explains. "Even I had to go college first. Things will only get better from there."
Shouji whines indignantly. He doesn't want to go to school! School is boring!
Takaba-san ignores his whining. "And stop picking fights. It makes you look like a delinquent and will only hold you back." But Shouji likes fighting! (And doesn't mind being a delinquent, really.) Takaba-san takes a look at Shouji's face, and explains, "I'm not saying you shouldn't fight at all, Shouji-kun. Sometimes you need to. You just have to pick the ones that are worth it."
Shouji thinks Takaba-san's advice is kind of weird, but maybe he has a point. After all, there is a reason he is saying these things to Shouji – so he can learn to be as cool and adult-like as Takaba-san.
And if Takaba-san says it, then it must be true.
To the surprise of his teachers, classmates, and parents, Shouji starts going to school again. He has no clue what his teachers are talking about half the time, and he can barely meet the attendance requirement for graduation. Still, he manages to pass most of his tests now and doesn't get in as many fights as before.
Shouji feels better about himself in a way he's never felt before. His parents seem less disappointed, his classmates actually like him, and girls talk to him now!
He goes over to Takaba-san's place a few times a week to tell his senpai about how awesome he is doing so that Takaba-san can be proud of him too.
Takaba-san always feeds him Pocky and nervously glances at the clock as Shouji chats away, before eventually pushing him out the door. Shouji manages not to be hurt by this gesture. After all, Takaba-san is a busy man.
"I thought you said you would get rid of him."
"About that... nevermind, Asami. He's not a bother. He's just a kid who doesn't know what he got himself into. Leave him alone." Takaba sounded rather brave for someone trapped between Asami and a wall.
"Why should I, Takaba?" Asami said dangerously and pinned Takaba's arms over his head. "Even children know about possession and ownership. That's why they don't like sharing. You are mine." Asami kissed him deeply. "And if he's trying to take you from me, then he deserves to deal with the consequences, child or not."
"Geez, Asami, not everyone is like that! Give him a break; he's probably too dense to realize who you are."
There was a pause. "Alright, I'll do as you say," Asami finally replied, and let go of Takaba's arms. "But you owe me, Akihito. What are you going to give me?"
Takaba shivered. Asami had backed up slightly so that he was not completely trapped against the wall, and Takaba hovered in between the two, not quite leaning against either.
Takaba considered what he was willing to do. "A lap dance?" he suggested.
Asami stared at him.
"Um," he guessed, "a blowjob?"
Asami raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, hell no, you bastard. I am not dressing up as a nurse again."
When Takaba-san told him to pick his fights, Shouji never realized then that that means he has to think about which fights to pick. How is he supposed to choose when they all make him equally mad?
Shouji is staring at the big blond dude standing in front of the door to Takaba-san's apartment right now, not letting him enter. Shouji is pissed off. How dare he not let Shouji see Takaba-san?!
But was it worth it to fight with him about it? After all, Takaba-san told him to stop picking fights, and here he is, standing right in front of Takaba-san's door.
"Move," he yells angrily.
The blond guy glares at him.
He's probably keeping Takaba-san trapped inside his apartment! That must be it! Shouji realizes that it is his duty to save Takaba-san, just like that time in Kyoto!
He punches the blond guy in the face.
The blond guy maybe moves a bit, but doesn't stop blocking the door. He seems caught off guard for a moment then looks darkly at Shouji, unimpressed.
"If you know what's for good for your health, then you'll leave now, brat."
Shouji tries to throw another punch, but the man grabs his fist, then the other, and tosses him to the ground. Shouji gets up quickly. He's lost his fair share of fights, and he knows this will be a hard one, but he ain't givin' up, especially since Takaba-san's life is on the line!
He charges at the other man with his head, and manages to make the guy stumble enough so he's not in front of the door anymore.
Success! Now he can save—
The door opens. "What are you doing, Shouji-kun?"
"Um, ahaha." Shouji rubs the back of his head, embarrassed. "I thought you were being held hostage." Takaba-san looks at him skeptically.
Another man pushes past Takaba-san and coldly appraises the scene.
"Asami-sama." The blond guy bowed. Oh, it was Takaba-san's boss.
"What's going on here, Suoh?"
Suoh shifts almost nervously. "He wanted to visit Takaba-san. I was trying to stop him. So you two wouldn't be interrupted. He was... convincing."
Shouji waves at him cheerfully, wanting to make a good impression with Takaba-san's boss. Asami stares at Shouji critically, a look that suddenly turns amused and almost pleased.
"I see," he says and walks down the hall, blond guy trailing behind, without so much as a goodbye to Takaba-san. What a rude man! Shouji almost wants to yell at him, but then he remembers this is Takaba-san's boss, and it would not do any good to get Takaba-san in trouble.
He turns to look at Takaba-san, who is walking kind of oddly back into his apartment.
"Go home, Shouji. I'm tired."
Ah, that makes sense. He’s just had a meeting with his boss after all.
"Why are you limping, Takaba-san?"
Takaba-san slams the door in his face.
The next day, after school, he gets a call from some guy named Kirishima.
"Asami-sama was very impressed with your... display of courage and strength yesterday. He would like to extend the invitation for you to work for Sion Group as a bodyguard once you graduate," Kirishima explains to him.
Like he would pass up that up! Working for this Asami person would mean he would get to be Takaba-san's co-worker, which would make him, like, Takaba-san's equal. Except not really since Takaba-san would still be his senpai, but it means that Shouji is now one step closer to being as cool as Takaba-san is.
Even Shouji's parents seem impressed that he's got an invitation to work for Sion Group and his parents usually have sticks up their asses, but it means that even his parents would have to admit that Takaba-san is a person of great merit to have gotten a job with Asami first, because it if weren't for him, Shouji wouldn't have gotten this job either!
Shouji is so glad he listened to Takaba-san's advice because, since he picked his fight carefully, it impressed Takaba-san's boss, and now once he graduates school, it's going to be so much better just like Takaba-san said it would be! He should never have doubted Takaba-san. And being a bodyguard means that he still gets to fight, which is just totally perfect for him.
Shouji may not be the brightest light bulb in the box, but he's still bright enough to see when someone is awesome, like Takaba-san is, and how asking Takaba-san to be his senpai is probably the smartest decision Shouji ever made.
Still, there's something he doesn't quite get, he realizes as he waits outside next to the door for Takaba-san to finish talking to his boss. For the third time this week.
And it makes Shouji feel dumb. The thing is, Shouji gets that he doesn't know a lot of things, but he rarely feels dumb, even when he doesn't understand whatever the hell his teachers are babbling about. But he sort of doesn't get this. He feels like there's just something he's missing that that irritates him.
So, he asks.
"Takaba-san, what is your boss doing, going to your apartment so late every night?"