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Chapter One

 

Thursday, October 7th

 

(Thurs, 5:27 pm)

I am officially the worst person at being a person to ever live

 

Adachi tapped out the message while struggling out of his suit jacket and kicking off his shoes, surprisingly not making any typos. He flopped back onto his bed and waited for a response, foot kicking against the covers impatiently. It took entirely too long to get the response, long enough he had switched over to some time-wasting game and had to switch tabs when his phone finally dinged.

 

(Thurs, 5:51 pm)

?

 

He pouted. That was hardly a good opening for the Grade A whining he was in the mood to do.

 

(Thurs, 5:53 pm)

I’m serious, I think I’m going to get arrested, just on the grounds of being awful at being a functioning adult

 

(Thurs, 5:54 pm)

That would be impressive

 

He rolled over onto his stomach, hugging a pillow, officially confused. He couldn’t tell if that was sarcasm or just playfulness but either way, it was out of character. Funny, but not what he was expecting.

 

(Thurs, 5:58 pm)

Aren’t you going to ask why I’m going to be locked away for being incompetent?

 

(Thurs, 6:01 pm)

Sure. Why?

 

(Thurs, 6:11 pm)

I was leaving work and that new girl I told you about said something to me in the elevator and I got so flustered trying to answer that I actually dropped my phone and it shattered. Had to go buy a new one, good thing I use the cloud! Still waiting for it all to upload tho

 

Once again there was waaayy too long a pause before he got a text back, too long when he really just needed to vent to his friend about the bad day he had. Adachi didn’t even know why he got so nervous when Fujisaki tried to make small talk with him. Maybe it was because she was cute and nice and everything that said “A girl that guys like Adachi Kiyoshi don’t get to be friends or anything else with”, and maybe that more than breaking his phone was why he was spiraling like crazy into “God I suck in every way” mode.

Eventually he actually got up and changed into pajamas, collecting some leftover takeout and popping it in the microwave. When he heard the ding of his phone over the ding of it finishing heating he scrambled to pick it up, frowning down at the short and far from explanatory answer.

 

(Thurs, 6:24 pm)

Well… That explains some things

 

(Thurs, 6:25 pm)

Explains what? Tsuge you aren’t being very comforting. I’m a walking disaster and you’re supposed to logic at me so I feel better! I swear I might as well just quit my job and go be a turnip farmer. I’m probably going to get fired eventually anyway

 

He typed out the last part feeling a mean twist in his stomach. He wasn’t sure if he really meant it or it was just his darker thoughts getting the best of him. He wasn’t actually doing horribly, his coworkers trusted him (enough to pawn their work off onto him) and his bosses might say he should come out more often on group outings and do more talking during meetings, but it always came off as “I’m giving well-meaning advice to the awkward kid in the sales department” rather than actual chastisement. Still, he didn’t put it past himself to one day make just one big perfect screw up that got him fired on the spot.

He waited for Tsuge’s response, letting his food go cold and chewing on the end of his chopsticks instead, appetite gone and just hoping his insightful friend would have something to say to bring a little glimmer of optimism to his day.

 

(Thurs, 6:30 pm)

I’m sorry. But I’m not sure I can offer much comfort, since I’m not Tsuge

 

The chopstick fell from his mouth. Adachi stared in disbelief, reading the text over and over in hopes it would say something different. It didn’t.

 

(Thurs, 6:32 pm)

Shut up

 

(Thurs, 6:33 pm)

Ok

 

The blase answer didn’t help him calm down, and he spent almost ten minutes groaning into the wood of the table with his hands in his hair before he abruptly popped back up and scrambled to type out a reply.

 

(Thurs, 6:41 pm)

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Are you messing with me right now???

 

This was absolutely nothing like Tsuge, but a man could hope. Could pray he hadn’t just put a bright red cherry of embarrassment on the end of a day that had already put a pretty big dent on his already not shining self-esteem.

 

(Thurs, 6:43 pm)

Unfortunately, no. This isn’t Tsuge.

 

At this Adachi couldn’t resist fully flinging his phone away, thankfully in the direction of his bed, and thankfully his aim wasn’t off so he had to buy two phones in the span of twenty-four hours. He buried his head in his arms, bemoaning the fact he was such an idiot he couldn’t even text his best friend without messing up, even though Tsuge had had the same exact number since college.

He worked himself up into a good fit, halfway wondering if he might just need to have a nice cry to relieve the stress and frustration he was feeling. He might have, if his damn phone vibrating on his bed didn’t keep pulling him from his own head. Eventually, he got up with an aggravated huff and stalked over to pick it up and read the messages.

 

(Thurs, 6:45 pm)

Are you alright?

 

(Thurs, 7:02 pm)

Hello?

 

(Thurs, 7:15 pm)

... You didn’t get arrested after all, did you?

 

He laughed despite himself. Of course the stranger whose DM’s he had intruded on had to be kind of funny and charming.

 

(Thurs, 7:20 pm)

Not arrested, just dying of embarrassment. I’m so sorry for bothering you. Please just forget this ever happened

 

(Thurs, 7:22 pm)

Not likely, this was too interesting, sorry :) There’s no reason to be embarrassed, everyone texts wrong numbers every once in a while.

 

He scoffed, caught between feeling actually a little better and sure the stranger was just being polite.

 

(Thurs, 7:23 pm)

I rambled at you like an idiot. You telling me you aren’t thinking about how stupid this person texting you must be?

 

(Thurs, 7:25 pm)

Actually you sound like a clever and interesting person

 

Adachi flushed, far too affected by a mild compliment by a faceless someone who he didn’t even know if they were a man or a woman, how old they were, anything.

 

(Thurs, 7:29 pm)

Oh 

 

(Thurs, 7:31 pm)

Sorry, was that weird?

 

(Thurs, 7:32 pm)

No. Just… nice. Which I guess is weird but good.

 

(Thurs, 7:33 pm)

Someone being nice to you is weird?

 

Well, yes. But he couldn’t agree without sounding even more pathetic than he already had.

 

(Thurs, 7:35 pm)

Well I didn’t mean it like that, I just… Clever or interesting aren’t really words people use to describe me

 

Still kind of pathetic, but it was the best he could do.

 

(Thurs, 7:40 pm)

That doesn’t mean you aren’t. The way someone is seen is rarely who they actually are

 

Well. That was… strangely insightful. And touching. Why was this maybe the best conversation he had had with anyone in ages, and he had no idea who he was even talking to?

 

(Thurs, 7:45 pm)

You’re very nice to strange people you know nothing about who send you TMI texts

 

(Thurs, 7:46 pm)

No, just you

 

Adachi’s flush somehow deepened. Okay, he wasn’t crazy, that was flirting, wasn’t it? Why was he being flirted with? He could be a bald sixty year old as far as this person knew. Not sure if the warm squirmy feeling in his stomach was better or worse than how he was feeling before, he did the one thing he always knew how to do well, which was bail out of a social situation.

 

(Thurs, 8:07 pm)

I think I should probably still leave you alone, sorry again for bothering you. Have a good night

 

He flung his new phone onto his bedside and turned it to silent, determined to go to sleep early and put the train-wreck of a day behind him. He didn’t manage to sleep for over an hour, but when he finally did, it was unsettled sleep filled with dreams of a phantom smile and the buzz of a text message.

And since he turned his phone to silent, he didn’t see the message that popped up on his phone almost immediately after he sent his last one until the next morning, half-asleep and brushing his teeth, barely even remembering the odd conversation the night before, until it smacked him right in the face.

 

(Thurs, 8:09 pm)

You aren’t bothering me



Chapter Text

Chapter Two

 

Friday, October 8th

 

(Fri, 5:03 pm)

Soo… You didn’t actually quit your job, did you?

 

The text came in when Adachi would usually be packing up his stuff to leave the office. He wasn’t, because predictably Urabe had hoisted a bunch of work onto him right before quitting time so he wouldn’t be late for date night with his wife. He really was lucky Adachi was so very single and had no social life, and was spineless to boot, or he wouldn’t get away with pulling this shit so often.

He spent a moment in surprised bemusement, rereading the text. He didn’t get why the stranger was texting him again, let alone why they actually paid attention to his nonsense the day before enough to ask if he was serious. After some thought he decided he didn’t mind a little distraction. It wasn’t like he was getting out anytime soon anyway.

 

(Fri, 5:09 pm)

Umm no. I guess I was being a little dramatic yesterday. sorry

 

(Fri, 5:12 pm)

No worries! Sorry if it’s weird I’m texting you again, just… You seemed upset so I thought maybe I should check on you :)

 

It shouldn’t have made him feel all warm and squirmy, that someone whose name he didn’t even know wanted to “check on him”, yet here he was, swivelling from side to side in his office chair and trying to not smile at his phone.

 

(Fri, 5:14 pm)

You didn’t have to do that, you don’t even know me

 

(Fri, 5:15 pm)

I know you enough to be worried, and to want to ask if you’re having a better day today?

 

He lost his battle to not grinning down at his phone like a dork. Whoever the stranger was, they were so sweet, he barely believed it.

 

(Fri, 5:17 pm)

I mean… a little bit. No embarrassment-fueled property damage at least. I am stuck at work though

 

(Fri, 5:18 pm)

I’m sorry things aren’t too much better. Is it normal for you to be there late on fridays?

 

Adachi hesitated a moment before deciding to answer. After all, what could someone want with information like if a random office drone had a lot of late nights? It wasn’t really the kind of fact you could do anything malicious with.

 

(Fri, 5:19 pm)

It’s not abnormal, I get a lot of the extra work hoisted on me from my superiors, mostly because I have nothing to go home to

 

Adachi only realised after he sent the text exactly how pathetic that sounded, both that he let his coworkers pawn work onto him, and that he was such a sad sack not only did he have no reason to even leave the office at a decent time, but everyone knew it.

 

(Fri, 5:24 pm)

Oh. That’s sad to hear, but I can relate. I often end up working late too, just because I know my coworkers have family and spouses to go home to. But usually I’m at least volunteering to spend the extra time at the office

 

Adachi relaxed reading the response, thinking it was a funny coincidence they both apparently worked in offices, though it wasn’t like the city wasn’t full of salarymen.

 

(Fri, 5:27 pm)

That sounds really nice of you. I wish I could do that, just take on other people’s responsibilities without feeling bitter about it. Especially since it’s not like they are wrong, there’s no one to care if I’m home late

 

There wasn’t a quick response this time, and he uncomfortably shifted back to his work, hoping he hadn’t been too honest this time. It was so easy to say what he was really thinking, when he didn’t know the face on the other side of the phone, when all he had to picture was kind words.

 

(Fri, 5:49 pm)

It’s… really not. If I’m being honest, everyone assumes that, that I’m nice and selfless. But I’m not sure if I really am, or I’m just more afraid of what people might say if I stopped acting that way. I may be acting nice but it’s only because I want people to see me as that kind of person, I’m afraid what they would do if I showed I was actually sick of helping everyone. Being honest about how you feel is a lot more admirable in my opinion

 

Adachi read the message eagerly as soon as it came in, feeling somewhat in awe that anyone would talk to him like that, lay themselves out and say what most people wouldn’t be brave enough to. He spent so much time worried about what others thought, and here was this stranger, saying outright that they had the same worries. Saying they had the same fears Adachi did.

He was so caught up in how it made him feel that he didn’t respond, not until his phone chimed with another message. 

 

(Fri, 5:57 pm)

I’m sorry, that was far too much, wasn’t it? Forget I said anything. But… I will say it’s a shame someone like you doesn’t have anyone who appreciates you enough to miss your company.

 

Adachi scrambled to text a response, face flaring at the compliment, wondering what he would have to do to get the balls to flirt like that.

 

(Fri, 5:58 pm)

Forget me, how is someone like you single? 

 

(Fri, 6:01 pm)

Someone like me?

 

Adachi hesitated, taking a deep breath before typing his answer, knowing he was only being this brave because the anonymity.

 

(Fri, 6:03 pm)

I mean… you’re kind of amazing

 

(Fri, 6:07 pm)

Amazing? What I just said was very shallow and selfish

 

Adachi shook his head even though the stranger couldn’t see him, frowning as he typed.

 

(Fri, 6:08 pm)

It wasn’t. It was just.. Real. I’ve never even met you but you still seem like such a genuine person. 

 

There was another pause, and Adachi turned back to his work with a pout. The next text didn’t come in until he had finally finished and had packed up his bag, on his way to the elevator and a late train home.

 

(Fri, 6:42 pm)

Genuine?

 

He thought for a few seconds before answering, blush coming back with a vengeance at his own daring.

 

(Fri, 6:44 pm)

Yes. And… if me being honest is admirable, then you are too.

 

(Fri, 6:51 pm)

Thank you. I think that’s the first compliment I’ve been given in a long time that didn’t make me feel bad

 

A little bloom of pride grew in his chest. Adachi’s day had felt pretty boring and dull, banging his head against the same wall as he did every other day. But at least he had this one nice moment, when someone had been kind to him for no discernable reason other than to be kind, and he had managed to make them feel good in return.

 

(Fri, 6:53 pm)

Oh. Well… You’re welcome.

 

(Fri, 6:55 pm)

You’re pretty amazing yourself, you know that?

 

Adachi actually tripped when he read that, and had to stop walking. He covered his red face with his hands and groaned into them. This person really was too much!  

 

(Fri, 6:59 pm)

Only someone who has never actually met me would say that

 

He managed to reply once he regained his composure. The response didn’t come until he had reached home and was shrugging off his coat.

 

(Fri, 7:23 pm)

We’ll have to meet one day, so you can’t say that anymore

 

Adachi almost dropped his phone, a surge of fear going through him, even as he warmed at the thought this person thought he was worth meeting. Thing was, he was sure if they did meet, their opinion would change.

 

(Fri, 7:27 pm)

You… want to meet? 

 

(Fri, 7:28 pm)

Maybe. At some point. I definitely would like to keep talking to you. Would that be alright, if we kept texting?

 

Adachi frowned, flopping down onto his bed, running a confused hand through his hair, trying to ignore the hope growing inside him. He wasn’t exactly lonely, but he had felt something talking to this person he hadn’t felt before when talking to Tsuge or anyone at work. They made him feel seen, ironically since they hadn’t seen each other let alone heard each other’s voices. He felt understood.

 

(Fri, 7:30 pm)

Why? I really am just some boring guy. You didn’t even know I was a guy, we don’t know anything about each other.

 

(Fri, 7:33 pm)

I sort of figured you were a man. I am too. And I don’t think we need to know anything about each other. I know you’re interesting, and smart.  Isn’t this kind of nice, talking to someone who has no expectations of you, no preconceived notions?

 

Adachi squirmed on the bed, biting his lip. Why did this suddenly feel extremely intimate, like by talking to someone they didn’t know, they were able to show sides of themselves they couldn’t otherwise?

 

(Fri, 7:35 pm)

It is. It’s really nice. 

 

(Fri, 7:36 pm)

Do you speak this freely to anyone else?

 

(Fri, 7:36 pm)

No. 

 

(Fri, 7:37 pm)

Neither do I. I’d really like to keep talking to you. Can I? Please?

 

Adachi’s eyes traced over the question, over and over, knowing what he wanted to say, but having a feeling he was about to fall down a rabbit hole, and he had no idea what he would find at the bottom. Still, it was impossible to resist.

 

(Fri, 7:39 pm)

Yes. I would really like to keep talking to you.

 

(Fri, 7:40 pm)

☀️



Chapter Text

Chapter Three

 

Tuesday, October 12th

 

(Tues, 2:13 pm)

I’m serious

 

(Tues, 2:17 pm)

You have to be exaggerating

 

(Tues, 2:21 pm)

I swear I’m not

 

(Tues, 2:30 pm)

If he’s actually that annoying then how has no one murdered him yet? At least thrown a stapler or something

 

Adachi grinned down at his phone, hiding a few giggles behind his hand. He usually wouldn’t text while at the office, but when there wasn’t anything pressing at hand, the stranger and he had gotten into the habit of having small side conversations between work, and more and more often little facts about their lives slipped in. 



(Tues, 2:37 pm)

He’s impossible to dislike, like a baby animal. A puppy or a fawn. He just bounces around with this stupid grin cheering everyone on. I’ve never seen someone get that excited over spreadsheets

 

He peeked over his cubicle to where he could even now hear Rokkaku’s energizer-bunny hyper voice by his own desk, chattering away about whatever project he had been put on that day. He had to admit it was a little nice, how positive the younger man was, how he managed to be so invested in their work. Adachi didn’t mind his job but he wasn’t exactly passionate about sales data.

 

(Tues, 2:41 pm)

You know, you say he’s annoying. But it sounds like you’re fond of him

 

Adachi frowned. For some reason something about the message didn’t ring right to him.

 

(Tues, 2:44 pm)

I mean, I don’t hate him?

 

The response was fairly quick since he knew the stranger was working too.

 

(Tues, 2:45 pm)

You called him a puppy. You think he’s cute

 

His frown deepened. That sounded… almost accusatory. 

 

(Tues, 2:49 pm)

Why do I have a feeling you’re implying something there

 

(Tues, 2:55 pm)

Like what? Just pointing out what you said

 

Adachi stubbornly didn’t let it go, not believing the innocent act even a little. He was learning his stranger could be quite cheeky when he wanted, he could tease or bicker, be more than just sweet words and platitudes. Adachi had a feeling sometimes he was enjoying their conversations because he didn’t have to always be a gentleman, didn’t have to be perfectly polite. Adachi certainly wasn’t always polite.

 

(Tues, 2:56 pm)

I was complaining.

 

(Tues, 2:57 pm)

Uh huh. Sure

 

Adachi chuckled quietly at the sarcasm, though he still didn’t really get what the stranger was hinting at. He had just been doing some good-natured whining about a co-worker.

 

(Tues, 3:06 pm)

It’s not like I’m even friends with him.

 

There was a lag in response and Adachi turned back to his work, ignoring the speculating gleam in Urabe’s eyes as the other man glanced over at him for the umpteenth time in an hour. He was going to need to be careful exactly how often he got caught on his phone, not because he thought Urabe would scold him, he knew Adachi always got his work done promptly. No, he just didn’t want to deal with the teasing if Urabe decided he was interested in exactly who Adachi suddenly wanted to talk to all day long, even at the office.

 

(Tues, 3:23 pm)

I bet he would be sad to hear you say that

 

He raised an eyebrow at the next text. He didn’t think so. He doubted anyone he worked with thought about him in a social context enough to have much of an opinion at all, let alone enough to be upset they weren’t friends. He got invited out to office functions, but it was in the way the unpopular kid in class was invited to a birthday party, just because everyone got an invite.

 

(Tues, 3:34 pm)

I doubt it, no one in the office really tries to be friends with me

 

He fidgeted in his seat, flipping his phone upside down so he wouldn’t see the response when it came in. The stranger knew he didn’t have many friends, knew he was generally alone. Still, he felt some shame being so honest about how lacking parts of his life were. The more Adachi talked to the stranger, the more he cared about his opinion of him. Which was probably why he couldn’t resist checking his phone when it beeped for more than a few minutes.

 

(Tues, 3:50 pm)

Do you have a girlfriend?

 

His jaw dropped as he read the message, not expecting that was where this conversation was going even a little. He ducked his head down, hoping no one else in the office noticed his obvious reaction, would see the blush painted across his face and wonder what the hell he was doing on his phone.

 

(Tues, 3:55 pm)

What?! No! Why?

 

(Tues, 3:56 pm)

...

 

(Tues, 3:57 pm)

What about a boyfriend?

 

Adachi fumbled his phone, scrambling after it as it fell down by the wheels of his office chair, way too flustered by four little words. Sure, he was pretty sure the stranger was flirting with him sometimes. But… he wasn’t flirting, right? He was probably just asking because… well Adachi didn’t know. They didn’t ask a lot of questions, so it seemed weird he was asking for this.

Thankfully he hadn’t cracked his phone dropping it. Not thankfully, he really didn’t know what to say, when he didn’t understand why the stranger cared. Eventually, he decided to err on the side all their conversations seemed to end up on, which was honesty.

 

(Tues, 4:08 pm)

No. There’s no one.

 

(Tues, 4:09 pm)

Alright

 

That wasn’t exactly a satisfying response. And it definitely didn’t tell him if the stranger got what he wanted from the line of questioning. Frustration gave him the courage to ask his own question.

 

(Tues, 4:15 pm)

What about you?

 

His knee bounced as he waited for a response, eyes on his phone and not even pretending to look at his computer until the screen lit up again.

 

(Tues, 4:21 pm)

I’m single

 

He grinned, and then immediately stopped grinning once he realised that was what he was doing. He had no reason to be pleased the stranger wasn’t dating anyone, no reason at all. Just like the stranger had no reason to really care Adachi was single, and that was probably why he had barely responded when Adachi said he was. They may talk every day, all the time. They might be getting closer it seemed with every message. But the stranger was still just that, a stranger. Which meant that the warm feeling in his stomach and the unmistakable satisfaction Adachi felt knowing his new acquaintance was single was officially a problem.

 

(Tues, 4:23 pm)

Well. Aright then.

 

(Tues, 4:30 pm)

☀️

 

His grin returned with a vengeance. Yes. This was a problem. And there was someone he always went to, when he had problems. Seemed he needed to make some plans for dinner.

 

(Tues, 4:33 pm)

Dork

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

 

“So… to sum it up. You broke your phone and misremembered my number, texting a “stranger” by accident instead. And in the week since you have formed a bond with an anonymous man you know almost nothing about, and you are now concerned about exactly what kind of relationship you might want with him if you continue to get closer. Is that correct?”

Tsuge finished the statement with a long, drawn-out sip of his beer.

Adachi fidgeted with his own beer, avoiding eye contact. “Yes. That’s about it.”

“I see.” Tsuge said, leaning forward with a concerned expression. “Is your job really that stressful? If you were feeling this lonely you should have told me.”

“Hey! Rude!” Adachi complained, sitting back and taking a gulp of his drink. “I’m not lonely.”

“You must be, to be allowing yourself to be catfished while fully aware that’s what is happening.” Tsuge said dryly. “You should stop talking to him before you get in too deeply. And don’t give him your credit card information.”

“I’m not stupid.”’ Adachi muttered, gut clenching at the idea of cutting off contact with the stranger.

Was it really catfishing? Catfishing was lying about your identity. The stranger hadn’t told him enough information to really be lying, had he? He was a he, he worked at an office, and he was single. What was the point of lying about any of that? The stranger had the same area code as him, and in the city single salary men were a dime a dozen, it made more sense to trust him than it didn’t.

“I know that.” Tsuge asserted. “Look, if you’re worried about where this might go, then the best option really might just be to not let it go anywhere. Get a cat if you need company that badly.”

“That doesn’t seem like it would be fair to him. Just because it’s not a normal friendship, and really he has more reason to suspect me.”

“Alright, fine. But I’m not sure what advice I can give you otherwise.” Tsuge said with a sigh.

“You’re a writer.” Adachi said, carefully not saying a romance writer, since that was more than a little too telling if he thought that applied. “You get people, relationships, better than I do.”

“Right…” Tsuge said, looking uncomfortable all of a sudden. “How about this then, if you want to keep talking to him, the best way to go about it might just be to talk to him with no expectations. Don’t make assumptions, don’t try and question his motives. Assume he is doing the same, and don’t rely on any perceived subtext. If your… friendship seems to work because you are honest and open, then stay with that.”

Adachi contemplated the advice for a few minutes, giving Tsuge space to finish his food and think over whether what he just said was complete bullshit or if he was really onto something. It wasn’t like he ever did online dating or anything that would give him a history that lent to knowing what Adachi’s best course of action would be.

“How is Udon?” Adachi eventually asked, deciding to leave the subject be for the rest of the night. He really didn’t see his friend enough, since they were both such homebodies.

“Want to see?” Tsuge immediately responded, brandishing his phone and pulling up the copious amount of photos he took of his pet.

Adachi grinned, thinking how cute Tsuge was for a grown man when it came to gushing about his cat. He was normally so reserved, taking care of Udon had really brought something softer out in him.

“I ordered her some new things, dishes with her name on them, some new toys. Going from living outside to a small apartment, it’s important she still gets exercise.” Tsuge said with an air of seriousness.

“Tiger mom.” Adachi teased.

They had a few more drinks, catching up on anything they had been up to since they last met, talking about what progress Tsuge had made on his latest novel. After that they parted ways, and Tsuge headed home, thinking how he needed to keep a closer eye on his friend for a while, make sure he didn’t end up in over his head. For someone who didn’t think he was particularly capable, Adachi wasn’t good at asking for help when he needed it. Even him asking for advice that night was out of character.

When Tsuge got to his apartment he was pleasantly surprised to see a neat pile of packages on his stoop and a “Sorry we missed you!” note taped to his door. Well, somewhat pleasantly. He was glad what he ordered made it so soon but… less glad he missed the actual delivery. He always used the same courier service, he liked that they usually made any deliveries he specifically scheduled. And since he had a fairly even schedule, he had somehow stumbled into a little routine that if he planned on actually admitting to, would also mean admitting his advice to Adachi had been more than a little ironic.

Weekdays between noon and four, if he scheduled a delivery there was a fair chance he would usually get the same delivery boy, and he had been sternly telling himself for weeks this was not by design. Of course, that didn’t change the reality which was that he had for some reason started to fixate on his occasional glancing interactions with the cute blond-haired youth who dropped off most of his packages.

He sighed at the missed opportunity, unlocking his door and making sure Udon didn’t slip out as he carried out the deliveries inside. He carefully set them in the living room and started unpacking them, finding first his regular food delivery, and then the toys. The last package rattled suspiciously as he picked it up, and he had a feeling what he was about to find as he cut through the tape.

Sure enough, the custom dishes he ordered were broken, one with several chips and the other completely cracked into three pieces.

“This will not stand, Udon. I certainly didn’t pay for you to eat off shards of porcelain.” He grumbled at the cat sitting at his heels, who meowed in response.

He took out his phone, pulling up his email and opening the latest message, a delivery confirmation from the courier service. If the dishes broke in transit, or it was due to the carelessness of whoever delivered them, he would find out and hold someone responsible.

He clicked open the customer support, not noticing that the link he opened wasn’t for general support that went to the company itself. It was the direct line to the courier.

 

Tuesday, October 12th

You Are Now Connected To The Quick Cat Courier Service! Please Type Your Message And We Will Respond As Soon As We Can! Thank You For Your Business!



(Tues, 8:23 pm)

Hello,

I received a delivery today sometime between 6 pm and 8 pm consisting of three packages, the smallest of which contained two pieces of dishware specially ordered for my cat that were irreparably broken, of which I will include photo evidence. I would like to inquire as to whether the damage occurred in transit to or from your facility and who I need to contact in order to receive a refund. If this was due to your couriers I also request that you suspend any further orders I have made through you, as I will be taking my business elsewhere if that is the case.

 

He attached the photos and sent the email, not expecting he would get a response until business hours the next day. He set about cleaning up the boxes and putting away the purchases that actually arrived in one piece, and almost missed when his phone dinged with an alert saying there had been a response.

 

(Tues, 8:56 pm)

Wow, you must really care about your cat. Or you just get annoyed really easy

 

Tsuge frowned down at the message. That… didn’t sound scripted. In fact, it was incredibly unprofessional. He tried to figure out what he was supposed to respond, drawing blanks past anything that wasn’t just blatant complaints, but he got another message before deciding.

 

(Tues, 8:59 pm)

I’ll let my supervisor know what happened, we can refund you directly for the broken stuff but just so you know I didn’t break it. I noticed it kind of rattled when I packed it for delivery at the warehouse but since I don’t know what’s in my deliveries I didn’t know that meant something in there was broken. Sorry tho

 

That definitely wasn’t scripted. And was in first-person pronouns, which to a writer was a glaring sign. With mounting dread he re-opened the original email and reread it, realising he opened the wrong messenger service, and realising exactly who he had messaged.

It was him. The young blond. The one he had been subtly checking out every time he showed up on his front door. Who he had now made a massive fool of himself in front of. And accused of property damage.

 

(Tues, 9:04 pm)

Is this the courier who delivered my packages?

 

He asked anyway, hoping he was somehow mistaken.

 

(Tues, 9:06 pm)

Yes, I’m the one who makes most your deliveries if I’m remembering your address correctly

 

Tsuge didn’t respond promptly, too busy screaming into his hands at his own buffoonery, wondering why he was allowed to interact with anyone except his editor or Adachi. He was clearly too incompetent to be in contact with the general public. Eventually he turned back to his phone, trying to think how he could possibly salvage his dignity, and barring that, at least apologise.

 

(Tues, 9:18 pm)

I think it goes without saying that I did not realise I was messaging you directly. I would not normally take that kind of tone with anyone and it was only due to yes, how much I care for my cat, that I was so upset with the situation. I apologise for messaging you at this late hour, no doubt after your official work hours. Thank you for your explanation, and rest assured I believe you are not at fault and will be leaving you a very positive review. Again, thank you and I apologise, and I wish you a good rest of your night.

 

(Tues, 9:23 pm)

Wow, suddenly so nice. Don’t worry about it, it happens. I’ll make sure they process your refund in the morning. You have a good night too

 

This Customer Support Thread Has Been Designated As Completed By The Courier! If You Feel Your Problem Has Not Been Resolved Feel Free To Call Our Customer Support Hotline During our Regular Business Hours! Thank You Again For Your Business And Feel Free To Leave Feedback About Your Experience With The Quick Cat Courier Service!

 

And apparently that was that. Tsuge closed the tab, not sure if he had actually managed to fix his blunder, immediately opening his account for the company to leave the promised very very positive and well-worded review. For some reason the young man’s cavalier response made him flush even deeper than his all-consuming embarrassment had, and Tsuge wondered how he could possibly face him the next time he came by with a package.

“Udon, we might need to move.” He said glumly, eyes on his phone.

He was going to write a review better than his last book. Maybe then he would be able to actually show his face again instead of a future pretending to be perpetually not at home when his monthly cat litter delivery arrived.

Probably not though. He really was talking out of his ass earlier with Adachi, wasn’t he?

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

 

Friday, October 15th

 

(Fri, 4:54 pm)

Are you on your way home yet? You aren’t going to stop by the convenience store again are you?

 

Adachi rolled his eyes as he read the message. Earlier in the week he let slip that his dietary habits weren’t exactly spectacular and the stranger had taken to nagging him about eating “Real Food” more often, nevermind his insistence that anything he bought pre-made would probably be more edible than anything he made himself. Apparently the stranger was one of those weirdos who actually cooked for themselves regularly, he even had breakfast every day.

 

(Fri, 5:07 pm)

Unfortunately no, I am not on my way home. There will be no comforting reheated to-go dinners for me tonight

 

Oh, how he wished he was on his way home with a plastic bag of fairly palatable dim sum, instead of trailing like a sad kite behind a group of rowdy office workers.

 

(Fri, 5:08 pm)

Oh? Are your coworkers slacking again?

 

(Fri, 5:08 pm)

Yes, and they are taking me with them

 

(Fri, 5:09 pm)

?

 

(Fri, 5:12 pm)

Office outting. We’re going to a favourite place of the boss, celebrating some deal another team closed. I ditched on the last so I can’t get away this time

 

Adachi explained, wincing at a sudden loud bout of laughter from a few of his coworkers. Couldn’t they at least wait to get drunk to be this annoying? Knowing his stranger also worked in an office, he hoped his whining would garner some sympathy. Tsuge was too accustomed to his whining.

 

(Fri, 5:15 pm)

I am sensing a distinct lack of enthusiasm

 

(Fri, 5:16 pm)

Picked up on that did you?

 

(Fri, 5:18 pm)

What about it makes you so uncomfortable?

 

Adachi frowned. He was going for indolent complaining, he didn’t need his strangely perceptive stranger to pick up on the fact he found situations like this genuinely distressing.

 

(Fri, 5:21 pm)

I didn’t say I was uncomfortable 

 

(Fri, 5:25 pm)

No, you didn’t

 

The answer mollified him somewhat, an opening for him to keep derailing instead of being honest about how on edge he was about how the night would go. Of course, his stranger seeing him try and bypass a question and giving what he thought was almost an apology just made him feel like he should actually answer.

 

(Fri, 5:29 pm)

I’m not great at social stuff. And I don’t like drinking. And no one really wants me to come anyway

 

He sighed. That came out sounding singularly pathetic but then again when didn’t he sound pathetic to the stranger?

 

(Fri, 5:32 pm)

Well, if your coworkers don’t get what they are missing with you, I guess it’s a good thing I’m coming with you. I’ll keep you company until it’s late enough for you to duck out

 

Adachi flushed, looking around nervously, suddenly paranoid someone was actually paying attention to him and would somehow see the incredibly soppy message on his phone screen, or wonder why he looked flustered like a teenager being asked on a date. Of course, no one had noticed, and he ducked his head down to type out his answer with what he was sure was a stupid little smile on his face.

 

(Fri, 5:33 pm)

… You will?

 

(Fri, 5:33 pm)

Of course

 

(Fri, 5:35 pm)

Don’t you have better things to do on a friday night?

 

(Fri, 5:36 pm)

Better than talking to you? No

 

Adachi bit his lip to stop a huge grin from spreading across his face. He didn’t think he’d ever had someone so blatantly say they enjoyed his company before. Since he talked to Tsuge he had worked on doing what he suggested, don’t worry about subtext or have expectations, and he found it had helped him relax a lot when it came to moments like this when he was fairly sure the stranger was flirting, but had no idea what it actually meant.

And obviously, he was as bad as ever at knowing how to respond.

 

(Fri, 5:39 pm)

Just got to the restaurant 

 

(Fri, 5:42 pm)

How many people are there?

 

(Fri, 5:45 pm)

In the restaurant? Too many. It’s so loud in here, reeks of cigarettes and beer. With just us there’s about a dozen

 

He typed out the message with a frown, peeking up at his coworkers as they all arranged themselves at one of the long tables in the restaurants main dining room, caught between hoping he got ignored for the rest of the night and  thinking how depressing it would be to make himself come to this only for no one to even notice.

 

(Fri, 5:47 pm)

Sounds like a lot

 

(Fri, 5:48 pm)

Yup

 

He hid a grimace as Rokkaku loudly called out for a toast, congratulating the team whose deal they were celebrating. The kid must be a hit at parties. Surprisingly Rokkaku actually looked down the table to where he was and tupped his glass again, apparently waiting for Adachi to join in, which he did with a weak smile. He really was nice, even if he was way too much for someone like Adachi. Thankfully that was the extent of people noticing him for the moment, so he went back to surreptitiously texting the stranger under the table.

 

(Fri, 5:53 pm)

If you were here, I’d make you a nice quiet dinner

 

(Fri, 5:55 pm)

If I was where? At your place?

 

Adachi asked the question with a little thrill going up his spine, not sure which one of them was being daring but knowing someone definitely was. How much nicer would that be, to be having a quiet night in with the stranger, having these little chats face to face with whatever home cooked meal he had made instead of the greasy bar food currently spread in front of him?

 

(Fri, 5:57 pm)

Yeah. I just finished cooking. You make me think about how nice it would be to not cook just for one all the time

 

He had to bury his head in his arms after reading that. Where did his stranger get the gall to just say things like that? How did he have so much faith Adachi was someone he would actually like knowing? And how the hell was someone like him still single, left all alone with no company except Adachi of all people on a Friday night?

He lifted his head enough to reread the text, wondering if maybe he might be able to muster up some gall of his own.

 

(Fri, 6:03 pm)

… Well, I guess if you’re keeping me company through this, I can keep you company there? So you don’t have to eat alone?

 

(Fri, 6:05 pm)

I would like that. A lot. Thank you

 

(Fri, 6:06 pm)

You don’t need to thank me

 

(Fri, 6:07 pm)

How about I do anyway?

☀️

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

 

“Aaadachiiii.”

Adachi froze in the middle of typing, looking up with a deer-in-the-headlights expression to see Urabe looking at him with a knowing smirk. Usually the older man got a free pass to ditch these things since he always wanted to go home as early as possible to his wife, but for whatever reason he had actually come that night, though Adachi would bet he would be the first to duck out.

“What?” He asked, shoulders already coming up and tone defensive.

“You think you’re sneaky, but you’re wrong if you think I haven’t figured out what’s going on.” Urabe bragged.

“Nothing’s going on.” He quickly denied, stuffing his phone in his pocket.

“Uh huh. And that’s why you’re suddenly on your phone any time you aren’t busy in the office? And even now texting away at someone with a look on your face like a lovesick puppy instead of having fun with your coworkers?”

Adachi blinked, scrambling in his head for an excuse that wasn’t either what Urabe was implying, or anything close to the truth because admitting that would probably be way worse. “I’m not a lovesick puppy.” Was somehow all he managed.

Urabe burst into laughter, but it at least didn’t seem mocking, and he leaned across the table into Adachi’s space with an air of understanding. “Come on, you can tell me.” He wheedled. “You finally got a girlfriend, didn’t you?”

“I did not.”

Urabe put on a fake pout that looked very strange on a grown man. “Adaaachi, you don’t have to hide from me. I can help! Do you need any advice?”

“No, no, and no.” Adachi denied, shaking his head so hard his hair got messy. “I’m telling you, it’s not like that.”

His phone buzzed in his pocket, and the smug grin that spread across Urabe’s face said he heard it.

“Look, thank you for offering to help, but I don’t need help, I really am not dating anyone , and if you will excuse me, I need to go to the restroom.” He got out, desperate for an out and not able to think of anything better.

He scrambled out of his seat, not waiting for a response, dodging around waiters and drunk office workers to get to the men’s room, which was thankfully empty. He leaned against the counter, taking deep breaths and trying to calm down, not even sure why Urabe’s prodding had gotten him so worked up. It was hardly the first time he had teased him like that, wasn’t even the worst. And he had seemed to be genuinely happy for him, which wasn’t surprising since Urabe was a nice guy, even if he could be annoying.

Was it just the idea that he could be dating the stranger?... Or was it the fact he wasn’t, and didn’t think he ever would be lucky enough to?

Adachi groaned, turning to the sink to splash some water on his face and wash his hands, just to have something to ground himself with. Once he had dried off he remembered the message he got and fished his phone out of his pocket, swiping it open and seeing there were actually a couple messages from his stranger. 

 

(Fri, 6:10 pm)

Where’d you go?

 

(Fri, 6:15 pm)

Sorry, am I being too much?

 

Adachi frowned, deleting the half text he had typed out earlier and writing a new response, not liking at all the idea that the stranger was sitting at home, worrying about him being upset.

 

(Fri, 6:19 pm)

No! Not at all! Sorry, one of my coworkers was bugging me

 

(Fri, 6:21 pm)

Right, of course. You’re out with people, I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. Sorry

 

Adachi’s frown deepened, a feeling of intimate familiarity going through him, and not a positive one. He knew what it was like, being uncertain and anxious, not sure if you had misstepped and immediately assuming you had.

 

(Fri, 6:21 pm)

Don’t apologise, I get it. We can’t always control when we get worried about stuff

 

(Fri, 6:22 pm)

What were they bugging you about?

 

(Fri, 6:23 pm)

Oh… Uh

 

Adachi chewed his lip, not wanting to brush off the stranger’s attempt to change the subject, but also really not wanting to talk about what had just happened.

 

(Fri, 6:24 pm)

You don’t have to tell me

 

(Fri, 6:25 pm)

No, no I can tell you! It’s just… kind of embarrassing

 

He hurriedly typed out, deciding fixing the rather subdued and almost insecure mood the stranger was in was more important than shielding his dignity.

 

(Fri, 6:25 pm)

Well, you know I would never make fun of you

 

(Fri, 6:26 pm)

Lies, you tease me all the time

 

(Fri, 6:27 pm)

Yes, because you’re cute when I tease you. But I wouldn’t about anything that would actually upset you

 

Adachi flushed, rubbing at his cheeks to try and get rid of the growing smile on his face. No one had ever called him cute before. Maybe he shouldn’t like it, he was an adult, shouldn’t he want to be called handsome or something? And the stranger didn’t even know what he looked like. Still. He liked it.

Of course, his grin dropped as soon as he remembered what he was about to tell the stranger.

 

(Fri, 6:29 pm)

I know that

 

(Fri, 6:31 pm)

It was my superior, the one who gives me extra work sometimes. He… He knows I’ve never dated anyone before. And he’s noticed me texting a lot, so he made some assumptions. I told him it wasn’t like that, but he didn’t believe me, and it wasn’t like I could really explain what was actually going on

 

(Fri, 6:33 pm)

I see. Was he being rude about it?

 

(Fri, 6:34 pm)

No, he was being nice, was happy for me actually. But it was still weird, since...

 

(Fri, 6:35 pm)

Since he was wrong, and you aren’t dating the person you are texting

 

Adachi hesitated before responding, suddenly not all that sure where this was going, not able to read the stranger’s tone as easily as he usually could.

 

(Fri, 6:36 pm)

Right...

 

(Fri, 6:37 pm)

It must have made you uncomfortable, someone assuming you were involved with me. I’m sorry

 

His eyebrows furrowed, not sure at all where the stranger was getting that. If anything, the fact it was someone like him was the only good thing about people assuming he was dating someone. There was a little part of his brain that could admit part of the embarrassment was because it felt a little like he was thinking too highly of himself, even imagining what it would be like if Urabe had been right. If he was actually with the stranger.

 

(Fri, 6:37 pm)

Woah woah wait a second, I didn’t say that

 

(Fri, 6:39 pm)

You didn’t?

 

(Fri, 6:40 pm)

No, I didn’t. I didn’t like that he was making assumptions and teasing, but it wasn’t because you

 

(Fri, 6:43 pm)

It would be understandable if you didn’t want people to think we were dating. We are both men

 

Adachi held in a groan of frustration, not sure why it seemed like they were arguing, or what they were even arguing about. Honestly, he had barely even thought about the fact that the stranger was a man. He didn’t have any romantic experience. He had had crushes, maybe even started to fall for a couple of people, but really that had never been part of his life, so he never had a chance to explore things like sexuality. So, finding out he could be interested in men? For whatever reason, it just didn’t make much of an impact. 

 

(Fri, 6:44 pm)

Well, for one he didn’t know that

 

(Fri, 6:45 pm)

Alright

 

(Fri, 6:46 pm)

I’m not agreeing with you, the fact you’re a man doesn’t have anything to do with it. I’m always embarrassed when people try to talk to me about dating.

 

(Fri, 6:48 pm)

So… You would be alright with it? Dating a man, I mean

 

Adachi flushed again at the question, reminding himself sternly he wasn’t supposed to think too much about subtext or what the stranger could possibly want out of asking that. It didn’t mean anything, good or bad. Not that there was a good. Because he wasn’t thinking about that. Wasn’t thinking about all the possibilities that were seeming more and more like something he could want, the longer the two of them talked.

 

(Fri, 6:51 pm)

I guess

I mean, yes. Yes, I would. But no one has ever wanted to date me, so it doesn’t really matter

 

(Fri, 6:52 pm)

You’ve really never dated anyone before?

 

(Fri, 6:52 pm)

No

 

(Fri, 6:53 pm)

Not even when you were in school?

 

Adachi huffed irritably, wishing the stranger would drop it. Was it really that weird? Some people never dated. And he honestly didn’t expect the stranger to be the kind of person who would get hung up on it, even if he was as always worried this would be the thing that finally tipped him off that Adachi was a total loser.

 

(Fri, 6:54 pm)

I just said no, didn’t I?

 

(Fri, 6:55 pm)

Sorry, I didn’t mean that in a bad way. I just don’t get why not. I’ve already said I think anyone would be lucky to have you

 

Adachi froze, reading the message over and over, not at all expecting the compliment out of nowhere. Sometimes, he was sure the stranger said the things he did just because he was nice, he was the kind of person who could easily dish out flattery and flirting, things Adachi could never manage to say with a straight face. And sometimes, like now, he found himself daring to believe he actually meant all of it.

 

(Fri, 6:57 pm)

Well… No one else thinks that

 

(Fri, 6:58 pm)

Worse luck for them. And good luck for whoever is lucky enough to be your first

 

Adachi ran a hand over his face, sure his bashful expression and red cheeks made him look like just another drunk guy standing like an idiot in a restaurant bathroom, but he couldn’t really be bothered, not even when someone stumbled in and looked at him weirdly before going into a stall. He had actually been in there for a while, he realised. It was probably pushing his luck to not head back to the table soon. Still, he wanted to finish this conversation where none of his coworkers were around to see his reaction.

 

(Fri, 7:01 pm)

Sure 

 

(Fri, 7:01 pm)

Yes

 

(Fri, 7:03 pm)

I’m assuming you’ve dated loads of people

 

(Fri, 7:04 pm)

I don’t know why you would. But kind of. I haven’t really ever had a serious relationship though, so I don’t think I’m all that different from you

 

(Fri, 7:05 pm)

What do you mean by not serious?

 

Adachi asked the question, hoping he wasn’t about to find out the stranger was one of those playboy types. He hadn’t exactly outright stated he was a virgin, but saying he had never dated kind of implied it. It would make him feel kind of weird if the stranger was the kind of person to have a lot of one night stands and flings.

 

(Fri, 7:06 pm)

They just never lasted more than a date or two

 

(Fri, 7:07 pm)

Why? I mean, if you don’t mind telling me

 

(Fri, 7:07 pm)

I don’t

 

(Fri, 7:09 pm)

It just felt like none of them really knew who I was, or actually wanted to. Like the person they wanted to date didn’t exist, they just thought that was who I was

 

Well. He almost would have preferred it if the stranger was just fast and loose about relationships, if the alternative was this. It was kind of heartbreaking. Not to mention baffling, if the stranger had managed to get Adachi this twisted up just talking over text, how did people he knew in real life not see how great he was? 

 

(Fri, 7:11 pm)

That’s sad. I’m sorry, you deserved better. The person you are is amazing, I don’t know why someone wouldn’t want to know the real you

 

(Fri, 7:12 pm)

Thank you. Really.

 

He realised too late exactly how mushy his last text was, resisting the urge to groan out loud, deciding he needed to redirect the conversation before he gave away even more exactly how close he was to feeling something altogether hopeless and far too inappropriate toward the stranger. This definitely couldn’t have been what the other man thought he was signing up for when he asked for them to keep talking.

 

(Fri, 7:14 pm)

Umm, I’ve been hiding in the bathroom, but I should probably go back out there before someone notices. I’ll keep texting though

 

(Fri, 7:15 pm)

Alright

 

(Fri, 7:16 pm)

Thank you, for being so nice about what I told you

 

He couldn’t help adding before ducking out of the restroom. His stranger really was far too generous with him.

 

(Fri, 7:15 pm)

And thank you, for being you



Chapter Text

Chapter Seven

 

He headed back toward the main dining room, turning a corner and freezing when he spotted a familiar figure ahead of him. It was Rokkaku, and he was debating if he should wait there until the other man went back to avoid any annoying conversations when he realised something wasn’t quite right about this picture.

Rokkaku was leaning against the wall, shoulders in a slump and a hand to his forehead, eyes squeezed shut like he was trying to block out the room or nursing a headache. He looked thoroughly deflated from his usual animated self. Watching him, Adachi realised he might not be the only one who was bad at situations like this. He might just be the worst at hiding it.

“Ah, Rokkaku!” He called out before he even knew what he was doing, walking over and clapping the younger man on the shoulder.

Rokkaku jumped and pasted a convincing smile on his face, though the lines around his eyes still looked strained. “Adachi! There you are! How’s it going? This is so much fun right?” He enthused, and Adachi had to admit he was really good at pretending to be his usual puppy-self.

“Well, actually. This has been fun, but I was wondering if you might know if there’s a convenience store nearby? Between the beer and all that food, I think I need to run out and get some medicine.” He said, almost surprised how convincing he sounded.

“I can do that!” Rokkaku, ever helpful Rokkaku, predictably pounced on the opportunity.

“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want you to miss out.” Adachi said with a fake concerned frown.

“No no no, not at all! I’ll just run over real quick and get it for you! No problem!” Rokkaku said with a beaming smile and a thumbs-up, something in his eyes saying he might have an inkling of what Adachi was actually doing.

“Alright, if you want.” Adachi said with his own returning smile.

He watched Rokkaku trot off, relief almost palpable around him, before sighing and turning back to the dining room. He had given the younger man an out, but sadly he has no such excuse. He knew if he didn’t want to hear about it on Monday he would have to wait at least until after Urabe left.

 Apparently, he had picked the wrong time to return, as as soon as he approached the table, no less than three people yelled his name.

“What?” He asked dumbly, looking suspiciously over everyone, noting for some reason everyone had one hand raised up with their fingers spread out.

“Sit! Sit, down, Adachi!” Urabe commanded him. “Put a hand up, fingers out. We’re playing never have I ever, losers drink!”

Well, that sounded like a nightmare but when he tried to wave off he was met with universal denials and somehow found himself sitting down with a full glass of beer and five fingers up ready to damn him.

 

(Fri, 7:31 pm)

Kill me. Reach through the phone, and end me

 

(Fri, 7:32 pm)

That escalated rather quickly. Things not going well?

 

(Fri, 7:34 pm)

Party games. This is hell

 

(Fri, 7:35 pm)

Oof, I’m sorry. What’s their poison?

 

(Fri, 7:36 pm)

Never have I ever

 

(Fri, 7:37 pm)

Oh dear, that’s a bad one

 

(Fri, 7:38 pm)

I almost wish I was drunk but the likelihood of death by embarrassment is already high enough sober

 

(Fri, 7:39 pm)

Tell me if it gets to be too much

 

(Fri, 7:41 pm)

Not sure why since you can’t actually kill me and put me out of my misery, but alright

 

(Fri, 7:42 pm)

Just trust me, say something if you really are uncomfortable

 

(Fri, 7:42 pm)

Okay

 

(Fri, 7:43 pm)

Promise?

 

(Fri, 7:45 pm)

Yeah, sure I promise

 

(Fri, 7:46 pm)

☀️

 

Thankfully, at first the questions fell into two categories, general questions just fishing for anyone to lose a point, and racy but too specific for it to draw any attention when he didn’t put down a finger. He lost one finger to “Never have I ever broken a bone.” but other than that it was all misses, and inevitably he was eventually noticed, when there had been some people who had already lost more than once.

“Guys! Adachi is cheating! He’s still at four!” Someone called, followed by a round of boos.

“I’m not, I promise.” He weakly defended.

“You have to be!”

“Yeah!”

“We’re gunna keep an eye on you, you better start putting down fingers!”

He nodded weakly, wishing he could hide under the table.

“Never have I everrrr…. Had a one night stand!” Someone said, followed by a round of drunken giggles and teasing. When he didn’t put down a finger, he got a few pointed squints.

“Never have I ever given someone a hickey.” One of the guys said, looking right at him.

When he just shook his head and turned his eyes away uncomfortably, there was another wave of complaints.

“Come on, Adachi! You have to be lying.”

“Everyone’s done that!”

“Put a finger down, come on, Adachi!”

“I really haven’t, I swear.” He tried to defend, not even sounding convincing in his own ears.

He got more boos but thankfully they moved on. He pulled his phone back out and typed out a message where no one would be able to see.

 

(Fri, 8:12 pm)

Okay yeah, this is horrible and I really really really want to leave

 

(Fri, 8:15 pm)

Well, good thing your close friend is having a family emergency then

 

(Fri, 8:16 pm)

?

 

(Fri, 8:18 pm)

Hey! Are you there?

Where are you right now?

I just got a call from my sister!

She’s at the hospital!

She didn’t say why and I’m really worried!

Can you come over?

I gotta go see if she’s okay but I don’t wanna go alone!

Can you come over right now?

 

He frowned in confusion down at the line of texts filling his screen, realising a moment later than he probably should have what was going on. The stranger was giving him an out, a perfect unselfish excuse to leave right that moment. He could even show the texts to any of his coworkers who thought he was making it up because it filled the whole chat window and you couldn’t see their previous message. 

 

(Fri, 8:21 pm)

Of course, I’ll be right there

 

(Fri, 8:22 pm)

☀️

He turned to Urabe and loudly announced “I have to go, a friend is having a family thing and needs my help.”

“Right, sure.” Urabe said, voice knowing but thankfully not saying anything that gave away he suspected.

“Awww come on!”

“It’s still so early!”

The complaints seemed a little contrived considering they were coming mostly from people who barely talked to him all night, but he waved his phone apologetically and thankfully no one kicked up a real fuss and he was able to flee the restaurant within a few minutes.

He walked toward the nearest subway, a big grin on his face that probably made him look like an idiot, pulling out his phone when he felt it buzz again.

 

(Fri, 8:34 pm)

Did it work?

 

(Fri, 8:35 pm)

Perfectly. Thank you so so much I thought I was a goner

 

(Fri, 8:36 pm)

Not on my watch ;)

 

(Fri, 8:37 pm)

You’re a regular guardian angel, you know that?

 

(Fri, 8:38 pm)

If I get to be your guardian angel, sure why not

 

(Fri, 8:40 pm)

I owe you, seriously

 

(Fri, 8:42 pm)

Well, I’ll have to think of someway for you to repay me then...

 

(Fri, 8:43 pm)

Anything

 

(Fri, 8:44 pm)

Hmm I think I have some ideas

 

(Fri, 8:47 pm)

I mean. Anything within reason

 

(Fri, 8:48 pm)

☀️

 

(Fri, 8:49 pm)

Within reason, right?

 

(Fri, 8:50 pm)

☀️☀️☀️

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

 

It was a pleasant fall afternoon, Monday just after two o’clock, the sun was up, the sky was clear, and Tsuge was screaming into a pillow. To be clear, he had had more than enough justification for his behaviour. After his humiliating exchange with the delivery boy, he had indeed been refunded for his package without further issue, and been informed the replacement would be put on rush order so it could be sent with his next scheduled delivery. Which was Monday.

He had been in a state all weekend, wondering what he would do if the delivery person was that person. He was even behind on a deadline now because he hadn’t been able to concentrate on work. He debated just cancelling the order, but he was out of treats for Udon and he really did want those dishes.

He thought about rescheduling it to when it would be less likely to be him, but that just seemed rude, especially when he had already slighted the younger man. He could always just pretend not to be home, but he doubted that would be believable. He was always home. If Tsuge didn’t answer the door, the delivery boy surely would know he was just being a coward.

And a coward was exactly what he felt like, when seven minutes past the scheduled arrival time, his doorbell rang. His head popped up from his screaming-pillow, and he watched as Udon stood with a stretch from her climbing tree and trotted over to the door with her tail up in the air, well familiar with this routine.

With a grumble Tsuge got up and followed her, figuring this was going to be unbearable no matter what, he might as well not make it worse by making whoever was at the door wait on him.

He swung the door open, and there he was. The same delivery boy, same bleached hair, a funny little twist in the corner of his mouth.

“Delivery?” He said, ironic and teasing, holding up two boxes.

“Uh, umm. Yes. Right.” Tsuge stuttered, cursing in his head at how he could sound so eloquent on a page and then have garbage like that spill out of his mouth.

He reached for the boxes, stepping back to set them down on the counter, and seemingly out of nowhere found himself making an offer he hadn’t had the guts to before.

“Would you like to... Umm, would you like to step in?” He asked, gesturing over the threshold.

“Sure, why not?” The younger man replied, fiddling with his bag to pull out his clipboard. “By the way, I checked and there’s no weird rattling noises from these ones.” He joked as he handed it over.

“Oh. Thank you. That’s… good.” Tsuge managed to say, taking the clipboard and hesitating before giving his signature, trying to think of some way to prolong this very awkward moment.

“Well, hello there! It’s you!”

He looked down to see the delivery boy suddenly on his knees, hand offered up to Udon who had stepped forward for a curious sniff. Tsuge flushed at the sight, watching the young man and his cat become acquainted, though he couldn’t say why.

“I was worried about you, little one.” He murmured to her, stroking a hand down her back.

“You… What?” Tsuge asked, confused.

“Ah, sorry. But this cat, it used to live in the park, didn’t it?” He answered, looking back up at Tsuge through his bangs.

“Oh. Yes. I found her sleeping in a box. That’s… That’s what I named her after.”

“Box?” He said with a laugh.

“No, uh. Udon. It was an… the box was for… It’s not very creative.” Tsuge finished lamely.

“No. It’s cute, though.” The younger man replied, grinning down at Udon. “Is that your name now? Now that you are living in a nice warm apartment being spoiled by a man who scolds strangers for breaking your stuff?”

“I really do apologise for that.” Tsuge was quick to say.

“Don’t worry, I’ve definitely heard worse. And apparently it really was out of character, since you’re the kind of nice guy who takes in stray cats. I go to practice at that park every weekend, kept seeing the poor little thing there. Would have taken her but my landlord… Anyway, was really worried when she disappeared. Who would have guessed I’ve been making deliveries for her for weeks?” He said, eyes scanning the apartment and what Tsuge would admit was a somewhat excessive amount of cat paraphernalia.

“Practice for what?” Tsuge asked, grasping for some topic to keep the discussion going.

“Dance. I dance. I have a group with a few friends” He actually looked a little shy, like he thought Tsuge would judge him.

“Dance? That’s- cool. That’s cool.” Tsuge said, sounding the opposite of cool. He held back a grimace, thinking how he really couldn’t be further out of his league if he tried.

“Yeah? Well… You could… You could come watch us some time, if you would like to. We’ll be practicing today, around six.”

Tsuge straightened up, eyes widening in surprise at the invitation. “Oh. Uh. Sure! That would be- That sounds like fun.”

It was only after he had already agreed that he realised exactly what he just agreed to, and how phenomenally bad of an idea it was. Him? Going to hang out with a bunch of street dancers? There was no way it wouldn’t turn into a huge trainwreck! If he had managed to actually make things better after his mess up about the broken dishes, there was no way he wouldn’t just turn around and ruin it again somehow.

Likely reading the panic growing in his eyes, the younger man smiled softly, standing up after one last pat to Udon’s head. “Here, give me your phone.” He said, holding out his hand.

Frowning in confusion, Tsuge obediently drew his phone out of his pocket and offered it up after unlocking it.

The younger man laughed under his breath at the wallpaper of Udon before clicking open his contacts and starting to type. “Here’s my real number, for non-package-related talking. If you decide to come, shoot me a text.” He said, handing the phone back.

“You’re... real number.” Tsuge said, a little in awe. He officially had no idea what was happening.

“Yeah. So text me. Even… if you decide not to come, text me then too. Alright?”

“Yes.” Tsuge said, nodding fervently. “Yes…” He spotted something on his phone, and felt something in his chest warm. “Minato. I’ll text you, Minato.”

“You better. Tsuge.” The younger man, Minato, said with a smirk.

“You know my name?”

“It’s on your packages.” Minato winked, and Tsuge thought his face must be on fire.

He managed to keep it together for all of the five minutes it took for Minato to say goodbye and leave, and then hopefully get far enough away from his door he didn’t hear it when Tsuge resumed his pillow-screaming with renewed panic.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine

 

Monday, October 18th

 

(Mon, 7:02 am)

Good Morning ☀️

 

(Mon, 8:09 am)

I hate you

 

(Mon, 8:11 am)

Wow, must really be a good morning, if you’re so cheery

 

(Mon, 8:12 am)

Hate. You.

 

(Mon, 8:13 am)

☀️☀️☀️

 

Adachi sighed after reading the text, rolling over in bed and re-burying his face in his pillow, wishing he wasn’t such a sappy idiot that he didn’t find the stranger’s far-too-early morning texts cute. Usually, he wouldn’t even be awake yet, not for at least a few more snoozes of his alarm clock. But the stranger was apparently some kind of psychopath, and woke up at seven in the morning, every day. And lately, he had taken to sending Adachi a text as soon as he woke up, even knowing he usually wouldn’t get a reply for over an hour.

The first few times he did it, it left him incredibly flustered. He’d never had a relationship with someone that involved things like good morning and night texts, it was an alien intimacy to him, and intimate was exactly what it felt like. But eventually he got used to it, mostly because usually he was blurry-eyed and grumpy when he read them, and it now felt like just another part of his routine, albeit one that had caused him to start his day about half an hour earlier than he usually ever did before.

It was actually kind of nice, not having to rush out the door like usual, suit barely buttoned right and hair a mess, just enough time to stop by his usual place to grab something to eat and make it to his train on time. He had even started eating breakfast some mornings, again at the urgings of the stranger who seemed far too interested in whether he ate three meals a day or not.

 

(Mon, 8:16 am)

Fine. Good Morning

 

He sent the text before rolling out of bed with a groan, going to the bathroom to make himself look like a real human instead of a pillow-wrinkled and sleep-pale mop.

 

(Mon, 8:18 am)

Gooood morning. Yes, I think it will be. Are you going to have breakfast?

 

(Mon, 8:22 am)

Yes, leftovers

 

(Mon, 8:23 am)

:(

 

Adachi rolled his eyes and laughed under his breath. The stranger really had perfected nagging without it actually seeming like that was what he was doing.

 

(Mon, 8:26 am)

Okay then judgy, what are you eating?

 

His phone buzzed a moment later with a response, and he almost dropped it when he saw that an image was loading. He didn’t know if he was more relieved or disappointed when all the picture was was a table laid out with a bunch of different foods. The stranger’s breakfast, he realised. There wasn’t any sign of who took the picture, nothing in the frame that stood out and gave him any details about the man on the other side of the phone.

 

(Mon, 8:30 am)

Oh. 

 

(Mon, 8:31 am)

Sorry, should I not have done that?

 

(Mon, 8:32 am)

No no, it was fine! I was just surprised.

 

(Mon, 8:33 am)

I made sure there wasn’t anything identifying

 

(Mon, 8:35 am)

It’s fine, seriously. Though that is like, way too much effort to go to first thing in the morning. No way you eat like that every day

 

He tried to change the subject, not really wanting to discuss the elephant in the room, that they talked about meeting, that the stranger said things he would like to do for Adachi, but they were still both careful to not say anything that said who they actually were, and there didn’t seem to be any sign that that would change anytime soon. Adachi certainly didn’t want the stranger to know who he really was. Not yet, though he had no idea when that yet would come. The longer they talked, the more he wanted to push, to pry, to let details slip. And the more he was terrified for his stranger to actually know him.

But he didn’t want to talk about that, didn’t want to think about it, not when he hadn’t even been awake for an hour, not when just getting a picture from his stranger could fill his stomach with butterflies and make his reheated leftovers even more unappealing.

 

(Mon, 8:36 am)

I usually do, sorry. But enjoy your leftovers

 

He scoffed, wondering what the stranger would say if he knew said leftovers were currently going into the trash. He took another look at the picture, not getting how anyone could have their shit together enough to make a meal like that first thing in the morning. At least if he was going to get sassed it was by someone with considerable high ground when it came to adulting.

 

(Mon, 8:37 am)

Wooowww

 

(Mon, 8:39 am)

You know, I would cook for you every morning, if you wanted

 

Adachi paused in gathering his things, actually about to leave on time thanks to the stranger’s wake up texts, reading the text three times with a squirming feeling in his chest. He did want. Exactly what he wanted from the stranger, he couldn’t say, maybe didn’t want to admit. But that sounded nice. More than nice.

It made him think of early mornings, greetings not sent over texts but maybe said in a slow soft voice into his ear, of a hand brushing over his messy hair and a sunny smile given to him over a shared breakfast. It made him think of something he was sure was impossible, that he would never have. Especially not with the stranger.

With a frown he tapped out a reply and stuffed his phone in his coat pocket, resolved to not look at it again at least until he got to work.

 

(Mon, 8:43 am)

You’re really going to spoil someone rotten one day, aren’t you?

 

(Mon, 8:44 am)

Hopefully

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten

 

When he reached work, for the first time Adachi welcomed the nine to five excuse to not check his phone. He needed some space, to think, to not think. To not let his thoughts revolve around the stranger and all the fears and wants filling him up. He needed a reminder his life was filled with plenty of other things than the attention of the stranger. Technically, he shouldn’t even consider the stranger a part of his life, they had never met.

Thankfully, or maybe unfortunately, a distraction presented itself almost as soon as he sat down at his desk.

“Adachi!”

He jumped, fumbling his pen at the thump of hands landing on the desk next to him, turning with wide eyes to the man now leaning into his face with a smile inappropriately cheery for nine in the morning and eyes far too bright and alert for once again, nine in the damn morning.

“What, Rokkaku?”

“I thought you might want this?” The younger man said, suddenly brandishing a coffee at him, which he accepted uncertainly. “As a way to make up for not being able to give you the stuff I said I would Friday. You were already gone by the time I made it back, they said you had to go help a friend with an emergency? Guess I was being a little bit of a slow-poke.” He said with a sheepish scratch of his head.

“Oh. It’s fine, you don’t need to make that up to me. Sorry, you went for no reason.” Adachi scrambled to say, having totally forgotten about helping Rokakku leave that night, with everything else he had been focused on.

“You know…” Rokkaku said, completely ignoring his words, hand thoughtfully at his chin. “You help people a lot, don’t you? And no one really notices!”

“Ah? No, no I don’t! I don’t help more than anyone else here!” Adachi denied, waving his hands and shaking his head, not really sure why he was panicking about this but doing it anyway.

“You can’t fool me now, Adachi! I’ve caught onto your game! You run errands whenever someone asks, you pick up extra work from other people, you stay late all the time. You’re the office’s secret Ace!” Rokkaku concluded, nodding decisively and giving him a thumbs up like some kind of goddamn anime character.

“No! I’m just the same as everyone else here. I do the same amount of work, and honestly there’s plenty of people who are better.” Adachi argued.

“If you say so, Adachi. But just know, I want to be the best one day! So from now on, I’m going to be keeping a much closer eye on you! I’ll learn all your secrets, secret Ace of the office! And one day, I’ll be just as good as you!” With a last wink Rokkaku set another coffee on his desk and all but skipped away, leaving Adachi to stare after him in bewilderment.

“Uh… hey, Adachi?”

He turned to see Urabe looking at him with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah?”

“What the hell was that all about?”

“I have absolutely no idea.”

“Huh. That kid sure is an interesting character.” Urabe said, shrugging and turning back to his own desk.

“A character is right…”

He turned to his own work, feeling a strange motivation to do well despite how he turned down Rokkaku’s compliments. He didn’t resurface until lunch time, and as he sat in the cafeteria eating, he couldn’t resist finally pulling out his phone and checking his messages. It seemed he had missed a few while he’d been avoiding the stranger.

 

(Mon, 9:05 am)

Did you mean that as a good thing?

 

(Mon, 9:23 am)

Having leftovers isn’t actually that bad. I guess I’m just being kind of a “mom friend”. You do make it easy to worry over though

 

(Mon, 9:54 am)

And your reactions are always cute when I say what things I’d like to do for you

 

(Mon, 10:39 am)

I’d get it if you didn’t like it

 

(Mon, 11:48 am)

Sorry, you must be busy at work, ignore those last texts

 

(Mon, 12:38 am)

Hey! I’m sorry, I was actually busy. Something weird happened and I kinda buried myself in some reports after

 

Re-reading the stranger’s messages, the way he went back and forth between his usual brazen way of talking to that self-consciousness that rarely showed itself, his little break from not thinking about any of it hardly felt worth it. With a fair amount of guilt and blushing, he typed out another message.

 

(Mon, 12:40 pm)

And… I do like it when you say that stuff

 

(Mon, 12:42 pm)

Oh! Okay ☀️

What happened?

 

That seemed a little too easy, but he let it go. The stranger was allowed his moments, just like Adachi was allowed his. 

 

(Mon, 12:44 pm)

Do you remember the guy I told you about? The newer one in the office who’s always really cheerful and happy?

 

(Mon, 12:45 pm)

… Yes. I remember you talking about him



(Mon, 12:46 pm)

He came over and gave me coffee and started gushing about how helpful I am and how I’m the “Secret Ace of the office” It was so embarrassing, I had no idea what to say except I wasn’t that great

 

(Mon, 12:49 pm)

I see

 

Adachi frowned, detecting a tone. But he was more in the mood to complain than poke at whatever the stranger’s problem was.

 

(Mon, 12:50 pm)

I have no idea where he even got the idea I’m any better than any other person here. I’m not. And if anyone else noticed him spewing all that, I really am just going to have to quit from the embarrassment of it all

 

(Mon, 12:52 pm)

Well, he’s probably right. And you don’t need to quit, because if anyone else heard that just means other’s will notice how good you are and agree with him. Not to sound full of myself, but people say the same kinds of things about me, and I know we do about the same amount of overtime and from what you’ve told me, you do put quite a bit of thought into your work

 

He made a high pitched noise in his throat, burying his head in his arms. He didn’t get it, how the stranger managed to sound so sure of himself, sound like he already knew everything he needed to know about Adachi, even though they could walk past each other in the street without having the slightest clue. He didn’t get how his stranger could have so much faith in him, more faith than he could ever hope to muster for himself.

He made himself type out a quick reply, not wanting to leave the stranger waiting even if his head was just filled with mush.

 

(Mon, 12:53 pm)

Stoooop! Not you tooo

 

(Mon, 12:54 pm)

Sorry ;p Be less amazing if it bothers you when people say nice things

 

(Mon, 12:55 pm)

You’re literally the only one who says this nonsense to me. Well, you and the guy I just told you about

 

(Mon, 12:57 pm)

Right.

 

And there it was again, that tone. And now that he needed both a distraction and a way to change the subject away from how wonderful he apparently was, he was a lot less inclined to ignore it.

 

(Mon, 12:59 pm)

You get kind of weird when I talk about my coworkers, you know that?

 

(Mon, 1:02 pm)

Do I?

 

(Mon, 1:03 pm)

Yeah, you do

 

(Mon, 1:05 pm)

I’m not sure you talk about other people enough for that to be true

 

Adachi laughed quietly to himself, sure he looked weird, sitting all alone in the cafeteria, smiling at his phone. He hoped the stranger was just being cheeky and didn’t actually think that sounded convincing. Though the evasiveness was kind of worrying either way.

 

(Mon, 1:06 pm)

Exactly, I barely mention other people because I have no friends, but you totally get weird when I do

 

(Mon, 1:08 pm)

 

(Mon, 1:09 pm)

Come on, tell me. I’m getting worried now

 

He sighed when an answer didn’t come fast, cleaning up the trash from his lunch and heading back to his desk. He couldn’t really complain if he got left on read, but he would handle being left waiting and wondering a lot less gracefully than the stranger. Thankfully after the first dozen or so times furtively checking his phone, there was a reply. Though, it certainly wasn’t anything he could have possibly expected.

 

(Mon, 1:27 pm)

You don’t need to be worried. It’s just… Maybe I don’t like hearing about the people who get to actually know you. Most of them don’t even know how lucky they are. But even if they do, I still feel jealous

 

(Mon, 1:29 pm)

You feel… jealous

 

(Mon, 1:31 pm)

It’s stupid, I know

 

(Mon, 1:32 pm)

No. Not stupid. Just… I don’t get what about me could make anyone jealous

 

(Mon, 1:34 pm)

Well I do. Of course I’m jealous of the puppy, next time you should throw his coffee back at him. I want to be the one giving you coffee

 

(Mon, 1:37 pm)

Oh my god, that’s so mean! I’m not going to throw anything at him lol

 

(Mon, 1:39 pm)

Fine, be best friends with the coffee giving puppy

 

(Mon, 1:43 pm)

He’s not a puppy and I’m still not friends with him. I’m friends with you, you’re the one I actually know. So stop being a weirdo

 

(Mon, 1:44 pm)

Say that again

 

(Mon, 1:48 pm)

What?

 

(Mon, 1:49 pm)

Say we’re friends. Say you know me.

 

(Mon, 1:52 pm)

… We’re friends. And I know you.

 

(Mon, 1:53 pm)

Just like I know you.

 

After that, Adachi had to put his phone away again. Otherwise, there was no way he would be able to keep sane enough to finish out the workday. And if he still had a pleased little smile on his face an hour later, well. It wasn’t anyone’s business but his why.



Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven

 

As everyone knew, Mondays were created by god just to torture people, and by the time five came Adachi was feeling every minute of his work day, and not even his messages with his stranger could change the way he was running on fumes, his head fuzzy and his eyes burning. If he didn’t know any better he would think he was coming off an all-nighter reading manga, instead of having a full eight hours under his belt.

By the time he finally shut down his computer and packed his bag, he was ready to go home and spend the next fifteen hours in bed. Which undoubtedly was why the moment he hit the street his phone rang, and it wasn’t someone he could ignore.

“Tsuge?”

Adachi.

Uh oh. He knew that tone. Tsuge was in one of his rare high-strung and panicking moods. “What happened?”

“I have made a grave mistake. Several maybe, concurrently.”

Uh oh. He was not only panicking, but being dramatic about it. This was a bad one. “Okay. I just left work, I’ll be right over to your place.”

“Actually… Can you meet me at the park near my apartment? I’ll wait in the bus shelter.”

“Umm. Okay?”

“Thank you. Please hurry.”

Adachi blinked at the definitive click of his phone, wondering what just happened, and spending a moment mourning the fact the dream of going home to his warm bed escaping from his grasp. A breeze stirred past, and he gave a somewhat complaintive sneeze before mustering up and starting to walk.

He reached the park a little before six, spotting Tsuge standing somewhat suspiciously in the bus shelter as promised, peering around like he was expecting someone to jump out at him. He immediately perked up when he saw Adachi, walking over and taking him by the shoulders with a somewhat fevered look in his eyes.

“Adachi. Thank you for coming, I couldn’t face this alone.”

“Uh, sure. No problem. But maybe you should tell me what we are actually doing?” Adachi asked, trying to shrug off the feeling they were about to do something illegal.

“I… met someone.” Tsuge blurted, looking like this was grave news.

“Like, met someone met someone?”

“Well, that is somewhat unclear still. Probably not on his part since I have humiliated myself in front of him with some regularity.” Tsuge said, releasing him and turning away, running his hand over his face, eyes distant like he was reliving said humiliation.

“But on your part?” Adachi asked, daring to smile a bit because theatrics aside, this was starting to sound like it was actually something good happening.

“Yes. Udon likes him.”

“Oh.” That was much more serious than he expected. “So, what’s going on tonight?”

“Minato… has invited me to come watch him practice here at six.” Tsuge said, in turns saying the new name with an adorable fondness and stating their plans with dread.

“Practice what?” Adachi asked with his own mounting dread, sensing they were finally approaching what had Tsuge so worked up he called for moral support.

“He dances with a group of friends.”

It, as Tsuge must have known it would, went over like a ton of bricks.

“You’ve got to be joking!” Adachi said, mouth gaping open. “Two boring guys like us can’t hang out with cool people like street dancers!”

“Which is why I needed you! So I wasn’t alone! Please, Adachi, if there’s any chance of this not going horribly, it’s with you with me. You are better with people than I am.” Tsuge pleaded, hands clasped together in front of him.

Adachi groaned, running his hands through his hair. “Fine! Fine, even if I have no idea what you mean. I’m awful with people. We’ll need a plan though.”

“A plan? Like what? You know I’m a pantser, I’m awful at making plans.” Tsuge said. “Do you have an idea?”

“Not really. Maybe we just… try not to talk? So we don’t give away how uncool we are?” Adachi tried.

“He already knows I am extremely uncool. But… he didn’t seem to mind very much.” Tsuge said, a blush painting across his face.

“Then let’s not ruin that.” Adachi said with a nod, trying to sound confident.

“Yes. We- It’s past six!” Tsuge exclaimed, after catching sight of his watch. “We’re late, come on!”

They hurried to a nearby amphitheatre towards the middle of the park where Minato had told Tsuge they would be. Apparently they texted, which was another sign, since Tsuge barely texted anyone, even him. You would think a writer would be good at written communication but he was only good when he wasn’t directly talking to someone.

Music echoed through the park ahead of them, leading them right to where they needed to be, which was where a group of energetic looking young men were dancing. As they came close enough to see, a shorter blond turned out of some kind of complicated spin and then paused, apparently spotting them.

He waved off his friends and jogged over, a pleased smile on his face.

“You came. And brought a friend.”

“Yes, I hope that’s okay. Minato, this is my best friend, Adachi Kiyoshi.”

“Nice to meet you. You guys uh, looked good over there.” Adachi greeted, only a little awkwardly.

 “Nice to meet you too.” Minato said before directing all his attention to Tsuge, lifting an eyebrow and smiling a little wider. “I’m glad you could make it, I’ll be honest after I got your texts I still wasn’t sure you would.”

“Am I that unconvincing?” Tsuge said, avoiding eye contact and curling in his shoulders in a way that was frankly adorably bashful.

He was going to enjoy this more than he thought if this was what his friend looked like when he was smitten. Though his taste was certainly a little out of nowhere, but then Adachi didn’t have much room to talk, with whatever he was doing with the stranger.

Someone called for Minato, and he looked back at his group with a smidge of annoyance, turning back to them with a more reluctant smile, hooking his thumb over his shoulder. “I gotta… I’ll come talk to you more when we take a break, okay?”

“Right, of course. We’ll… Go get some drinks! I’m sure you’ll be thirsty after all that… dancing.” Tsuge finished lamely, reaching over to tug at Adachi’s arm. “Adachi, come on.”

“Uh, okay. We’ll be right back, I guess.” Adachi said, going along with his friend’s less than smooth retreat, flushing with second-hand embarrassment when he heard Minato laugh quietly behind them before running back to his friends.

Tsuge all but marched them to the nearest convenience store, looking like the errand was life or death based on the serious look on his face, and Adachi found himself just silently trailing along, not sure what to say.

“That didn’t go too badly. He said he was happy you came.”

Tsuge’s frown just deepened. “And also that he thought I wouldn’t. He said he would come talk to me… I have no idea what to even say to him.”

After that demoralised statement Tsuge stalked away over to the sports drink section, and Adachi watched him go with a sigh. He wasn’t doing very good at this whole moral support thing. After a moment overthinking if it was a good idea, he pulled his phone out of his pocket, opening his chat thread with the stranger.

 

(Mon, 5:47 pm)

Are you home yet? It’s cold out tonight I hope you had a coat and stuff

 

He laughed under his breath at the mother-hen-like text, though honestly maybe he could use some nagging, he hadn’t remembered anything other than a jacket this morning and the unscheduled running around a park had him feeling pretty chilled. He sneezed at least three more times just walking to the store.

 

(Mon, 6:34 pm)

Not home. Had to go help a friend with something…. Might actually need some advice

 

(Mon, 6:39 pm)

Oh? Do tell

 

He peered over to where Tsuge was studying the label of an energy drink so intently you would think he was going to write an essay about it, feeling a little guilty divulging personal stuff to someone he didn’t know, but he was doing it in the name of helping him better, so he supposed he could be forgiven.

 

(Mon, 6:40 pm)

Remember Tsuge? The one I thought I was texting when we… met

 

(Mon, 6:41 pm)

Ah, the famous Tsuge. Yes I remember

 

(Mon, 6:42 pm)

Well he met someone he likes, and he took me along to meet up with him, as like back up I guess. He doesn’t think it’s going well, I can’t really tell if it is or not. And I just don’t know what to say to him, advice-wise or just to make him feel better

 

(Mon, 6:44 pm)

Hmmm. Why doesn’t he think it’s going well?

 

(Mon, 6:45 pm)

He’s kind of… like me. Not great with social stuff. And the guy he likes is VERY different from us. He’s like a younger, cool guy. I think he’s worried he won’t have enough in common to talk to him

 

(Mon, 6:48 pm)

I see. Well, you should tell him that it probably goes both ways. If I was interested in someone older who might see me a certain way because we were different, I would be nervous about how to connect with him. If he’s a decent person, he’ll make an effort to bridge any differences, just like your friend Tsuge will do because he wants to get to know him… Even if he doesn’t seem as nervous, he might be just as worried about if things will work out and if they will be able to get closer

 

Adachi didn’t reply right away, having a feeling they weren’t just talking about Tsuge and his crush anymore. Was that true? In all his much more obvious nervousness and anxiety, was he missing signs that the stranger was struggling, even more than he had realised when there were those momentary slips and cracks in his confidence and smooth attitude?

Did his stranger spend as much time as he did wondering how much longer they would be able to keep doing this? Wondering if the day was coming faster than they knew when they would have to stop this. Or when they would finally meet.

 

(Mon, 6:51 pm)

You’re probably right

 

He settled for a short response, mulling over all of it. But there was one part he didn’t need to mull over, except needing an extra few seconds to muster the courage to add a question. 

 

(Mon, 6:53 pm)

Hey… Are you older than me? Or I guess, do you think I’m older than you?

 

He was pretty sure from the way he talked, the stranger couldn’t be too much older than him. And he didn’t think the stranger could be younger, at least not substantially. If not just because the idea of the person he was so… involved with was some college kid or something was humiliating. Not to mention the stranger couldn’t be much younger without making some of the things he had told him a lie.

 

(Mon, 6:55 pm)

I did wonder sometimes. But we have enough in common I figured we had to be in the same ballpark at least. Maybe I was a little afraid to be proven wrong. Do you want to tell me how old you are? Want me to tell you?

 

Adachi chewed his lip, likewise afraid he would get an answer he didn’t like. But while he could easily ignore all the things he didn’t know, resist asking most of the questions he had, actually denying himself something being dangled in front of him was almost impossible.

 

(Mon, 6:56 pm)

Okay. Ya. You first

 

(Mon, 6:57 pm)

I’m 32

 

(Mon, 6:59 pm)

Oh. Oh thank god

 

(Mon, 7:02 pm)

I take it that means that’s a good answer?

 

(Mon, 7:03 pm)

Definitely

 

(Mon, 7:04 pm)

… so are you going to put me out of my misery?

 

(Mon, 7:05 pm)

Oh! Right, sorry. I’m 29.

 

(Mon, 7:06 pm)

Oh no

 

(Mon, 7:07 pm)

What?

 

(Mon, 7:08 pm)

A whole three years younger, you might as well be an infant

 

(Mon, 7:09 pm)

Rude

 

(Mon, 7:10 pm)

No wonder you eat like a college kid

 

(Mon, 7:12 pm)

RUDE



Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

 

“Adachi! Are you coming?”

Adachi’s head popped up, looking over to see Tsuge by the door with a bag loaded with drinks, an impatient expression on his face.

“Oh. Right, sorry.”

He pocketed his phone, walking over to him, shivering and holding in a cough when they stepped out into the cold night air.

“Sorry about that.”

“What were you doing?” Tsuge asked.

“Just… texting the stranger.” He answered, telling himself the heat across his cheeks was a flush from being cold, nothing else.

“You’re still doing that?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” He said it more as a warning to not say the many reasons they both knew there were.

“Well, long as he’s still good to you.”

Adachi’s face twisted. “It isn’t like that. Anyway, weren’t we talking about you?”

 “If we must.” Tsuge answered, his earlier maudlin returning.

Adachi tried to remember all the things the stranger said, tried to think of how to say it the way Tsuge needed to hear it. “It’s alright if you have stuff you’re worried about. He’ll have stuff he’s worried about too. He’s probably just as worried what impression he’s making. But he seems really nice, and when you manage to actually say what you mean, you’re a great guy. So, as long as you both just make an effort, if it’s meant to, it’ll work out.”

Tsuge was quiet for a minute, thinking it over. Eventually he nodded and gave him a brief smile. “Adachi, you are a good friend.”

“Just trying to make sure I’m here for you as much as you’re here for me.” Adachi said, avoiding his friend’s eyes and wondering that the stranger’s constant flattery hadn’t yet beaten it out of him to be so damn shy about compliments.

“Adachi.”

The warning tone made him snap back to attention, and he realised they were almost back to the amphitheatre, and instead of music, he could hear raised voices. Angry raised voices. After exchanging a look and some quick nods, they hurried the rest of the way, meeting a sight that was far different from the one they left.

“Oh dear.”

There was a new man, he looked about the same age as Minato but dressed in a suit, more like Adachi than the casual loose clothing the others had on. Still, he obviously knew Minato, based on the way they were all in each other’s faces, hollering like they were seconds from going to blows.

Everyone else was yelling too, mostly trying to get the two of them to calm down, hands grabbing at their arms and shoulders so they couldn’t lunge forward like it sure looked like they wanted to. Adachi froze up, not good with any kind of confrontation let alone the physical kind. And with no idea what the fight was about, he didn’t know what he could try to say to get anyone to calm down.

He certainly didn’t expect Tsuge to be the one to step forward. He shouldered his way in between them, hands up in a placating manner, whatever he said too low for Adachi to catch where he was. Minato seemed to simmer down some, but the other man puffed up indignantly, biting something out before reaching out and shoving.

Tsuge fell back, stumbling into Minato before he could brace himself. It made Adachi snap out of it and get over himself enough to hurry forward in case he needed help, but apparently that was all the younger man had in him because with a last shove of his shoulder against Tsuge’s, he stalked off, throwing a venomous look over his shoulder that was almost impressively spiteful.

“What was that all about?” Adachi asked, watching Tsuge awkwardly step out of Minato’s space and brush a hand over his clothes.

“Just someone too bitter for their own good. Taking it out on other people who don’t deserve it. You alright, Tsuge?” Minato said, running a hand through his hair and starting to look somewhat embarrassed.

“I’m fine. Are you okay?” Tsuge asked, hand raising like he wanted to reach out, but dropping back down before he managed it.  

“Alright. You didn’t have to… thanks. Sorry for the trouble.” Minato said, sparing them a smile.

“As long as everyone is alright, no harm done.” Adachi answered when it looked like Tsuge wasn’t sure what to say.

“Adachi?!”

Adachi’s eyes fell shut and he gave a heavy, tired sigh, thinking that he must really be having the worst luck that day if that was who he thought it was. He opened his eyes and turned to see a familiar figure step forward, who he hadn’t noticed before in all the commotion. And maybe he also hadn’t recognised Rokkaku before then because he had never seen him in anything other than a suit before.

“Adachi, that is you! What a coincidence! What are you doing here?” Rokkaku said, full of enthusiasm, walking over and clapping him on the shoulder like they were the best of friends.

“Hi, Rokkaku. Nice to see you. Since I saw you two hours ago.” Adachi replied, almost managing to not sound dry and sarcastic, not that the younger man noticed. “Minato invited my friend to come, he asked if I wanted to come along. So here I am.”

“That really is a coincidence! I've known Minato for years. Used to be part of a dance team together. Now that I’m working with you and everyone though, I just come practice with him every once in a while.” Rokkaku said with a laugh.

“That’s… cool.” Adachi replied, annoyance waning in the face of Rokkaku’s… Rokkaku-ness.

It did add some depth to his coworker. He almost never thought about what the people he worked with were like outside of work, but it did match up, Rokkaku being the kind of person who would fit into this kind of crowd.

“You two work together?” Tsuge asked, likely trying and failing to picture the very unprofessional and animated looking young man in front of them cooped up in an office all day.

After that there were some stilted introductions, the rest of the group saying they were leaving now that “the mood was ruined.” Minato thought for a moment before saying he was gonna stay, and in what he thought was a moment of brief genius, Adachi put a big smile on his face and placed his hand on Tsuge’s shoulder.

“Tsuge, why don’t you hang around a little longer, keep him company. Rokkaku, if you wouldn’t mind, I had something I wanted to talk to you about tomorrow at work but if you walked with me to the train station we could talk about it now?”

Tsuge’s mouth dropped open, no doubt to argue. But Adachi gave him a wide-eyed flat-mouthed look and he stayed quiet with a glare. Thankfully Rokkaku was quicker on the uptake for once, looking over the three of them with a gleam in his eyes and a delighted smile.

Oh, riiight. ” He said, opposite of subtle. “Sure, sure. I can walk with you. Night, Minato! Have fun.”

Adachi rolled his eyes at the wink Rokkaku threw before joining him as he walked away a little faster than casually, not wanting to give Tsuge another chance to protest. As they left the park, he had to pat himself on the back for maybe the smoothest social manoeuvre he had ever pulled.

“That was nice of you. I don’t think I’ve seen Minato like that before. Usually all he cares about is dancing.” Rokkaku eventually said, surprisingly calm and even.

“Just helping Tsuge. Thought they could use some time without an audience. He gets nervous easy.”

“Really? He sure doesn’t seem like the nervous kind, was kinda intimidating actually. Who knew that was Minato’s type, old and serious.” Rokkaku mused with a grin before it dropped and he looked over at Adachi with concern. “Not that either of you are old! I just mean, well you know what I mean.”

Adachi surprisingly wasn’t offended, laughing instead. It wasn’t like he didn’t spend half the time he was around Rokkaku complaining in his head about how young he seemed in comparison to Adachi’s barely middle-aged Twenty-nine. “It’s fine. He definitely gives that impression. But he can be... soft. You should see him with his cat.”

“Well, if he’s friends with you he’s gotta be a good guy!” Rokkaku said with a decisive nod.

“If you say so. How long have you been dancing for?” Adachi asked, eager to get the attention off himself.

Rokkaku hesitated, almost too quick to catch, before speaking. “Pretty much always. But I… gave up trying to do something with it a while ago. Not like Minato, he’s amazing. He works deliveries so he can put everything he has into dancing. He’s got this drive, there’s nothing I admire more than someone who follows their passions!”

Now, the second part of that sounded like the usual stuff that spilled out of him, but Adachi couldn’t help noticing that first part, well it almost sounded… almost sounded like him on a bad day.

“But you didn’t give up, right? You just changed what you were passionate about. I mean, you seem pretty passionate at work.” Adachi said, managing to not make it clear how weird he thought it was that someone was passionate about stationery.

Rokkaku looked almost caught out, mouth falling open a little and his cheeks going a little darker. “I guess. I really want to be the best, to work as hard as I can.” He said, almost shy.

“I’m sure you will be.” Adachi said, an easy thing to say, not just because it was a platitude but because he could imagine if he did keep on the way he had been since he joined the company, Rokkaku would definitely go far.

The look on Rokkaku’s face made him feel like he had said something with a lot more weight than he meant to. But for once he didn’t try and say something to brush it off, he didn’t say something to try and get Rokkaku to stop looking at him the way he was, the way he had started to since that stupid night at the restaurant. He let them stay in that moment, walking in silence the rest of the way to the train station.

They parted with a casual goodbye, and Adachi realised on the way home to his horror, he might have actually meant it in a good way when he said “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Apparently he was going to eat his words to the stranger about whether or not he was Rokkaku’s friend. Apparently he was going to be friends with the “coffee giving puppy” after all. And didn’t that sound horrible.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen

 

It seemed the stranger took him being alright with that first picture as an invitation to keep sending more, as after that their daily conversations became interspersed with little snapshots of whatever the stranger was up to. It was almost like he thought Adachi was his own little Instagram feed, showing off what he was eating for dinner, a pretty tree he saw on the way to work, even books he was reading. Turned out he and Adachi had the same taste in manga.

Adachi wasn’t exactly sure how he felt about it. On one hand, he coveted all the little bits and pieces of the life the man on the other side of his phone was living. On the other hand, it made something in his stomach twist, the reminders that his stranger really was real, a real man out there, going about his days, a face Adachi wouldn’t know in the crowd, that he didn’t know if he would ever know.

The stranger was still careful to make sure nothing identifiable was in the pictures, but when Adachi didn’t tell him to stop he did get a little more bold. Sometimes there would be just the barest edge of a sleeve in the corner of a photo. The tip of a rather expensive looking shoe. Once there was even a hand holding a book.

Adachi wasn’t going to even try to pretend that he didn’t spend way too much time studying that hand, trying to conjure up a picture of a while person with just that one bit. He wondered if the stranger ever did the same with the rare pictures he sent back, looked over and over making sure he didn’t miss a single detail it could tell him about Adachi’s life.

He hoped so, but he wasn’t sure how fair that was. He knew he gave away far less than the stranger ever did.

Over the next week it seemed like it just got colder and colder by the day, and he definitely paid for it any time he forgot his gloves at home. The occasional sniffle and sneeze that started up the day they went to see Minato kept with him, as did the feeling he was perpetually sleep-deprived. Still, he stubbornly ignored it, going about like things were normal with just some bottles of cold medicine thrown back whenever he spared the thought to. He figured he just had to wait it out.

Wednesday was the day waiting it out became a tough thing to pull off. Before he had done a decent job trucking along, as far as he knew no one at work noticed he was under the weather. But Wednesday found him sitting at his desk, trying to not either nod off where he sat or sneeze so loud they could hear it all the way to the hallway outside the office. He could feel all the pitying looks he was getting, even Urabe leaving him be except the occasional concerned frowns thrown his way. Rokkaku had dropped off two cans of coffee and a bottle of just plain water at his desk throughout the day. Even Fujisaka came by to check on him when he didn’t move from his desk at lunch time, though she was too polite to say that was what she was doing.

After a certain point, it did occur to him that he may have made a mistake with his whole “grin and bear it” approach.

 

Wednesday, October 27th

 

(Wed, 3:12 pm)

I think I’m dying

 

(Wed, 3:15 pm)

Hello dying, nice to meet you

 

Adachi let out a laugh that scraped against his sore throat. Why was it he could be absolutely miserable and his stranger could still make him laugh?

 

(Wed, 3:16 pm)

You’re not cute

 

(Wed, 3:17 pm)

I’m very cute. What’s wrong?

 

(Wed, 3:18 pm)

I’m sick and at work

 

(Wed, 3:19 pm)

:(

 

(Wed, 3:20 pm)

My thoughts exactly

 

(Wed, 3:21 pm)

Do you have any medicine?

 

(Wed, 3:23 pm)

I have coffee

 

(Wed, 3:24 pm)

>:(

 

(Wed, 3:25 pm)

Coffee is good

 

(Wed, 3:26 pm)

So is proper healthcare. Can you leave work early?

 

(Wed, 3:27 pm)

Noooo I can’t be a wimp

 

(Wed, 3:28 pm)

If you are actually telling me you’re sick then it must be bad. There’s no shame in taking care of yourself

 

(Wed, 3:29 pm)

I’ve just got to make it to five, then I can go home and sleep it off for the rest of the night

 

(Wed, 3:31 pm)

 

(Wed, 3:32 pm)

What

 

(Wed, 3:33 pm)

You have to be kidding

 

(Wed, 3:34 pm)

No, I can make it two hours

 

(Wed, 3:35 pm)

Well that seems unnecessary but I meant the sleeping it off part. You’re not seriously planning on going back to work in the morning?

 

(Wed, 3:36 pm)

I can’t be one of those guys who takes sick days all the time

 

(Wed, 3:37 pm)

When was the last time you took a sick day?

 

(Wed, 3:38 pm)

Uh I don’t actually remember

 

(Wed, 3:39 pm)

Right. Sounds like you got a real truancy problem then

 

(Wed, 3:41 pm)

I am pitiful and sickly, stop bullying me

 

(Wed, 3:42 pm)

Of course. I apologise for caring about you. Now please also care about yourself. Go home, and stay there until you are actually better

 

(Wed, 3:43 pm)

No, you can’t tell me what to do

 

(Wed, 3:45 pm)

Are you sure about that?

 

He was saved from having to answer that or explain to himself why he was suddenly blushing by Urabe leaning over into his space, placing a hand gently on his shoulder much more gently than his usual bracing pats.

“Hey, Adachi…”

He immediately braced himself, programmed to expect that phrase to precede having some kind of exacerbating task hoisted onto him.

“It’s just about four, and I think I have everything handled pretty well. Why don’t you kick off early?”

Adachi blinked in fuzzy possibly fevered confusion, not quite comprehending the out he had been offered. “Uh, that’s okay. I don’t wanna bail when there’s still work.” He tried to wave it off.

“No no, it’s totally fine. Really, I probably won’t even have stuff to keep me busy until five.” Urabe said, shaking his head theatrically.

“I mean… if you’re really sure.” Adachi said, giving into the peer pressure. He honestly wasn’t even sure why he had been feeling so stubborn about it. But then he was having a hard time thinking in general.

“I definitely am. Go on, get outta here.” Urabe said, making a shooing motion.

With a sigh that was almost more of a groan, Adachi packed up his stuff and got ready to leave, throwing back the rest of his coffee to brace himself for the journey home.

 

(Wed, 4:06 pm)

I was strongly urged to go home, so guess you win

 

(Wed, 4:09 pm)

What a shame, now you have no choice but to take care of yourself

 

(Wed, 4:11 pm)

Yeah whatever, I’m too miserable to argue anymore

 

(Wed, 4:12 pm)

Are you going to be okay? You live alone, don’t you? Maybe you should ask your friend to come over

 

(Wed, 4:13 pm)

I’ll be fine, I never have anyone around to help when I’m sick and I always manage

 

(Wed, 4:16 pm)

I wish you didn’t have to take care of yourself all alone. You deserve to have someone looking after you. Promise me you’ll take some medicine and really rest? And that you won’t go into work tomorrow?

 

Adachi frowned, strangely uncomfortable reading that. Maybe because it was pushing into territory he didn’t let himself think about. He didn’t have anyone to nurse him back to health. He didn’t have anyone to hug him and tell him it would get better after a hard day. He didn’t have anyone to share all the small moments of happiness with. That was just the reality of his life.

Thinking about what it would be like, if things were different, it would just be him signing up for more heartache than he could deal with.

 

(Wed, 4:17 pm)

Okay, geez. I’ll pick up some cold medicine and soup or something on my way home. And I’ll stay home tomorrow if you’re going to get all bent out of shape about it

 

(Wed, 4: pm)

Good. Seems I can tell you what to do after all ☀️

 

He shook his head, laughing again despite himself, once again flushing. Lots of things he wasn’t thinking about tonight apparently.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen

 

Adachi didn’t actually remember much of Wednesday night. He somehow muddled his way through getting home, downing some cold medicine, taking a shower that was just long enough to chase away the chill that seemed to have seeped into his very bones, and then curling up in bed with every blanket he owned. He spent the next twelve hours sleeping between bouts of shivering and the occasional stumble to the bathroom or to the kitchen for water.

Once morning hit, any ideas of going to work were thoroughly squashed by the fact he could barely sit up straight, officially feverish and barely coherent enough to call in sick. He managed some more medicine and a microwaved bowl of soup before going back to bed, wondering exactly what he did in a past life to deserve the way his whole body was currently aching.

The only real comfort he had was the occasional text he received from the stranger, which continued throughout the day even though he didn’t find the energy to reply until the late afternoon.

 

Thursday, October 27th

 

(Thurs, 7:46 am)

Good morning. I hope you’re feeling better. Get lots of rest today, okay?

 

(Thurs, 10:32 am)

I’m assuming you must still be sleeping, which means you didn’t go to work. Good, you deserve a break. I’m almost jealous, today has barely started and I’m already sick of being here. I’m really starting to wonder if I should start looking for somewhere else to work, this office is draining the life out of me more and more

 

(Thurs, 11:12 am)

I hope you’re taking your medicine regularly. And drinking water. You won’t get better if you aren’t hydrated



(Thurs, 11:49 am)

And eating. Even if it’s something light. What do you like to eat when you’re sick? Are you like a crackers and toast kind of person? Soup? When I was in college I’d always order out drunken noodles when I was sick

 

(Thurs, 12:17 pm)

Question. How much of a bad person does it make me that I am watching one of my coworkers, who I am fairly sure thinks I am his friend, pour a significant amount of salt into his coffee, and I don’t plan on saying a single thing?

 

(Thurs, 12:20 pm)

Okay I don’t care how much of a bad person it makes me, that was hilarious. He took a giant gulp of it and immediately started gagging and spitting coffee everywhere.

 

(Thurs, 12:53 pm)

I’m gonna ride this high for the rest of the day

 

(Thurs, 4:03 pm)

Never mind, the high is over. And I’m worried about you. I know your probably just sleeping but if you’ve been sleeping literally all day, you must really be feeling awful

 

It was this message that he finally pushed himself to answer.

 

(Thurs, 4:07 pm)

Don’t be worried about me. I’m alive. I feel like trash but I’m alive

And that was mean but I kind of respect it. Is work really that stressful for you? What makes it so hard?

And I like soup. But I’m out of soup. And I have no energy to get more soup. I am soupless

 

(Thurs, 4:12 pm)

Hi! You’re here! Oh I was downplaying a little bit, I was actually really worried, not hearing from you all day long

 

He squirmed under his blankets, part of him selfishly pleased. He never had that before. Never knew there was someone out there with him on their mind, never had someone dwelling on if he was doing okay. Sure, he and Tsuge looked after each other, but it wasn’t ever quite that kind of relationship. They were more like cats, intertwining when they actually were together but going on completely separate in most of their day to day.

It was nothing like whatever he had with the stranger. Even without knowing his name, he couldn’t imagine being anything but  It was such a simple statement, but it meant so much to him. I was worried about you.

 

(Thurs, 4:14 pm)

I’m sorry

 

(Thurs, 4:17 pm)

No don’t be sorry, you’re never obligated to text me, especially not when you are supposed to be recovering. And forget my complaining, it’s really not that bad. I just feel like… everyone at work is nice, but I feel like a stranger here. And the way some people treat me makes me uncomfortable. But it would probably be like that anywhere.

 

Adachi parsed through the text, having to reread it a few times to make sure he understood. It was a sentiment he could definitely empathise with, and it made his heart ache that that was how his stranger felt day to day. But before he could respond, another text came through.

 

(Thurs, 4:20 pm)

But enough about me! I’m sorry that you still feel bad. And being soupless definitely sounds like a bad thing to be. Wish I could do something to help you feel better

 

Adachi didn’t like the way the stranger pushed off his own troubles, the way he acted like his pain didn’t matter. But he was starting to learn when he was going to be stubborn, so instead of pushing, Adachi put it in his pocket for another time. 

 

(Thurs, 4:22 pm)

Talking to you makes me feel better

 

(Thurs, 4:26 pm)

I’m glad. I like being the one who comforts you

 

If Adachi was less out of it he would be embarrassed to say something that sounded so blatantly needy, to get a response so perfectly sweet. As it was he was just drinking in the attention like an under watered flower. But the idea of this being something he couldn’t have forever made it hurt just as much as it soothed.

 

(Thurs, 4:31 pm)

You gotta stop saying things like that

 

(Thurs, 4:33 pm)

Why? 

 

(Thurs, 4:37 pm)

I’m trying to not have any expectations. Trying to not read too much into these conversations. You’re making it very hard

 

(Thurs, 4:39 pm)

What if I want you to expect things from me?

 

(Thurs, 4:43 pm)

Like what?

 

(Thurs, 4:46 pm)

Well, I assume being soupless means you haven’t eaten for a bit. I hope you’re at least drinking water and taking meds

 

Adachi frowned. That sure seemed like a non-sequitur.

 

(Thurs, 4:48 pm)

Uh. Well yeah, I haven’t eaten in a while. Mostly have been hydrating and taking my pills on time. Not seeing how that answers my question though

 

(Thurs, 4:54 pm)

Have some patience

 

(Thurs, 4:55 pm)

?

 

His doorbell rang. The fairly pleasant chime felt like it reverberated straight into his chest, a lance of adrenaline making the fever-dulled world around him suddenly go sharp. He stumbled out of bed, one comforter still wrapped around his shoulders. He shambled over to the door in a shivery little bundle, feeling like a small animal waiting to see what was disturbing the brush around its nest.

It couldn’t possibly be. There was no way the stranger was on the other side of that door. No way. A man who didn’t even ask him his name would never betray his trust by hunting down his address. He would know that if they were ever going to meet, it couldn’t be like that, Adachi a sick, exhausted mess, unprepared and still terrified of the very idea of meeting his stranger in any circumstance, let alone now, when he knew he couldn’t possibly look like what the stranger might be hoping for. If he ever looked like a man that the stranger would think was worth all this.

Even if Adachi knew, somewhere in the deep deep untouched parts of his brain, he would do anything for his stranger to be closer than just words on a phone screen, he just couldn’t face the reality of it yet.

The doorbell rang again.

With a shaky deep breath, he reached out and opened the door.



Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen 

 

Adachi blinked in confusion. The young woman in front of him blinked back.

“Uh. Delivery?” She said uncertainly, holding up a bag that had the logo for his favourite take out place on it, the same logo he now noticed was on her hat.

“Oh. Umm. But I… didn’t order anything?” He said, squinting between her and the bag.

“Well someone did, and said to deliver it to this address. So are you going to take it? It’s already paid for so you might as well.” She said, sounding very bored and like she didn’t really care one way or another if the half-dead looking man in front of her did or didn’t take the food, as long as she didn’t get held up any longer.

“I guess I’ll take it?” He answered, taking the bag and feeling like he was doing something he shouldn’t.

“Thank you for your patronage, don’t forget to leave a review about your experience.” The girl recited, turning and leaving before he actually had a chance to reply or start shutting the door.

“Okay…” Adachi said, heading to the kitchen and inspecting the contents.

It was his regular order. His exact regular order, with a large serving of his favourite soup thrown in. What the hell. His phone buzzed behind him and he turned to thumb it open absentmindedly.

 

(Thurs, 5:12 pm)

Okay I know I said be patient. But now I’m nervous if it actually worked. Did it?

 

(Thurs, 5:13 pm)

Did what work?

 

(Thurs, 5:14 pm)

Soup

 

(Thurs, 5:16 pm)

… Are you saying you’re the one who sent the food?

 

(Thurs, 5:17 pm)

I did. It got there then? Great! I wasn’t sure that was actually going to work

 

(Thurs, 5:20 pm)

How

 

(Thurs, 5:22 pm)

… Should I not have? I just thought… I felt so useless, hearing you were sick and not being able to do anything except text

 

(Thurs, 5:23 pm)

How did you do it?

 

(Thurs, 5:26 pm)

You sent me two pics of take out from that restaurant. Said it was your favourite… I figured if you ordered from there regularly, they would have your info. So I called and I asked if they had your number on file, and when they said they did I asked if they could send whatever you usually get to your address along with some soup. I just paid. They didn’t tell me where they were delivering it, or what your name is. I promise

 

(Thurs, 5:38 pm)

That… is actually really smart. I can’t believe you managed how to pull that off without learning any of my info

 

(Thurs, 5:40 pm)

I wasn’t going to do something that would make you uncomfortable. No matter the reason. Or at least, I hope I haven’t. I really just wanted to make you feel better, do something that would actually help

 

(Thurs, 5:45 pm)

I’m sorry. I messed up, didn’t I?

 

(Thurs, 5:46 pm)

No, no you didn’t, not at all. It’s amazing. This is amazing. Thank you

 

(Thurs, 5:48 pm)

Oh. Ok. Uh, where did you go then, if you aren’t mad at me?

 

(Thurs, 5:49 pm)

Um

 

(Thurs, 5:50 pm)

?

 

(Thurs, 5:53 pm)

Ok. I’m only admitting this because I still have a fever and I feel weird lying to someone who just did something so nice to me. But I was kinda crying

 

(Thurs, 5:56 pm)

Oh. Oh god, I’m so sorry dear. I really didn’t mean to upset you that much. Crap, I don’t know why I thought something like that wouldn’t be too much

 

(Thurs, 5:58 pm)

Please don’t apologise! Really. It isn’t too much. At least, it’s only too much in I’ve had a really hard week and someone doing something so nice and going out of their way like that for me was enough to make me lose it like an idiot

 

(Thurs, 5:59 pm)

You’re not an idiot, being easily overwhelmed when you aren’t feeling well is perfectly normal

 

(Thurs, 6:02 pm)

I really like this soup

 

(Thurs, 6:03 pm)

I’m glad. Maybe I’ll order some too, I just got home

 

(Thurs, 6:04 pm)

Then it’ll be like we are having dinner together

 

(Thurs, 6:05 pm)

Sounds like a perfect way to spend my night

 

(Thurs, 6:07 pm)

Wouldn’t be if I was actually there, I’m far from perfect especially now. Spending all day in bed I’m a total mess. I think I scared the woman who delivered the food

 

(Thurs, 6:09 pm)

I’m sure you look just fine, considering you aren’t well. At least she got to see you. Is it bad for me to admit I felt jealous, sending a stranger to you in my place? I wish I could bring you dinner myself, come sit with you until you feel better. But I also get why that won’t happen

 

(Thurs, 6:11 pm)

You’ve been talking a lot more about actually meeting

 

(Thurs, 6:14 pm)

I know. I should probably stop. It’s a little too easy to give into wishful thinking while only talking to you through text. I know you aren’t comfortable with telling me who you are. Honestly the idea of you knowing who I really am still scares me too

 

(Thurs, 6:16 pm)

Why would you be scared?... You’re amazing.

 

(Thurs, 6:19 pm)

Maybe it’s all this stuff at work. I don’t know. I just know I don’t feel like the man that you deserve to meet right now

 

(Thurs, 6:22 pm)

Strange, since I almost always feel like I don’t deserve you already. I can’t imagine actually meeting you would change that

 

(Thurs, 6:24 pm)

I have a feeling we could be having this conversation completely flipped. If I’m understanding the way you feel about our... relationship correctly

 

(Thurs, 6:25 pm)

Meaning me saying I don’t feel like the person who’s right to meet you, and you saying something sweet that makes me all flustered back?

 

(Thurs, 6:26 pm)

Yes

 

(Thurs, 6:27 pm)

Seems we are becoming predictable

 

(Thurs, 6:28 pm)

Let’s say reliable instead

 

(Thurs, 6:29 pm)

You always know how to make everything seem better

 

(Thurs, 6:30 pm)

Just returning the favor, since you make everything seem better for me

 

(Thurs, 6:31 pm)

You say things like that, and think you aren’t someone I would be happy to meet

 

(Thurs, 6:32 pm)

Maybe it would be different if I felt like I actually knew who I was. These days, I’m not sure I do

 

(Thurs, 6:34 pm)

Well… For now, would it help if I say that even if you feel like you don’t know who you are, I know you? And like I said… The person I’ve gotten to know is amazing.

 

(Thurs, 6:36 pm)

That does help. A lot of people think they know me. But for the first time, having it be you who is saying it, it actually feels good.

Thank you ☀️



Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen

 

Now, Adachi couldn’t exactly say what it was that made him recover. The rest, the medicine, just time. It could have been any of those things, but if you asked him, it was definitely the soup. Friday morning he woke up, still a little tired, but miles above what he felt the day before, and he got up for work with something close to pep in his step.

 

Friday, October 29th

 

(Fri, 8:06 am)

Gooood morning

 

(Fri, 8:12 am)

Oh, what’s this, an early bird? And by the sounds of it a much healthier one

 

(Fri, 8:19 am)

I’m feeling way better! Good enough to go back into work

 

(Fri, 8:27 am)

That’s great to hear! Take it easy though, wouldn’t do for you to push yourself too hard

 

(Fri, 8:33 am)

Yeah yeah, I got it. You sure you aren’t a nurse instead of working in an office?

 

(Fri, 8:37 am)

Nah, I only play a nurse on tv ;)

 

Adachi laughed, shaking his head as he put his phone away to get ready to leave. How his stranger could say he was afraid to meet but seemed utterly fearless and unashamed to say anything, he didn’t get.

As much as he had worried about what people would think if he took a sick day, he didn’t actually expect anyone other than Urabe to really notice that he had missed work, so when he walked into the office and was almost immediately greeted by a loud cheer of his name, it started him so much he almost tripped.

“Adachi! You’re back!” Rokkaku near yelled, hurrying over and immediately wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

“Uh, yeah. I’m back. I was sick yesterday.” Adachi said, trying to not squirm too much even though he really wished Rokkaku wasn’t so handsy. He didn’t exactly dislike the casual contact, he just really wasn’t used to it.

“Urabe said. I figured you might be out, you looked really tired on Wednesday. It’s good that you got some rest! We can only do our best work when we are at our best health!” Rokkaku recited like it was something he read out of a book, which wouldn’t surprise Adachi in the least. If anyone was the type to read all that self-help ten steps to a successful life stuff, it was Rokkaku.

“Right… Well I’m healthy. And back. Ready to jump back in.” Adachi replied, shifting slightly away from him with the subtle dismissal.

“Of course! Let’s do our best today.” Rokkaku said, pumping a fist like they were talking about something a lot more hardcore than going over expense reports.

“Yep.” He replied, stepping the rest of the way out of Rokkaku’s reach and turning toward his desk, glad to make his escape even if he was a little flattered by the attention.

He had waited to see if Rokkaku’s interest in him would wane, but so far it had yet to. It seemed whatever accidental good impression he had left, Rokkaku wasn’t going to be dissuaded from it. It seemed their friendship was something he was going to have to learn to live with. At least, unless Adachi got fired. The week before, the guy who worked at the desk across from Rokkaku was “let go” and no one knew if it was because he actually did something wrong or their team was going to be having some layoffs. Obviously that meant some general nervousness from his coworkers, and more obvious anxiety from Adachi.

The day passed pretty normally after that, Adachi not even texting the stranger much because he both wanted to make up for his missed day and also make sure he didn’t have to stay late on a Friday night, not that he had any plans. Urabe was happy he was back, hoisting a nice little pile of folders onto his desk almost before saying hello.

Come five, he was thinking he might actually get to leave soon, once he finished up one or two more things, when he suddenly felt someone at his back. He swivelled his chair, holding in a jump when he turned to see Rokkaku right behind him with a suspiciously large grin.

“Uh. Hey.”

“Adachi, hard at work I see.” Rokkaku greeted, peeking over his shoulder at his computer. “Do you think you’ll be ready to head out soon?”

“I mean… I think so? Why?” Adachi asked, squinting as his suspicion continued to mount.

“Great! We should do something, it’s Friday night after all! Maybe get dinner somewhere?” Rokkaku proposed with so much enthusiasm Adachi didn’t blurt out the immediate refusal he wanted to.

“Well… That sounds great Rokkaku. But…” He said, trying to think of anything to get out of this. “I’m not sure I’m up for going out right after being sick. Think a night in would probably be better.”

“Ahhh, you’re right. That would definitely be smarter! Let’s hang out at your place then.”

Adachi gaped at him, not understanding how his brush off failed so spectacularly, realising he had absolutely no way to get out of this that wasn’t telling Rokkaku “Actually I really don’t want you in my apartment and would rather spend Friday night wrapped up in a blanket reading comics and texting someone I don’t know.”

He was trapped.

 

(Fri, 6:13 pm)

Question

 

(Fri, 6:15 pm)

?

 

(Fri, 6:16 pm)

What does one do when a certain coffee-giving puppy has followed them home and they don’t know how to get them to leave or how to actually host a hang out?

 

(Fri, 6:18 pm)

… Is this like, a metaphor or should I be concerned?

 

(Fri, 6:20 pm)

No it’s not a metaphor that guy actually somehow roped me into a sleepover and I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to be doing right now

 

(Fri, 6:21 pm)

Uh. Ok. What is he doing?

 

(Fri, 6:22 pm)

Making food. He’s a surprisingly good cook for someone that age



(Fri, 6:24 pm)

I’m assuming violence is a last resort?

 

(Fri, 6:26 pm)

-_- Yes it is

 

(Fri, 6:27 pm)

Just checking. I guess you could start with eating the food

 

(Fri, 6:28 pm)

Genius, why didn’t I think of that

 

(Fri, 6:30 pm)

Wait did you say sleepover?

 

(Fri, 6:31 pm)

Yes yes, keep up. And maybe suggest something I couldn’t think of myself

 

(Fri, 6:33 pm)

Someone’s snippy

 

(Fri, 6:34 pm)

Sorry. I’m just weirded out. I’ve never had anyone but Tsuge over before. I mean, other than my mother

 

(Fri, 6:36 pm)

Really. Interesting

 

(Fri, 6:38 pm)

Now don’t get all weird and quiet. Not when I need your help

 

(Fri, 6:42 pm)

Aren’t you two friends now or something? Just talk to him

 

(Fri, 6:44 pm)

About what? I may not have actually invited him here but I don’t want him to get super bored and decide I’m lame

 

(Fri, 6:47 pm)

Talk about whatever you want. You’re an interesting person. We’ve been talking for how long now? And I’ve never once thought you were “lame”

 

(Fri, 6:50 pm)

You’re special though

 

(Fri, 6:55 pm)

Well sounds like he’s special too, and I mean that in a less flattering way. Just try to talk, I’m sure if it comes down to it you can distract him with something shiny

 

(Fri, 6:59 pm)

You must be real fun at sleepovers

 

(Fri, 7:11 pm)

I am. Want me to show you how fun sometime? ;)

 

(Fri, 7:14 pm)

OKAY THEN GOOD NIGHT

 

(Fri, 7:15 pm)

Wait no don’t go, I wanna know what happens



(Fri, 7:25 pm)

?



(Fri, 7:45 pm)

Come baaaack



(Fri, 7:53 pm)

:(



(Fri, 8:16 pm)

FINE have fun with your puppy. Tell me in the morning what happened! And I sure hope you have a futon or something…

 

(Fri, 8:32 pm)

I do have a futon. And I will… Thank you for trying to help. You really are special

 

(Fri, 8:41 pm)

☀️



Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen

 

Thursday, November 2nd

 

(Thurs, 6:12 pm)

How is it so cold??? It’s barely even winter and I’m already dying. By next month parts of me are going to be freezing and falling off on my way home from work

 

(Thurs, 6:14 pm)

No thank you, I would prefer you all in one piece please

 

(Thurs, 6:15 pm)

I forgot my gloves again

 

(Thurs, 6:16 pm)

>:(

 

(Thurs, 6:17 pm)

Oh shush, maybe I’ll grab another pair. I’m at the store right now

 

(Thurs, 6:18 pm)

Do that. And then go home

 

(Thurs, 6:19 pm)

Are you home?

 

(Thurs, 6:21 pm)

No, I’m out shopping too. Look what I got!

 

Adachi grinned down at the picture the stranger sent him, a snapshot of him holding the latest issue of the manga they both read. It was funny, the little things they had in common. They met by absolute chance, could have been anyone. He could have accidentally texted some old lady or a middle-aged dad. Instead he found his stranger.

 

(Thurs, 6:23 pm)

What a coincidence…

 

He followed up the text with a picture of his own, the same exact comic he was currently picking up along with his other shopping, shrugging off his usual feeling of self-consciousness whenever he sent a photo. 

 

(Thurs, 6:24 pm)

Well well, seems once again we are a perfect match

 

(Thurs, 6:25 pm)

Or we both keep track of the release dates and are too impatient to wait longer before going to pick up the new issues

 

(Thurs, 6:26 pm)

I like my take better

 

(Thurs, 6:27 pm)

So do I

 

(Thurs, 6:28 pm)

You’re so cynical, it’s adorable

 

Adachi flushed. Since he started getting closer to Rokkaku, and simultaneously started mentioning him more to the stranger, triggering the jealousy Adachi still found absolutely baffling, his stranger had been acting a lot less coy. Comments before that could be passed off as platonic, or at least were veiled enough Adachi couldn’t say for certain what way he was meant to take them, had become pretty overt overtures and flirtations.

Plus there was the fact the stranger had decided to deal with the fact he didn’t know Adachi’s name by giving him his own little label...

 

(Thurs, 6:32 pm)

Dear… Are you still in the store?

 

(Thurs, 6:33 pm)

Uh, yeah. Why?

 

Adachi asked, frowning in confusion.

 

(Thurs, 6:34 pm)

Stay where you are and don’t look around

 

(Thurs, 6:35 pm)

What?

 

(Thurs, 6:37 pm)

Look at the picture I sent you again

 

Puzzled, Adachi scrolled back up to the photo, looking closer and trying to figure out what it was that he wanted Adachi to see. It looked like any of his other pictures. There was his hand, pale and long fingered, nails neat. A nice watch Adachi wouldn’t be able to afford on his wrist, the sleeve of a nice black coat at the edge of the photo. Behind the comic was just the rack it had been picked up from, a window just behind that… A window that looked out onto a blurry street. A street he was pretty sure he recognised even though it was blurred.

He saw what it was the stranger wanted him to see, his heart skipping a beat in his chest as he felt his hands go clammy in panic.

 

(Thurs, 6:40 pm)

Are you...

 

(Thurs, 6:41 pm)

In the same store you’re in right now. Yes, I think so. I went straight to the register, I didn’t look at anyone. Just stay wherever you are and in a minute I’ll be outside.

 

Adachi felt his knees go to water under him, swaying into the rack he was standing next to. His stranger was here. He was right here. He might have already seen him without realising it, something he had considered happening before but never actually thought would happen.

He did his best to make his mind go blank, to not try and remember if he saw any faces when he walked in, if his eyes scanned over some strange man without registering it, without the slightest hint who it could be. His stranger could be somewhere in his mind now.

He squeezed his eyes shut, wishing he could just decide to make himself forget everything from the past few minutes to make sure there was no chance.

 

(Thurs, 6:43 pm)

Ok. Ok I can do that… I’ll just stay right here and not look up until you say the coast is clear

 

(Thurs, 6:44 pm)

Ok. I’m sorry

 

(Thurs, 6:45 pm)

Why are you sorry? It isn’t your fault we came to the same store. 

 

(Thurs, 6:46 pm)

I know but...

 

(Thurs, 6:47 pm)

… Do you think you saw me?

 

(Thurs, 6:48 pm)

I don’t know. I don’t think so, I don’t remember any specific faces. 

 

(Thurs, 6:49 pm)

I don’t either

 

(Thurs, 6:50 pm)

I’m still sorry

 

(Thurs, 6:51 pm)

?

 

(Thurs, 6:53 pm)

There was a second… when I recognised the background of your photo. And I thought, all I have to do is turn around and walk a few feet. And then he’ll be right there. And I almost did it. Even though I knew you wouldn’t want that, wouldn’t want to meet like that. All I cared about was that I could see you. Think that’s a reason to feel guilty… 

 

Adachi bit his lip, not sure how it made him feel. He didn’t know how he would have reacted if the stranger was suddenly walking right up to him. He was right, Adachi wouldn’t have chosen to meet like that. But part of him was almost disappointed. It would have meant the choice was out of his hands, was sort of out of the stranger’s hands too, since it was just by chance they stumbled onto each other.

It would have been like ripping off a band-aid. Painful maybe, hard to face. But afterwards… maybe things would have been alright. Maybe it would be better, than whatever they were doing instead, stumbling around in the dark, both too afraid to cross the distance between them.

 

(Thurs, 6:56 pm)

I’m outside now, a couple blocks away

 

(Thurs, 6:57 pm)

Ok. I’ll wait a little longer before leaving the store

 

(Thurs, 6:58 pm)

Alright. Are you upset with me?

 

(Thurs, 7:00 pm)

No. Not at all

 

(Thurs, 7:02 pm)

Oh. Good. I was in a really good mood today, making you upset with me would have been a real bummer

 

(Thurs, 7:04 pm)

Something good happen?

 

(Thurs, 7:06 pm)

Yes. In fact, I got some very good news today. I know I’ve been a little broody lately. I think things are going to start getting better now

 

(Thurs, 7:07 pm)

That’s great! I’m really happy for you. I know work has been hard for you lately. I hope things look up for you soon

 

(Thurs, 7:10 pm)

Well, my life is already better than it was a month ago

 

(Thurs, 7:11 pm)

?

 

(Thurs, 7:13 pm)

Meeting you, dork. I’m saying things have been better since we started talking. I don’t think I would have the guts to start trying to change my life without you

 

(Thurs, 7:14 pm)

I’m sure you would have. You’re pretty brave. Braver than I am

 

(Thurs, 7:15 pm)

I don’t know about that. But if you want, I can be brave enough for both of us

 

(Thurs, 7:17 pm)

Maybe. One day

 

(Thurs, 7:18 pm)

One day ☀️

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eighteen

 

“Adachi!”

Adachi sighed, barely flinching at the too-loud voice suddenly right behind him. He was getting way too used to Rokkaku’s little jump scares at work. At least he had kept up the habit of presenting Adachi with coffees and snacks like he was a cat bringing him little gifts from outside. He would feel a little guilty about the lack of reciprocity but the one time he tried to give him a coffee back as repayment Rokkaku had pouted the rest of the afternoon, apparently hating the idea of offering gifts to his new office idol being transactional.

“Yes, Rokkaku?”

“Did you hear the news going around the office?”

“Since I literally just got here and haven’t even turned on my computer yet, no I haven’t.”

Rokkaku was all but vibrating, leaning over even closer into his space. “There’s someone in the boss’s office! Someone new, a new hire to replace that guy that got fired. That means they’ll get to work right by me!”

Adachi, of course, did not share in Rokkaku’s enthusiasm. Anyone new in the office always filled him with dread, because it was a toss-up every time whether they ended up being someone nice like Fujisaki or ended up some Alpha male jerk who would be insufferable to work with. And honestly, he didn’t like new hires even when they were nice, because he wasn’t good with strangers and almost always embarrassed himself.

In fact he recalled that was how he broke his phone, embarrassing himself in front of Fujisaki, though he had gotten used to her since then and could be mildly friendly without breaking anything. Hopefully he could meet whoever this new person was without damaging either any objects or his pride.

It was another half an hour before there was a general noise and distraction that signalled the new person had emerged from the manager’s office and was already being approached by the locals. Adachi kept his head ducked down, hoping to avoid the awkward meet and greet for as long as he could, but apparently his new coworker was the enterprising type, because after the initial crowd dispersed, he walked over to make his introductions to two of the only people who didn’t come to him.

Adachi had seen it was a man, a quick peek while he was trying to ignore all the people rushing over to make a good first impression gave him a glimpse of a tall figure, well-groomed smooth brown hair, and trim suit-jacket-covered shoulders that seemed to fit the smooth masculine voice he could just barely hear over the din of other people introducing themselves.

When he heard the tap of shoes coming his way, he looked up, and for reasons Adachi couldn’t fathom, his breath froze in his lungs as he met the man’s eyes for the first time.

Bright, was the first thing that came to mind. The man had a smile on his face that all but shined, nice-looking eyes crinkling in the corners and straight teeth on display. A very friendly, perfect smile to direct at another stranger you were greeting on your first day of work, not wide and overstated like Rokkaku’s exuberant expressions, but somehow it still made Adachi want to squint.

Tidy, was the second thing that came to mind. His little glimpse earlier hadn’t carried that impression nearly as much as the whole picture did. Adachi knew just from looking at him, this was not a man that ever came to work with a bedhead or in a jacket that wasn’t the right size. From his shiny shoes to his shiny hair everything about him was like a checked box on a list for “Well-dressed men who are definitely going to be better at your job than you” 

The third thing Adachi thought, was a ponder as to why he felt all shivery as the man started talking, and why it felt like his voice was already familiar.

“Hello, I just wanted to make all my introductions now, get them out of the way so I don’t disrupt the morning any more than is unavoidable. I’m Kurosawa Yuichi.”

Adachi blinked back, all higher brain function apparently abandoning him, staying silent long enough the man, Kurosawa Yuichi apparently, started to lose his smile slightly, looking a little worried.

Thankfully, for once in his life Urabe jumped in and was actually helpful.

“Very nice to meet you, always great to have a new face around.” He said, hopping from his chair and offering Kurosawa his hand, giving Kurosawa’s a few enthusiastic pumps before stepping back and clapping a hand on Adachi’s shoulder, making him jump in his seat.

“I’m Urabe, and this is Adachi. You’ll probably work with him more than me.”

Adachi cleared his throat, trying to shove down whatever was making him act like such an idiot. “Adachi Kiyoshi. Nice to meet you. I’ll be, um… Looking forward to working together.” He got out, too quiet but thankfully his voice holding steady.

Kurosawa’s smile returned, somehow maybe even brighter, and he gave Adachi a decisive nod. “Likewise. It might be too soon to call it, but I think I’ll really like it here. Things are definitely starting to look up.”

Something about the words put an itch in the back of his head, but Adachi ignored it, trying to figure out what he was supposed to say back, Urabe having already turned away, done being helpful. Having worked there longer than Adachi, he was an old hat, and being excited over a new hire wasn’t really his style.

“Well, I like working here. Just uh…” A burst in bravery came from somewhere, and he recalled Rokkaku’s earlier excitement Kurosawa would be working near him. “Keep an eye out for Rokkaku, across from your desk. He’s really unfriendly.”

Kurosawa’s mouth twisted subtly and he looked over like he was trying to remember if he had been told who that name belonged to. “Really? Everyone seems very nice so far…”

“No, not at all. He’s probably the friendliest guy in here. In fact, if you have any questions or issues, you should ask him. He really likes to be helpful. Ask him how the photocopier works and he’ll probably be your best friend.” Adachi said, barely managing to smile as he was suddenly sure that joke was a horrible idea.

What if Kurosawa was the kind of guy who didn’t get sarcasm? What if he thought Adachi was rude? Or what if he thought Adachi was implying he would suck and need a lot of help from someone technically working under him?

Kurosawa paused for a moment, and then suddenly laughed, the sounds bursting out of him like it surprised him just as much as it surprised Adachi. He clapped a hand over his mouth to quiet himself, but his eyes still glittered at Adachi so it was almost like he could still hear it.

Bright, again that was all Adachi could think. From his laugh to his smile, Kurosawa was like the sun.

This was going to be exhausting, he just knew it.

“I’ll umm, remember that.” Kurosawa said once he dropped his hand, looking down at his feet, slipping his hands into his pockets. “Thanks. I should probably go start earning my keep. But it was really nice to meet you, Adachi.”

Adachi tried not to squirm too obviously when Kurosawa said his name. It definitely didn’t sound like when Urabe said it. Or Rokkaku. Definitely not.

“You too. Good luck.” Adachi said, making himself not stare after Kurosawa as he walked away to his own desk.

He made it not even ten minutes before he slipped his phone out of his pocket.

 

Monday, November 8th

 

(Mon, 9:46 am)

This might be the worst monday to ever monday in my entire life

 

He frowned as the minutes ticked by without reply. His stranger had only texted him a couple times that day, just their usual good mornings. He must be busy. But busy or not, Adachi needed to complain, and the stranger put up with his complaining even better than Tsuge did.

Thankfully, he eventually seemed to check his phone

 

(Mon, 10:24 am)

Bit early in the morning for that big of an exaggeration, usually you aren’t that dramatic til after lunch at least

 

(Mon, 10:26 am)

Very funny, laugh at my suffering why don’t you

 

(Mon, 10:59 am)

I will. But why don’t you tell me what I’m laughing at?

 

(Mon, 11:02 am)

Maybe. You’re taking a bit to answer, should I leave you be until after work?

 

He didn’t usually worry about texting during work, he knew the stranger would answer when he could and he just did the same. But usually there weren’t gaps like this.

 

(Mon, 11:37 am)

No go ahead, I might just be a little slow today

 

(Mon, 11:38 am)

Alright, if you say so. I really want to tell you this anyway

 

(Mon, 12:25 pm)

Colour me intrigued instead of just teasing

 

(Mon, 12:28 pm)

There’s a new guy in my office and I’m already dreading working with him

 

Adachi tapped out the message, keeping his eyes on his phone instead of letting them wander around the cafeteria to see if he could spot that perfectly combed head of hair anywhere. When he left his desk to go eat, it looked like Kurosawa was planning on working through lunch. Or at least, that was the gist of what Adachi picked up as he walked past and heard Kurosawa politely wave off all the people offering to eat with him, “Since he didn’t have any friends in the office yet” and all that.

 

(Mon, 12:32 pm)

Oh. Uh, why? Did he do something?

 

(Mon, 12:34 pm)

No, he didn’t. In fact he did the opposite of something. He was polite and nice and friendly. I am disgusted. He went around introducing himself and I swear it was like trying to look straight into the sun without closing your eyes. I probably sounded like a total idiot when he talked to me. His first day here and I can already tell he’s one of those guys who just flawlessly handles all the crap I’m bad at

 

(Mon, 12:47 pm)

I see. I mean, that doesn’t sound… horrible. And I’m sure you did better than you think you did. At least he seems nice, right? Even if you find it… disgusting

 

(Mon, 12:49 pm)

Okay, disgust might be too much, but point stands. He does seem nice, and it would be better if he wasn’t! Fujisaka is nice and I can barely make eye contact with her. If he was a jerk at least I would have an excuse to ignore him. Ooh, maybe he will be a jerk. Maybe he’s actually really rude and inconsiderate and just gives amazing first impressions.

 

(Mon, 12:54 pm)

Uh… I know they say first impressions usually aren’t correct, but I don’t think that’s the way they mean it

 

(Mon, 12:55 pm)

Yeah, you’re probably right. He’s probably just as friendly and polite and capable as he seems. Gross 

 

(Mon, 1:03 pm)

You really don’t make things easy, you know that, Dear?

 

(Mon, 1:07 pm)

?

 

(Mon, 1:43 pm)

Never mind. Just maybe try to not think too poorly about people for... being nice to you?

 

(Mon, 1:49 pm)

It’s not like that, geez now you’re making me feel guilty. I’m not trying to insult him, not really. I just… I don’t know I feel weird after meeting him. Antsy. All I’m saying is I have a feeling I know what the future is going to look like, and it looks like the new guy coming in and becoming everyone’s favourite and the obviously better guy in the office at our job.

 

(Mon, 2:24 pm)

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he’ll be your favourite too. Can’t be that hard to usurp your superior, can it? Or is the puppy your favourite?

 

(Mon, 2:27 pm)

My favourite coworker is the vending machine I get coffee from

 

(Mon, 2:51 pm)

Of course, I should have guessed. Maybe you’ll like him more than the vending machine

 

(Mon, 2:55 pm)

Impossible

 

(Mon, 2:59 pm)

Well now, that sounds like a challenge

 

(Mon, 3:04 pm)

Maybe, good thing he has probably already forgotten I exist

 

(Mon, 3:17 pm)

He might have. I would bet not, though. You’re pretty unforgettable. I guess you’ll have to wait and see

 

(Mon, 3:21 pm)

I should quit before they see how good the new guy is and fire me. Maybe I can come work with you

 

(Mon, 3:39 pm)

Dear, for some reason I don’t think that will quite resolve the issue

 

(Mon, 3:45 pm)

Yeah, I guess not

 

(Mon, 4:21 pm)

Did you really compare him to the sun? 

 

(Mon, 4:23 pm)

Sorry, forgot suns are your thing

 

(Mon, 4:52 pm)

Yes. They are.

☀️



Chapter Text

Chapter Nineteen 

 

Kurosawa woke up the morning of his first day at his new job feeling like he was either making a terrible mistake, or making a decision that was about to turn his whole life around. Which was a back and forth he was more familiar with having with himself than he probably should be.

After all, ever since he got a strange text from a number he didn’t recognise, he had been making a lot of decisions that were either incredibly stupid, or would pay off more than he could imagine. So far, they had all paid off, ever since that first decision when he decided to take a chance that the person texting him was who they said they were (as little as he said) instead of say, a bald old Russian man who was going to ask for his credit card information.

Meeting his friend, it felt as if it woke him up, knocked him out of wandering through his life half-awake, no real companions, hating his work, doing the same thing day after day. Monotony didn’t cover it. And then suddenly, he had something new. Someone new. Someone who brought light, and warmth, and sometimes just plain amusement into his life. He didn’t think his friend realised how much just talking had done for Kurosawa. He certainly didn’t know he was the one who finally gave Kurosawa the courage to look for a new job.

He was taking a chance that maybe,  he could have a fresh start. Maybe in a new place things could be different. He wouldn’t have to be “Perfect Kurosawa”, he wouldn’t have to put a false face on and only ever show people the absolute best version of himself. Maybe, he wouldn’t be the pretty boy of the sales department. Maybe, he would get a new reputation, one that was only about his work. Hell, maybe for once people would notice he actually had a personality.

Or maybe he was signing up for just more of the same, and working at Toyokawa would be just as miserable, except without the benefits of years of seniority and an, albeit hated, good reputation.

The only way to find out was to get up and go.

He took extra care getting ready that morning, only sending his friend a few texts, feeling bad because he knew he wouldn’t get the chance to talk to him much that day, and he had already decided to not tell him he was starting a new job. It was partially because he thought it might be one of those things that crossed the line of personal information they would or would not share with each other.

And partially it was the most likely doomed hope that maybe, just maybe, his friend would be somewhere among the crowd of his new coworkers. He knew it was a long shot, but based on the very very short list of things he knew about his friend, it wasn’t impossible that he at least worked in one of the offices in the building, as opposed to one of the other countless offices in one of the countless other office buildings in the city.

When he went there for his interview, he had tried to not perk up too much when he realised how close it was to the store where they almost ran into each other, how the walk to the train station matched the details he had gleaned about the journey his friend took twice every week day, usually chatting with him the whole time.

Still, Kurosawa knew he had a habit of getting ahead of himself, so he pushed all those thoughts down as he got to his new job, telling himself sternly he wasn’t going to spend the whole day searching every face he saw, trying to find something familiar in it, wasn’t going to listen to every voice he heard trying to see if it was a voice he somehow recognised, at least the words if not the actual sound of it.

Of course, that resolve lasted until he finally got out of his rather long and annoying new hire speech from his new manager, and was immediately surrounded. He felt somewhat sick of himself as he instinctually shifted into his usual work persona, meaningless smile and more meaningless niceties coming out of him. He wanted to make a good first impression, but he really wished he could think of some way to start off on a different foot than the one he stood on at his old job.

He didn’t feel anything in particular when talking to any of the people who came up to meet him, but he wasn’t expecting to. Really, he mentally checked everyone who came up to him off his list of potential suspects. If there was one thing he knew for sure about his friend, it was that he wasn’t the type who would walk right up to a stranger, eager to introduce himself.

This might have had something to do with his decision to walk over to the people who hadn’t come to meet him. There were two men still sat at their desks, one old enough Kurosawa immediately ruled him out, eyes skipping over him and latching onto the younger man who was hunched over his keyboard like he was trying to tune out the rest of the office.

He looked up when Kurosawa reached them, and he felt his expression immediately shift into something more genuine, his smile more real as he took in the new face. He was cute. Cute enough he might have caught Kurosawa’s interest, even before he met his friend and started trying to see him in everyone new he met. His eyes were dark and shined up at him, his suit jacket was somewhat ill-fitting, his black hair untidy and a little too long like he was overdue for a haircut, and somehow it all fit together perfectly.

“Hello, I just wanted to make all my introductions now, get them out of the way so I don’t disrupt the morning any more than is unavoidable. I’m Kurosawa Yuichi.” He hoped it wasn’t obvious he was more talking to the younger man, who simply looked back at him with a somewhat startled expression, not responding for long enough he began to wonder if he had somehow already done something wrong.

The older man stepped in before it could get any more awkward, standing and holding out his hand to shake. “Very nice to meet you, always great to have a new face around.” He patted the other man on the back in a friendly manner, though based on his little flinch he didn’t appreciate the contact. “I’m Urabe, and this is Adachi. You’ll probably work with him more than me.”

The younger man, Adachi, made a small noise and then finally spoke, and Kurosawa listened intently to every awkward word. “Adachi Kiyoshi. Nice to meet you. I’ll be, um… Looking forward to working together.”

God, he’s adorable. Kurosawa thought, nodding back. “Likewise. It might be too soon to call it, but I think I’ll really like it here.” He carefully studied Adachi’s expression, not able to resist giving him the smallest test. “Things are definitely starting to look up.”

Adachi seemed to twitch slightly, but not enough of a reaction to really give anything away.

“Well, I like working here. Just uh…” he stopped for a moment, before continuing, his voice a little firmer. “Keep an eye out for Rokkaku, across from your desk. He’s really unfriendly.”

Kurosawa had to fight to keep his smile on his face, a little disappointed. He didn’t much like people who gossiped about others, and he didn’t put much weight into what other people thought of someone, preferring to make his own judgements. If Adachi was the kind of person to talk badly about others behind their back, he definitely wasn’t his friend.

Well, that was probably already a given.  None of these men would be his friend. This office would be just like the last, people being unkind and judging, no one seeing him. He was going to be just as alone here, and his friend would stay a faceless voiceless mystery.

“Really? Everyone seems very nice so far…” He managed to say, keeping his tone blank.

After a beat, Adachi gave him a shaky smile. “No, not at all. He’s probably the friendliest guy in here. In fact, if you have any questions or issues, you should ask him. He really likes to be helpful. Ask him how the photocopier works and he’ll probably be your best friend.”

It took Kurosawa a moment to realise it was a joke. When it hit him, he started laughing before he could stop himself, his real laugh wheezing out before he put his hand over his mouth so no one else heard it.

Or maybe not. Maybe things really would be different here.

“I’ll umm, remember that.” He said, putting his hands in his pockets to make sure they weren’t fidgeting, eyes dropping down in a rare moment of shyness. “Thanks. I should probably go start earning my keep. But it was really nice to meet you, Adachi.” It surprised him, how much he meant it. Even if Adachi wasn’t his friend, he might still be a friend.

“You too. Good luck.” Adachi said, and Kurosawa made himself walk away instead of saying he was pretty sure he was already pretty lucky. Instead of staying and trying to think of a way to keep talking, to see if maybe he could coax a bigger smile out of Adachi.

Once he got to his new desk he set about organising it how he liked, getting things he would need from the supply room. Adachi was right, Rokkaku was a very friendly and energetic young man who was ridiculously eager to help out the new guy. Kurosawa wondered if this was what his friend’s puppy was like. He certainly perked up when Kurosawa said Adachi told him he was the one to ask for help, an admiring look on his face as he babbled on about how good Adachi was at his job. Kurosawa had a hard time imagining how the quiet and rather uncertain man had managed to inspire the near worshipping gleam in Rokkaku’s eyes, but he knew better than to judge based on how someone appeared.

Trying to get himself set up, look over everything he wanted to get done that day, he didn’t manage to look at his phone for quite a while longer than usual. When he did he smiled, reading the dramatic comment. His friend was very endearing, complaining about Mondays and early mornings more than any teenager.

He had to hold back his worry when he realised something might have actually happened, it was hard to tell sometimes, when his friend wasn’t the best at gauging how bad a situation actually was, and was even worse about being honest about it when he was genuinely upset. And of course, focusing on the first task he had been assigned, he barely had time to look at his phone.

Lunch came, and when a small procession of his new coworkers came to invite him to eat with them, he begged off with mostly honest words about wanting to finish more of his work. Only mostly, as there was also a fair amount of simply wanting to be alone. And finally getting to find out what had his friend all worked up.

He was parsing through his emails, there somehow already being an accumulation of them, when he felt his phone buzz. He flipped it over and unlocked it, reading the message almost errantly, his mind more on trying to understand a clause he was reading about his new insurance.

Of course, the moment the words finally dripped into his brain, it felt like the whole world shifted on its axis. 

 

(Mon, 12:28 pm)

There’s a new guy in my office and I’m already dreading working with him

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty

 

It couldn’t be a coincidence. It just couldn’t be, it was too impossible. Almost as impossible as Kurosawa deciding to get a new job, and somehow stumbling right into the path of his friend. But not quite, which meant his friend had to mean Kurosawa.

He had met the mysterious man who had held so much of his attention and affection. And apparently had somehow already offended him.

He tried to think of some possible slight he could have made, tried to think if there was anyone who seemed like they walked away from meeting him with a bad taste in their mouth. He could think of nothing, and as his friend spoke more, he realised that actually wasn’t all that surprising.

He hadn’t done anything wrong, and that was exactly the problem. He had met his dear friend, and his damned “Golden Boy Perfect Kurosawa” persona had already made him unpalatable to him. It was horrible, and ironic. And a little amazing.

It proved he was right about his friend. He was different. He was amazing. How many times had Kurosawa’s smile fooled someone? How many times had his affable nature and chronic politeness made someone think well of him, and then think of him no further? And yet here was his friend, having what he had to assume was only the briefest encounter with Kurosawa, and yet he already had set himself apart, flinching away from the side of him that Kurosawa couldn’t stand either.

Still, it wouldn’t make this easy. This, being the next part, because now that he knew his friend was so very close, Kurosawa knew he wouldn’t be able to leave it be. He understood why his friend was afraid to meet, and Kurosawa was experiencing now exactly why he had been afraid. But it had been taken out of their hands by fate, and now he wouldn’t be able to rest until he knew for sure who it was.

He couldn’t rest until he had a chance to know his dear friend in real life. Know his face, and his voice, and his smile, the way Kurosawa knew his friend just by his words.

Which was going to be difficult if his friend decided he couldn’t stand his new coworker and wasn’t going to let him get that close. But as his friend shifted from half-meant insults against Kurosawa into self-deprecation aimed at himself, Kurosawa knew he couldn’t let it stop him, for both their sakes. His friend needed to know someone else in his office saw him. And Kurosawa wanted desperately for someone to see him in return.

He was going to rise to the challenge, for both of them.

But it was going to take some getting used to, hearing his friend talk about him like he was someone he didn’t know. He did feel a little spark of something when he realised there was a hidden compliment in there, along with all the insults, and Kurosawa wondered if just maybe, some of his disparaging talk was akin to the way he talked about his puppy. 

As Kurosawa’s first day came to a close, he let his focus drift somewhat from his work, and let his eyes wander around the office as people began to pack up and leave, gaze lingering on every person as he wondered, is it him? Is it him? Is it him?

When it came down to him being almost the only person left, too stubborn to do anything but leave as late as he had to so he could leave with everything in a “finished” pile on his desk, he noticed one figure in particular stand up and shoulder his backpack.

Is it him? Kurosawa wondered, and this time it was with more than an inkling of hope. Before, he had simply thought Adachi was a nice man, in more ways than one. But now, now that he knew his friend was hidden here somewhere among the haystack? Now he was thinking.

Shy, maybe more than a little awkward. But clever, able to catch him with a sly joke, using a slight tease to hide the kindness he was showing. Urabe could be the superior who was nice but hoisted extra work on him. And his puppy, well it sure seemed like a perfect fit if that ended up being Rokkaku. Rokkaku, who Adachi himself had conveniently pointed him towards.

Kurosawa wasn’t going to get ahead of himself so much that he would declare Adachi The One right then and there, only one day and one conversation into knowing the man. But he was just enough of a besotted fool to push and prod as much as he wanted until he knew for sure.

“Adachi!” He called, pushing up from his desk and hurrying over to intercept his exit while trying to not look like he was actually all but chasing after him.

Adachi turned to him with a strange look on his face, almost resigned, almost amused, definitely a face that would lead him to believe he might have been the one complaining to Kurosawa about his presence not an hour ago.

“Kurosawa? Did you need something?”

“No, not at all. I just wanted to…” He trailed off, realising he forgot to think of an excuse for stopping him. “Oh! I wanted to thank you for welcoming me earlier, and for your advice. You were right, Rokkaku is very friendly, and helpful. He certainly made my first day easier.”

Adachi stared at him for a moment before his eyes flinched away and he started fidgeting with the straps of his backpack. “You don’t need to thank me. Rokkaku probably would have offered to help you anyway.”

“He seems really fond of you.” Kurosawa couldn’t help saying with the barest tease in his tone, finding he quite liked the way Adachi looked after a compliment, flushed and flustered.

“He’s a kid still, easily impressed. And we have… mutual friends.” Adachi muttered at his shoes.

“Ah.” Kurosawa said noncommittally, mentally checking another box. “Well, if you ever have any more advice for me, that I will definitely thank you for, I’d appreciate it. You seem like a good friend to have, working here.” He said, smiling wide and ducking his head down so Adachi couldn’t keep avoiding his eyes.

“I don’t know about that. Urabe has been here a lot longer if you want to talk to someone with a lot of experience. Fujisaki hasn’t been here long, if you wanted to talk to someone who’s newer too. And she’s really friendly.”

“Maybe, but I think I want to be friends with you .” Kurosawa said, a moment later wondering when his voice slipped from amiable and casual into straight up flirtation. I really hope you’re my friend, was what he actually meant. And then maybe we can be more than friends.

Adachi’s cheeks darkened even more. “Oh. Ummm… Uh.”

Kurosawa took mercy on him after enjoying the stuttering he caused for a few more seconds, laughing and raising up both his hands. “Sorry, I’ll let you go on your way. I’m sure no one but me is happy to stay any later than this on a Monday.”

“It happens, though you’re right I usually hate when it does. Skipping lunch, staying late… You’re definitely impressing everyone so far.” Adachi complimented, the back of Kurosawa’s neck itching because he knew it probably wasn’t actually a compliment.

“Moving companies was a big step for me, I don’t want to mess it up.” Kurosawa said, letting some vulnerability into it. Vulnerability he never would have shown before, to anyone except maybe his friend. But for some reason, it felt right to do now, no matter who Adachi ended up being.

“You won’t. I think the last thing you need to be worried about is messing up.” Adachi answered, quick like he said it without thinking, rubbing the back of his head and looking uncomfortable and maybe a little guilty. 

“We’ll see, I guess.” He shrugged, not really wanting to discuss either why Adachi thought he couldn’t possibly mess up or why he had an irrational feeling he would. “Maybe I should take a page from Rokkaku’s book and study you until I find success.” He couldn’t help winking at the end of the tease, and was rewarded with Adachi turning from uncomfortable back to flustered, something he thought he could get addicted to seeing.

“You better not, I can barely handle one of him, he doesn’t need a sidekick.”

Kurosawa laughed, letting it come out more naturally and more loud than he normally ever would at work, something about Adachi making it impossible for him to fake the things he had instinctually for years.

“I make no promises. Have a good rest of your night, Adachi. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Kurosawa said with a smaller, less pushy smile.

“You too… Try not to stay too late. Don’t want to tire yourself out your first day. Not if you want to be the new star of the sales department.”

Adachi’s voice wasn’t as sardonic as Kurosawa thought it could be, so he considered it a win, watching him walk out of the office, feeling a familiar pang in his stomach, one that was usually inspired by checking his phone and not seeing any new messages.

At that thought he went back to his desk, not turning back to his computer but instead pulling out his phone, mentally counting down how long he thought it would take for Adachi to walk down to the elevator, go to the ground floor, out onto the street, head toward the train station.

He wasn’t sure if he was surprised or not when his countdown ran out, and about a minute later, his phone buzzed.

 

(Mon, 5:51 pm)

Alright, maybe you were right and I was being a bitter jerk

 

(Mon, 5:52 pm)

You could certainly never be either of those things, dear. But feel free to keep saying I’m right, I like hearing that

 

(Mon, 5:53 pm)

Once again, you aren’t cute

 

(Mon, 5:54 pm)

I’m adorable. Now what was I right about?

 

(Mon, 5:55 pm)

The new guy. Maybe he’s not horrible

 

(Mon, 5:56 pm)

Well, that was quick. He must have done something right. Should I be worried I have another rival for your attention? And just when I was getting used to the puppy

 

(Mon, 5:57 pm)

>:(

 

(Mon, 5:58 pm)

Is that a yes?

 

(Mon, 6:02 pm)

No, it’s not. You know it isn’t.

 

(Mon, 6:04 pm)

☀️  



Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty One

 

Wednesday, November 17th

 

(Wed, 11:27 am)

I’m telling you, it’s like they are competing or something 

 

(Wed, 11:41 am)

They can’t be that bad…

 

(Wed, 11:58 am)

They are. Maybe it’s because I’m used to being such a fly on the wall at work, but it’s like they are EVERYWHERE

 

Kurosawa had been working at Toyokawa for just over a week. And it was a weird-ass week for Adachi, between Rokkau’s continued fawning and the strange fascination Kurosawa seemed to quickly develop over him of all people.

When Kurosawa stopped him before he left last Monday, he hadn’t really known what to think. He felt almost singled out, being approached so directly when he had started to wonder if Kurosawa might be more of the loner type, based on how little he interacted with the rest of the office after that morning. And yet for some reason, it was the first time being singled out actually felt good, if confusing. He didn’t get what Kurosawa wanted from him, his teasing words about wanting to be friends seeming impossible. And yet, Adachi was starting to wonder if he actually meant it.

Every day since, Kurosawa would say good morning to him when he came in, usually wandering over within the first ten minutes he was sat at his desk (his first ten minutes, not Kurosawa’s, as Kurosawa was always there earlier than him) and greeting him with that blinding smile, trying to lure him into a conversation about seemingly anything he could think of. Sometimes it almost felt like he was fishing for information, but Adachi didn’t have the slightest clue why Kurosawa would care about the small details of his night or what he liked to read.

Eventually Kurosawa would head back to his own desk, but Adachi was never alone for long after that. Like he said, it was almost like Kurosawa and Rokkaku were competing against each other, one popping up after the other, usually with some random thing to talk to him about or some offering from the vending machines.

Kurosawa in particular had developed a habit of coming over and asking him questions, usually things about the office or advice on how to handle an assignment, and at first Adachi thought he just needed help figuring things out at his new job and for whatever reason had identified Adachi as an easy source of information, yet as the days went by he quickly realised that wasn’t it at all and Kurosawa in fact knew the answer to most of the questions he came to ask Adachi.

He might have gotten away with it for a while, if Adachi hadn’t caught him effortlessly using the copy machine he claimed to have no idea how to work ( Ah, Adachi? I’m sure you’re already so busy but I need to turn this in before the end of the day and I’m just hopeless still working that thing. Surely you could spare me a few minutes? I’ll owe you a favour if you do… )
Or if he didn’t overhear Rokkaku listing off where all the office supplies were including exactly which shelf had what in the supply closet, only for Kurosawa to keep coming to him what seemed three times a day asking where to find something ( Adachi? Would you mind showing me where the ring binders are? Oh, Adachi? I’m already low on staples, if you can believe it! Where can I get more? Adachi, could I borrow some paper clips? I can’t seem to find where they are stored. I really would be lost without your help! )

Or if he didn’t spend about five days wondering exactly what experience Kurosawa had at his previous job that he had so many questions about what they handled on a day to day, only to stumble upon Rokkaku and a couple of other junior employees who had somehow gotten ahold of the latest report Kurosawa turned in, and realise looking it over after Rokkaku let him see it that Kurosawa definitely didn’t need him of all people to give him tips. Really it was the other way around.

His guess that it wouldn’t take long until Kurosawa caught up to and then exceeded him sure seemed like it was going to be right, and he wasn’t the only one to notice. It barely took any time until people noticed exactly how much of a workaholic overachiever Kurosawa was, and more than a few people had already noticed how at odds he was with Adachi even though they were the same rank in the office.

What he hadn’t guessed at, was Rokkaku’s reaction to this.

Last Thursday they had been in the break room together, Adachi collecting a cup of coffee and stretching his legs and Rokkaku trailing along like the puppy his stranger had dubbed him, chattering on about some competition Minato had signed up for, when they overheard a couple of their coworkers talking in the hallway.

“It’s crazy, I don’t think I’ve seen him leave on time once this week. Who stays late every night their first week on a job?”

“How do you know he’s actually going home? I bet he stays here all night long and sleeps at his desk! How else can he always be one of the first people in in the mornings too?”

“No way someone that handsome and well-groomed is sleeping in a chair all night. He looks like he belongs in a magazine, not an office! Do you think it would be weird if I asked what his skin routine is?”

“It would definitely be weird, but he probably wouldn’t mind anyway. I think he might be the most polite person I’ve ever met. Did you hear him say he was single? How is a guy like that single?!”

“Who knows. I bet it won’t last long though. And if he keeps it up, working the way he is, I bet he’ll get fast-tracked to being promoted too.”

“Probably. You know, that other guy in his department? What’s his name, Adachi? How long has he been here? I bet if he hustled like that when he started at Toyokawa, he wouldn’t be stuck in the same position still.”

“Eh, some guys are just like that. They don’t do bad but they don’t go anywhere either. Salarymen’s curse. You know, I think he’s single too! No surprise there, though.”

The two women’s laughter trailed off as they walked away, leaving Adachi standing there still unseen, his hand clenched around his coffee and an embarrassed flush spreading across his face.

Rokkaku was still standing next to him, expression tight and eyes filled with an emotion Adachi couldn’t name, not used to seeing him anything but cheerful.

“It’s fine. Just an office thing, people gossip. Doesn’t mean anything.” Adachi muttered for want of anything better to say, knowing if he didn’t say anything Rokkaku would definitely see that hearing the conversation had packed the punch it had.

“It does mean something.” Rokkaku said, and Adachi’s eyes widened in surprise at the near venom in his voice. “It means that people are rude, and unfair. If they think Kurosawa is better than you, that just shows how poor of judges of character they are.”

Adachi’s mouth fell open, not believing the man he was sure never had anything but kindness for others was now talking with such open scorn. “It’s really not that big of a deal. They aren’t exactly wrong… He probably will get promoted way before I ever will.”

“Whether or not someone notices doesn’t change if someone is great or not. And you are.” Rokkaku shot back, a stubborn set to his jaw as he nodded his head decisively and then all but marched off before Adachi could get another word in.

After that, Rokkaku wasn’t exactly rude to Kurosawa, but it definitely had an obvious cooling effect on what Adachi had thought was for sure going to be some kind of office bromance between the two men. He still talked to him, still helped him when he asked, but his usual chipper exuberance seemed to disappear whenever Kurosawa was around and was replaced by a more muted politeness.

If Kurosawa noticed the change, he didn’t say anything where Adachi could hear, maybe giving the younger man a questioning look behind his back once or twice, but still treating him the same when they spoke. Which happened at least a few times a day since the two of them were constantly orbiting around Adachi.

Case in point.

“Adachi!”

He winced, reflexively making sure his phone was tucked out of sight as Rokkaku trotted over to him. If this kept up, he was going to get some kind of automatic pavlovian annoyance any time he heard his name.

“Yes?”

“Aren’t you watching the time? It’s lunch! You really shouldn’t skip meals, you know. We can’t work our best if we aren’t feeling our best!” Rokkaku asserted, sounding almost like he was about to strike a pose along with the saying. He reminded Adachi of ads they played on the kid’s channel.

“I don’t skip lunch that often…” Adachi refuted, getting up with a sigh, strategically saying lunch so it was an honest statement, as even if Rokkaku had no way of knowing, he skipped just about every meal regularly but lunch was the meal he skipped the least.

He didn’t really feel like going to eat with Rokkaku. It meant the next half an hour at least would be spent with him chattering away in his ear, and he was feeling kind of moody from the fact it had been raining for two days straight, hence why he was whinging to the stranger, but the emotional fatigue was worth not having to see Rokkaku pout if he waved him off and kept working.

“You should never skip! Hey, do you have an extra onigiri? I’ll trade you for some seaweed chips!”

Adachi couldn’t help the chuckle that slipped out, nodding in agreement and smiling a little bit at Rokkaku’s cheer of excitement. He knew Rokkaku wasn’t actually that much younger than him, but he really didn’t help that impression by acting like they were in elementary school, swapping things between each other’s lunch boxes.

Okay, maybe Rokkaku wasn’t always tiring. Maybe having him trailing along next to him, always acting like the human version of a firecracker, was more good for Adachi and his mood than it was ever bad. Maybe.

And maybe he felt a little guilty when he felt his phone buzz part the way through lunch and discreetly pulled it out to read the stranger’s latest message out of Rokkaku’s line of sight.

 

(Wed, 12:31 pm)

So…. you wish they would leave you alone then?

 

(Wed, 12:32 pm)

No, it’s not like that. I’m trying to not be a jerk about it, remember? Support me and say I’m not being a jerk lol. It’s just kinda weird. I’m getting used to it

 

(Wed, 12:34 pm)

You are not a jerk. You are sweet, and I’m sure very polite to both of them, and venting to me doesn’t change that. Plus, it wouldn’t really be a bad thing if you said something to them either. In fact, if either of them ever do genuinely make you feel uncomfortable, I certainly hope you will actually say something.

 

(Wed, 12:36 pm)

Well now I feel bad anyway, because I feel like I’ve made it sound like they are doing something wrong. They aren’t. The opposite really, I’m just such a weirdo that I don’t know what to do with myself when people pay attention to me

 

(Wed, 12:38 pm)

No you aren’t. And you seem to handle my attention just fine ;)

 

(Wed, 12:40 pm)

Well… You’re different, aren’t you?

 

A clatter pulled his attention from his phone and he looked up to see a rare sight, Kurosawa actually in the cafeteria instead of still ensconced in whatever he was working on at his desk. He at least seemed to eat a quick sandwich or packaged salad when he worked through their break, but overall lunch had been one of the only times of day Adachi considered Kurosawa-free. Until now, as Kurosawa bent over to pick up the bento he apparently had dropped in a rare moment clumsiness, tucking something into his pocket as he stood and then scanned the room with a sharp eye before spotting his target and waving obviously with that bright smile blooming on his face.

His target, which apparently was Adachi. Of course it was.



Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Two

 

Kurosawa strolled over to the table where Adachi was eating lunch, hoping the swirl of emotions inside him wasn’t showing anywhere on the outside.

The past week had been overwhelming, in more ways than one. In an adult’s life, there were certain events that were considered the most stressful things someone could go through. Divorce, moving, things like that. And of course, getting a new job. When he decided to make a change, he knew it would be hard, even if it went well. What he hadn’t accounted for was adjusting to a brand new environment, brand new coworkers, the same work but under brand new circumstances, all while coming to terms with the fact the most important person in his life was right in front of him. 

Adachi was his friend. The person he had been talking to every day for weeks. The person who wouldn’t leave his thoughts, who had upended his entire life in the best way possible. That first day, he had made a promise to himself to watch and wait, to be cautious, but that hadn’t lasted long.

His friend always stopped texting right when Adachi got to work. It became a little game for him. He would wait until he thought his friend got into work, watch Adachi stumble to his desk, usually still sleep mussed and drowsy, and then walk over and give what he was fairly sure was his second good morning of the day. And then Kurosawa would have a little fun, trying to see if he could get Adachi to say anything to him that he already texted.

Usually he didn’t get much, there wasn’t a whole lot his friend said to him that Adachi was comfortable enough with Kurosawa to repeat, and between his friend not telling him many personal details and Adachi still keeping himself distant from his new coworker, the information he could learn as either version was rarely the same.

But there were still times it paid off. Adachi read some of the same books, he ate the same things, and he occasionally would reluctantly share what he had done after work, and it would be the same thing his friend had told him about.

As the days went by, it became harder and harder to justify his skepticism, the timing of his friend’s messages to Adachi’s schedule too perfect, the little tests he covertly did coming up positive too many times to disregard. And he didn’t just have cold hard facts. He had his feelings. More than anything, Kurosawa started to really believe Adachi was him, because he wanted it to be.

He wanted Adachi to be his friend. He felt like he was, felt a familiarity, a comfort. A bond. There was some part of him that pushed him to latch onto Adachi and never let go, and he had to believe it meant Adachi was his friend, because the alternative was that he had completely fallen head over heels for two different men who were somehow inexplicably perfect for him, and he was just deluding himself into thinking they were the same person.

But he couldn’t believe that. Could never believe it. His friend was here. He was right there, within arm’s reach. Sometimes once he got home, he had to simply sit on his couch and let it all wash over him, let all the confusion, the anxiety, the uncertainty he spent the entire day holding back take hold. And the happiness. The unprecedented joy, at times near emotional bliss at the fact he no longer had to go on with only the bits and pieces he could get over a phone. He knew what his friend's voice sounded like, his wonderful voice he thought of every excuse he possibly could to hear. He knew what he looked like, he got to see him every day at work, got to see his handsome face and look into his pretty eyes and hide smiles at his perpetual bedhead.

It was a dream. And yet sometimes it felt like his friend was further away than ever, like Kurosawa would never be able to bridge the distance, no matter the fact that distance was now only a few desk lengths. Over a week in, and Adachi still showed little sign of warming up to him. He was polite, sometimes even friendly, but when Kurosawa knew what he was like when he really opened up, it felt like being taunted with the barest glimpse into heaven. The guilt he felt probably didn’t help the situation. He knew he technically wasn’t at fault, it was only by sheer luck he discovered his friend’s real identity. Still, it was hard to escape the feeling he had betrayed his trust, that he was lying to him.

There were many times he came close to confessing, a few times even going so far as to type out a message, only to delete it before sending. Kurosawa wanted to tell him, wanted to be honest. But every time, he would remember the way Adachi reacted to meeting the real him. He couldn’t stop thinking that there was no way he would react well to learning the man he had been talking to was Kurosawa. And he hoped that maybe, just maybe, if he could get Adachi to like him as the new face in the office, he wouldn’t react as badly to being told the truth.

It was quite possible that he was doing more harm than good. He did recognise that, what with Adachi’s very vocal confusion and at times annoyance about the fact Kurosawa wouldn’t leave him alone. He was slowly getting used to the attention, but most of his flirting went over his head, and while he seemed to respond better when Kurosawa let himself act more genuinely than his usual work persona, overall Adachi seemed more overwhelmed by him than anything. But that didn’t mean Kurosawa could make himself stop.

Case in point, trying to decide if he should forgo his usual working-through-lunch routine to go find Adachi and maybe offer him something to eat that wasn’t premade, only to end up texting him as he walked down to the cafeteria and fumble his phone because of something he said.

For someone who thought he wasn’t good at talking to people, the amount of times Adachi managed to render him speechless or make him impossibly flustered was impressive.

As he reached the table Adachi was sat at, made sure his smile was firmly in place and held up the lunch he brought that day, trying to ignore the way both Adachi and Rokkaku were silently watching him with an air of “ Ugh, it’s him. ” to their expressions.

“Mind if I eat with you guys?” He asked.

“Of course not!” Rokkaku said with a wide smile, something in his eyes saying he did in fact mind.

That was another development over the past week. For whatever reason, Rokkaku had decided he didn’t like Kurosawa, though he did a very good job hiding it. Kurosawa was pretty sure it had something to do with Adachi, though in what way, he didn’t know enough about the younger man to say.

It could have been simply the same reason Adachi didn’t care for him, disliking the way he came off too perfect and disingenuous. But he thought that Rokkaku would give most people the benefit of the doubt for something like that, maybe because he was fairly sure Rokkaku’s smiles were as faked as his were half the time. It had occurred to him that it might simply be him being territorial, not liking someone else vying for Adachi’s attention and affection. But that didn’t seem quite right either. As often as he had felt jealous when Adachi spoke of his puppy, after meeting them in real life and watching them interact, he was pretty sure he had no reason to worry. On Adachi’s side at least the relationship seemed about as platonic (and vanilla) as it could possibly be. They were undeniably close, but he couldn’t imagine them like, well like he could imagine himself and Adachi.

“So, how is your second week going?” Adachi asked after he took a seat and then they sat in an awkward moment of silence.

“It’s going very well, thank you. And that’s definitely in some part thanks to the two of you.” Kurosawa answered, not really caring if they could tell he mostly was directing it at Adachi.

“How long were you at your old job?” Rokkaku asked, leaning forward and tilting his head.

Adachi frowned and opened his mouth like he was going to protest Rokkaku’s prying, but after a second, other than a sigh he stayed silent.

“I was there six years.” He said, not letting his mind wander through those six years.

“Wow! That’s a long time. You must miss some of the people you worked with, I can’t imagine being here six years and then going somewhere else!” Rokkaku said, not without sympathy.

Kurosawa froze for a moment before smiling again. And then he stopped smiling. I’m not doing that anymore, he reminded himself sternly. He wasn’t supposed to be wearing a mask anymore, especially not around Adachi. He was uncomfortable. He didn’t want to talk about this. He was sad, thinking about his old job. Putting a smile on his face and hiding everything about him that was real was exactly how he ended up leaving his old job after six years, not able to stand another minute among those people.

“No, actually. I didn’t really have any friends there, I just didn’t socialise much at work.” He said, looking down at his food, knowing the fact he was uncomfortable and embarrassed was now out in the open.

“Oh…” Rokkaku sat back in his seat, a small frown on his face.

Adachi’s eyebrows came together, his own frown growing on his lips. Kurosawa knew what they had to be thinking; what kind of asshole works somewhere for six years and doesn’t make friends with a single person? What was wrong with him that he could be there that long and not connect with anyone?

And no doubt Adachi was wondering how he went from “not socialising much at work” to talking to him so often that it seemed like Kursawa was actually competing with Rokkaku for his attention. Being a person with the trust issues his friend had openly admitted to having, Kurosawa doubted whatever conclusion he came to would be a good one. Unless he gave him the real reason.

“I wasn’t very happy there. Didn’t really feel like myself. It’s hard to make friends when you don’t feel like yourself. I’ve been hoping things here will be different.” He said, taking the chance Adachi would recognise the feelings he had expressed to his friend before.

Maybe hoping he would. Maybe Kurosawa could leave behind a breadcrumb trail between his two identities, and let Adachi find out the truth on his own, realise who Kurosawa was when he was ready to see it.

Or maybe that was just Kurosawa hoping he wouldn’t have to tell him himself.

“I hope it is. I hope things here are better for you.” Adachi said to him, giving him a shy smile.

Kurosawa felt a warmth seep into his chest, sweet and almost a little painful. This was something he had felt before. This was something Adachi had made him feel before, as his friend, texting him. It felt like a hand was being held out to him, a hand he could take, a hand that could finally catch him.

If only he could finally reach Adachi, reach his friend, and pull himself free from everything that had been weighing him down for far longer than the six years he spent miserable at that office.



Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Three

 

Adachi could (reluctantly) admit that Kurosawa wasn’t bad company over lunch. If nothing else, watching Rokkaku being forced to interact with him for half an hour straight was fun, his natural social butterfly tendencies and unfailing kindness making it hard for him to talk to Kurosawa for that long and keep up the ambivalence he had maintained for the past week.

Not to mention how hard Kurosawa made it to treat him like just some, possibly douchey, definitely intimidating guy, the way all the signs pointed to him being. Kurosawa seemed bound and determined to constantly turn any assumptions Adachi made about him on their head.

When he ripped apart the vision he’d had of him being the star employee at his old job that everyone wanted to be buddies with, replacing it with a sad picture of him spending years desperately lonely, he didn’t know if he felt more guilty for making so many assumptions in the first place (something something making an ass out of you and me but mostly just Adachi) or felt more uncomfortable with the amount of sympathy he was growing for the other man.

When they first met, he never would have guessed that Kurosawa could be someone he felt a kinship with. But then he could have said the same thing about Rokkak, and now he could unfortunately acknowledge he had a surprising amount in common with him. God help him, if this kept up soon he would be drowning in extroverts.

When he walked back to the office, he had to duck his hide in a futile attempt to hide when Urabe looked up and raised an eyebrow with a growing smirk on his face, watching the small parade of annoyance that was Kurosawa and Rokkaku following behind him, chatting about some band of all things. At least they didn’t follow him all the way to his desk.

He kept his eyes down, but that didn’t stop Urabe from wheeling his chair closer and leaning into his space.

“My my, Adachi. So popular these days!” He goaded, reaching over to jostle his shoulder. “Between whoever is texting you all the live long day, Rokkaku deciding you’re the best thing since sliced bread, and whatever it is with the new guy that made him think you’re the only one of us lowly office drones worth talking to, you’re becoming a regular Don Juan!”

“I don’t think that reference means what you think it does.” Adachi muttered back.

When it was all laid out like that, it did make it pretty clear how weird the past two months had been for his social life. Speaking of… He pulled out his phone and frowned when he saw that the stranger hadn’t texted him back yet. They usually had the same lunch break, so he usually would text back quicker during that time.

“See! That!” Urabe interrupted his train of thought. “Whoever that is, they are really in your head, I could set my watch to how regularly you check your phone.”

“Why are we talking about this?” He groaned, letting his head fall onto his desk.

“Come on, Adachi! Let your elder give you some advice. I’ve been happily married for almost a decade! Don’t you want my help with your blossoming new love?” Urabe asked, batting his eyes in a way that made him grimace.

“No. For so many reasons, no.” Adachi said, shaking his head vehemently.

“Oh.. Oh. ” Urabe said, eyes going wide and wandering over the edge of their cubicles, expression filling Adachi with foreboding.

Why did he get a feeling Urabe had just come to some conclusion, and it was a very veerryy wrong one?

“I seeeee. If you aren’t like that with your mystery texter, then…” Urabe suddenly grabbed his chair and spun him, pointing him away from his desk. Pointing him instead toward where Rokkaku and Kurosawa’s desks were. “Is the new guy the one who’s really caught your eye?”

Adachi’s face flushed so quickly it felt like it was burning, little pin pricks all over his cheeks telling him he looked just as embarrassed as he felt. Kurosawa? Him, liking Kurosawa?? He had barely decided whether or not he could stand being around him!

Adachi couldn’t like him, especially…Especially when he knew he didn’t have room in his head for anyone other than his stranger. He couldn’t like Kurosawa, not just because it was Kurosawa. But because he couldn’t like anyone who wasn’t his stranger.

Even if it still felt like something was going to burst out of his chest whenever he let his thoughts dwell over his stranger’s constant compliments and flirtations, dwell on when he called Adachi “dear” like he really meant he was dear to him. It hurt every time he let himself wonder if the stranger meant it, because the next question was always, did Adachi want him to mean it?

And he had known for a while what the answer was. Just like he knew he was too much of a coward to admit exactly how much he wanted everything the stranger said to him to be true.

It was just texting. Adachi had repeated that to himself so many times, over and over, like it would erase how much he wanted it to be real, like it would stop his feelings from growing deeper and deeper by the day. It didn’t work. All it did was make him wonder endlessly if he only ever got to have this wonderful, amazing thing, because it was only over text.

Would his stranger still call him dear after they met? Would he still be so sweet, and giving, and bright, if they were face to face instead of hidden behind words and infuriating sun emojis? And what did it say about Adachi, that he didn’t think he could possibly be anything but a disappointment, but he knew he was going to keep texting the stranger anyway, for as long as he could until their absurd relationship eventually had to end?

Urabe frowned at him, looking worried, no doubt clueless why his good-natured prodding had caused Adachi’s expression to turn grim and fragile. He couldn’t possibly know he had just made Adachi realise that even though he thought his relationship with the stranger was doomed, he would still take what little he could get, as temporary as it would be, instead of even considering a chance he could be happy with someone else. Not that there was actually a chance he could be with Kurosawa.

“I gotta… Um, I’ll be right back.” He said, something wounded and pathetic in the quiet words.

He stumbled from his chair, not really sure where he was walking, just needing to be somewhere no one could see him until he could get himself back under control.

“Adachi?”

The concerned voice behind him just made him start walking faster, especially when it repeated, this time sounding closer. The last person he wanted to talk to was Kurosawa. He beelined for the break room, hoping it would be empty right after lunch, picking up the pace when he could still hear someone behind him. Which, turned out to be a great decision. Because Adachi, clumsy, accident prone Adachi, definitely had no chance of absolutely spilling out the moment he turned into the tiled break room door way, falling hard on his ass right as Kurosawa caught up to him, hands flying out to catch himself and slapping into the ground with stinging force. Nope, no chance. Or, that was exactly what happened.

“Adachi!”

Kurosawa rushed to his side, Adachi only taking his offered hand and climbing to his feet by rote memory, mind gone blank with nothing but the pain of his fall and the emotions bubbling in his chest. It wasn’t like it was the first time he fell, far from it, even if he was just counting while being at work. Usually, practice meant he could rebound with nothing but his pride really smarting. Not this time.

“Are you okay? That sounded like it hurt.” Kurosawa fretted over him, not having let go of his hand yet.

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? Here, come sit down.”

Adachi let himself be tugged over to a nearby table and guided into sitting, everything feeling kind of blank and fuzzy. Kurosawa walked over to the sink, coming back with a wet paper towel. Adachi didn’t offer any protest as Kurosawa took his hand again, turning it over and looking at his reddened palm.

He finally reacted when he held the paper towel to his skin, the cold feeling permeating the static in his head as Kurosawa held it there for a minute or so and then gently wiped away anything still stuck to his hand from the floor.

“You don’t have to do that…” He mumbled as Kurosawa switched to his other hand.

“It’s no trouble. You scared me a little, taking off like that and then going down right in front of me.” Kurosawa replied, sounding more reserved than Adachi had heard him before, his eyebrows pinched and the corner of his mouth pulling down.

“Sorry.”

Kurosawa stopped wiping his hand, putting down the paper towel but not letting go of him, just holding on, his thumb moving back and forth across his still-red palm. “It’s alright.” He said, looking right into Adachi’s eyes. “As long as you’re okay, it’s alright.”

Adachi’s breath caught in his throat, not able to look away, feeling caught by Kurosawa’s soft gaze, his soft words that felt like they were about more than him tripping over himself like he had a dozen times before. 

“I’m not sure I’m okay.” He somehow found himself admitting.

Kurosawa’s mouth turned down even more, and he hummed thoughtfully before tightening his hold on Adachi’s hand. “Can I do anything to help? Or should I get Rokkaku for you?”

“No… I just… I just need a minute.”

“Okay.” Kurosawa accepted with a simple nod. “Mind if I stay with you?”

“No. Don’t mind.” Adachi said, almost a whisper, letting his forehead fall to rest on his arm where it lay on the table, not moving his other hand where it was still safely resting in Kurosawa’s.

They sat there together for that minute, and then for several minutes after that, Kurosawa patiently watching him, not fidgeting or sighing or looking over to the clock on the wall. He gave Adachi all the time he needed to collect himself, only letting go when Adachi made to stand, following him back to their office without a word, just another one of his bright smiles before they parted ways.

When he got to his desk and saw he still hadn’t gotten a response from the stranger, he didn’t know if it was a relief, or if he wanted to cry.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Four

 

He ripped his pants. Somehow, in a move so ironic and cliched he almost wasn’t surprised to find the split right along the seam, when he fell over at work, Adachi tore a sizable hole in his slacks. Thankfully no one seemed to notice, he didn’t even notice himself until he was on the train home. But he was officially out one pair of slacks, which meant that next Saturday he had to waste his day off going to do one of his least favourite things in the entire world.

Shopping for work clothes. He was long since adjusted to having to spend most of his time in a suit, but that didn’t mean he was actually all that comfortable with it, or that he didn’t resent having to shell out part of his paycheck to make sure he had the correct wardrobe, though he did his best to spend as little as possible. His go to store was one of those overstock shops where he could get what he needed for less than the more high end places.

The shopping trip ended up being the hassle he expected it to be. He walked in and found his way to the racks with the slacks, only to realise it had been long enough since he last bought a pair that he didn’t remember his size. It took him over ten minutes to muster up the courage to talk to one of the people who worked there, and he wasn’t sure how he survived getting his measurements taken.

After that he quickly picked out a couple pairs of slacks and one new jacket because his was getting pretty worn out, and then he hurried to the check out without trying them on because by that point he just wanted to be home as soon as possible.

He of course later regretted this when he got home and decided to test out the new pants, stripping out of the comfortable jeans and sweater he’d had on to double check the fit.

“What the hell…” Adachi muttered to himself, turning this way and that so he could look at himself in the mirror.

Considering he literally had his measurements taken, the new pants sure didn’t seem like they fit correctly. They fit he guessed, but they definitely didn’t fit the way his old pair did. He shifted back and forth self-consciously, eyeing the way the fabric clung to him. These had to be at least a size too small, maybe even two sizes.

Frowning at his reflection he grabbed his phone, swiping it open and opening his camera app. He awkwardly snapped a few shots of different angles and then switched over to his messenger app, his most recent messages popping up which were as usual his stranger, Tsuge, and less usually Rokkaku, who had finagled his number out of him earlier that month.

 

Saturday, November 20th

 

(Sat, 3:12 pm)

Tsuuggeeee! I just got these, I think the woman at the store took my measurements wrong. Do you think I can wear these to work or should I take them back?? I require validation and advice???

 

He struggled out of the slacks after sending the text, flopping back onto his bed and waiting impatiently for the response, getting more fidgety as the minutes ticked by. He really didn’t want to go back to the store but those slacks really didn’t seem right. And Tsuge was always his go-to for getting an opinion on things like that, if not just because he would be too embarrassed to ask anyone else. Or send anyone else pictures of himself not fully clothed.

 

(Sat, 3:20 pm)

Dear… this isn’t Tsuge

 

He blinked. He read the contact name. He scrolled back through the pictures he sent. The pictures, which were mirror selfies of him wearing no shirt, angled to show the dark slacks hugging his legs and his… back part of his legs. He read the contact name again.

 

(Sat, 3:23 pm)

…no

 

(Sat, 3:24 pm)

Yes. Not Tsuge. Again

 

(Sat, 3:25 pm)

NO

 

(Sat, 3:26 pm)

I’m sorry, dear. It’s me

 

Me. Me, meaning his stranger. Adachi’s stranger. Adachi sent pictures of his ass to the stranger.

He rolled over onto his front and started screaming into his duvet. This was literally the worst thing that had ever happened to him. Ever. And he was going to keep wailing into his bed until his lungs gave out and he succumbed to the dark abyss of embarrassment that was consuming him.

But first he had to apologise to the stranger.

 

(Sat, 3:28 pm)

I’m so sorry! So! Sorry! I can’t believe I’ve done this AGAIN

 

This was so much worse than the first time he accidentally texted the stranger when he meant to text Tsuge. Which, twice wasn’t a lot but there really wasn’t any excuse for it happening two times.

 

(Sat, 3:29 pm)

Don’t apologise. If it makes you feel any better, I definitely rank the texts you’ve accidentally sent me as the best texts I’ve ever gotten

 

The wailing had to be resumed for some time after reading that, Adachi far too worked up to react any other way to the stranger’s usual kindness.

 

(Sat, 3:36 pm)

You can’t say stuff like that! I’m so sorry that was so weird, please delete those photos

 

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. Why would it be? Why would the stranger make this any easier on him? “Oh, yeah sure I’ll delete them and then never mention this again and forget it happened.” How hard would that be?!

 

(Sat, 3:38 pm)

I will if you really really want me to but I’d rather like to keep them

 

(Sat, 3:39 pm)

WHY

 

(Sat, 3:41 pm)

Do you actually need me to answer that?

 

(Sat, 3:42 pm)

YES

 

He typed the one word out with enough force he was surprised he didn’t crack the screen. He couldn’t handle the idea of the stranger having those photos. He could barely deal with sending a picture that had his hands. He would be glad that at least the photos didn’t show his face, nothing in the shots that would make him panic about the stranger being able to identify him.

Except he couldn’t really muster a whole lot of appreciation for the fact the stranger would never recognise him because of those photos, since the only thing they gave him to recognise Adachi by was his butt. And his legs. And crotch. His crotch was in there too.

 

(Sat, 3:48 pm)

Okay… I’m really not sure what you want me to say here. You have to know how much I lost it when I opened those, right? I mean… I know there is stuff we don’t talk about. But you have to have realised this isn’t all exactly platonic on my end. So do you really think my reaction to getting to see you… like that, was anything close to “Huh, that’s weird.” or is this just the embarrassment talking? Because really, you have no reason to be embarrassed. Really.

 

(Sat, 3:51 pm)

You… lost it?

 

Adachi groaned right after sending the message, dreading if the stranger was going to get annoyed, accuse him of fishing ro something. But he wasn’t! The stranger was right, there was so much they never talked about! They especially never talked about exactly what kind of relationship they had. The stranger stopped hiding behind banter and jokes a while ago, making it pretty clear he wasn’t talking to Adachi like he was just a friend, but that didn’t mean…

Things like physical attraction were topics that were untread territory, they had to be when they refused to show what they looked like to each other. Not to mention it wasn’t something Adachi, terminally single and still a virgin at age twenty nine, had ever really talked to someone about!

 

(Sat, 3:53 pm)

Dear, the guy I’ve been trying to get close to for two months sent me a thirst trap. Albeit apparently an accidental one. Do you actually want to hear what I thought while looking at those pics or is me saying it was good thoughts enough?

 

(Sat, 3:54 pm)

More than enough. Please do not elaborate or I’m going to actually die

 

(Sat, 3:55 pm)

Noooo, you can’t die now that I know that’s what I have to look forward to ;)

 

(Sat, 3:56 pm)

Stoooop I seriously can’t handle this

 

(Sat, 3:56 pm)

Alright fine, I’ll stop. Do you want me to delete the pics? I will if you ask, I promise

 

(Sat, 3:59 pm)

… I guess if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Not like deleting them will make you unsee it

 

(Sat, 4:01 pm)

Oh, yeah I’ll never unsee that. Gunna be stuck on my mind forever

 

(Sat, 4:02 pm)

You said you would stop!

 

(Sat, 4:04 pm)

Guess I’m a liar then. Hmm, how should I make it up to you?

 

Adachi didn’t get to wonder for very long exactly what he meant. His phone dinged with another message, and he swiped it open with an unsteady hand. And then promptly dropped his phone.

And then scrambled to pick it back up so he could drink in the photo filling his screen. It was a man. Well, the reflection of a man in a mirror, like his photos were. A shirtless man, just wearing a pair of jeans, showing from mid-chest down so Adachi couldn’t see his face but could see his denim-clad legs and the hand somewhat awkwardly waving at him.

Very nice legs, accentuated very nicely by the well fitting jeans. And a very nice, flat, smooth looking mid-chest.

 

(Sat, 4:12 pm)

I think this makes us even ;) What do you think?

 

The stranger didn’t get to find out what Adachi thought, because he was too busy once again screaming into his bed.



Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Five

 

It was nine o’ clock. Three minutes past nine actually. Which meant that Adachi was three minutes late. Which also meant that Kurosawa was losing his mind.

No, actually he lost his mind Saturday when he opened a text to see what felt like miles of exposed skin when he was used to barely getting a peek of wrists, black slacks clinging in all the right places, basically painted on in comparison to the more standard adorable yet unfortunately  baggy pants he had seen for the past two weeks.

He felt like some kind of edwardian maiden getting scandalised by an ankle. After all he was a grown man, he shouldn’t have been so affected by a shirtless picture that cut off mid torso that his mind went completely blank except a ringing in his ears and a heat in his stomach, causing him to walk into the corner of his coffee table, bruising his shin and spilling tea everywhere including on his newest comic.

But could you really blame him? He already thought Adachi was cute. Spent far too much time thinking it, really. Except this wasn’t a cute Adachi. This was a slim, sexy, damn near sensual Adachi. With ass for days apparently.

He had no idea how he stayed as composed over his texts as he did, how he managed to actually articulate his thoughts and calm Adachi down from his panic at his mistake. Because of course it was a mistake. He meant to send those pictures, show himself exposed, unguarded and vulnerable, and in all the right angles, to his real friend. Tsuge. And that didn’t make him boil with jealousy or anything.

Adachi didn’t let Kurosawa see him like that, either version of him. Adachi would never send him something like that on purpose, for so many reasons, not least of all to protect his identity. God… Kurosawa couldn’t imagine how much worse his reaction would have been if he hadn’t already found out who his friend was. If he didn’t already know the “Full Picture” of Adachi 

He probably would have driven himself crazy staring at the backsides of any man he walked past on the way to work, trying to recognise one. Thankfully, he didn’t have to do that. Instead he got to slowly lose his last remaining dregs of sanity while surreptitiously watching the office door, waiting for the backside he knew and cared for to walk in.

Adachi had never gotten to work before him, not when despite his efforts at changing since he started working at Toyokawa he hadn’t been able to break his “On time is late” habit, so he had known he was up for a painful last ten to twenty minutes of impatience waiting for him to arrive. He hadn’t realised Adachi was going to be late on top of everything else, making him wait even longer after having to already wait through the rest of the weekend.

He hoped he hadn’t sounded too off while texting good morning, for once having little patience for their correspondence when he just wanted Adachi to be in front of him already. If he did, Adachi probably didn’t notice, as their texts had been a bit all over the place anyway since Saturday. It seemed Adachi wasn’t sure how to react to the incident and the conversation they had after.

His response to the photo Kurosawa somehow mustered the confidence to send was mostly inconsolable flustered rambling that told him very little of how welcome it had actually been. And he hadn’t acknowledged what Kurosawa said about his feelings not being platonic, though he knew that wasn’t because the comment had gone by unnoticed, not when Adachi spent the rest of the weekend shying away from any flirty comments or compliments he gave.

Even fairly innocent remarks seemed to make him lose his composure, though Kurosawa couldn’t tell if he was really uncomfortable or just overwhelmed. Common problem he was encountering these days. A problem he couldn’t solve until Adachi got to work and he could find out in person where his head was! And find out if he kept the pants!

Ten minutes past nine he was officially don’t pretending he wasn’t just sitting at his desk, staring at the door, foot tapping on the carpet in a discordant rhythm of dying composure. Rokkaku had noticed his mood and seemed intrigued by the chip in his usual composure, keeping an eye on him and the door as well as the time ticked by. He couldn’t be bothered to care. It wasn’t like he had much to hide from the younger man, if anyone had noticed exactly how much attention he paid to Adachi and what emotions were behind it, it was Rokkaku.

Adachi finally arrived in a flurry of messy hair and coattails, rushing into the office only to freeze on the spot before going further into the room, making a doomed effort to readjust his backpack and clothes so it wasn’t obvious he had been rushing around. The fact he couldn’t hide the flush high on his cheeks and the way his breath was coming in pants made it even more obvious.

Kurosawa was completely entranced. He barely even noticed as he rose up from his chair and trailed Adachi to his desk, watching him start to strip out of his coat and other winter things, wishing he could step forward and replace his hands with his own, especially when he saw what Adachi had on underneath,

He did keep the pants. Kurosawa was half-surprised he didn’t trip looking at him, though his knees did feel a little wobbly, because by god, seeing Adachi in slacks that actually were his size was so much better in person, and it wasn’t even just the slacks that had his brian stalling like an overheated car engine. Apparently a new pair of pants hadn’t been Adachi’s only recent purchase, because Kurosawa knew that the suit jacket he usually wore certainly didn’t frame his shoulders that well, or make his waist nip in like that.

“Kurosawa?”

He blinked, realising he had stalled a few feet away and should have said something by then. “Adachi! Good morning!” He gave Adachi a wide smile and walked forward to lean against his desk, knowing he was encroaching a little into Adachi’s space where he had sat down, but he was already mourning the loss of being able to see… all of him, and couldn’t resist at least being closer. “You’re a little late, everything alright?”

“I couldn’t find my phone when I got ready to leave, ended up missing my train.” Adachi replied, eyes on his desk as he fiddled with a pile of papers in front of him.

“Ah, hate when that happens. But you found it, right?”

“Yes, it was under my blankets on my bed.”

Kurosawa bit his lip, trying not to blush. Adachi must have lost his phone in his bed after answering his good morning text. That was something he really needed to not think too hard about, because that way led to further madness.

“Well, glad you found it. How was your weekend?” Kurosawa asked, not at all fishing, no siree.

 “It was… fine. Didn’t do much.” Adachi said, not nearly as successful holding in a blush. “Did some shopping… Saw a friend.”

No, he didn’t. At least, he didn’t go visit Tsuge. Saturday he only went to get his new clothes, and Sunday he was home all day, reading the same comic Kurosawa spilled tea all over. They spent the day texting and teasing each other with spoilers if they didn’t keep reading at the same pace. So when he said he “saw” a friend… he was referring to the picture Kurosawa sent him.

Cheeky, Kurosawa thought, hiding a smirk. “Well, it’s always nice to see a friend. I can think of a friend I’d like to see more of… Hopefully I’ll have a chance soon.”

Adachi finally looked at him, something searching in his eyes. “A friend?”

“For now.” Kurosawa couldn’t resist saying with a wink, pushing up from the desk. “I’ll leave you to get to work. Wanna eat lunch together later?”

“Ugh. Sure?” Adachi replied, looking stunned.

“Great. Have a good rest of your morning.” He said with a last smile and a tap on Adachi’s desk, walking back to his own desk feeling pleased with himself. 

He had been worried Adachi might want to keep his distance after what happened Friday. He would understand, he was fairly sure what he saw when he followed him to the break room was some kind of anxiety attack and anyone would feel a little uncertain about someone seeing them like that. But Adachi hadn’t seemed like he was uncomfortable, in fact he seemed in a fairly good mood for having a hectic morning.

It was difficult sometimes, keeping the two pieces of himself he had split apart for Adachi clear in his head, knowing whether things were going well or if he was messing this up. What mattered more, the sometimes confused back and forth he was having with Adachi over the phone, where he got to be bold and flirtatious and it seemed like Adachi welcomed it even if he didn’t know how to react? Or this, here at their work, where he got to show Adachi how he felt with more than just words, even if he had to hide exactly how deep he had already fallen?

He didn’t know. What he did know was he couldn’t give up any of it. Even though sometimes he wondered if he should back up, give Adachi space and time. He couldn’t give up their conversations, day to day nothings about what they had for lunch or what they were reading. Late nights telling each other things they wouldn’t tell anyone else, secrets thoughts no one else had ever known.

And he couldn’t give up this, all the new things he had gotten to do since he accidentally stumbled upon his friend. He couldn’t give up getting to see him every day, trying to beat Rokkaku to being the first person to talk to him in the mornings, bringing him coffees when he looked tired and trying to subtly urge him to go home when he stayed too late. He couldn’t give up seeing those beautiful dark eyes and that cute messy hair.

And he definitely would be doing everything he could to get to hold his hand again, after getting to feel what it was like to touch him for so long while he tried to help Adachi calm down during his anxiety attack, got to stroke along his palm and sneakily compare the length of their fingers, thinking about how if they held hands properly his hands would completely cover Adachi’s.

He still forgot his gloves too often. If Kurosawa ever got to finally spend time with Adachi outside the office, instead of just being a constant presence on the phone in his pocket, he could hold his hands to keep them warm.

If Adachi ever properly let him in, he could do so many things to take care of him.



Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Six

 

“Adachi?”

Adachi froze. That was not Rokkaku’s voice. It was not once again Rokkaku bothering him, hurrying over to him to babble on about how great some meeting went or tell him about some exhausting sounding extrovert-type event he went to over the weekend. It also wasn’t Kurosawa, waltzing over to ask him about some client’s account information he could easily just look up or needing help finding where they kept the highlighters for the nth time.

It was Fujisaki.

“Uh. Yes?” He eventually answered, after just staring for long enough she tilted her head with concern.

“I was wondering if maybe you wouldn’t mind giving me a hand?” She asked with a shy smile. “Urabe asked me to run some errands and I was wondering if you could come along with me? If you weren’t too busy? We should be back before lunch time.”

“Oh. Oh! Umm, yeah sure. I can do that.” Adachi stuttered out, brain taking far too long to process the request.

He didn’t have to leave the office often. He got sent on only the occasional errand, but rarely had to go on any sales calls or to any conferences. This was something he quite liked about his job. He did not want to leave the office. He didn’t like having to go further than the copy machine.

Buuut… it was Fujisaki, and no matter how awkward he felt around her, he did think she was a really nice woman, not to mention a very good coworker who often helped out others, and he didn’t want to leave her hanging when she needed something.

“Great! Thank you.” She said sweetly with a duck of her head, and he had to look away, flushing at the gratitude he really didn’t deserve.

“No problem…”

Thankfully the errands weren’t anything difficult, they just had to pick some things up. The only real demands it put on Adachi were to carry bags and manage to reply somewhat coherently when Fujisaki tried to make small talk. He managed the former better than the latter.

“How was your weekend? I hope you don’t mind having to run around on a Monday…” She asked while they were walking back from the last store.

“No, not at all. I don’t mind.” He hurried to deny. “It was… alright. I didn’t do much.”

He definitely wasn’t going to repeat what he said to Kurosawa. He had no idea what possessed him to even covertly mention the whole fiasco with his stranger while at work, and to Kurosawa of all people. It could have just been because it was still on his mind, stuck there on repeat with the picture the stranger sent him glued right at the forefront.

“What about you? Did you do anything fun over the weekend?” He asked, pulling himself out of once again wondering if that picture had been photoshopped, it must have been since no one looked that perfect in real life…

He shouldn’t be thinking about that though, he should be listening to Fujisaki and asking questions back, because that was how you usually had conversations. If someone asked you something you asked something else back. Unfortunately, he really was still the same guy who broke a phone just because Fujisaki tried to chat with him, which was why this simple concept was a struggle, shirtless pictures on his mind certainly not helping.

“Ah, not really.” Her smile dimmed. “My mother came to stay with me for a couple days, and it’s always a little stressful when she visits.”

“Oh…” Adachi said awkwardly. He wasn’t very good when it came to talking about family issues. His own family wasn’t close, but they were relatively uncomplicated.

“Sorry, you probably don’t want to hear about that.” Fujisaki said with a wave of her hand.

“No! It’s not that I don’t want to.” He stammered out, talking faster than he meant to before taking a deep breath and continuing. “I don’t mind listening, if you wanted to talk about it.”

Fujisaki blinked at him for a second before giving him another smile, sighing and starting to swing the bag she was holding as she began to explain. “It’s not that we don’t get along or that I don’t enjoy seeing her. But whenever she visits… She always asks about dating. Am I interested in anyone, am I seeing anyone, have I been out with any men? She never asks about work, or my friends. She just wants to know if I’m still single, and when I say yes she wants to know why. I know she just doesn’t like the idea of me being alone, she wants to see me happy and married. I just wish she would… I don’t know. I shouldn’t complain that she cares.” She ended with a laugh that sounded rather sad.

Adachi frowned, all his social anxiety melting away and being replaced with concern for the self-deprecating tinge to the way Fujisaki was talking. “I don’t really think that’s true. It’s a good thing your mom cares, but it’s not really fair for her to only be interested in that one facet of your life. If she just wants you to be happy, she should ask about whatever makes you happy, which could be a lot more than just… finding a husband. There’s a lot more to life than romance.”

He looked over at Fujisaki and she was looking back at him with wide eyes, mouth open in a little ‘o’, and abruptly all the confidence he had while he talked drained out of him, and he flushed and tried to backtrack, sure he had offended her.

“I just mean… My mom doesn’t talk to me about that kind of stuff, so I don’t really know.” He rambled, a hand coming up to anxiously fiddle with his hair. “I just figure it would be frustrating, if she did. And I think if you are feeling frustrated, it would make sense. Sorry, I’m overstepping, aren’t I?”  

 “You aren’t! Really, I wouldn’t have mentioned it if you saying what you thought was going to bother me.” Fujisaki reassured, her empty hand reaching over to hold his arm for a moment before she let go and gave him another warm smile.

Fujisaki really is nice, he thought for what was probably the dozenth time. Warm was definitely a good word for her. She wasn’t like Kurosawa, bright and blinding like the sun. She was more like a candle, a little more low-key, but still giving off light. If his usual perpetual awkwardness stepped aside enough, she was actually kind of soothing to be around. It was kind of a shame he hadn’t managed to talk to her more often, especially when he compared how much more he had talked to Kurosawa even though he was newer.

But then, Fujisaki hadn’t somehow bulldozed her way past all his usual barriers and social anxieties the way Kurosawa bizarrely had.

They didn’t really talk anymore until they got back to the office, and Fujisaki reached for his arm again while they were walking down the hall, pulling him to a stop with an expression like she was thinking really hard about something.

“Adachi?”

“Yes?” He hoped they hadn’t forgotten anything. Or that she hadn’t decided she was actually offended after all by what he said.

“Thank you.” She said instead, quite unexpectedly. “Not just for coming with me today. But for what you said when I told you about my mother. The truth is… I really don’t have any interest in dating. And I know that’s strange. But what you said, it made me feel like it really shouldn’t be a big deal. I do have a lot of other things that make me happy. And I think… Maybe next time I’ll tell my mother that. You’re right. If she just wants me to be happy, she will just have to accept I’m not looking to be with anyone.”

Adachi gaped at her, shifting uneasily but being mindful to not pull away from where her hand had slipped down to hold his wrist lightly. “I didn’t really say all that much…”

“You did. I didn’t know you were so insightful, Adachi.” Fujisaki responded, a bit of playfulness coming into her tone.

“Ai, come on. I’m really not… I didn’t say anything that special. But if you think you want to talk to her, you should. You… You are doing really well here, at Toyokawa. People like you, it seems like you’ve made a lot of friends. And everyone knows you’re a good worker. Tell her that, tell her that she should be proud of what you’ve accomplished.” He barely made it through saying everything he wanted to, sure his face was flaming and wanting nothing more than to run and hide, but it felt like this was important to say, even though it felt more than a little impertinent when he wasn’t actually that close to Fujisaki.

She blinked at him, not quite as stunned this time, like she was getting used to him actually saying more than a handful of words to her at a time. “You know, you’re very sweet, Adachi.” She complimented, giving his wrist a squeeze, adding with a wide smile. “I should ask you to come on all my errands!” 

“Alright, if you want.” Adachi joked back, realising this impossibly had actually been a very successful social interaction.

“Adachi?”

He and Fujisaki looked up, her hand falling from his arm as they saw Kurosawa standing a few yards away, having just walked out of their office. He was looking at them with a pinched expression, far different from his usual friendly visage, enough that even someone as occasionally clueless when it came to people as Adachi could be could tell something about what he was seeing in front of him was upsetting to Kurosawa.

Adachi glanced between himself and Fujisaki, reassessing how close they were standing, how the last part of their conversation might have sounded if you didn't know the conversation was literally about her not being interested in dating.

"I was just looking for you, Adachi. It's time for lunch, I thought you might want to eat together. I didn’t know you were… with Fujisaki." Kurosawa said, walking closer.

He put a strange emphasis on with, and he was avoiding looking at Fujisaki, face still pinched and mouth wearing a smile that looked more uncomfortable than anything.

Ah, Adachi thought, suddenly understanding what was going on.

Kurosawa didn't like seeing them close like that, Fujisaki touching him in a friendly way that could be interpreted as more intimate, their joking possibly sounding more like flirting. Kurosawa was interpreting this interaction as romantic in nature, and for the first time Adachi was seeing him look obviously unhappy. Which meant…

Kurosawa must have a crush on Fujisaki.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Seven

 

Kurosawa wasn’t thrilled when Adachi disappeared from the office in the middle of the morning, but it wasn’t like he actually needed Adachi’s constant attention or anything. He could wait until he got back from the mysterious errands Urabe said he was on. He’d come armed with a plan that day after all, he just had to snag Adachi at lunch time.

Of course, he was less thrilled when lunch came and he started poking around trying to see if Adachi was back, and he happened upon not only Adachi but Fujisaki. Who, apparently, had gone with him on those errands. And it sure looked like they had a great time.

His hands curled into fists at his sides as he looked at the pair, and they really did look like a pair, heads curving in towards each other, Fujisaki’s small hand holding onto him, quiet but honest smiles on their faces. None of the usual anxiety obvious on Adachi’s face, no sign of the irritation or on-guardedness he often failed to hide when talking to Kurosawa.

He looked happy, and relaxed, and like he was having fun. And while Kurosawa knew that wasn’t uncommon for Adachi when they were texting, it wasn’t something he had had a lot of chances to see in person. And it was because Fujisaki. Which was miles worse somehow than any of the jealousy he had felt before when he had to watch Rokkaku cling onto him. Maybe because he could be envious of how close Rokkaku was allowed to get, how easily Adachi let him into his space and his life, but in  the long run Rokkaku was just a puppy, inherently unthreatening.

But Fujisaki? She was different. What was one of the first things Adachi said to him? He said Fujisaki made for a good friend. And she did, Kurosawa had noticed how well liked she was in the office, how generally kind and polite she was when talking with anyone. She seemed like a genuinely sweet and good person, pretty and neat and everything that would make sense for Adachi to be interested in. She was similar to him in all the right ways, and different in the right ways to complement him, and as he could see right in front of him, she could get him to come out of his shell.

Maybe it was some kind of karma, that he was presented with a perfect alternative for Adachi to be interested in instead of him, right after Kurosawa started pushing, started daring a little more, doing something like sending that picture when he had no real idea if Adachi was even attracted to men.

That ease disappeared the moment Kurosawa approached them, something like panic in his eyes instead as he obviously stepped away from Fujisaki and reached up to scratch his head. 

“We were just doing some errands, Urabe asked.” Adachi told him, emphasis on just.

“Adachi is very helpful, isn’t he?” Fujisaki added, her smile strangely looking almost like it was teasing him.

Except why would she tease him? Even if she had picked up on the fact Kurosawa liked Adachi, she was too nice to do a mean girl thing like laud it over him. She seemed more like the type to apologise if she found out a friend liked someone who liked her.

“Yes, he is.” Kurosawa replied, hiding the discomfort he knew had slipped into his expression and instead giving her a shining smile before turning his attention back to Adachi. “So, lunch?”

“Uh, yeah sure.” Adachi mumbled. “Let me just put my stuff away.”

“Great, I’ll go save us a table.” He replied, giving Fujisaki a parting nod and turning to head toward the cafeteria.

He spent the few minutes it took for Adachi to come sit with him trying to push away any thought of Adachi and other people, sure he would be doing nothing but driving himself crazy if he dwelt on it. It could have been nothing. He knew Adachi liked Fujisaki. He did not know if he like liked her, and he wasn’t going to jump to conclusions. After all, Fujisaki wasn’t the one Adachi texted every day, he was…. Even if Adachi didn’t know the person he was texting was Kurosawa.

Speaking of, before Adachi popped back up, his phone buzzed in his pocket.

 

Monday, November 22nd

 

(Mon, 12:09 pm)

I think I’m involved in a very awkward love triangle at work.

 

Kurosawa abruptly started choking on nothing, glad Adachi hadn’t shown up yet because there was no way he could hide his reaction to reading the message.

 

(Mon, 12:10 pm)

Oh?

 

(Mon, 12:11 pm)

Like, extremely awkward. And complicated. And I don’t know if I should say something to either of the other people or pretend nothing is going on

 

(Mon, 12:12 pm)

Exactly what do you think is happening? A love triangle… does that mean you like someone then? Someone you work with?

 

He had to resist chewing on the inside of his cheek as he wrote out the text, not sure how he would handle it if he said yes, if he had to sit there and have lunch with Adachi while pretending Adachi hadn’t just confessed to him and broken his heart.

 

(Mon, 12:13 pm)

No, but I’m friends with a girl in the office and I think that new guy I told you about likes her and he looked at me funny when he saw us together so now I’m wondering if he thinks we are more than friends, which we definitely aren’t because even if I did like her which I don’t, Fujisaki doesn’t have any interest in dating

 

(Mon, 12:13 pm)

Well. That is definitely awkward

 

To say he was relieved would be a massive understatement. Adachi didn’t like Fujisaki. Unfortunately, he couldn’t exactly celebrate because instead Adachi had completely misinterpreted him and thought he did. What an absolute mess of high school proportions, and it was his fault for not keeping a better handle on his emotions.

 

(Mon, 12:14 pm)

I know! What should I do?

 

Thankfully, it was a mess he had an inside man on, meaning himself. He could hopefully fix this before it got any worse.

 

(Mon, 12:15 pm)

Just talk to him. If it’s a misunderstanding it’s better to deal with it instead of letting it make you worry

 

(Mon, 12:15 pm)

… that sounds very smart. And I probably will not be doing it

 

Kurosawa couldn’t help laughing at that, spying out of the corner of his eye that Adachi was standing by the door of the cafeteria, phone in hand and eyes nervously darting over to him.

 

(Mon, 12:16 pm)

Trust me. Just figure out how to bring it up casually

 

(Mon, 12:17 pm)

Aaaahhhh fine! 

 

Kurosawa tucked both his amusement and his phone out of sight as Adachi finally walked over to him, his phone likewise disappearing into a pocket as he sat down. He opened his mouth to talk but then did a double take at the box Kurosawa had left on the table for him.

“Uh, what’s this?”

“I had some extra food, so I made a second lunch. I thought you might want it?” Kurosawa offered, casual as could be as if this wasn’t something he had been waiting to do for ages.

“... Oh. Uh… Sure? Thank you?” Adachi said, pulling the bento closer but not opening it yet. He bit his lip before clearing his throat. “Hey, Kurosawa?”

“Yes?” Kurosawa dutifully answered, starting to eat his own lunch and not making eye contact so as to not spook the Adachi.

“I noticed you seemed a little upset earlier… Can I ask you something personal?”

“Of course you can.” Please ask, ask me anything but definitely ask me this.

“Umm… Do you like Fujisaki? Cause, you know, if you do-”

“I don’t.” Kurosawa interrupted the oncoming ramble, looking up and giving Adachi a rewarding smile for actually taking his advice. “I do not like Fujisaki.”

“Oh.” Adachi blinked at him. “Okay. Uh, good. Good to know…”

“Is it?” He asked, smile sliding into a smirk.

“No! I didn’t mean… I just don’t think she… dates. So that would have been… not good, if you did.” Adachi stuttered out.

“Well, thank you for worrying about me.” Kurosawa said with a chuckle.

“I didn’t mean it like that.” Adachi replied with a near pout before his expression shifted to something more confused. “Do you uh… like any other girls in the office?”

Kurosawa couldn’t help laughing again. He had no idea what Adachi was thinking now that his theory had been disproven, but his assumed heterosexualness was more comedic than annoying or offensive like it usually was when it was in the face of him somewhat obviously trying to woo Adachi.

“I don’t like girls.” He somehow ended up blurting out in between laughs, a moment later realising what he just said, all the blood draining from his face as he waited apprehensively for Adachi's reaction.

Adachi, who was staring at him in disbelief, mouth fallen open and eyes wide.

"Oh."



Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Eight


“Oh.” Was for some reason the brilliant response Adachi’s brain conjured up, the single syllable falling dully between them and immediately making the mood turn sour. It wasn’t like someone coming out to him was something he had a lot of experience with, but even he knew that was the wrong answer to give. Especially when someone didn’t look like they actually meant to come out.

Kurosawa’s laughter had choked off, face going pale and lower lip slipping between his teeth as he all but shrunk into himself. It was immediately repugnant to Adachi, seeing someone like Kurosawa make himself so small and guarded, bracing himself for something instinctually.

Adachi wasn’t a naturally angry person, but he definitely felt anger as he wondered exactly what had happened in Kurosawa’s past to make him look like that, to seem to immediately expect whatever was about to come out of Adachi’s mouth was going to be something bad.

“So… you’re gay?” He asked, just to make absolutely sure he wasn’t misunderstanding.

Kurosawa didn’t even answer verbally, just nodding his head and avoiding eye contact with something that looked like shame.

“Me too.”

Kurosawa’s eyes shot up to him, wide and filling with wonder as the corners of his mouth lifted. “You are?”

“Well, kind of? I think? Or maybe bi, I don’t really know for sure… I haven’t dated anyone before so… But I know I like guys.” Adachi mumbled out, cheeks burning but knowing he couldn’t back down, no matter how scared he was to let those words come out of his mouth, to confirm once and for all he could be interested in men, when he knew the reality was that he only knew he could be interested in one man.

He understood absolutely nothing about whatever was going on between him and Kurosawa, but he did know he couldn’t let Kurosawa have even the slightest doubt that something like sexuality would never be a problem for him. Sure, it was a surprise. He would have pegged Kurosawa for the kind of guy who had a string of pretty girlfriends going back to high school, the fact every woman who was single in the office had kept an eye on him since he started at Toyokawa certainly cementing the assumption.

But he had also been beaten over the head repeatedly by evidence that absolutely none of his assumptions about Kurosawa were correct. He was more confused than ever about what was going on with him and Fujisaki, since apparently it wasn’t jealousy. And he definitely wasn’t going to make anymore guesses, not when it seemed any guesses he made were doomed to be beyond wrong.

“I see. Isn’t that… interesting.” Kurosawa said, leaning forward and resting his chin in his hand, gaze feeling like it was burning into Adachi.

“Is it?” He asked, hands fiddling with the bento in front of him that he still had yet to open. “I don’t know why it would be…”

“You should eat.” Kurosawa replied instead of answering, nodding at the box.

“Oh. Right.Thanks again for this.” Adachi said, chewing on the inside of his cheek as he hesitantly opened the bento, a moment later his mouth falling open in disbelief as he looked down at the beautiful little lunch laid out in front of him.

“Where did you buy this from?!”

“Who said I bought it?” Kurosawa shot back, self-satisfaction all but radiating from him as he watched Adachi take his first bite and immediately let out a moan.

“Yum! You made this? This tastes amazing!” He exclaimed, having to consciously stop himself from shovelling it all into his mouth as quickly as he could.

“It’s not a big deal. Just what I usually make for lunch.” Kurosawa waved away the compliment, but made little effort to hide the look on his face that said how pleased he was.

“I can’t believe you can cook something this good, it’s as good as anything from a restaurant.” Adachi enthused between bites.

Food may or may not be one of his weaknesses, part of why his stranger sending him food when he was sick meant so much to him. Not that he wanted to compare the two men, even if this was making him wonder again about his stranger’s offer to cook for him, all the pictures he sent him of meals he made for himself and wished he could share with Adachi…Nope, not comparing.

“You’re very generous.” Kurosawa said, taking another bite and then looking back at Adachi with something sly growing in his eyes, licking his lips before leaning in even closer. “You know, if you like it that much, I could always bring a lunch for you every day.”

A mouthful of rice went down the wrong way, Adachi coughing gracelessly into a napkin and trying to not actually die, because “death due to being awful at talking to people” would be a horrible COD.

“That’s, uh. You don’t have to- umm. I usually pick up my lunches.” He got out in a wheeze.

Kurosawa held eye contact for a few seconds before breaking and starting to laugh again. He had a nice laugh, Adachi had noticed against his will. Strangely it seemed like he had two laughs, as the laugh Adachi first heard the day they met didn’t quite sound like the laugh Adachi heard him use when talking to others, that laugh being a lot more reserved and polite, though still pleasant to hear.

“I was just joking.” Kurosawa said between laughs before sobering slightly and continuing. “But seriously, would you mind if I brought you lunch again? I end up with too much food pretty often.”

“Ah, I guess? I mean, I’m not going to turn down free food. But isn’t there.. Anyone else you might want to give lunches to?” Adachi asked.

Finding out he was gay changed things a little, but Adachi was still sure that Kurosawa could find plenty of other guys more interesting than him to hang out with and maybe actually date. It hadn’t exactly escaped his notice while he sat there thinking that the way Kurosawa took to him could be interpreted a certain way if he was into guys. Urabe had already tried to insinuate something like that, though he only said something about Adachi being interested, nothing about if he thought Kurosawa reciprocated.

But Adachi had a realistic enough view of himself to know there was no chance of Kurosawa liking him, even if he wasn’t the kind of person Adachi first thought he was, the person he was starting to see was still someone miles out of his league in either a social or romantic sense. Maybe if Kurosawa was gay he was paying attention to Adachi because he didn’t think Adachi was straight, and was just hoping to find another lgbt friend. It wouldn’t be the first time someone took his general meekness and lack of charisma to mean he wasn’t straight, even if it was the first time he actually confirmed it when asked, and in this case he guessed it would have been more of a gaydar thing than anything discriminatory.

“No, just you.” Kurosawa said. “I don’t think Rokkaku would accept any food from me.” He cheekily added.

“Should I talk to him about that? I hope he hasn’t been… offending you.”

Offending definitely wasn’t the right word, nothing Rokkaku did could ever be called offensive in the literal sense, or really any sense. He was polite, he was professional. But when you saw him in all his cheerful puppy glory talking to people he liked? You couldn’t really avoid seeing how much he slighted Kurosawa pretty much every time they interacted.

“No, don’t worry about that. He’ll come around.” Kurosawa said with another light laugh.

“Hopefully.” Adachi muttered, not so sure. Rokkaku was surprisingly stubborn, it was one of the things they had in common. But he could only really concentrate on so many social snafus at a time. Speaking of…

With Kurosawa eating his own lunch, Adachi felt like he had just enough privacy to slip his phone back out of his pocket and type out a stealthy message.


(Mon, 12:42 pm)

You should screenshot this because you wont get me to say it ever again. But you were right, talking to him about it turned out way better than letting myself overthink and get all anxious worrying


He peeked up at Kurosawa as he sent the message, the other man not seeming to either notice or care what he was staring at in his lap. He jumped slightly a second later, but when Adachi raised a questioning eyebrow, Kurosawa just smiled and said “I bit my tongue, sorry.” and then focused back on his food.

The stranger didn’t reply for a few minutes, and maybe because Adachi was still watching his own phone waiting, Kurosawa pulled out his own phone and started fiddling with it. He inwardly sighed in relief that that probably meant the talking to each other part of lunch was probably over, so he could just talk to his stranger instead without feeling guilty.


(Mon, 12:48 pm)

My my, what a treat, you finally admitting I’m wise and all-knowing and you should always follow my advice


(Mon, 12:49 pm)

Yeah pretty sure that’s not even a little what I said


(Mon, 12:49 pm)

Mmmm no, I think it’s exactly what you said. So it went well?


(Mon, 12:49 pm)

I think so… It was kind of weird but at least I no longer have to be worried about any office romances


A sudden snicker made Adachi look up, Kurosawa’s eyes going between his phone and him while he smothered any noises he was making behind his hand. He was waved off so he turned back to his phone with a shrug.


(Mon, 12:50 pm)

Don’t be so sure about that


(Mon, 12:50 pm)

?


(Mon, 12:51 pm)

Just sayin. Never hurts to keep an eye out for possibilities


For some reason that rankled him, as well as made him frown in confusion. He didn’t like the idea of the stranger encouraging him to look for dating options at his work just as much as he would have expected the stranger to hate the idea of him paying attention to anyone who wasn’t him. One of the very few things he knew for sure about the stranger was that he was possessive of Adachi’s attention, so why wasn’t he getting all weird like he had every time Adachi made far more innocent comments about one of his coworkers?


(Mon, 12:51 pm)

I’m too busy getting you to stop complimenting yourself to think about any of that


(Mon, 12:52 pm)

It’s not my fault I’m so fantastic, but if it keeps your mind on no one but me, I guess it’s for the best ;)


(Mon, 12:52 pm)

You’re the worst is what you are


(Mon, 12:53 pm)

Sorry, too busy looking at the screenshot of you saying I’m the smartest person you know


(Mon, 12:54 pm)

Libel and slander


(Mon, 12:54 pm)

☀️


“Ready to head back to the grind?”

He looked up from his phone to see Kurosawa beaming at him, that blinding smile making Adachi squint. Why was he surrounded by people who were so charming and cheerful and exhausting?

“No, but I guess I will anyway.”

Kurosawa laughed, and something in the back of Adachi's head faltered at the sound, at that smile, like he was feeling deja vu.

“Hey… Adachi?” Kurosawa asked as they both stood up, expression turning more solemn.

“Yeah?”

“Thank you, for earlier. People aren’t usually so… I don’t usually tell people I’m gay.” He said, tucking his hands into his pockets and looking down at his shoes.

“You don’t have to thank me. You should be able to tell anyone you want without worrying what they’ll say, but I see why you wouldn’t always be comfortable doing that. Not that I- umm… I haven’t actually told anyone else before that I like men.” He replied in a shy stutter, anger coming back as he wondered more about Kurosawa’s last job and how he was treated there. 

“I  think I’d be comfortable telling you anything. And I’m glad I could be your first.” Kurosawa said, looking up to give him another smile, this one small and private and for some reason making a blush heat up his cheeks, the wink he threw in at the end not helping.

“I think that’s a little too generous.” He squeaked out. “Wasn’t a big deal.”

As he walked away quicker than was really necessary, Kurosawa trailing behind him at a more reasonable pace, he told himself he wasn’t fleeing, but obviously that was exactly what he was doing. Kurosawa really was way too much sometimes. Between him and the stranger, Adachi was going to explode one of these days.



Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Nine

 

Kurosawa was going to go insane. Adachi was personally going to drive him stark raving mad. Coming out had been beyond unplanned, an accident he counted himself fairly lucky for getting away with. Adachi’s response had been above and beyond what he could have hoped for, not just because he got the gift of knowing for sure he was into guys too, but because pretty much everyone he had ever let slip to that he was gay had had something to say that made him feel an ache in his gut and filled him with regret for opening his mouth.

It wasn't even the homophobia, though that was of course always a risk, often at the heart of it. It was the confusion, the occasional complete dismissal, the inability to see him as a person past the things people decided about him regardless of who he actually was. It didn’t make sense for someone like him to be gay. It was like the amount of women who had ever been interested in him and asked him out, the amount of men who saw him as some kind of man's man bro to envy and never even considered they were more his type than any girl could be, they all chipped away at the possibility that he could be anything but a card carrying heterosexual. Because that was how it worked, right?

And he wasn't blind. He knew Adachi had done what everyone did, it was human to make assumptions, reading the book by its cover was just something people couldn't help doing. But over and over, Kurosawa saw him take a left where everyone took a right.

He was overbearingly friendly and congenial on his first day, instead of being taken in Adachi's hackles went up until Kurosawa started proving there was something real under it all. Adachi obviously expected him to become the new office socialite, but the longer Kurosawa made an effort to get close to him, the less resistant he was to the idea Kurosawa only really cared for his company.

And then his jealousy was misinterpreted, because obviously if Kurosawa was interested in someone, it would be the nice pretty woman everyone got along with. But the moment Kurosawa corrected him, Adachi didn’t question him or say anything even approaching derisive. Instead he put aside his surprise and made Kurosawa comfortable at the cost of his own privacy, and he definitely knew that admitting to being attracted to men cost Adachi as much as it cost Kurosawa to admit the same thing, if not more. But he did it anyway.

It was amazing, because part of the reason they spoke so freely to each other was because Kurosawa knew he was safe with Adachi, and had put a lot of work into making sure Adachi knew he was safe too. And really, there was no reason for that safety to transfer to their relationship in real life, not when Adachi still seemed somehow completely in the dark about his friend’s true identity, enough that Kurosawa literally texted him when they were sitting right across from each other and he knew Adachi didn’t suspect a thing. But somehow, that safety was still there. Somehow, Adachi was still showing him exactly how worthy he was of his trust, and was trusting him back.

And yet he still remained what seemed willfully blind, and Kurosawa was losing his mind over it. After he came out, he had been somewhat on edge for a couple days, wondering if Adachi would treat him any different. If nothing else, he figured the days of his more blatant flirting going unremarked upon were over, because straight or not he couldn’t imagine Adachi would allow anyone other than his friend to act like that. Well, he was wrong. By some miracle or curse, even knowing now that Kurosawa liked men, Adachi seemed completely clueless to any sign that Kurosawa was interested in him.

He complimented, he flattered, he teased, he plied him with snacks and coffees, he brought a lunch for him almost every day, he used every excuse he could to talk to him. And yet Adachi still acted like Kurosawa only saw him in a purely platonic light, no sign of the way he usually responded when Kurosawa texted him with the exact same attitude. It was infuriating and annoying and maddening, and beyond that it made him incredibly sad.

Adachi had never dated anyone. He had few friends. He was close to no one at work until Rokkaku started following him around. And it was never more clear to Kurosawa that Adachi believed all these things were because there was something wrong with him. When they first started texting, Kurosawa had to tell him over and over that he really wanted to talk to him. He really wanted to be friends. Really cared about him. Adachi was interesting enough, was sweet, was funny, was just as wonderful as Kurosawa told him over and over until he at least stopped actually admitting he didn’t believe it.

But apparently, the progress he had made as the faceless man on the other side of Adachi’s phone screen wasn’t enough for him to fathom that the new man in his office could want to date him, even when he lauded him with attention and just about every courting ritual he could while still being somewhat lowkey. And he couldn’t even be genuinely irritated that all his efforts were in vain, when instead he was just sad Adachi was conditioned to not even see someone being attracted to him as an option.

No matter what Kurosawa did.

“Morning.”

Good morning, and what a good morning it is.” Kurosawa answered with a grin as Adachi stepped into the elevator next to him. It was fairly rare for Adachi to get to work at the same time as him, but he was running a little late and apparently Adachi was running a little early.

“Hmph.”

That was one of those Adachi noises Kurosawa was learning to interpret, this one meaning the same thing as all the times Adachi would text him complaints and insults when he texted him good morning at seven am. It meant “Screw you, and your good morning, and your stupid smile” but he hadn’t gotten Adachi to actually say all of that outloud yet, so for now he just got the weird hmph noise that meant the same thing. He would take it, gladly.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Adachi grumbled at him.

He blinked. Apparently he had been a little obvious in his appreciation. “You’re hair…” He said in lieu of something more appropriate.

“What?” Adachi’s hand went up to his head, tracing over where his hair was spiked up in a familiar bedhead at the back, cheeks flaring as he obviously didn’t understand how adorable it was.

“Here, let me…”

He dared to reach over and try to smooth down the errant strands, glad there was no one else in the elevator to see this. Only he should get to see Adachi looking that cute, blinking up at him in consternation as he got his hair to at least somewhat behave, marvelling at how soft it was and how he could just barely catch a whiff of what must be his conditioner or something.

He may have let his hand linger longer than was strictly necessary, the ding of the elevator arriving ruining the moment as Adachi flinched back from his hand and stepped off before anyone boarding could see. Kurosawa followed with a barely repressed sigh, though he held out a hand to stop him a moment later when he spotted a new addition to the hallway.

“Adachi, look.”

“Oh, yeah I heard about that.” Adachi said, frowning at the flyer for a competition for new product proposals.

“I wonder if anyone from our department is going to try for it.” He mused, noting how Adachi’s frown deepened. “... Do you want to apply?”

“No.” Adachi answered, too quickly. “Of course not, I’d never be able to… I’m not good at things like that.”

Kurosawa couldn’t help the frown of his own. He knew Adachi was fairly artistic, he liked to draw, sometimes even sending Kurosawa pictures of his sketches. And he would get excited sometimes about new products Toyokawa came out with. Especially given how long he had worked at the company, there wasn’t any reason to believe he couldn’t do fairly well in the competition if he wanted to try.

“Are you sure? It wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot, would it?” He carefully pushed, cursing internally that this wasn’t a conversation he was having as the other version of himself.

He would have a much easier time convincing him that way, not to mention at least getting Adachi to actually say how he felt about it. But sadly unless Adachi brought it up himself in their texts, which he doubted very much he would, he couldn’t try and encourage Adachi to apply as his friend, because his friend shouldn’t know about the competition.

“It could hurt, if I did a really bad job.”

Kurosawa opened his mouth to refute that, but Adachi just shook his head and walked off before he could get a word out, leaving him standing alone in the hallway, his heart heavy and a tight feeling in his throat.

He had decided he wouldn’t tell Adachi who he was until he got to know him better as Kurosawa. He would wait until he had really seen both sides of him, so it was easier to put them together into one person. But every day, that decision was tested, because he wanted nothing more than to let Adachi know that someone had seen him. Kurosawa was his friend, the one he talked to every day, the one who would give him all the attention and care in the world if only he could. He was right there, and he saw Adachi for the amazing person he was. He believed in him, in so many ways, but definitely enough to say if he wanted to he could rock some stupid stationary competition.

He was so tired of watching Adachi go unnoticed and unappreciated by everyone except him and Rokkaku, and here was a perfect opportunity to change that, and because he was hiding his identity, he couldn’t convince Adachi to take it.

And he was tired of it. As he watched Adachi walk into their office, Kurosawa came to a decision. He didn’t know exactly how, or even when, but he was going to get Adachi to understand exactly how amazing Kurosawa thought he was, so he could finally tell him the truth and maybe they could finally move forward in this bizarre and miraculous relationship they had stumbled into.

Question was, how?



Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty

 

Friday, November 26th

 

(Fri, 4:24 pm)

I’m serious, he has to be

 

(Fri, 4:25 pm)

He’s not, I’m sure

 

(Fri, 4:27 pm)

Is

 

(Fri, 4:28 pm)

You’re too suspicious. There could be a lot of reasons

 

(Fri, 4:30 pm)

No, no other reason. I am absolutely sure he is planning to murder me

 

(Fri, 4:33 pm)

Dear. Please

 

(Fri, 4:34 pm)

He is being super weird and quiet and weird and WATCHING ME CONSTANTLY! He is planning my demise I just know it

 

Adachi put his phone down and raised his head to take a hesitant peek across the office. And just like every time that afternoon he had raised his head from where it had been buried in his work, he looked over and his eyes immediately caught the movement of Kurosawa ducking his head back down out of sight. Because, again, he had been WATCHING HIM CONSTANTLY.

And it wasn’t just the constant feeling of eyes on him anytime they were in the same room. Ever since earlier that week, Kurosawa had been different, and Adachi had no idea what triggered it, or what it meant. He wasn’t exactly being… rude, or mean, or even all that annoying. He was just… different. Brooding almost.

Except, you could never really use a word like that for the human embodiment of a spotlight that was Kurosawa, could you? But he was definitely something close, with this look in his eyes all the time like he was thinking about something real hard. Thinking, all the time. And quiet. Apparently after weeks of an overbearingly friendly and talkative Kurosawa, quiet was ominous. Creepy even.

They had lunch earlier, Kurosawa once again bringing him his own bento that was supposedly “Extras he didn’t want to throw away”, and he actually timed on his phone how long the gaps between them talking were, and he knew without a doubt that a record had been made for longest time without Kurosawa opening his mouth.

He didn’t realise before how much effort Kurosawa put into making it so when he was around they weren’t just around each other, but were actively socialising. Like he was always trying to make something out of the time they spent together. Like he was… actually trying to be friends with Adachi, just like he said. Like he really wanted them to get closer.

And he had no idea what the hell that meant. And Adachi also had no idea why Kurosawa had suddenly changed and been acting so weird the past couple of days, but if before the way Kurosawa acted was actually good, even if sometimes Adachi felt like he was being driven up the wall, then he had no choice but to assume the worst now.

 

(Fri, 4:35 pm)

You said weird twice

 

(Fri, 4:37 pm)

It bears repeating 

 

(Fri, 4:38 pm)

Why would he be… planning your demise

 

(Fri, 4:39 pm)

I don’t know! Maybe he finally figured out I’m useless and boring, maybe he thinks its my fault Rokkaku won’t bring him snacks anymore

 

(Fri, 4:40 pm)

Which obviously means he is going to resort to murder

 

(Fri, 4:42 pm)

Okay fine maybe not murder but something bad! He has to be planning something! Why else would he be acting so weird?

 

(Fri, 4:43 pm)

Maybe he is planning something, and it’s something good?

 

(Fri, 4:44 pm)

Ha

 

(Fri, 4:45 pm)

You’re cute when you’re cynical but I really think you shouldn’t be so worried. I bet whatever is going on, it’ll be something great ☀️

 

(Fri, 4:46 pm)

HA

 

(Fri, 4:47 pm)

How about this, let’s make a bet. I bet that whatever is going on with your coworker is actually something really good and when you find out why he’s acting different, you’ll come to me and once again have to admit I’m always right and am a paragon of wisdom and good advice

 

(Fri, 4:48 pm)

Fine. And what do I get when it turns out I’m right and his weird starey weirdness is totally a sign that I was right to not trust the sudden casanova-esque upheaval in my social life?

 

(Fri, 4:48 pm)

Casanova-esque?

 

(Fri, 4:49 pm)

Meant in the most insulting way it could be of course

 

(Fri, 4:50 pm)

Of course. I don’t know, what do you want? Not that it matters because you won’t win

 

(Fri, 4:51 pm)

I want a lot of things, but can’t think of any you can give me

 

(Fri, 4:52 pm)

Don’t be so sure about that, doesn’t hurt to ask ;)

 

(Fri, 4:53 pm)

Uh huh right. Why do I have a feeling you mean that in a pervy way

 

(Fri, 4:54 pm)

Whaaat no, I would never

 

(Fri, 4:55 pm)

Right

 

(Fri, 4:56 pm)

Even if I did, you know you like it, you like when I flirt 

 

(Fri, 4:57 pm)

Maybe

 

(Fri, 4:58 pm)

☀️

 

“Adachi!”

He startled in his seat, dropping his phone somewhere by his feet, apparently too on edge from all this talk about murder plots… and flirting, to take it with his usual stoicism when suddenly there was an excitable Rokkaku right in his ear.

“What?!” He snapped back before clearing his throat and saying in a more patient tone. “Yes? What is it?”

Rokkaku hesitated for a moment before rebounding and leaning into his space. “Guess what!”

“What.” This was starting to feel repetitive.

“Just heard, boss is having another office outting! Food and drinks on him, honestly missed exactly what we are celebrating. Ten minutes and we go! You’re coming right?”

Oh god.



Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty One

 

“Uhhh…”

Adachi blinked up at Rokkaku, mind furiously trying to come up with some excuse to bail, and coming up with nothing of course. His plans for the night had been take-out and bothering his stranger until he went to bed early. And now that he was actually friends with Rokkaku, saying no to the invite without good reason was even more of a faux pas than it was before, when he would just be bowing out of a work engagement.

He could have maybe dealt with the side comments from his coworkers and boss and needling from Urabe in the name of saving his evening, but he couldn’t deal with Rokkaku’s wounded bird impression whenever he thought Adachi didn’t want to spend time with him. Which, he rarely wanted to spend time with anyone, and while he had found Rokkaku’s company increasingly tolerable, it didn’t outweigh the many other exhausting elements of these group outings.

“You have to come, Adachi! It won’t be nearly as fun without you!” Rokkaku asserted, pout already making an appearance. It was a good thing he was such a pure and nice person, if he decided to use that face for evil, Adachi thought he could probably rule the world.

“Well… I guess-”

“Actually, we both will be having to pass this time, Rokkaku. Sorry.”

In tandem Adachi and Rokkaku’s head snapped over to look at Kurosawa where he had snuck up behind them, apparently stealthy when he wanted to be.

“Uh… We will be?”

Kurosawa shot him a smile and a quick wink that said “play along”, like they were conspirators or something instead of Adachi being absolutely clueless about what the hell was happening.

“Of course. We had dinner plans after work, right?” He turned his smile onto Rokkaku, something about it impossible to argue with, Rokkaku’s mouth clicking shut even though the strained lines around his eyes showed how unhappy he was with this development. “Too bad we won’t be able to come along, but we definitely won’t miss the next office outting, promise.

Adachi gaped at him, wondering when the hell they had made these so-called dinner plans, and wondering when the hell Adachi and Kurosawa had become a “we” because both had definitely happened without him present.

Still, he didn’t protest outside the safety of his own head. For some ungodly reason, weirdness and possible murder plots aside, dinner with Kurosawa sounded preferable to spending the next few hours with the entire office in some noisy smelly bar. At least it seemed likely to not last as long.

“Really? You can’t come?” Rokkaku pleaded, wide eyes on him and him alone, making Adachi sigh and bring a hand up to rub his forehead. He really had to do something about Rokkaku freezing out Kurosawa, even if he said it didn’t bother him.

“I’m sorry.” He said, really meaning it. He knew going out with everyone wasn’t Rokkaku’s favourite thing either, no matter how introverted he was. He had probably been hoping they could buffer each other through the night. “We can meet up over the weekend if you want.” He offered up, wincing internally but willing to do it if it made Rokkaku stop looking at him like that.

“Really?! Okay! Let’s do that then!” Rokkaku hurriedly agreed, nodding so fast his hair bounced, apparently finding this exchange more than acceptable.

“Great.” Adachi said with far less enthusiasm, not that the younger man seemed to notice.

“Great!” Kurosawa parroted, butting back into the conversation. “No that that’s all sorted, it’s about five, are you ready to go, Adachi?”

“Um, give me a few minutes?” Both to finish what he was doing, and bolster himself enough that he would survive this.

“Of course.” Kurosawa said, smile growing enough that it did that crinkly thing around his eyes.

Adachi had to look away then, feeling his cheeks heat and glad Kurosawa walked away then instead of waiting for him right there.

“I gotta go get my stuff. But I’ll text you tomorrow! Have a nice dinner.” Rokkaku said before taking off himself, leaving Adachi blessedly alone.

He finished up his last task and turned off his computer, gathering his things and leaving his desk with some reluctance, but he knew this would be a “better just get it over with” situation so he didn’t try and draw out leaving, walking over to where Kurosawa was conspicuously waiting by the door and hoping he didn’t look as reluctant as he felt.

Surprisingly Kurosawa didn’t immediately start leading him out with a big smile, instead looking him over with a more careful expression before he stepped closer and started talking in a private hushed tone.

“I hope it’s okay that I did that, you looked like you needed an out. If you would rather go with Rokkaku, I understand. You can tell him I had something come up. Or if you even want to go home, it’s not like they’ll know we didn’t actually go. I certainly wouldn’t tell.”

Adachi blinked in confusion, not expecting any of that. “Uh. I mean, if you would rather we didn’t… I don’t want to ruin your night, if you have something better to do.”

“Better than dinner with you?” Kurosawa asked, a strange light in his eyes. “No, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

“Oh.” Adachi said, feeling heat flare across his cheeks. That… didn’t sound like someone who wanted to murder him. Or get revenge for being denied snacks from the office puppy. “Well, I guess we should get going then.” He couldn’t really manage a more enthusiastic acceptance without losing it, but thankfully the smile Kurosawa gave him seemed happy instead of offended.

“After you then. Anywhere in particular you want to go?”

“Well… There’s one place not too far away I go to pretty often.”

And that was how he found himself sitting across from Kurosawa in the same restaurant he frequented with Tsuge, which was a head trip he hadn’t managed to recover from by the time the waitress brought their drinks.

“Thank you, for agreeing to come out with me.” Kurosawa said, eyes down to the table.

He almost looked shy, but Adachi dismissed that thought. What did Kurosawa have to be shy about?

“Shouldn’t I be thanking you for saving me from one of those exhausting bar crawls?” He mumbled back, feeling a little like that phrasing made him sound like some kind of damsel in distress. Damsel in distress, awkward introvert. Same thing, apparently.

“You can, if you want.” Kurosawa responded, looking up at him with a teasing smile.

“Well, thank you.” Adachi said, feeling himself blush yet again. “Was it that obvious I wanted to say no?”

“No, it wasn’t. Maybe I just know you.”

Adachi had no idea how to respond to that, picking up his drink and hiding behind taking a long sip from it. This all felt so strange. And not just because he was out at dinner with Kurosawa, but because for some reason it felt almost… familiar. A nagging feeling he sometimes got around the other man was becoming more than nagging, it felt like it was suffusing every word they exchanged, sat in every look between them.

Kurosawa took his lack of response in stride, looking over the menu with a calm expression and giving his order when the waitress came by again with his usual politeness. Something about it made Adachi’s skin itch, maybe the way the waitress kept her eyes on him the whole time, barely even glancing at Adachi when he said what he wanted, a smile on her face that Adachi had seen on plenty of girls’ faces at the office when they looked at Kurosawa. It wasn’t envy, he didn’t want her to look at him like that, but it was something equally unpleasant.

“I feel like I should confess I didn’t rescue you for purely selfless reasons.” Kurosawa broke the silence after their food had arrived and the waitress had finally walked away after really making sure they didn’t need anything at all .

“What do you mean?” Adachi asked, suspicion spiking.

“I was hoping soon I might get a chance to ask if you wanted to do something, as in something out of the office. Sharing lunch is nice and all, but it sure is easier to get to know each other outside of work hours. So when I overheard you and Rokkaku, I took the opportunity to finally ask you out.” His expression froze for a moment before he awkwardly coughed and rushed to add “I mean ask you out to dinner, er, ask if you wanted to have dinner.”

Adachi couldn’t do anything but stare at him, having grown more and more confused the longer Kurosawa talked. Why did it almost sound like… There was no way…

“Kurosawa… Is this a date?” He dared to ask, sure he was about to get laughed at for even thinking it.

Maybe even mocked for it. He wouldn’t be surprised if Kurosawa actually got mad at him, after all just because he told Adachi he was gay didn’t mean he should immediately assume he wanted to be more than friends just because he was a guy. Really, Kurosawa had every right to get mad at him, he had no idea why he had thought that was a remotely okay thing to ask, no matter how much it suddenly seemed like this could possibly be a date. Adachi was officially losing it. And was definitely about to get yelled at-

“Yes.”

His internal freak out abruptly went silent, the one word smashing into the conversation with all the force of two cars crashing together.

“... Yes?” Adachi dumbly repeated. “Did you just say yes?”

“Yes.” Kurosawa answered, a second later almost seeming to regret the agreement, biting his lip and the lines around his eyes tightening. “Well, no. Actually no this isn’t a date. Because I didn’t really ask you out properly. If we were out on a date, I’d want you to know it was a date from the beginning. It can’t really count if you didn’t know that’s what it was when you agreed to come. So, no. But…”

Kurosawa stopped talking, taking a deep breath and looking Adachi in the eyes with a disconcerting amount of weight in his next words. “I’d like to ask you out on a date at some point. But tonight let’s just call this practice for when I actually manage to do that, instead of just asking you to do something with me in a not-date way… If you are okay with that?”

“I- Uh. I don’t, I mean-” Adachi stuttered out, mind filled with a shrieking noise as he replayed all the times he thought there was no way Kurosawa was interested in him, no matter how much attention he paid to him, no matter how often he talked to him and followed him around the office, no matter the fact he came out to him even though he didn’t like telling people he was gay. All the chatting and complimenting and free lunches in the world didn’t make it make sense that Kurosawa liked him.

And not only that, there was the millions of times he brushed off even the slightest hint that he liked Kurosawa, he could barely admit to himself he wanted them to be friends. He couldn’t like Kurosawa! He couldn’t like anyone! Anyone other than… He couldn’t.

No matter what he did or didn’t feel for Kurosawa, he had his stranger. His wonderful, kind, amazing stranger who he didn’t have to even meet to know he would never want someone else, even someone he could see and talk to every day, if he could at least have him in the small way he got to with only words on a screen connecting them. He couldn’t do this.

“I… I can’t. I’m already seeing someone.”

Watching the way Kurosawa’s expression crumpled made his chest physically ache, but he couldn’t take it back. Even if it wasn’t exactly true, it was close enough to the truth. He knew they had never strictly said what they were, but the flirting, and the pictures, and the long talks where he said things he never told anyone else, the way the stranger was the first person he talked to in the morning and the last person he thought of before falling asleep at night… Even if he wasn’t really dating the stranger, even if he never got to really meet him and date him. Adachi was already taken.

Even if it hurt to watch Kurosawa take a bracing breath and tuck away the broken look on his face, replacing it with a smile so fake it was horrible to see, eyes too bright

“I’m sorry.” He couldn’t stop himself from saying, knowing it was wrong, beyond the wrong thing to say when Kurosawa couldn’t hide his flinch.

“Don’t worry about it, it’s fine.” Kurosawa said, his smile wide and all of its usual brightness gone. “I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable. Let’s just forget I said anything and enjoy dinner.”

“But-”

“Really. It’s okay, Adachi.” Kurosawa uncharacteristically cut him off, voice strained and almost pleading, cracks appearing in his faked expression. “I’m your friend, so I’m happy to hear you’re seeing someone. I was just being silly. Really, let’s forget about it.”

It was wrong, it had all gone wrong, and so quickly Adachi felt almost nauseated. But he had no idea what else to do, what to say to make this right. His head was swimming with all the confusion, and guilt, and shame, but he didn’t have the slightest clue how to fix this.

“Okay…”

He was such a coward. Here was this handsome, sweet, thoughtful man who was right in front of him, who wanted something real. And he said no, because he couldn’t give up his relationship with another man who he was too afraid to even ask to meet.

He was such a coward. That was all he could think throughout the rest of their quiet, stilted, awful dinner, until they finally finished eating and parted ways with last painfully awkward words.

As he walked home, freezing in the frigid winter air, all he could see was the way Kurosawa looked at him when he turned him down.

And all he could think was, I am such a coward.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty Two

 

Kurosawa got himself home somehow, even though his mind was moving so sluggishly it was like it was filled with cement and his whole body felt unbearably numb. Other than his eyes, which had been burning ever since he forced himself to not cry, hearing Adachi confirm his greatest fear.

He wasn’t enough. He could try as hard as he could to be a better version of himself than he had been at his old job, he could put everything into showing Adachi how he felt, he could spend the past month trying to merge the two versions of their relationship like Adachi was a frog in a boiling pot, he could flirt and charm and be honest with Adachi about literally every part of himself except the one he was keeping secret still. And it didn’t matter, because when he wasn’t hiding behind a phone screen, Kurosawa was not, and would never be, enough.

He hadn’t planned on asking Adachi out. Well no, that was a lie. He had certainly planned it. Planned several situations, strategies, fantasies really, where he could finally cross that line. Spent all the time Adachi accused him of spending planning his murder, planning how to get see him outside of work, how to show Adachi he wanted to be more than a friend, how to finally break through the glass wall that he hadn’t been able to overcome and make them more than coworkers, more than the world’s strangest pen-pals.

But he hadn’t planned on doing it then, with no plan, no rehearsed lines, no sign Adachi had even an inkling that was what Kurosawa actually wanted until he said it. He should have known better. He should have, really he did know better. He did know it didn’t matter. He could have asked Adachi out and made it the most perfect collection of words that had ever come out of his mouth, and it wouldn’t change the fact that Adachi was always going to say no.

And, worse than simply being refused, Adachi, Adachi who no matter what he thought about himself was a compassionate and empathetic person who truly cared about people, hadn't even given him the dignity of an outright refusal.

No, instead he had done the kind thing and brushed Kurosawa off with a line better suited to high school. Of course Adachi couldn't have realised being told upfront with what he actually thought about dating him would have been preferable by miles to the cliched line of "I'm already seeing someone."

And really, it was on Kurosawa that he was in the unique position to know exactly how much of a lie that was. As his coworker, Adachi had only mentioned he hadn't dated before, but as his friend Kurosawa had over the past few months been told just about every inch of his day to day life. Including his social life. And he certainly knew Adachi was still single.

Afterall, Adachi was a good man. If he was actually dating someone, that meant that he was hiding it from his friend. He was hiding it while they texted every day. He was hiding it, even when his friend flirted and crossed lines and sent him a shirtless photo, all the while making it clear as he could that he didn’t mean it innocently (something he had failed profoundly with their in-person relationship).

If Adachi was dating someone, then he didn’t have a problem with someone pursuing him while he wasn’t single. And good men didn’t do that. Instead, good men lied about not being single to gently let down their hopelessly besotted coworkers. 

And apparently, afterwards good men wanted to talk to their friend.

He had been sitting on his couch for about half an hour, head in his hands, trying to muster the energy to take off his suit and go bathe, so he could sleep and put his horrible day behind him, when his phone buzzed in his pocket.

He squeezed his eyes shut behind his hands, like that could help him block out the world, drown out the sound of his phone with the buzzing in his head. It didn’t. It couldn’t, just like it couldn’t stop him from wanting to check what it was. And while he knew he was just hurting himself more, he couldn’t help it. He was like someone who had been stabbed, still bleeding, hadn’t even managed to start to patch it over. Taking out his phone and opening the new message from Adachi wouldn’t do anything but tear the wound open even wider. But he couldn’t stop himself from all but asking for the knife to be twisted in deeper.

 

(Fri, 7:40 pm)

Hey

 

Impossibly a laugh slipped out. How could he not laugh? Here he was, heart broken wide open, and the person who had done it was unknowingly texting him. And he didn’t even actually say anything.

So he laughed. And the burning of his eyes finally, finally stopped, as the laughter inevitably caught in his throat, and the tears he had been holding back finally slipped out. His phone was dropped down onto the couch cushion, message unanswered, and his face disappeared back behind his hands, a sound both cathartic and horrid lurking in the back of his throat, its escape inevitable. 

He didn’t hear it when his phone buzzed again, or the next nth times as he had himself a good cry, and then staggered to his feet to shed his suit and crawl into the bath to scrub off all evidence of said cry.

Unfortunately those texts were still there when he remembered his phone existed and came back to the living room to get it. Which, didn’t happen until after he had his very depressing bath, and then spent ages sitting on his bed in a towel without the energy to dry off, and then found that energy only because he was cold. And then sat on his bed for even longer, blurry-eyed and exhausted, wearing his ugliest and comfiest pajamas, perfect for falling into miserable, restless sleep.

After all that, when he got his phone and saw the little bubble on his screen saying he had missed quite a lot during his pity party, when he read through what was almost a short novel, he started to doubt he would manage even the miserable, tear-stained, wake-up-once-an-hour sleep he had planned on.

 

(Fri, 7:48 pm)

Are you home yet? I only got home a little but ago… something weird kinda happened

 

(Fri, 7:55 pm)

Well, not weird. But it was… bad

 

(Fri, 7:58 pm)

Not bad, calling it bad would be rude

 

(Fri, 8:11 pm)

 Well, maybe bad because I was… bad. Might have done something bad

 

(Fri, 8:20 pm)

Not exactly bad. I feel guilty about it, but something isn’t bad just because you feel guilty, right? Sometimes things are the right thing to do, but you still feel bad. Like, a necessary evil

 

(Fri, 8:25 pm)

I didn’t do anything evil, though… just probably ruined whatever friendship I had going on with that new guy I told you about. Maybe for no good reason. Which I should have seen coming because when do I not mess things up, especially people things

 

(Fri, 8:29 pm)

You can’t still be at work this late? You usually text back way faster than this at night. I hope I’m not bothering you… And I’m being kind of a downer… I just really need to talk to someone

 

(Fri, 8:34 pm)

Not someone. You. I had a bad night. I don’t know if I just messed something up royally and I really want to talk to you. I got home, and all I could think about was wanting to talk to you, and I know that’s a lot and sounds kinda pathetic but there it is

 

(Fri, 8:41 pm)

You were right by the way. He wasn’t planning my murder. Wasn’t planning anything bad at all. But because it’s me, I still managed to make it an absolute train wreck

 

(Fri, 8:57 pm)

You’re always home by now. Did something happen? Are you okay?

 

(Fri, 9:09 pm)

You don’t usually miss opportunities to brag. I’m handing you real bragging rights, you won the bet. Better come and claim your prize

 

(Fri, 9:25 pm)

Hey? I’m starting to get worried…

 

(Fri, 9:30 pm)

Actually been worried. Like really worried. If I did something wrong I get it… But you aren’t in a ditch somewhere, are you?

 

(Fri, 9:47 pm)

Sorry

 

“Crap.”

He had messed up. So, so badly. Badly enough that Adachi thought he had ruined things, and was coming to him for support. Support he had failed to give while Adachi blatantly spun out across their text chain. Support he couldn’t give now. What was Kurosawa supposed to say? Was he supposed to lie, again? Pretend it was any other night, and he didn’t feel like his heart had been stomped on, and he didn’t know intimately exactly what Adachi's latest social disaster actually was?

What was Kurosawa supposed to say, hearing that when Adachi was upset, and doubting himself, and overwhelmed, he was the one he wanted to talk to, when he was also the reason Adachi was feeling that way? Especially when he knew he had no right to see that this was how Adachi was feeling after their dinner. He had no right to know Adachi was feeling guilty for the “necessary evil” of telling him a white lie, or to know that that was how he saw it in the first place. It was a gross invasion of privacy, a betrayal of trust, and Kurosawa could no longer pretend the reasons he had for not telling Adachi the truth were enough to justify it.

He wasn’t protecting him, wasn’t giving them a chance to get to a place where Adachi would no longer be upset to learn who his friend really was, wasn’t just making sure when the truth came out it was in the best possible situation. He was hiding. Kurosawa was hiding, like a coward, and now there was no way he could confess without it hurting way more than it ever would have if he told Adachi the day he found out who he had really been talking to.

He couldn’t lie. He couldn’t confess. And he never, ever had a chance to have what he really wanted. Who.

Kurosawa messed up. 

 

(Fri, 10:03 pm)

I’m sorry. You don’t need to apologise. I’m sorry, I’m sorry about your day, and I’m sorry I wasn’t answering

 

(Fri, 10:03 pm)

Oh! That’s okay. But you’re alright?

 

No. No he wasn’t. And he couldn’t do this.

 

(Fri, 10:04 pm)

I wasn’t in a ditch. I went out with a coworker. I’m actually pretty tired, so I’m going to go to bed

 

(Fri, 10:05 pm)

Oh. Well… good night then

 

(Fri, 10:09 pm)

Sleep well

 

He didn’t.



Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty Three

 

Saturday morning, for the first time in weeks, Adachi woke up and there wasn’t a message from the stranger waiting for him. No overly cheerful good morning, no snapshots of ridiculously elaborate breakfasts in an attempt to convince him to do some cooking that involved more than a microwave. No insistent requests for him to get up despite the early hour and give the stranger his attention. That was what he was used to, the first thing he saw every morning as soon as he opened his eyes.

Instead when he unlocked his phone and opened his messages, all that was there was his own unanswered messages. The stranger always answered him…and he had never brushed him off before the way he did last night. Adachi knew he could be a lot, but every time he was sure he had said too much, was too honest, too emotional, the stranger had reassured him, had told him it was alright and helped him feel better.

After dinner with Kurosawa, his head had been a mess. He went back and forth trying to think of any way he could have possibly prevented hurting his feelings, anything he could have said to make it so he didn’t walk away feeling like he just ruined everything. He didn’t know if it made it better or worse that he couldn’t.

He held off for a little while once he got home, but eventually he gave in. After the night he had, all he wanted was to talk to his stranger, to be reminded exactly why he had turned Kurosawa down. It almost felt like he needed a sign, something to show him that he had made the right decision. He needed his stranger.

But text after text went unanswered. He started rambling, rambling about Kurosawa, rambling about their stupid bet, desperate for something. Something he certainly didn’t get when the stranger finally responded. Adachi read the clear dismissal with a sick twist in his stomach, telling himself he shouldn’t be surprised. Afterall, wasn’t this exactly what he thought was going to happen? Wasn’t this what he had worked so hard to convince himself wasn’t going to happen?

The stranger must be finally getting tired of him. Tired of his constant problems, his irrational anxieties, his inability to talk to people without causing issues. Sure, there could be a more innocent explanation. He said he was out with a coworker, maybe he was just busy with his friend. Maybe he had too much to drink and that was why he was so brief. Maybe he was sleeping in because he had a hangover.

Maybe, but probably not.

The stranger barely mentioned other people, even less than Adachi did. He never talked about his coworkers except in a generalised sense, and always negatively. He never willingly spent time with them. He certainly didn’t go out with any of his coworkers, and he certainly never went out all night, drinking with them enough to come home late and hungover. Actually, Adachi remembered him saying he didn’t drink much, if at all, remembered thinking it was something they had in common, not holding their liquor well.

So those were all facts that said no, those innocent explanations were wrong. Something else was going on. All those facts, and the fact that Adachi typed out a message, an awkward good morning that he hated being the first to give, and for the first time in a while he was actually nervous just to say good morning. Suddenly that easy pleasantry no longer felt like a given. Suddenly knowing he would get a positive response wasn’t a given.

 

Saturday, November 27th

 

(Sat, 10:56 am)

Hey. Morning

 

He waited, laying on his bed, a pillow tucked against his chest, feet kicking against his bed covers. He waited, kicking turning into leg bouncing as he realised he needed to pee, but didn’t want to get up until a text appeared on his screen. He needed that text.

And he needed to pee. After half an hour he lost the battle between his phone and his bladder and got up with a groan. He went to the bathroom and did his business, washing up and then going straight back to his phone when he came out. Still no text. He went to the kitchen, popping his breakfast into the microwave and waiting for it to heat. He ate. He went back to his phone on the bed. No text.

Adachi left his phone there and went to his desk, pulling out some of his newer sketches. Lately he had been engaging in what was essentially an exercise in self-flagellation, which was trying to come up with ideas for that competition he assured Kurosawa he didn’t want to enter. He had a few, some of which he even liked. Really liked. He even showed Tsuge. And he still had no intention of entering the contest.

He spent the next two hours working on his favourites, not lifting his head from his sketchpad until he finally, finally heard a buzz behind him. He took a deep breath, swivelling in his chair and getting up with a sudden reluctance. Somehow he could just sense that he was about to be thoroughly demoralised.

 

(Sat, 1:12 pm)

Afternoon

 

Right. One word. Because the stranger was usually a man of few words, when he wasn’t just being brief to mess with him. He didn’t usually go on and on in his perky morning-person-ness. One word certainly wasn’t strange. Adachi typed out his response, feigning cheerfulness and suspecting he just sounded weird.

 

Sat, 1:13 pm)

Well it is now :) Someone got up late!

 

The next message took long enough he had gone back to his sketches.

 

(Sat, 1:49 pm)

Sorry, been busy. Are you feeling better this morning?

 

Adachi tried to tell himself he was asking out of concern. He tried to remind himself how compassionate the stranger was, how kind. How he had told Adachi over and over that he cared about him. He tried to convince himself that he wasn’t just asking because he wanted to make sure Adachi wasn’t still being weepy and irrational, wasn’t still going to complain and go on about his problems. He wasn’t impatient for Adachi to just be normal and talk without it being heavy or emotional. He wasn’t. That was what Adachi tried to convince himself. Tried.

 

(Sat, 1:51 pm)

Yeah, definitely. Sorry about that, it’s all fine now. Was just being dramatic lol

 

(Sat, 2:17 pm)

Don’t apologise, you’re never just being dramatic. I’m sure it was a hard night. Glad you’re feeling better

 

And that was that. He actually believed Adachi when he said he was fine. That he was feeling better. He didn’t ask any questions, didn’t offer to help or give advice. Didn’t tease Adachi until he couldn’t help but laugh and feel like his problems were a little further away.

He just said, well glad you’re feeling better. And moved on. Leaving Adachi behind in his growing panic and unease, leaving him alone with his problems that felt closer and closer with every extra minute that went by where normally his phone would be going off. Adachi tried, he tried so hard the longer the day went on to convince himself he was just seeing things.

What happened with Kurosawa threw him. Of course it did, he had never been asked out before except as a joke. He certainly had never had to turn someone down. It was possible he was just taking that absolute mess and transferring that anxiety into his relationship with his stranger. It sure was possible, and Adachi was good at very few things but overthinking and seeing problems where there weren’t any was certainly one of those things.

Sunday night, he laid in bed, phone in his hands. He had only gotten seven texts from the stranger the entire day. The first of which, he didn’t get until two in the afternoon. Half an hour had passed since Adachi sent a good night text, which was the third text in a row he had sent without an answer.

The clock ticked away on the wall, his phone clock blinking through the minutes, minute by minute passed when he was supposed to go to bed. No answer.

He was good at seeing problems where there wasn’t. Was good at getting anxious, and overthinking, and knowing that was what he was doing but not being able to stop. But he knew that couldn’t be what was going on. Even he couldn’t explain this away. This was black and white.

This was the stranger being the most present person in his life despite never being physically there, talking to him every day, texting him constantly, never being afraid to bug if Adachi went too long between answering, invading all the cracks of Adachi’s life. In his mind. In his heart.

And then suddenly the stranger was not doing that.

Suddenly it was like the stranger was disappearing, like he was trying to fade away. Fewer and fewer texts by the day, every text further and further apart. As if he did it with some subtlety, Adachi wouldn’t notice. Like there was any chance at all of that.

His phone glowed in the dark, the only light left in the room, making his eyes burn as he watched the clock in the corner of the screen change to midnight.

Midnight. It was Monday. Which meant Sunday was officially the first day in months talking to his stranger wasn’t the last thing he did before going to sleep.

He blinked at his phone, telling himself his eyes were burning from his phone’s light, trying to get it to make sense in his head that he wasn’t going to get an answer. Trying to figure out how any of this made sense.

He turned off his phone and went to bed.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty Four

 

He was a masochist.

He had to be, to not have just turned the damn thing off, to keep torturing them both like this. That was what Kurosawa thought when he flinched at the feeling of his phone vibrating once again in his pocket, for the umpteenth time that day. He hoped the flinch hadn’t been obvious to anyone else in the office, not wanting to have to explain why he had been periodically looking like someone was stabbing him in the leg all day, all week. He couldn’t really explain, even if he would ever actually tell someone what was going on, there weren't words for what had been going on since Friday.

He knew he was handling everything with Adachi all wrong, alright? He knew. Avoiding him in the office would have been at least somewhat acceptable, being recently turned down and all. But going from texting almost constantly except while at work to Kurosawa only replying a handful of times throughout the day was obviously going to be upsetting for Adachi, he would have expected that even if he didn’t have to actually see him every day, looking more wan and upset the longer Kurosawa kept his distance. He was so quiet and downtrodden it was clear even when he was avoiding him in person as much as he was over the phone.

Kurosawa hated it. He hated that he had so completely failed Adachi, and now was continuing to hurt him with every text he forced himself to ignore. But he kept doing it, because continuing on like nothing had happened somehow felt even worse. Continuing to talk, and flirt, and tease, and continuing to act like he had a right to be in Adachi's ear, was worse. He couldn’t keep betraying his trust, letting him talk so freely, and share things so openly, and tell him things he never would if he knew it was actually Kurosawa he was talking to.

It was like what happened Friday night pulled the wool from his eyes, and now, every text they exchanged felt like a betrayal. 

And Adachi wasn’t making it any easier, still texting him like nothing was wrong and hiding his hurt at the cold-shoulder he was being given, even after five days of Kurosawa only ever giving the minimum he could without completely cutting off contact, something he had considered doing over and over again, tossing and turning in bed every night, but couldn’t convince himself to actually do even if this limbo they were currently in was tearing them both up.

Really they were both holding onto the illusion that this was all normal by the skin of their teeth, Kurosawa staying bland and noncommittal in his brief responses and Adachi somehow managing to still keep talking to him as if nothing was wrong, even when desperation for him to actually engage, to actually say something, to at least finally give some kind of explanation, was palpable in every text Adachi sent him.

The fact Kurosawa knew exactly why he didn’t just demand an explanation only added to his misery. He knew Adachi, knew how his mind worked. His beautiful, clever mind, that often worked too fast and almost seemed to want to torture the man it belonged to with how it twisted things into their worst possible shape. No doubt Kurosawa’s unprecedented behaviour had given him plenty to twist, more than enough for him to not have the courage to confront what was going on.

So they were stuck, Kurosawa too weak to either tell Adachi they couldn’t keep talking, or confess the truth so they could move forward, and Adachi growing more desperate by the day but not breaking his supposed blindness to what was happening.

It was a shame his reputation at work was so low on his list of priorities, because the past few days had added quite a bit to the impression his new coworkers and bosses had of him being a dedicated workaholic, what with the way he had thrown himself into using work as a distraction, albeit a poor one. He made sure he got to work every day well before Adachi arrived and usually stayed at least an hour after he had left for the day, burying his head in reports and spreadsheets so his eyes wouldn’t stray across the office to Adachi’s desk.

He hadn’t been slacking before or anything, but he certainly hadn’t been quite that dedicated, especially when he had still been putting a solid amount of time into trying to woo one of his coworkers. Now he was putting just as much work into pretending Adachi wasn’t there at all, no matter how much it felt like his heart was being ripped from his chest. No matter that he missed him so much that he ached with it.

That day he somehow resisted texting Adachi back the entire work day, staying at his desk and working through lunch and then continuing to work until well past quitting time, when almost everyone else had gone home. In fact, he thought he was alone in the office when suddenly he heard someone walking toward him at an alarmingly fast pace.

He looked up to see Rokkaku of all people beelining toward his desk, a stormy expression on his face that was almost hilariously out of place on someone who he had very accurately dubbed a puppy. He barely had a moment to brace himself for whatever the hell was happening before Rokkaku reached him and leaned over to slap his hand down onto his desk.

“I need to talk to you!” He demanded, almost growling, which might have been intimidating if it was anyone but him. But again, puppy.

Kurosawa held himself carefully still, keeping his face blank except raising an eyebrow. “Alright. What is it? You seem upset.”

That was putting it mildly. Rokkaku seemed downright incensed, and Kurosawa’s polite words just seemed to rile him up even more. “Of course I’m upset! What did you do to Adachi?”

It felt like a rock fell into his stomach when Kurosawa processed the accusation, when he realised what was going on. Of course Rokkaku would notice that Adachi had been increasingly depressed since Monday, what with the way he was almost constantly attached to him like a limpet. And of course he would want to find out what had happened to his unwitting mentor. Question was, how did the junior Sherlock manage to track the source of the problem back to Kurosawa?

“Why do you think I did something to him?” Kurosawa asked, feeling like he could keep his face as straight as he wanted but guilt would still be all but leaking out of his pores.

“Because you got him to skip coming out on Friday so you two could go have dinner, and now he’s sad all the time and neither of you will look at each other! You wouldn’t leave him alone before and now you haven’t said a word to him in days, so don’t tell me nothing happened!”

Damn. It seemed Rokkaku was actually capable of catching a hint sometimes. When it was most inconvenient.

“Why aren’t you asking him what happened?” Kurosawa asked, floundering for a way to shut this down.

Rokkaku’s glare took on a particularly pouting edge. “He won’t tell me, which just makes me even more sure that you did something. He’s too polite to talk badly about people.”

He wasn’t, actually. He was just rarely comfortable enough with anyone to express negative opinions. Adachi actually was rather good at coming up with insults when the two of them were bantering with each other. Not that that was relevant. But he felt a weird bit of vindication that he knew him better than Rokkaku did, even if it might have more to do with hero-worship than actual ignorance.

“Rokkaku, I think if Adachi wanted you to know what happened, he would tell you.”

“So something did happen!”

Damn it.

“Tell me! I need to know so I can do something to help him feel better.”

“Nothing happened. We went to dinner, we had a… misunderstanding. It wasn’t really a big deal, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with Adachi looking down lately.” Kurosawa refuted weakly.

Rokkaku didn’t accept that, chin jutting out mulishly as he attempted to stare Kurosawa down, leaving them in sweltering silence for almost a whole minute before he bit out “It was a date, wasn’t it? It was a date and you did something wrong.”

The last vestiges of his composure broke and he sputtered inelegantly, eyes going wide as he tried to wave away the accusation. “No! What gave you that idea? It was not a date!

“You’ve bugged him pretty much since you started here and then you guys went out to dinner alone on a Friday night.”

That… sounded peculiarly almost like jealousy. But Kurosawa was too busy panicking to once again spend time dwelling on questions of exactly why Rokkaku was so enamoured with Adachi and why he was so stingy about getting his attention over Kurosawa. Not that he probably wouldn’t later. He really could never decide exactly what fueled the puppy’s fascination with Adachi, but he definitely went back and forth about exactly how innocent it was.

“It wasn’t a date! I’m not gay!

He knew immediately that he had said something wrong when Rokkaku’s expression twisted into an almost sneer, shoulders squaring to make his posture something actually approaching daunting, especially since he was standing above him while Kurosawa was still sitting in a chair.

“And exactly what’s wrong with being gay?!” Rokkaku demanded.

Kurosawa’s mouth fell open, barely believing his closeted flailing was actually being interpreted as him being homophobic. “Nothing! I mean-”

“Then why did you say it like that? Like I accused you of something horrible!”

Kurosawa stared up at him, no idea what he was supposed to say, how he was supposed to fix this. He couldn’t tell him the truth, he couldn’t. He couldn’t handle being outed at his job on top of everything else. He couldn’t go through all the shit that always happened when people found out he was gay, on top of the absolute calamity his relationship with Adachi currently was. He would actually lose the last vestiges of his sanity if he had to.

“It’s not like that.” He managed, absolutely unconvincingly.

“Right. I think I get what happened now.” Rokkaku said darkly, narrowing of his eyes saying he had definitely taken two plus two and decided the answer was four hundred and seventy three. “You know what, if that's the kind of guy you are, you should probably just keep staying away from Adachi. He doesn’t need friends like that.”

Apparently the puppy could actually make a fairly threatening guard dog, Kurosawa not managing to stop from shrinking into himself at the growled words, or come up with a rebuttal before Rokkaku turned and stalked away, apparently done with him now that he had concluded that he was a terrible and homophobic person.

He couldn’t really do anything except sit there listening to the footsteps stomping away, mind blank except one thought.

Rokkaku may have been mostly wrong, he wasn’t a homophobe and Adachi’s mood lately wasn’t because of their ill-fated dinner. But he was definitely right about one thing. He should stay away from Adachi.

Adachi didn’t need a friend like Kurosawa.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty Five

 

It was Friday, which meant it had officially been a week since everything went wrong. A week since Adachi had ruined everything.

At least, that was the conclusion Adachi had inevitably drawn. The stranger was barely talking to him, no more than a handful of messages every day. No jokes, no nosey questions about his day, no photos. He swore some of his work emails were more personable than most the texts he had been getting, not to mention most of them seemed to all but drip with a reluctance that made him feel like the stranger was replying to him like it was a tedious chore he had. 

The first few days Adachi had bounced back and forth between worst case scenarios and managing to convince himself he was taking things way out of proportion. When the silence continued he had to at least admit he wasn’t making mountains out of molehills, but he still held on to a pathetic hope that maybe it wasn’t his fault. Afterall, the stranger had an entire life that he wasn’t a part of, it was definitely possible that whatever had happened had nothing to do with him, right? He just had to hold on and respect his privacy, and eventually he would tell Adachi what was going on and then go back to normal.

But by Friday, even someone as clueless as him had to admit that wasn’t going to happen. Afterall, the stranger was one of the nicest people he ever met. He was caring, and considerate,  and kind. With Adachi barely clinging onto normalcy, to keep talking to him like there wasn’t a glaring problem sitting between them, unnamed, there was no way he would ignore that Adachi was getting increasingly upset and pitifully needy. He would have said something, at least told him that something was going on so he didn’t blame himself. Unless Adachi was to blame.

The worst part, if you could really pick on part in the whole soup of hurt and anxiety, was he had no idea what he even did wrong. He scrolled through their old conversations, trying to find some misstep, trying to find some moment where he must have finally tipped the stranger’s patience, some sign that he was losing interest. And there was nothing. Everything was perfect, right up until the moment it wasn’t.

Friday morning he woke up blurry-eyed and still tired, his sleep far from restful lately, and instinctually reached for him phone. As had become the norm, there was nothing. He opened his messages anyway, rereading the last text he sent to the stranger the night before, an almost whiny request to know what he was having for dinner that he sent in a moment of weakness, yearning for the nights he got to roll his eyes at photos of a table laid out with dishes Adachi usually didn’t even bother ordering out for, let alone cooking himself.

With a sigh he started typing out a good morning almost by rote, when a sudden thought, a moment of sick curiosity, stayed his hand. What if he… didn’t?

What if he just, didn’t text the stranger? What if he let that last unanswered text just sit there? Surely the stranger would eventually say something. Surely he wouldn’t just let them slip into complete silence. Maybe he would even realise exactly how much of the bulk of their conversations he had left Adachi to fill, maybe it would make him realise how distant he had been.

Or maybe that was what he had been trying to get Adachi to do all along. Maybe he would be relieved. Finally free of the annoyance that had been pestering him. 

After only a moment of further contemplation, Adachi put his phone back down. There was only one way to know for sure. 

By the time he got to work, his phone was still silent, but he tried to not panic. It was only nine, that was still pretty early. Even if the stranger sometimes woke up as early as six. As he walked into the office he felt his shoulders creep up towards his ears, not able to help tensing as he kept his eyes carefully away from the other corner of the room.

Things had been… weird, at work since that dinner with Kurosawa. He hadn’t really known what to expect after, having never been asked out before he didn’t really know the protocol for how to behave around someone you turned down. He had hoped they could at least still be friendly. But he really hadn’t expected to come to work Monday and find that Kurosawa apparently couldn’t even look at him anymore, let alone still talk or have lunch together. He guessed that someone like Kurosawa, handsome and smart and better with people than he could ever hope to be, wasn’t used to being turned down, especially not by losers like him.

Being ignored bothered him a surprising amount, not just the loss of a friend but the sudden feeling of loneliness filling the spaces where before Kurosawa had been, pushing for his attention. He probably would be more upset about it if he wasn’t so busy being miserable over the stranger ignoring him too, but overall it meant he was feeling pretty abandoned no matter where he went those days. At least there was one person who was still being as persistent as ever…

“Adachi! Good morning!”

Adachi kept walking, giving at least an acknowledging bob of his head to Rokkaku but not managing anything more, feeling a little guilty when the younger man visibly deflated. It wasn’t his fault after all, far from it.

Rokkaku seemed to take his sudden malaise as a personal mission, determined to not only ferret out what was wrong but help him get over it. The fact Adachi refused to give him even the slightest hint just made him worse, throwing out theory after theory until he got Adachi to actually react when he mentioned Kurosawa.

Nevermind that Adachi told him repeatedly that he was wrong, the slight wince he gave when Rokkaku asked him if something happened Friday was enough for the well-meaning younger man to place all the blame solely on Kurosawa. It was irritating and definitely wasn’t helping him feel better, really it just made him feel guiltier that he was the one who messed up Friday but now Kurosawa was the one getting glared at and subtly slighted by his self-appointed protector. But Adachi wasn’t so bitter that he didn’t think Rokkaku didn’t still get points for trying to cheer him up and stand up for him.

He would get more points if he took a hint though.

“How are you today?” Rokkaku asked as he tagged alone with him to his desk, barely avoiding saying it in the same tone you would use for someone with a terminal disease.

“I’m alright. How are you?” Adachi parroted back, shrugging off his back pack and trying to ignore the way Urabe was looking at them. If his abject misery was pretty poorly concealed over his texts to the stranger, in person his attempts at putting on a strong front were laughable, enough so he was pretty sure everyone in the office, not just Rokkaku, had noticed.

“I’m good! And I just want to say,” Rokkaku looked around them with a somewhat shifty expression ducking closer and continuing in a covert whisper “I get why you didn’t want to say anything, but you don’t need to worry, I took care of it.”

Adachi felt an ominous chill go down his spine. “Took care of… what?”

“You know. ” Rokkaku said conspiratorially. “I dealt with your problem with Kurosawa. I understand why you wanted to leave it alone, but he really can’t get away with something like that. So I told him he should just keep staying away from you.” He kept his voice hushed, but he still just about glowed with how pleased he was with himself, almost wiggling in place like a puppy that knew it had done something good and wanted to be praised.

“Oh… Rokkaku. Please tell me you didn’t really? You didn’t talk to Kurosawa.” Adachi said, like saying it could force it to be true, his stomach filled with a curdling dread. “What do you even mean, he can’t get away with something like that? He didn’t do anything wrong! I wanted you to leave it alone because I was the one who did something wrong.”

Rokkaku lost his shiny smile in the face of Adachi’s denial, but he didn’t back down. “I did talk to him, and I might not know exactly what happened but I figured out enough to know he did do something. And you have no reason to blame yourself. He’s the one to blame, having nasty beliefs like that.”

“Rokkaku, what are you talking about? ” Adachi demanded, voice rising in disbelief, though he ducked his head down in embarrassment a moment later when several head turned in their direction.

“I’m talking about Kurosawa being a homophobic asshole!” Rokkaku shot back, the swear sounding almost as bizarre coming from his mouth as the accusation.

Adachi groaned, burying his face in his hands. “Rokkaku! No he isn’t! Where the hell did you get that idea?”

“Well he- I mean… Oh.” Rokkaku’s face fell, and Adachi watched as the wheels in his head stuttered along to something closer to the truth, hoping he would realise where he had gone wrong on his own so Adachi didn’t have to say any more.

He couldn’t let Kurosawa take the blame for their relationship going to shit, but he also knew better than to out someone without their permission, especially when he knew Kurosawa didn’t like telling people he was gay. And apparently he was protective enough about his sexuality that he let Rokkaku walk away thinking he was actually homophobic.

“He really didn’t do anything wrong?” Rokkaku asked, voice gone all small.

“No, he didn’t.” Adachi answered with a tired sigh, a moment later putting a comforting hand on Rokkaku’s shoulder, not able to stand his guilty face on top of his own shame for not putting an end to all this way before it came to Kurosawa getting confronted for something that should only be on his conscience. “Thank you for trying to stand up for me, but whatever you thought happened isn’t even close to the truth. Really, he’s the one who deserves to have people siding with him. I’m sorry I didn’t make that clearer.”

“You don’t need to apologise, I’m the one who jumped to conclusions. But I still don’t think you were in the wrong, he didn’t seem angry at you. So it was probably just a misunderstanding! I’ll still say sorry to him though. I definitely owe him that.” Rokkaku said with a resolute nod of his head.

“You probably should. You know, you really should be nicer to him in general. He seems kind of lonely, and it’s not really fair.” Adachi couldn’t help adding. “He deserves your friendship way more than I do…”

He muttered the last part but Rokkaku still heard it, his eyes going wide and his head shaking vehemently, taking the hand Adachi had on his shoulder and squeezing it between two of his. “Don’t say that! I’ll be nicer to him if you want me to, but I’ll always be on your side! You two aren’t even talking and you’re still sticking up for him, worrying about if he has other friends. You’re too good, Adachi! That’s why I look up to you.”

Adachi opened his mouth to dismiss the compliment but like he already knew he was going to do that and didn’t want to give him the chance, Rokkaku just gave his hand one last squeeze and scurried off back to his own desk, conspicuously saying good morning to Kurosawa as he sat down.

Adachi rolled his eyes, not looking to see what the other man’s reaction would be, deciding whatever happened with Rokkaku and Kurosawa’s relationship wasn’t his business anymore, not when it was his fault it had gotten so messed up in the first place.

It really was like anything he had a hand in was doomed to blow up. He snuck a peek at his phone before starting on his work, the lack of any notifications feeling like yet another prick to his heart. It came again when he dared check at lunch time and again saw nothing, this time the sharp sting accompanied by a throbbing disappointment, and a bitter resignation. After that he tucked his phone down into the bottom of his bag and didn’t dare look at it again until he got home and unpacked his things. He ended up skipping dinner, not able to stomach eating anything when his insides felt like they were tied up in knots with all the embarrassment and hurt that an entire day had passed and the stranger hadn’t messaged him even once.

He almost couldn’t believe it when he finally checked his phone one last time after he curled into bed in a defeated and cold little ball under his blankets, and saw there still wasn’t anything there. The stranger really didn’t want to talk to him anymore. He might have decided to pull this twisted little test, but deep down he had never actually believed the stranger would be happy to completely ignore him all day. But he had. And now Adachi had his answer.

It was all his worst thoughts come true. He thought he had met someone he finally could know, inside and out, and be known the same in return. He thought he had finally met someone who would not only accept him, every part of him, the good and the bad, but want him. For a little while, he'd had something that was more than he ever dared hoped for, he'd been the first thought on someone's mind in the morning, been their last thought before bed. His life had twined together with the stranger's until it felt like they couldn't be separated again.

And then, somehow, he lost it all. Somehow, he had ruined it. Whatever he had had with his stranger, it was gone. He ruined it. And he didn’t even know how.

It was that horrible, horrible empty space in the story that made Adachi start typing.

He finally dared ask one simple question that had been hovering on the back of his tongue all week. He knew he would go mad trying to figure out the answer if he didn't.

 

Friday, December 3rd

 

(Fri, 9:27 pm)

What did I do wrong?

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty Six

 

Kurosawa was lying in bed. He wasn’t sleeping. He had gone to lay down at the early hour of nine on a Friday night with the intention of sleeping, a smart choice he had thought, given how large his sleep deficit had grown as of late. But he wasn’t sleeping. Instead he was staring at his phone, doing something he knew wasn’t right, that he knew could only really be considered a useful or productive use of his time if it was done purely with the goal of making his heart ache even more in his chest than it already did. It was only a good use of his time if he had really gotten to the point where he was truly trying to hurt himself. And apparently, he was.

He bit his lip, keeping it still and trying in vain to keep the tight feeling in his throat from spreading, as he scrolled through his messages to Adachi. He had gotten pretty far, weeks back even. Back when the giant forest that had grown around them and made it impossible to see a way through was just a glimpse of a few trees in the distance. Back when things still felt right.

He read every “Good morning! ☀️ ” and every “Good night, sweet dreams ;)” wondering at this cheerful and fearless version of himself, sending these texts like it was something he would get to say every day for the rest of his life, like there wasn’t a future looming ahead of him when he would have to choke back even those simplest of phrases, let alone anything more.

He read those texts with a mixture of that same almost unbearable warmth that flooded his chest whenever he thought about Adachi, and a sickening twist in his insides as he realised this all could really be something that would only ever exist in his past, exchanging these the day to day mundanities, the little snapshots they dared share to give the other bare glimpses into their lives, the small moments of vulnerability and the precious gifted secrets they exchanged that meant so much more than the fact they didn’t knew each other’s faces back then…

Until he did know the face on the other side of the screen, until he got to see that wonderful, handsome face, and somehow it became the beginning of the end. And end he was terrified that they had finally reached.

It had been an entire day. A whole day, and he hadn’t heard from Adachi once. He knew, he full well knew that it was nothing but him being selfish and naive, to be surprised that it seemed Adachi had gotten sick of his avoidance and decided he wasn’t worth the effort. Kurosawa hadn’t given him a reason to keep trying, and so he had stopped. He had stopped…

His phone dinged, and he panicked as the screen jumped, taking him from the cruelly comforting texts Adachi sent him weeks ago about why he didn’t like rain. And instead, he was faced with a new text. And a new, horrible step toward the end.

 

Friday, December 3rd

 

(Fri, 9:27 pm)

What did I do wrong?

 

(Fri, 9:29 pm)

I don’t understand

 

Kurosawa leaned into the guilt, embraced it, as he realised this was the fastest he had responded to one of Adachi’s texts all week. He deserved this guilt, every ounce of it and more, especially now, as he was shown exactly how much guilt for the situation Adachi had heaped upon himself. As he realised exactly how much he had hurt the man he loved.

 

(Fri, 9:30 pm)

I want to know what I did wrong. I must have done something. One day everything was fine. We were happy… At least I thought we were happy. I was happy… And now you’re disappearing. You’re avoiding me, ignoring me, you don’t sound like yourself when you actually answer. I need you to tell me what I did

 

(Fri, 9:31 pm)

Please. I’m sorry. Whatever it was, I’m so sorry. I just want to fix it, but you have to tell me how to do that because I’ve gone over it and over it and I can’t figure out what I did wrong

 

(Fri, 9:32 pm)

Someone asked me out. The new guy in my office. And I was wrong, he’s not horrible and stuck up and disgustingly preppy. He’s kind and sweet and he’s been so nice to me sometimes I can’t believe it. And now he isn’t talking to me because he asked me out and I said I couldn’t because I was already seeing someone.

 

(Fri, 9:33 pm)

I turned him down because I couldn’t bear the idea of dating someone else when I have you, even when I know I’ll always be too much of a coward to meet you. And now you’re disappearing and he’s not talking to me and I’m all alone. And I just want to fix it

 

(Fri, 9:34 pm)

Please tell me what I did wrong. Please tell me how to fix this, because I would take never meeting you and only having these messages that I don’t know how to live without anymore, over having something with someone I actually know and see every day. Just tell me what I need to do so you can bear talking to me again

 

By the time the messages finally stopped, Kurosawa had had to put his phone down, hands shakily going to his cheeks to ineffectively swipe at the tears coming down them, so many thoughts and feelings swirling in his head like a storm he didn’t have the slightest chance in navigating.

Why, just why couldn’t Adachi for once look outward when placing blame instead of always taking everything onto his own shoulders? Why couldn’t he curse and rage and demand an explanation as to why he was being a horrible friend? Why couldn’t Adachi see this was never his responsibility to fix?

Kurosawa knew the answer, of course he did. He knew the other man, knew him far too deeply to not understand exactly what road in his head Kurosawa’s sudden silence must have led him down. He knew, he just couldn’t handle it. He couldn’t deal with the fact he just kept hurting Adachi, kept making things worse and worse the harder he tried to do the right thing. 

But… somewhere amidst all that self-flagellation, as he reread the messages he started to see something he hadn’t dared believe existed before. A possible way forward, a way that didn’t lead to an inevitable end. It was almost hidden among all the guilt and fear and sadness, but it was there, some little spark of hope that was brought forward by Adachi’s confession.

Because Kurosawa had been wrong that night, that ill-fated night last week. Adachi didn’t just lie to let him down easy. He lied because he was thinking of the other him. Kurosawa had been so close, thinking that there was no way Adachi could be seeing someone when they talked the way they did, and he didn’t even think for a moment that he could be the someone.

So maybe… maybe he hadn’t ruined everything. Maybe he was enough, just not split into two the way he had been. Maybe if he could finally muster the courage to show Adachi who he was, show him all of him, then everything would finally be okay.

Either way, this was it. This was the moment he finally had to admit the truth, because he had no other options. The only thing left was the truth.

He picked up his phone with shaking hands, and started to type.

 

(Fri, 9:39 pm)

I need us to meet. 

 

(Fri, 9:40 pm)

Not because you did anything wrong. Not because you have anything to fix. You have nothing to apologise for. Nothing. But I do. I have so much to apologise for, and I have made so many mistakes. I stopped talking to you, I haven’t been myself, I disappeared, because I couldn’t stand lying to you anymore. The reason I haven’t been able to bear talking to you isn’t because you did anything, it’s because I am a liar and I didn’t know how to come clean, but now I have to

 

(Fri, 9:42 pm)

Come clean… about what?

 

He had waited with bated breath for the response, for Adachi to give him the opening, but still he felt like he could never really be ready to say the words that had been sitting in his chest since the day he walked into that office and finally met the man he was now sure was the love of his life.

 

(Fri, 9:44 pm)

I know you. I know who you are, I’ve known for a while. I found out by accident and I thought I should wait until it was the right time to tell you, but the truth is there never was going to be a right time, and all I was doing was hurting you, and lying. I can’t keep living like this, and it’s not fair to you, it never was even before I stopped talking

 

(Fri, 9:43 pm)

I want to meet. I want to make this right. I want to show you who I really am. I want us to be more than strangers. If you want something real, so do I. This can be real

 

Feeling like he could barely breathe, Kurosawa sent the last message, remanding himself to sit and wait for the answer that would change his life forever. One way or another.



Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty Seven

 

Adachi was pacing, something that wasn’t really all that in character. He was more of a curl into a ball kind of guy. But he was pacing now. Back and forth and back and forth in the limited space between his bed and his desk, his mind going a mile a minute and his feet trying to somehow keep up.

He had tried to brace himself for whatever response he would get after he sent his last message to the stranger. Tried, because it wasn’t really possible to prepare yourself for whatever possible outcome there would be after pouring out your heart, along with a week of coalesced anxieties, to someone you couldn’t imagine your life without while also being half-convinced they hated you.

He definitely hadn’t been prepared. 

All week, while Adachi had been absolutely sure what was happening was his fault, the stranger had been tearing at himself just the same. He hadn’t been ignoring him because he was tired of him, he was doing it out of guilt. He’d been lying, for how long Adachi couldn’t guess, about how much he also had no idea, but enough that he had felt so guilty he had gone from talking to Adachi constantly to almost completely ghosting him. 

And Adachi knew some things about letting your emotions get out of hand and drive your decisions, he definitely knew. But even he had to admit, that was kind of an impressive little spiral, especially since he still couldn’t figure out what could have triggered it.

Adachi couldn’t even be upset with him. He knew he probably should be. He had been lied to, probably both outright and by omission, the stranger had manipulated their relationship, manipulated him, really. And then he had been cut off, left waiting and wanting with no idea what was going on. It had been excruciating. He really should be absolutely pissed off. Too bad he couldn’t muster even an ounce of anger.

The stranger knew him. He didn’t hate Adachi, he wasn’t sick of him. He knew him. He knew who Adachi really was, he didn’t have to guess at the face on the other side of the screen. He didn’t have to ask all the questions Adachi pretended he didn’t care about having the answer to. For who knew how long, every time that Adachi had read one of his messages with a compliment or a little flirting, and wondered if it was only because the stranger didn’t actually know him, the stranger had actually been saying it knowing exactly who he was talking to. 

He didn’t hate Adachi. He wanted them to meet.

And it would be pretty hypocritical, wouldn’t it, for Adachi to constantly make messes when he let his anxiety and other issues get out of hand, and then turn around and blame the stranger for shutting down in the face of what might be one of the largest messes he had ever been a part of? If he had been in the stranger’s place, he honestly could admit he knew himself well enough to say he would have done something even worse.

He wouldn’t have had the guts to confess if he stumbled upon the stranger’s identity. He wouldn’t have been able to come up with any plan to make it easier when they finally met, the way it sounded like the stranger had tried to. And he certainly wouldn’t have been able to keep up any pretence of normalcy, he would have immediately broken down the way the stranger only recently did. And if he was confronted? If he found out the stranger was blaming himself for his actions? He never would have been brave enough to tell the truth and ask to meet. Hell, he hadn’t been brave enough to ask without that additional pressure, without all the guilt.

And now he couldn't avoid this any longer. That giant elephant that had been in the room since their very first messages couldn’t be ignored. It was time, and he had to give an answer. Were they going to meet?

Was Adachi going to let this become something real?

He’d been pacing, faster and faster like he was trying to wear through the floor, when he heard his phone go off from where he left it on the bed. He turned to scramble for the phone, foot catching on a loose cord, falling like a pile of bricks with his hands barely stopping him from adding a throbbing face to the night, not that he didn’t take quite a few dings on the way down still.

He screwed up his face, groaning into his rug. What was he doing? He couldn’t even handle walking in his own damn apartment! How was he supposed to face something he had been dreading and craving in turns for months? 

He scraped himself off the floor and picked up his phone, still kneeling on the carpet, and swiped open the message, only to groan again when he saw it wasn’t even the stranger. It was just Tsuge asking if he wanted to have lunch sometime that weekend. He typed out a hurried confirmation and then switched to his text thread with the stranger, that last message staring at him, demanding he give an answer.

An answer he didn’t have.

 

(Fri, 9:50 pm)

I don’t know

 

He typed out the message like bile welling up, unstoppable, and possibly about to ruin everything, but he didn’t have a choice. Any other answer would be a lie. Even if he hated himself for it. 

 

(Fri, 9:51 pm)

… You don’t know?

 

(Fri, 9:52 pm)

No

 

(Fri, 9:53 pm)

About which part?

 

(Fri, 9:54 pm)

I don’t know! I just… I’ve wanted to meet you for so long. But I’m afraid. I don’t feel ready. I want this to be real, more than anything. But I don’t know if I can do this. I’m sorry

 

He gave the answer, feeling like his courage was almost completely spent just admitting that much, admitting really having the stranger in his life was something he wanted so badly he thought it would drive him insane. And feeling like he was damning himself, admitting that after everything, he was still too much of a coward to just say yes.

 

(Fri, 9:55 pm)

Don’t be sorry. Please don’t. Especially when I am feeling so happy, hearing that you want the same thing I do. I understand I’m asking for a lot. I know you don’t feel like you were ready for us to meet, and that’s one reason I didn’t say anything when I recognised you. I didn’t want to force your hand. But we can’t keep going like this

 

(Fri, 9:56 pm)

I understand, I do… I just don’t know what to say. The past week has been horrible. I miss you. But I’m scared

 

(Fri, 9:57 pm)

What are you scared of?

 

Adachi swallowed. That was the big question, wasn’t it? What was he scared of, what was so frightening to him that he had everything he could ever want right in front of him, and he was afraid to take it? The idea of exposing himself like that flooded him with shame. But after everything they had talked about, everything they had been honest about, how could he keep anything back now? How could he say he was scared, but refuse to let the stranger actually into that fear?

 

(Fri, 9:58 pm)

What if we meet and it’s not the same? What if we meet and I do something to screw this up? Or what if we meet and you realise I’m not worth this much trouble?

 

(Fri, 9:59 pm)

Not going to happen

 

The quick flippant response somehow actually teased a smile out of Adachi, maybe because this was the first time the stranger sounded like himself in days, impossibly lifting the corners of his mouth even when he was swirling with fear, and doubt, and trying so hard to remember this was a man he trusted. This was a man he cared about possibly more than he had ever cared about someone before. He felt safe with his stranger, he knew he did. Just like he knew that this was so hard for him because he was afraid that that could change. That it already was changing, or they wouldn’t have spent the past week in a painful stalemate.

 

(Fri, 10:00 pm)

You don’t know that

 

(Fri, 10:01 pm)

I feel like this is the wrong time to argue with you, I have way too much to make up for, and this is a very charged conversation. But I’m sorry dear, I really do know that that won’t happen

 

(Fri, 10:02 pm)

How could you possibly know?

 

He felt like he was being annoying, but he sent the text anyway, all but begging for validation. Begging for the stranger to take his hand and tell him things could turn out okay. How do you know? Why don’t you think I’ll let you down? How are you so sure I’ll still be what you want? Please, he wanted to ask but didn’t, leaving it at what he had already said. I don’t know what to do. Please give me some hope.

 

(Fri, 10:03 pm)

Look… It isn’t fair that you still don’t know my name or what I look like, but I know you’re the man I have gotten to enjoy seeing almost every day. I’ve gotten to enjoy getting to know you. I wanted to be a friendly face to you when we finally met, and somewhere along the way that got way more complicated than I thought it would. I honestly have no idea how you will feel when you find out who I am. But at least I can tell you, you never have been and never will be a disappointment to me. You aren’t trouble. Even if you were, you would be worth it

 

That… was more than he could have asked for. More than he could really process. Going so low emotionally earlier there was no way he could handle his usual flustered giddiness when the stranger made grand declarations like that. But he wasn’t so overwhelmed he didn’t notice one little detail.

 

(Fri, 10:04 pm)

… Almost every day?

 

(Fri, 10:05 pm)

Like I said. I have too much to make up for, and it’s really not fair to you. I promise I’m going to spend as long as you will let me making it up to you

 

(Fri, 10:06 pm)

It happened, it sucked for both of us. You don’t need to make it up to me 

 

(Fri, 10:07 pm)

I do. And I don’t want to hurt you anymore… So if you decide you don’t want to meet, if that’s what you mean when you say I don’t have to, then I will understand, and I will find a way to accept it. I didn’t want to push you into anything. I asked you to meet because it was all I had left. I couldn’t bear to do anything else. And I want you to make whatever decision you can bear, whatever won’t hurt

 

His stomach clenched as he read the message, pain like he was getting a cramp just from imagining saying no, trying to picture putting an end to their relationship once and for all. But he also felt his heart speed up as he thought about agreeing, his pulse racing in his ears and his hands getting shaky as he held his phone. Whatever wouldn’t hurt him. Right now, everything about this hurt. And the idea that the stranger would passively accept whatever he chose? That more than hurt.

 

(Fri, 10:08 pm)

You’d really be okay with it if I said no? If we just… stopped?

 

(Fri, 10:09 pm)

No. Not even remotely. I would be devastated. It would break my heart if you decided to end this instead of meeting me. But I care about you too much and have taken your choice away with this too many times to not let you decide now

 

(Fri, 10:10 pm)

I can’t really blame you. Especially since you are asking me now, and I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry. I just don’t know how to say yes or no

 

(Fri, 10:11 pm)

Okay… Then don’t. You’re scared, and this has been a lot. This whole week has been a lot. Our whole relationship has been a lot. You’re scared, and I’m sure overwhelmed. It’s okay if you don’t know what to say. Don’t say anything. Just… Listen. 

 

(Fri, 10:12 pm)

Next Saturday at six, they’re doing the Christmas tree lighting at the plaza. I’ll be there. If you decide you want to do this, if you want to meet me and see what we could really be, then come, and look for a familiar face in the crowd

 

(Fri, 10:13 pm)

You want to meet me… at a tree lighting? And I can not give you an answer? And you’ll just wait to see if I show up?

 

(Fri, 10:14 pm)

Yes. I want nothing more than to meet you at the plaza under the Christmas tree lights eight days from now. Well, I would meet you tonight if you were okay with that but I’m not going to push if you need time to think. I’ve left you waiting all week. If it’s my turn, that seems more than fair to me

 

(Fri, 10:15 pm)

Oh… Okay

 

(Fri, 10:16 pm)

Okay. Do you want me to give you space so you can think?

 

(Fri, 10:17 pm)

No. I can at least say that. No more space, no more disappearing… I miss you. Whatever happens later, I don’t want to miss you anymore right now

 

(Fri, 10:18 pm)

Alright. Thank you. I missed you too. So much ☀️

 

Adachi let another smile onto his face, allowed himself the slightest of blushes, a brief flustered wiggle on his bed, because this might all be terrifying and painful, but god he had missed those little suns. He had missed them so much. He had missed everything about his stranger.

And now he had eight days to decide if he could finally push past all his fears and doubts, something that had felt impossible to do for months, or if he was going to be missing his stranger for the rest of his life.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty Eight

 

“So…Let me get this straight. You’re still talking to your stranger after all this time, and you’ve developed romantic feelings for him strong enough you turned down a coworker who asked you out even though you actually know him and enjoyed his company. And afterwards, your stranger ignored you for a week and has now admitted he knows who you are and asked you to meet, to which you didn’t give a conclusive answer. Does that summarise everything?”

Tsuge finished the statement with a long sip of his tea, tone as flat as his expression.

“Umm… I guess. Not super happy with how you phrased parts of that but yeah. That’s pretty much what happened.” Adachi muttered, eyes on his food.

The night before he and the stranger had spoken for a little longer, exchanging sleepy small talk and catching up on things they hadn’t told each other while they were in that painful silent stalemate. It felt odd talking like there wasn’t a big unanswered ultimatum hovering over them, but Adachi was so relieved they were talking again that it didn’t bother him as much as it probably should have.

Eventually he fell asleep, waking up the next morning with his phone still in his hand, a good morning text already waiting for him, preceded by a good night that had been sent by the stranger around midnight when he realised Adachi stopped responding because he had drifted off.

He sent his own good morning, and after that it was like everything went back to normal, the stranger texting him over breakfast, bickering with him about not having a proper meal, chatting about what their plans for the weekend were. If at times Adachi was a little more hesitant, if the stranger sometimes was a little pushier, maybe even approaching needy, neither acknowledged it.

He had considered reneging on his plans with Tsuge, after all he had a lot to think about. Not only did he need to finally piece through what his feelings for the stranger really were, if they truly were romantic like he had never dared outright admit or this was just a case of him being extremely attached, but he had to reconsider so many parts of their relationship now that he knew the stranger was someone he had met before.

He had decided it had to be someone who worked in the same office building, maybe his office specifically but maybe not. The “every day” comment made him think there wasn’t any other possibility, the stranger had to be someone whose desk he walked by or who saw him in the break room or cafeteria on a daily basis. How long ago the stranger figured out his identity, he still really couldn’t guess past it had to be after their near-miss at the store. The stranger had been too careful and respectful of his privacy that day for it to have been a lie. At least, that was what he was choosing to believe. The stranger may have admitted to lying to him, but he did so with such palpable guilt that Adachi couldn’t believe the deceit had gone that far or been that deep.

In the end after almost sending the request to reschedule half a dozen times, Adachi decided to go to lunch with Tsuge anyway. The situation had gotten too far out of hand and he needed an outsider’s perspective, because he knew how unlikely it was that he was still anything close to unbiased. And there was no one else he could bear talking to about this, so lunch with Tsuge seemed the best thing to do.

It was possible in the face of the judgmental look Tsuge was giving him, he was now rethinking that.

“And you… haven’t figured out the real identity of your stranger, now that you know he is someone you have met? Probably someone you work with?” Tsuge said, a weird emphasis on parts of the question.

No, I said that. I can’t see him being anyone I can think of.” Adachi said irritably.

“Hmmph.” Tsuge sort of grunted, somehow speaking volumes with that single noise.

“What?”

“Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”

“But you’re thinking something, I can tell. What?”

“It’s not polite and you came to me for support so I’m not going to say it.”

Tsuge.

“Do you actually want to figure out who he is? Will that make deciding whether to go next week easier or harder for you?” Tsuge asked instead of letting out whatever the hell was on his mind.

“Well…” Adachi frowned, brow furrowing as he thought it over.

What would be easier? Knowing the answer beforehand, knowing exactly who he was going to be facing if he went, having some idea what might happen? Or would it be easier to only know it was his stranger waiting for him, to know if he went then he would be meeting the man he trusted and cared about, and exactly what familiar face he wore was just a hurdle he would have to overcome if he had the courage to go?

He thought back to the first time he discussed the stranger with Tsuge, remembered deciding that the only way forward was if he leaned into the honesty and transparency that had first drawn them together. Somewhere along the way that got muddied, but the other part? Doing his best to not let himself get lost in what-ifs, lost in wondering what the stranger’s motivations were, what subtext he could be missing, that had always been the right choice so far, and when he failed to do so was always when their relationship was at its rockiest. 

Would it be a mistake, for Adachi to make this decision while focusing on the stranger’s identity, puzzling over who he could be and how it could change things, instead of just being honest about what he wanted, what he felt?

Wasn’t the question of if he could make himself finally face the stranger so much more important than who he would be facing, when really, he never needed to know the stranger’s name to fall for him, so why should it matter now?

“I think… At this point figuring it out is a moot point. Either I want to meet him enough to get over myself, or I can’t handle it and end it... And honestly, it's a kind of besides the point but I don’t know if I trust myself enough to figure out who he is on my own.”

Tsuge gave him another look, sighing heavily through his nose. “The next time I’m writing and start to wonder if the plot is getting too convoluted, I’m going to remember this moment.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means you are my friend and I care about you very much, which is why I am here to patiently listen to your troubles and give what advice I can, and not say impolite things that won’t help.” He mumbled the last part into the rim of his teacup.

“You know it doesn’t quite work like that when you make it clear you have impolite things to say…” Adachi pouted, taking a big bite of his food and feeling like he suddenly understood people who stress-ate.

“Regardless, I think the first part of what you said, that’s actually a fairly healthy way to look at it.” Tsuge replied, losing the judgy look to something more thoughtful. “Focus on the relationship you have with him now. Just because he told you he is someone you have met doesn’t mean you have to throw in all the hypotheticals whatever relationship you have with him in-person introduces. If you do decide to meet him, you’ll deal with it then.”

“It’s certainly complicated enough without trying to solve the whole mystery first…” Adachi agreed.

“Exactly. If you want my real opinion, I think if you were going to realise the truth on your own, you would have by now. Might as well leave the mess of who he is to be cleaned up after you meet. Unless you decide not to meet, in which case it’s all a moot point anyway.”

“Do you think I should?”

Tsuge shook his head, frowning as he finished a bite of his food. “I think it would be overstepping my role as your friend to sway you one way or another. I’m happy to talk it out with you, but this is the kind of situation only the people in it can really understand. I can do my best, but you are the one who knows him, you know what talking to him feels like. A neutral opinion can be helpful, but shouldn’t be decisive.”

Adachi groaned, thunking his forehead down onto the table next to his plate. “Why don’t you ever have easy answers for me?”

“Because your life is ridiculous.” Tsuge said lightly, not looking at him and his dramatics as he continued eating.

You’re ridiculous.”

“Occasionally.” Tsuge conceded with a tip of his head.

“Oh? How are things with you and Minato?” Adachi asked with a grin, eager to take the opportunity to no longer be the subject of their conversation.

Tsuge cleared his throat, a light flush spreading across his cheeks. “Fine, we’re fine.”

Some concern sprouted at that, as Tsuge wasn’t one to gush (except about Udon) but that tight tone didn’t exactly sound like someone whose developing relationship was going great.

“Did something happen?”

“No, nothing has happened.” Tsuge said impatiently.

“Oh… So did something not happen then?”

Tsuge narrowed his eyes. “You’re really choosing now to finally have some intuition, now that we aren’t talking about you?”

“Hey, it was just a guess.” Adachi defended, raising both his hands up. “If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay. I just figured since you helped me…”

Tsuge sighed again, really there had been way too much sighing over the course of this meal, relenting with a nod. “You’re right, I guess it’s just somewhat embarrassing.”

“Tell me. I promise I won’t say something impolite that won’t help.” He repeated Tsuge’s earlier words with a grin, trying to get his friend to relax.

Tsuge huffed out a laugh. “Right. Well, I’ve been at somewhat of a loss when it comes to Minato lately… After that day you came with me to the park, we kept talking regularly, and I went to watch him practice a few more times. But things stayed… friendly I suppose is the word. I thought once we were more comfortable with each other, I would try and make it clearer that I wanted to be more than a friend. I’ll admit, I still feel a little like I’m out of line trying to court someone like him. And then sometime last month he suddenly seemed to be getting distant.”

“What do you mean distant?” Adachi asked, wondering if this was like the stranger stonewalling him.

“He has been more flippant, almost dismissive at times. I ask him questions to try and get to know him better, and he usually doesn’t give very informative answers, just deflects the conversation back to me. He signed up for a dance contest, so he has been practising more often, but even though he seemed to enjoy having me come to watch before, now he avoids inviting me or telling me when he will be at the park. In fact, I rarely see him in person nowadays. If he wasn’t still texting me fairly often whether I manage to respond in a timely manner or not, I would think he had lost interest in my company.” Tsuge finished with a disillusioned frown. It was a strange sight to see, the fairly mature man so downtrodden over a crush.

“Weird.” Adachi said, puzzling over it. If it was him, he probably would have dissolved into self-pitying thoughts that he hadn’t been able to keep the attention of someone like Minato. But like Tsuge said, neutral opinions were helpful, and Adachi thought it sounded like something was definitely happening, but not that Tsuge had lost the younger man’s interest.

“I think it’s a good sign he still texts you a lot…” He wasn’t exactly good at guessing other people’s feelings, but something tickled at him about part of what Tsuge said. “And if he deflects questions but will talk when it’s about you not him, then whatever his problem is it’s probably on his side of things. Maybe he’s being shy.”

Tsuge scowled. “You met him, does he seem like the kind of person who is prone to shyness?”

Adachi got what he meant, nothing about a young dancer with bright blonde hair who was confident enough to give his number out like Minato did sounded shy. But as of late, Adachi had learned over and over that you had to look past what people seemed like on the surface.

“Maybe not in the same way I am, or even you are. But just because he’s more extroverted and can perform in front of people doesn’t mean he’s never self-conscious. People who are more social just have different ways of hiding it when they aren’t confident.” Adachi explained, inwardly wondering at his own insightfulness. This was the kind of thing he never would have considered a few months ago.

“If that’s true, what am I supposed to do about it?” Tsuge prodded, looking like he was starting to be convinced.

“Well… I think asking outright might be too much, if he’s already deflecting a lot.” Adachi said, more thinking out loud than answering. “What you have to do is make him feel safe telling you himself what’s going on.”

“How in the world do I do that?”

Adachi grinned, an idea occurring to him that he knew Tsuge was going to absolutely hate. “You could try being the vulnerable one first. Tell him you miss him.”

“No.” Tsuge bit out without hesitating. “I’m not going to act like some creepy old man and say I miss him.”

“You’re not a creepy old man! You have to stop focusing on his age so much.” Adachi said with a laugh, maybe finding that easier to say now that he had weeks under his belt of getting over Rokkaku’s incessant youthfulness. “And you do miss him, I can tell. Look, maybe I’ve got it all completely wrong. But if nothing else, I don’t think just admitting how you are feeling will hurt.”

“Falling in love has ruined you. Where has my comrade in social anxiety and cluelessness gone?” Tsuge grumbled, tellingly not actually saying no.

“I never said I was in love.” Adachi argued, cheeks flaring.

He could tell Tsuge had reached his limit on revealing mushy emotions and let the subject change, the rest of their lunch passing without any more mention of either of their trainwrecks of romantic relationships, just discussions about work and some gushing about how Udon had been doing.

Afterwards Adachi headed home, glad he hadn’t cancelled and surprised he could be in such a good mood with all the heavy things currently on his mind. He had a lot to think about, and one week hardly felt like long enough to make the decision before him. But as he walked into his home and felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, most definitely the stranger once again checking to see if he was finally done with his plans and could pay attention to him now, he didn’t try to fight the smile on his face.

Somehow, it felt like enough that his day had been so much better than the one before, not that that was hard with how horrible Friday had been until his conversation with the stranger turned it all around. How much longer that could work for him, he didn’t know. And honestly, while he was still feeling so relieved the stranger was talking to him again, he didn’t really care.

He did hope he hadn’t just screwed Tsuge with his advice though.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty Nine

 

Monday, December 6th

 

(Mon, 7:04 am)

Goood morning :)

 

(Mon, 8:06 am)

Sure

 

(Mon, 8:09 am)

Chipper as always, my dear

 

(Mon, 8:17 am)

It’s monday, what are you expecting, somersaults?

 

(Mon, 8:21 am)

Well maybe a little something other than your usually scheduled morning rain cloud would be nice… Not that I don’t find your grumpiness adorable

 

(Mon, 8:31 am)

Can you actually do somersaults?

 

(Mon, 8:44 am)

You’ll have to deal with my adorable grumpiness until I’ve had coffee. I’ll leave the sun-shininess to you. And no, I’m a grown man who spends most of his time in an office chair, I cannot do somersaults

 

(Mon, 8:46 am)

Idk I bet you could still be pretty athletic if you tried ;)

 

(Mon, 8:54 am)

Okay! I’m almost at work! Will be Very Busy! Talk to you LATER!

 

(Mon, 8:55 am)

Uh huh, sure ☀️

 

Kurosawa grinned, tucking his phone into his pocket and covertly keeping an eye on the door as he started sorting through his work for the day, knowing soon Adachi would hurry in, barely on time. It was a bit of a head trip, how differently he was feeling that morning as opposed to last week, when he was still fresh off of Adachi’s rejection and reeling. Feeling like the ground was crumbling out from under him, or rather realising that he had never been standing on solid ground to begin with.

And now? He knew it wasn’t particularly logical, but since he had asked Adachi to meet him, all he had been able to feel was peace. He was somehow feeling completely at peace, despite how on edge and anxious he should be, despite having to wait days until he found out if he was about to be the happiest man alive or completely miserable. If he was reacting rationally to the situation at all, he knew he would be an absolute mess.

Kurosawa just couldn’t be bothered. He had finally asked Adachi to meet. He had finally told him the truth. He had made a decision, committed. All he could do now was wait and see, and in the meantime, he even got to finally talk to Adachi again. He got to enjoy his company and tell him good morning like he wanted to, because Adachi was always the first thing on his mind when he woke up, and he got to flirt with him whenever he wanted to because now he knew that Adachi liked him enough that he wouldn’t date other people, and no matter what happened Saturday he wasn’t going to take that all for granted. Not again. He would savour every moment of the next week, and say whatever he wanted, and be as clingy and flirty and happy as he wanted.

Over the phone at least. When it came to in-person, he was a little at a loss how to handle things with Adachi. On one hand, he didn’t think it was a great idea to go from keeping his distance completely, which hadn’t been easy to maintain after how much of a nuisance he had enjoyed being beforehand, to acting like their friendship hadn’t gone through that awkward and temporarily-heartbreaking.

On the other hand, if Adachi actually met him Saturday at the plaza, it would be a little strange to have their first conversation face to face since that dinner, and for it to be… well, whatever that conversation would end up being, if Adachi actually showed. If he could figure out how to move them into more neutral ground before that, it would probably be better.

As Adachi walked in, looking flustered and cold and adorable with his bedhead and wind-chafed cheeks, Kurosawa tried to be subtle as he tracked him across the office, trying to think of a way to start. Walking up to him first thing in the morning would be too much, wouldn’t it? Maybe lunch would be better? Before he could decide Rokkaku bounced up from his chair and scampered over, looking like his usual puppy self, this time a puppy that had been left alone too long and now was desperate for attention or it was going to nervously chew up a pillow or something.

He absolutely meant that in an insulting way, even if he also knew he wasn’t much better.

Adachi looked up to greet his little follower, giving him a smile Kurosawa wasn’t at all jealous of, which Rokkaku answered with a beaming grin. It faltered a moment later at something Adachi said to him, and concerningly their eyes both flicked over to him.

He ducked his head down, hoping they hadn’t caught him spying, because that would be odd, probably. And was just inviting the guard puppy to come growl at him again. Which was definitely going to be another barrier he had to overcome by Saturday… Rokkaku had been strangely friendly lately, but Kurosawa didn’t know him well enough to tell if it was out of spite or because Adachi said something to him.

He was so busy making it look like he was working and not watching them that he actually missed it when Rokkaku came back over, and instead of going to his desk he stopped right next to Kurosawa, bouncing nervously on his heels with his jaw set. It didn’t look promising.

“Uh… Did you need something Rokkaku?”

“Yes. Will you please step out into the hall with me for a moment?” Rokkaku asked, nodding with a jerk of his head and not really sounding like Kurosawa could say no.

“Um. Okay?” He got up and trailed after Rokkaku, hoping this wasn’t about to be a certain kind of ‘We need to step outside’ kind of situation. He didn’t think Rokkaku would hit him. And he hadn’t done anything he could think of to deserve being hit. Okay, he had actually done a few things, but none that Rokkaku should know about.

After they were safely away from the door and Rokkaku indiscreetly looked around to make sure there wasn’t anyone within earshot, he turned back to Kurosawa with such a tough look on his face that Kurosawa actually rethought if he was about to get punched. But he wasn’t. Instead he abruptly bent at the waist, dropping into a perfect ninety-degree bow with his hands tucked against his sides.

“I’m very sorry for jumping to conclusions and speaking to you so disrespectfully! I assumed very negative things about you and your character, and I butted into your relationship with Adachi which wasn’t my business even if I was just looking out for him! It was wrong and from now on I will treat you respectfully and fairly! Again, I am just very very sorry!”

Kurosawa blinked. That was... A lot. Rokkaku was normally already a lot. A painfully earnest and polite Rokkaku apologising like he had gravely wronged him was way more than a lot.

“Oh. Uh. That’s okay? I get how you came to the… conclusions you did. Don’t worry about it.” He tried to say politely, uncomfortable and wanting to run back into the office.

It was overall a plus if Rokkaku had finally decided to stop suspecting him of being the devil, but that didn’t mean he wanted to actually talk to the annoying little twerp. He did wonder exactly how this upheaval in Rokkaku’s view of him happened though.

“No!” Rokkaku asserted, looking up but staying bent at the waist. Kurosawa really wished he would stop that. “It’s not okay! Calling someone homophobic is a serious accusation! To call someone who is- I mean.” Rokkaku’s mouth twisted at the slip-up and he cleared his throat. “It was wrong. It wasn’t okay. I am so sorry.”

“Exactly what did Adachi tell you?”

Rokkaku finally straightened up, waving a hand spastically. “He didn’t! He still doesn’t want to talk about it. But I mentioned I… talked to you. And he was very upset. He said I was completely wrong and that you weren’t homophobic and that you didn’t do anything, so I shouldn’t be angry on his behalf.”

Kurosawa let out a wry laugh, smiling despite the fact this wasn’t exactly funny or something to be happy about. The opposite really. But somehow his newfound peace meant he was smiling instead of freaking out as he responded. 

“And you figured out that the reason he wouldn’t talk about it wasn’t because I’m homophobic, and he’s the kind of guy who would just take being discriminated against instead of saying something bad about a coworker. He won’t talk to you about it because I’m gay and he couldn’t explain why we weren’t talking anymore without outting me, which he is far too good a man to do when he knows how much people knowing I’m gay scares me.”

Rokkaku visibly swallowed, looking at him with wide eyes. He didn’t answer verbally, just nodding and looking like a panicky little mouse. Kurosawa would be lying if he said he wasn’t enjoying the sudden reversal of their dynamic. Not enough that he didn’t want the conversation to be over though.

“Rokkaku.” He said with a sigh, moving forward to put a hand on his shoulder in feigned familiarity. “It’s alright. I forgive you. And while yes, anyone here finding out I’m gay makes me very uncomfortable, I know firsthand exactly how unlikely it is that you would say anything bad. So let’s just… Put it behind us.”

Rokkaku nodded, expression earnest and grateful, like Kurosawa was doing him a huge favour. “Okay! If that’s what you want. And don’t worry, I won’t say anything.”

“I’m sure you won’t.” Kurosawa said, giving Rokkaku a pat on his shoulder and turning back towards the office before he had a chance to somehow extend the conversation.

He walked back to his desk, not missing the way that Adachi watched him like a hawk and that Rokkaku definitely shot him a wink before going back to his own desk. The idea Adachi was invested in the two of them getting along was strangely comforting when it came to moving forward. But it was also weird and not doing wonders for his very complicated feelings of rivalry towards the puppy.

A few minutes later he felt his phone go off in his pocket. He pulled it out without a thought, too eager for some of Adachi’s attention to wait until later to check it. A quick peek over towards Adachi didn’t give him any hints why he was already texting him that early in the morning, as his head was down like he was looking at his computer.

 

(Mon, 9:37 am)

Halp

 

Hmm. That was probably not good.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty

 

(Mon, 9:38 am)

?

 

(Mon, 9:39 am)

HALP

 

(Mon, 9:40 am)

Do you need something dear?

 

(Mon, 9:41 am)

I just got an email and I think I might need to quit my job

 

(Mon, 9:42 am)

Sounds logical, I mean how dare they actually communicate with you about the work they hired you to do? Maybe you should even leave the country

 

(Mon, 9:43 am)

Shut up don’t be cute right now! This is serious! My boss asked me to do something and I’m pretty sure I’m going to screw it up so bad he’ll fire me but he definitely will also fire me if I say no so what do I do????

 

(Mon, 9:44 am)

Alright. Calm down. Take a deep breath

 

(Mon, 9:45 am)

YOU take a deep breath!!

 

(Mon, 9:46 am)

Sure, why not? Let’s breathe together

 

(Mon, 9:47 am)

What did I say about being cute?

 

(Mon, 9:48 am)

Sorry, I can’t help it ;)

 

(Mon, 9:49 am)

Why am I asking you for help again?

 

(Mon, 9:50 am)

Because you know I’m endlessly wise and knowledgeable

 

(Mon, 9:51 am)

-_-

 

(Mon, 9:52 am)

You think I’m cute, don’t make that face at me

 

(Mon, 9:53 am)

What Should I Do

 

(Mon, 9:54 am)

Just tell your boss you’ll do it. I’m assuming because you are freaking out it’s not a part of your usual job, so if something goes wrong it isn’t your fault. Give it your best shot, and he can’t fault you for the outcome. Or you could tell him you aren’t the best person for this task and you believe someone else should do it, if you’re absolutely sure you can’t. Which he also can’t fault you for

 

(Mon, 9:55 am)

… alright fine. Maybe you’re a little wise. Gotta go, I’ll tell you if I’m fired or not later

 

(Mon, 9:56 am)

Good luck ☀️

 

Kurosawa hid a smile, wondering what kind of mess Adachi had stumbled into this time. He couldn’t imagine it was anything too problematic, Adachi was very good at his job, and from what he had seen their boss was fairly accommodating when it came to his… lack of enthusiasm, when it came to more social aspects of their work.

A couple of hours later he got a clue as to what might be going on when he got up to make some copies and saw that their boss was meeting with a client, and for some reason Adachi was with them, standing slightly to the side with a large binder in his hands and looking like more than a little faint.

He spotted Rokkaku hovering nearby with a nervous air about him and went over, betting he knew what was up since it concerned his “secret ace mentor” or whatever the hell he called Adachi, and since their little kumbaya moment earlier in the hall Kurosawa didn’t have to be afraid to talk to him anymore.

“Hey, do you know what’s going on over there?” He asked quietly, nodding his head toward the meeting.

“Ah, it’s such bad luck!” Rokkaku responded in a dramatic stage whisper. “Urabe was supposed to have a bunch of data ready to go over today when the client showed up, but he’s out sick! So they asked Adachi to stand in for him, except of course he’s not prepared since he barely knows the account and it’s on such short notice!” 

“I see.” Kurosawa said, tone mild like that would give the younger man a hint to be less… everything. “Well, I’m sure he’ll… he’ll do just fine.”

On queue Adachi stepped forward and opened the binder, only to fumble it and spill half the papers inside onto the ground. He and Rokkaku winced in tandem, united in a moment of sympathy for the incredibly awkward display.

“Right…” Rokkaku agreed weakly before visibly rebounding and putting a tough look on his face, fist-pumping with righteous confidence. Kurosawa had to resist rolling his eyes.

“I’m sure he’ll figure it out! He’s really resourceful after all. And he’s so likeable, there’s no way the client won’t be happy with what he has to say!”

“Of course. He’ll figure it out.” Kurosawa nodded along, hoping he sounded convincing so the puppy didn’t already have a reason to get mad at him.

It wasn’t that he didn’t have faith in Adachi, he did. It was just… A surprise meeting he didn’t have any time to prep for where he had to talk directly to a client sounded like Adachi’s worst nightmare. No wonder he had sounded so worked up earlier when he texted. Really it was surprising Kurosawa had been able to calm him down at all.

Unless of course, he hadn’t, and Adachi just let him think he did so he wouldn’t worry. But that kind of thinking was a great way to drive himself insane. Questioning exactly how “back to normal” they actually were was a great way to ruin his new zen mood, and he didn’t think it would be all that fair to Adachi either, questioning his sincerity when Kurosawa was the one who had been holding things back.

They less than subtly watched from by the fax machine as the rest of the meeting progressed, Adachi seeming to somewhat rally but judging by their boss’s occasional sideways glances and the unimpressed expression of the client, it went about as well as could be expected, which was poorly.

It wasn’t all that surprising when the meeting ended and as soon as they had seen the client out the door Adachi wilted like a dried-up flower, looking at their boss like he expected to be fired on the spot. Judging by the abashed smile he gave Adachi, that didn’t happen, but Kurosawa couldn’t hear their conversation from the other side of the office so he didn’t know for sure whether he was actually in trouble.

The fact Adachi went straight to his desk and slumped down to hide his head in his arms wasn’t a good sign, but Kurosawa didn’t really know what to do. If it had been before all this mess, he wouldn’t have hesitated to walk right over and talk to him, console him if that was what he needed. But he wasn’t sure if that kind of thing would be welcomed anymore.

On the other hand… this might be just the opening he needed, a good opportunity to test the waters and see if he could break the weird tension between them. He got up and took a quick detour to the break room vending machine, knowing he had a pleased little smile on his face now that he could see a real chance for reconciliation on the horizon. 

Surely even after a week of silence, bringing a consolatory coffee wouldn’t be too much. If Adachi seemed open to talking, he could ask him about the meeting, if not he could gracefully retreat, no harm done. He walked over to Adachi’s desk, so preoccupied with rehearsing in his head exactly what he would say, that he didn’t realise he wasn’t the only one heading that way until he almost ran into Rokkaku.

Rokkaku, who was also holding a coffee, apparently on the exact same mission as he was. Rokkaku made a little noise when they almost collided, and they blinked at each other dumbly before Adachi turned around in his chair to see what was going on. 

He looked up, taking in the sight of both of them flustered and holding identical cans of coffee, the same thing they had both brought to him countless times an offering to the altar of Adachi, and seemed to have no problem connecting the dots based on the way he started to snicker, bringing up a hand to hide the growing grin on his face.

“I see you two are on the same page. Is this what happens when you’re actually getting along?” He joked.

The fact they both flushed in tandem certainly didn’t help and Adachi’s snickers turned into real laughter. The lines Kurosawa had ready in his head dissolved in the face of the light-hearted sound and the way Adachi’s eyes shone up at him with mirth. He had to hold in a besotted sigh, thinking how getting to text regularly again was amazing but he really hoped he got to see the breathtaking sight of a happy Adachi in person at least a few more times before Saturday, when he knew full well moments like this could be put firmly in the past for him.

He glanced to the side at Rokkaku, sharing a smile with him when he looked back, for a brief moment united in their apparent success at cheering Adachi up, though maybe he wasn’t too upset to begin with if them being idiotic was enough to make him forget it.

“Here.” Kurosawa said, setting the coffee down onto Adachi’s desk, freezing when he realised Rokkaku did the same exact thing.

Adachi fell into another round of laughter, which was almost enough to keep Kurosawa from sending a glare Rokkaku’s way.

“Okay, now it’s a little creepy.” Adachi got out in between laughs.

“Not my fault he’s copying me.” Rokkaku replied imperiously, his cheek toward Kurosawa making a reappearance. It seemed old habits die hard.

“I am not-”

“Yes, you are!”

“Okay! Thank you!” Adachi butted into their bickering. “Thank you so much for the coffee. But maybe we should get back to work now?”

“Wait! How did your meeting go?” Rokkaku asked before he had a chance to, and with far less tact than he would have mind you.

“Ah.” Adachi waved a hand, smile replaced with an uncomfortable look. “It was a mess, but I knew that was going to happen. I always mess up meetings like that even if I’m prepared.”

“I’m sure you-”

“Don’t say that!”

Kurosawa shot another glare at Rokkaku for once again talking over him, not that the younger man noticed in his eagerness to reassure his idol.

“It looked like you did really well considering the circumstances. Anyone would have had a hard time presenting when they barely knew the account. And things always seem worse firsthand, don’t they? Boss wasn’t mad, right?”

Adachi huffed out a half-hearted laugh, nothing close to before but at least something approaching amused. “I guess you’re right. And no, he wasn’t mad. He said ‘Better luck next time’ which I guess means he at least doesn’t blame me.”

“Good!” Kurosawa jumped in before Rokkaku could start rambling again. “Not that he should blame you. If I were him, I would have thanked you for covering for Urabe.”

“I don’t know about that, maybe if I had done a better job.” Adachi mumbled, flushing and turning to pick up one of the coffees like he needed an excuse to avoid making eye contact.

“I bet Urabe will thank you when he gets back.” Rokkaku asserted with a thumbs up.

“He should.” Kurosawa agreed, without emoting like a cartoon character.

“You guys really overestimate when it comes to me, you know that?” Adachi said, smiling around a drink of the coffee (His, not that it mattered. But for the record, Adachi was drinking his first)

Kurosawa and Rokkaku both opened their mouths to argue but he just waved a hand, turning back to his computer.

“Alright enough. You have successfully cheered me up and made sure I’m caffeinated enough to get through the rest of the day. Go back to your desks before we get yelled at.”

Kurosawa sighed but obeyed anyway, Rokkaku likewise following along, a well-trained puppy as always. They exchanged another glance when they got to their desks and for some reason Kurosawa couldn’t help smiling, Rokkaku giving him a smile back that was almost as bright as the ones he gave Adachi.

As he sat down and started back in on his work, Kurosawa realised that somehow he might have actually just become friends with the puppy.

How bizarre.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty One

 

It was Friday. Friday afternoon, to be specific. Somehow, what felt like the most important week of Adachi’s entire life had passed in what seemed like a handful of minutes. And yes, he thought that kind of dramatic thinking was warranted. It was an important week, he was supposed to spend it making what he thought was definitely one of the more important decisions he had ever been faced with. Supposed to being the operative part of that, apparently.

Almost seven days since the stranger made his confession and asked to meet. Seven days, and with just over twenty-four hours left, Adachi still hadn’t made a decision.

He had tried, god knew he had agonised over it. But every time he came to some kind of resolution, the fact he had no idea if he could actually go through with it made him waffle back into indecision.

He was terrified. In a way, his fear had been one of the defining features of their relationship. Adachi was perpetually unable to understand why others saw value in him, why they wanted his company, and the fact his stranger had been so blatantly interested from the beginning had drawn him in in a way that he never had a chance resisting. And it made sure that he couldn’t go a day without wondering how he could possibly measure up when they met. If he had ever been capable of seeing himself as someone equal to his stranger, he would have asked to meet himself. But he hadn’t. Because he didn’t think he was.

And every time he was hit with that fact, the fact he never asked to meet because something in his was so sure it would go wrong, that he would be wrong, the wrong person entirely to do something like this, something brave and romantic and life-changing, he would spiral down into despair and decide there was no way he could possibly meet his stranger Saturday night.

And then he would backtrack because the idea of sitting on his hands all through the night with a silenced phone, eyes on the clock as it hit six and then kept going, literally watching what he wanted slip through his fingers with every minute, that was even more terrifying.

He wanted to meet his stranger. He wanted to know what he really was like face to face, no artificial distance between them. He wanted to have a real smile instead of those little suns. He wanted to know what his laugh sounded like when he teased him. He wanted his stranger with a desperation he didn’t know he could feel for another person.

And yet every time he made up his mind to go, couldn’t imagine how he would ever look himself in the eye in the mirror if he didn’t go, he remembered every time in his entire life that he had wanted to be that person. The person who did the good thing, the right thing, who spoke up, who stood up, who ignored the crowd or didn’t worry about other's reactions. He would remember every time he had wanted to not be such an anxiety-ridden mess of a man, and failed. And he would ask himself how much it actually mattered that he wanted to go, when he had no idea if when it came down to that moment he had to walk out his door, walk into the plaza, if he would be able to make himself do it.

Seven days. He had been doing this for seven days.

It was a good thing all his idiosyncrasies meant he was very good at compartmentalising, or he would be barely functioning at work. As it was he thought the recent changes in his office social life were definitely helping him keep a handle on his sanity. Rokkaku finally stopped watching him like he was going to burst into tears any moment after the fiasco with him covering for Urabe, and likewise seemed to have finally put to bed his grudge against Kurosawa.

Watching the two of them interact like they were actually friends was a new source of amusement, partially because he got to see Rokkaku inflict his Rokkaku-ness on someone else, and partially because Kurosawa often walked away looking slightly concussed and occasionally offended, like his whole suave business-man exterior should have prevented him from gaining a peppy tag-along.

Apparently under all that charisma and approachability was at least a bit of a grump because it sure seemed like Kurosawa sometimes was bothered more by Rokkaku’s friendship than he ever was by his former infamy in the younger man’s eyes. And also apparently, Kurosawa still thought they were friends.

Which, they were. As far as Adachi was concerned anyway. He wasn’t sure how comfortable he was pretending their awful dinner never happened, but he was glad Kurosawa had moved on enough to talk to him again. He wasn’t as hovery as before, which Adachi had realised with no small amount of shame at his social obliviousness was probably because that was all flirting, but he was around a fair amount for most of the week, except that day as he and Rokkaku were out on a sales call.  

He had figured that meant he would have a pretty quiet day, so he was kind of caught out when he heard someone come up to him a little after lunch.

“Adachi?”

He looked up at the soft call of his name to see Fujisaki with a pleased little grin on her face and was pretty helpless to not smile back. “Yes?”

“I have another set of errands to run, and I seem to remember you agreeing to come on all my office related shopping with me.” She said playfully, tapping her chin like she was thinking.

“I did, didn’t I?” He responded with a laugh, standing up easily and grabbing his coat.

“You don’t actually have to come if you’re busy, I just thought since it’s Friday you might like to come stretch your legs with me.”

“I definitely could use some time out of the office.” He agreed. Spinning his wheels mentally had left him feeling kind of jittery and untethered, and sitting in a chair all day wasn’t exactly comfortable when he was feeling like that.

“Well, perfect!”

The errands were fairly simple, nothing she really needed help with and he mostly was just carrying bags while Fujisaki chatted at him. It might have been because they had done this before so it felt familiar, but it took him longer than it should have to realise he was actually comfortable, and that that was something to actually notice.

Afterall, here he was, making small talk with Fujisaki like it was nothing, like he hadn’t literally spazzed out enough he broke his phone the first time she tried to talk to him casually. The realisation of course immediately stole all the casualness from his responses and had him stammering, mind reeling over what this meant, if it even meant anything. The silence left behind from him not holding up the conversation seemed to give Fujisaki some kind of opening, as she cleared her throat and gave him a look that was concerningly serious.

“So, I wanted to tell you something.”

And all his confidence in the situation was gone, just like magic. “Um. Alright?”

“My mother came over last weekend, and for most of the first day she stayed over it was just the same as always, her being pushy and pouting because I’m still single and me trying to always change the subject. Then I remembered what you said, and I somehow mustered up the courage to finally tell her that I’m ace.”

She was looking at him so expectantly, he really had no idea what to say. He only kind of understood what she was even talking about, and had even less idea how he was supposed to respond.

“Ace?” He managed to parrot.

“Yes. We talked about that last time, about how I don’t really have any interest in being with someone? And you said I should just talk to her and make it clear I’m happy anyway?” Fujisaki said, politely leading instead of getting irritated like most people would.

“Oh. Oh! Right. Yes, we talked about that. I guess I just didn’t… I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who’s ace before. That I know of.” Adachi stuttered out, cheeks flaming at his complete failure at being articulate. “So how did it go, after you told her?”

Fujisaki sighed, but it wasn’t an entirely negative noise. “She didn’t really get it, but she’s not the type to argue about things. Either way, I think I made it clear that I’m completely okay being single, and that she should stop focusing so much on it. The rest of the weekend was awkward, but it was so much better just knowing I wouldn’t have to constantly worry about her starting another conversation about the men at work or if I go out to anywhere with lots of single people.”

“Well, I’m glad it went kind of good then. And I’m sure she’ll get used to it. I mean, she doesn’t really have a choice, does she?” Adachi smiled weakly, about as weak as his joke but Fujisaki still beamed back like he had said something spectacularly reaffirming.

“Exactly. She’s going to have to get used to it. And I think our relationship will be a lot better now that I won’t feel so on edge when I’m talking to her. Anyway, I wanted to say thank you again for talking to me about it. I  was just going to keep grinning and bearing it because I knew she didn’t mean any harm. But after we talked, I decided I owed myself better than that.”

 Adachi blinked at the sincere words. “Uh. I mean it’s not that big of a deal. I really didn’t say all that much.”

Fujisaki gave him a kind look that made him feel like she was comforting him for some reason. “You said just enough.” She said, reaching out and patting his arm. “You know, Adachi… You seem different than a few months ago. I can’t quite put my finger on how. But it’s good.”

He almost denied it purely out of habit. But hadn’t he been thinking the same thing? Hadn’t he just noticed how far he had come with Fujisaki? When he saw Tsuge that weekend, hadn’t he been awed at the fact he could actually give him advice about Minato that sounded like it made sense? When he messed up that meeting Monday, he didn’t even spiral past his initial panicked texts to his stranger. He was upset afterwards, but when Kurosawa and Rokkaku comforted him he actually kind of believed them, when before he would have just thought they were being nice.

Since he met the stranger the way he looked at other people had changed. He thought he was more open, he didn’t get caught in his head so often and it made him better at understanding others. He tried to look deeper than the surface, because his stranger had taught him sometimes he would find something amazing.

Question was, why hadn’t he extended that same courtesy to himself?

Why was he so sure there wasn’t anything deeper inside him, that he would always be that same shallow person who couldn’t grow and learn and do better? Why was it that no matter the evidence to the contrary, his self-image was built completely off of the things he was afraid of being, rather than who he tried to be?

All his fear about if the person he was would be enough when he met the stranger. Had he been trying to make this decision, without realising he didn’t even really know what kind of person he was?

When Adachi got home later that day, his mind was reeling. He still hadn’t decided anything, and he was out of time. The tree-lighting was tomorrow, and he hadn’t made a decision. On the contrary, he had given himself quite the existential crisis. And in what was probably a bit of a messed up turn of events, the only person he wanted to talk to was the one who landed him in the whole mess to begin with.

He pulled out his phone, wondering if the question he was about to ask was a sign he had officially gone mad. But he had to. Afterall, he was out of time. They both were.



Chapter Text

Chapter Forty Two

 

Friday, December 10th

 

(Fri, 5:43 pm)

I want to ask you something, and I need you to be really really honest when you answer, even if the answer is bad

 

Kurosawa had only just gotten home and was contemplating if he had the energy to cook or was going to go against his usual habits and order take-out, when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He frowned as he fished it out, frown deepening when he saw it was Adachi and read the fairly foreboding message.

The fact Adachi was messaging him was surprising on its own. They had managed to put the upcoming ultimatum to the side for most of the week, other than Adachi being a little more distractible and Kurosawa perhaps being more forward, mindful that his chances to act a certain way with Adachi might be about to be firmly behind him. But as the tree-lighting approached the next night, Adachi had grown silent for most of the day and Kurosawa had known better than to push. Obviously he had a lot to think about. He hadn’t expected to hear from him again except maybe a good night text.

He certainly hadn’t expected something this dread-inducing.

 

(Fri, 5:45 pm)

That’s a somewhat ominous opening. And makes me feel a little like I need to apologise again. Do you think I’m usually not honest with you? I know I’d deserve it since I was hiding things. But you do know that I do my best to always tell you the truth right? It was only that one thing, which I know was a big thing. I hope I didn’t ruin your trust in me being reliably honest. I understand if I did though

 

He hoped he didn’t come off as either defensive or dismissive. He still felt quite guilty over the fact he had broken the expectation between them that they didn't hide things. He didn’t know what he would do if it turned out he had really lost Adachi’s trust, especially since the fact he could be so open with him was something he had come to rely on, it comforted him to know that Adachi saw him without all his masks and facades. If he had branded himself a liar then that would all go away, and the odds of him being left standing all alone in that plaza tomorrow went up significantly. 

 

(Fri, 5:47 pm)

No no, it’s not like that! I didn’t mean that to sound like I expect you to lie now. You hiding that you knew me makes sense, even if it wasn’t really okay in the long run. I’m asking that because I know how you are, and what I want to ask you is a question I’ve been really afraid to hear the answer for. I just want to make sure you’ll tell me the whole truth, even if it’s going to cause me pain. I don’t think you’re a liar but you might hold back because you don’t want to hurt me

 

Kurosawa wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, he should be able to feel relief that Adachi still trusted him. But all he could feel was a horrible suspicion that he hated himself for feeling, because Adachi was the last person who deserved it. That didn’t stop his suspicion that whatever Adachi was going to ask him would be a doomed conversation from the start. That Adachi was about to ask whatever he was asking, because he was looking for a reason to not show up tomorrow.

 

(Fri, 5:48 pm)

Whatever it is, I promise I’ll be as honest as I can. Whether it’s good or bad. Just ask

 

(Fri, 5:51 pm)

Okay. So, you found out who I am, right? And more than that, you’ve gotten used to me not just being who you are talking to here, but also being that other person you found. You’ve been around me a lot. Just normal me. Right?

 

(Fri, 5:52 pm)

Yes. I have. I’m guessing that isn’t what you want to ask, though

 

(Fri, 5:53 pm)

The person you met. Do you like him? Just him, without knowing he was actually me

 

(Fri, 5:55 pm)

I… don’t think I understand. You know how I feel about you, or at least I’ve told you how I feel. You know I still want to meet, knowing who you really are. You know that finding you didn’t change how much I care about you. I don’t understand what you are asking me

 

(Fri, 5:56 pm)

I want to know if you like him. If you would have liked him, if we hadn’t been talking for months already, if you hadn’t figured out it was me. That man you met, would you have noticed him? Would you have wanted to be his friend?... If you didn’t already care about me, would you have cared about the person you met?

 

Kurosawa swallowed, his eyes burning even though he knew he wouldn’t actually cry. This wasn’t something for him to cry about, it wasn’t his place. This was the shadow in the water that Adachi had spent every day since they first started speaking trying to not be pulled under by. This was what he had tiptoed around and implied and outright admitted.

Adachi believed they were only able to have the relationship they had because they met the way they did. Two ships passing in the night that became forever bonded just because speaking only over texts made it safe. Before Kurosawa stumbled upon Adachi at Toyokawa, he had been afraid of the same, thought his friend would never see past the fake version of himself he had been showing the world for longer than he could remember. And before he found Adachi, if it was true was a question that was impossible to know the answer to. But not anymore.

Now, he was going to give Adachi a god damn answer. Now, he was going to tell him it was time to stop being afraid of that shadow under the water. Neither of them were going to be drowned by this. He wouldn’t let them be.

 

(Fri, 5:57 pm)

Yes. I would have. And I need you to believe that that is the truth. 

 

(Fri, 5:58 pm)

It wouldn’t have been the same, it wouldn’t have been easy. What you are afraid of, it makes sense. Your fear isn’t irrational. The man I met, if I hadn’t had a reason to keep looking, my eyes might have passed over him. And I’m not sure if he looked twice at me the first time we spoke. Actually, I know for a fact he didn’t like me. You didn’t like me, and if I hadn’t recognised you I probably wouldn’t have thought much past the fact you were cute. But that would have just been the beginning

 

(Fri, 5:59 pm)

At some point, you would have given me a chance. And I only would have needed the one. You eventually would have given me just one little glimpse into the person you really were, a hint of what I might find if I looked harder. And that would have been that. I would have been hooked. I wouldn’t have been able to stop looking until I figured out how to get close to you, and you trusted me enough to show me the rest of the amazing person hiding behind that quiet, messy-haired, occasionally grumpy man you show everyone else

 

(Fri, 6:00 pm)

It wouldn’t have been like this. Meeting like this was effortless and beautiful, like a dream. Meeting first in real life would have been a mess, just like it became an absolute mess when I found you. You asked me to be honest, that is the hard truth. At first it wouldn’t have been anything like this. If I didn’t already care about you, the day we met I never would have imagined you would be someone I wanted, needed, in my life. But it still would have ended the same.

 

(Fri, 6:01 pm)

Yes. I  liked the man I met. I noticed him, if only for the briefest moment at first. I would have wanted to get to know him, to be his friend. I would have grown to care about him. And more than that, more importantly, I still would have grown to love him. Even if I didn’t already love you when we met, I would have fallen in love with you anyway. That is the truth

 

He set his phone down with an air of finality, his piece said, nothing more he could add or clarify. It was all there, in simple words, and he was absolutely laid bare.

He wasn’t surprised that he didn’t hear his phone chime with a response until hours later. 

 

(Fri, 10:27 pm)

Good night. Sleep well

 

(Fri, 10:28 pm)

You too ❤️

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty Three


Saturday, December 11th

 

(Sat, 5:12 pm)

How do I become a better person?

 

(Sat, 5:16 pm)

… Well. I think you are already a good person.

 

(Sat, 5:18 pm)

You’re my best friend you’re supposed to say that. But I didn’t mean it like, morally. Though yeah that’s maybe open for debate too. I meant like, how do I get better at being a person? I’m failing at personing. 

 

(Sat, 5:19 pm)

In that case you are asking the wrong person. There’s a reason I spend most of my time alone with a computer. Did something happen?

 

The responses were fairly prompt, and it was the perfect opening for Adachi whinge to his heart’s content, but that still didn’t do anything to soothe the anxiety running through all his limbs, making him want to either curl into a ball or run for it. He settled for answering, and yes he double-checked that it was actually Tsuge he was sending the texts to.

He hadn’t talked to the stranger since the night before. Not since he told him… what he did, and all Adachi replied with was good night. He knew there was only one thing he could say to him, and since he couldn’t say it, the only thing he felt was fair to just not say anything. If it actually was fair or just him once again fawning because neither fight nor flight were really an option, he didn’t know.

Either way, with six o’clock creeping closer and closer, it wouldn’t matter soon either way.

 

(Sat, 5:20 pm)

Nothing much. Just having an identity crisis and contemplating breaking a man’s heart, and I have to decide in about ten minutes

 

(Sat, 5:21 pm)

Since when are you a heartbreaker?

 

(Sat, 5:22 pm)

I’m not yet, but that’s the problem. The question is even if I decide not to be, will I inevitably end up one anyway, because I as previously stated, am horrible at being a functioning person?

 

(Sat, 5:24 pm)

I would like to say something encouraging, but the problem with your specific fear is I can’t refute it without claiming to be a fortune teller

 

(Sat, 5:25 pm)

Come on then, learn how to predict the future and tell me what I should do!

 

(Sat, 5:27 pm)

What do you want to do?

 

(Sat, 5:28 pm)

If I knew that, I wouldn’t be asking you!

 

Adachi knew he was being more than a bit snappy, and Tsuge definitely didn’t deserve to be a victim to his stress. But he knew his friend wouldn’t hold it against him. He shot a look at the clock, not that he needed to when the time was right there on his phone.

He was sitting on his bed, not even dressed, hair a mess, hadn’t moved in hours as he stared into the dark abyss of the unknown before him, whichever choice he made. It had become the very definition of an eleventh-hour decision. You would think the conversation they had the night before would have clarified things. Adachi couldn’t use any of the ambiguity between them as an excuse to waffle, even he, after months of saying all the flirtations and intimacies they exchanged couldn’t possibly mean the stranger actually wanted him in a romantic context, couldn’t disregard what the stranger said to him.

Really, it knocked him off his feet. When he had realised exactly what it meant that the stranger knew him in day to day life, that he could finally ask if the stranger had been taken with him in person the same way he was over the phone and know the answer would be real and not simply a platitude born out of affection, he had expected something either reassuring or damning.

He hadn’t expected a love confession. He had felt like he was reaching just asking if the stranger wanted to be friends with Adachi. To be outright told for the first time that someone was in love with him… It made him blush just thinking about it. And the fact that the stranger had managed to say it in perhaps the only way he could have possibly accepted it?

Because he knew himself, he knew that if the stranger had said it earlier, he would have found it only too easy to doubt. Surely he only thought he loved him, surely if they met in person he would realise Adachi wasn’t the kind of person who inspired emotions like that. And if Adachi did go to meet him, and the stranger said it for the first time then at the tree lighting, Adachi knew he would have wondered if it was only out of relief, if he had actually tricked the stranger, if he deserved to be told he loved him after showing up like he didn’t spend literally every minute since he had asked to meet going back and forth about it.

But he hadn’t. The stranger said he loved him now, not when their relationship was still simple and filled with possibilities, not after Adachi had already done something to prove himself and earn it. He said it now, when everything was complicated and messy and sometimes painful, when the future was still uncertain and really the timing was horrible. Horrible, and perfect, because Adachi knew that the only way the stranger could think now was the right time to say it, was if it was absolutely true.

The stranger loved him.

 

(Sat, 5:29 pm)

You don’t know what you ARE going to do. But I bet you do know what you WANT to do

 

Tsuge’s response gave him pause, snapping him out of the very fun mix of spiralling in stressful what-ifs and revelling in the confession. Funnily enough, he realised how little he had actually been considering what he wanted as he sat there and thought over and over, trying to make himself either get up and put on some real damn pants so he could leave, or to decide once and for all he was going to stay on the freaking bed until Monday.

What did he want? Well, that was so obvious it was almost stupid. He wanted his stranger. And he wanted to have something to call him that wasn’t the stranger, because really wasn’t it ridiculous that he thought he knew the man better than he had ever known someone before, that even if he didn’t know his real name or what he looked like (excepting the little snapshots of hands or that one unfortunate incident with the accidental butt pic) he knew the stranger down to his very bones.

He remembered suddenly, weeks ago, when he said as much to the stranger in a passing way, and he had latched onto it like Adachi said something profound. And it was, wasn’t it? The bond they had somehow formed was profound, and beautiful, and the fact was he both knew the stranger in a way that had changed him forever, and yet he also craved to know him even more.

He wanted to go to the plaza. He wanted to find the man who had captured his attention for months. He wanted to have him right in front of him, where he could finally touch him if he had the courage. He shivered just at the idea of the stranger standing in front of him, reaching out. It filled him with a strange mix of fear of the unknown and a feeling when it came down to it, it would feel familiar. Like coming home.

Adachi knew the stranger’s hands, even if he didn’t know their touch. He knew his words, even if he didn’t know the voice that would say them. He knew that smile. And he was ready to find out what it really looked like.

Somehow, like magic, his anxiety seemed almost too simple to ignore. Sure, he still felt it. He was still terrified. He still didn’t feel ready. He still had no idea how he was a person who deserved the stranger’s love, still thought there was a good chance he would ruin it all. But he had to believe this would be enough, like Fujisaki saying even if he hadn’t said much, it was enough. It wasn’t much, but he had to believe it was enough that he wanted it, that he knew the stranger loved him, that he wanted to make the stranger happy, for them to be happy together.

He had to believe that, just like he has to have faith that whatever face he met at the plaza would feel right. That he would be able to love whoever he found. He just had to trust, and not in himself, he’d never been good at trusting himself. But he could trust his stranger. After all, hadn’t trusting him been something Adachi had been able to do from the start?

From that very first conversation, he had been giving the stranger his trust, his honesty, the real Adachi he didn’t trust other people to see. And he had miraculously been given trust in return. Really, how could he have possibly thought he would ever end all this, with answering that trust with cowardice?

All the beautiful things the stranger said to him the night before, the love he gave him, it felt wrong that all he could give back was himself. But that was all his stranger had asked him for. And he was sure as hell going to deliver.

He was wiggling into some pants and trying to decide which of his sweaters would make it look less like he had stumbled out of the door while only half-dressed when he heard his phone go off again. He reached over to pluck it off his bed while still struggling with his zipper.

 

(Sat, 5:43 pm)

I hope you aren’t answering because you’ve decided what to do, because you said ten minutes about twenty minutes ago

 

Crap. CRAP. It would take him at least twenty minutes to get to the plaza where the Christmas tree lighting was happening. Twenty minutes, probably thirty given it was Saturday night and everywhere would be busy. He was supposed to meet the stranger at six o ‘ clock, and he didn’t even have a shirt on yet.

By the time he stumbled out of the door, still shoving his wallet and things into his pockets and holding his coat and scarf, he had nine minutes to get there on time.

He started to run.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Forty Four

 

It wasn’t until he had been waiting for over half an hour that Kurosawa realised he never actually believed there was a chance Adachi wouldn’t come. All week he had stayed calm, had told himself he would accept whatever choice he made. He told himself that it was Adachi’s choice, and even if he ended up irreparably heartbroken, he had done what he could. Kurosawa couldn’t hurt him again.

And it wasn’t until he got to the plaza and the minutes ticked by without any sign of that familiar figure that he understood all that peace and acceptance came from an arrogant failure to truly consider that Adachi might not come. That his actions and his words in the end hadn’t been enough. That maybe too much damage had already been done.

He never really thought what he would do if in the end, he was left there standing all alone.

The plaza was beautiful. All the walkways were bordered by Christmas trees of all different sizes, every one decorated in glittering lights and shining tinsel, bows and ribbons looped around the lamps posts and arches, the center of the plaza dominated by the largest tree, several stories tall and crowned with a silver star larger than a grown person. It was beautiful, and it was a perfect place for the first meeting he had been waiting months for. And that only made it more unbearable as the time trickled away.

He didn’t consider leaving. The thought didn’t even occur to him, except to acknowledge he wouldn’t. He had arrived early as it was, too impatient to wait at home and more than willing to brave the cold streets if it meant not sitting on the edge of his couch watching the clock anymore.

He’d been there for long enough his nose was numb, and he would stay there, meandering through the paths and scanning the faces of all the happy families and lovely couples who also came to see the tree lighting, hope to catch a glimpse of the only face he wanted to see. He would stay far past rational thought allowed, just for the chance. The possibility. And to hold back the oncoming tide that would hit him the moment he had to step back inside his apartment and was left alone with only his thoughts and his broken heart.

He checked his phone for what felt like the hundredth time, making sure he hadn’t read the time wrong, making sure he hadn’t missed a text, maybe even a missed call. Making sure he actually had service so if Adachi had texted he would get it. Adachi hadn’t texted him. He hadn’t heard from him since the night before, which at the time he hadn’t been concerned about.

Afterall, Kurosawa all but prostrated himself before Adachi the last time they talked, confessing things he hadn’t even considered actually admitting before, not when their relationship was where it was. But something had told him it was the right time, that if he was going to ask so much of Adachi he had to make himself vulnerable in return.

He had figured Adachi’s lack of response was perfectly in character. What do you say to someone who has just shown you their soft underbelly, giving you free rein to tear them open if you wanted? If you were someone like Adachi, probably nothing. Kurosawa thought whatever he was feeling after the confession, he would just wait to say it when they met, when he finally knew who it was who was claiming to be in love with him.

Looking back, it was Kurosawa again being arrogant, so sure that he knew Adachi well enough to predict his thoughts. What’s to say his silence wasn’t damning? That it wasn’t Adachi coming to some resolution on his end that this was all too much and he was going to put a stop to it right there?

As it neared seven, Kurosawa continued his slow and aimless wander around the plaza, hardly noticing as his eyes started to tear up, the warm tears ignored as they trailed down his chilled cheeks.

So that was it then. He asked. And he had his answer. That was it.

“Kuro… Kurosawa?”

His name fell quietly, almost lost among the chatter of everyone walking nearby. It was shy, but not enough to hide the surprise in it. And as Kurosawa slowly turned, he could hardly believe it. But it really was him. It was Adachi, standing before him, face flushed, hair a mess, clothes untidy, mouth dropped open in an ‘o’ of shock.

Adachi.

He only remembered his tears when he heard how plaintive his own voice came out, ducking his head down and scrubbing at his face like that would change that Adachi had already seen.

“You… You’re here.” Adachi said, voice almost flat as he seemed to try and fail to process that the familiar face he found was Kurosawa’s. “So that means… This isn’t just a coincidence? You’re here to meet me? And… you’re crying. Shit. How late am I, I had to run for a while, traffic was… And I was late leaving my place… You are actually here because you’re… Right?”

“Yes. I was waiting for you. I’m the one who asked you to meet me here.” Kurosawa said before Adachi could keep rambling, a shaky smile on his face and something in his chest unravelling slightly. He was late. Adachi had just been running late. He was late, and he cared enough to run the rest of the way. Surely that was a good sign?

“You. All along, it was you?” Adachi said, those dark eyes gazing up at him, emotions Kurosawa couldn’t for the life of him name in his voice. “You’re my stranger.”

There was a swooping sensation in Kurosawa’s stomach as he heard that. My stranger. My stranger. It sounded deliciously possessive. Was that really what Adachi called him, all this time with no actual name to use? Was that what he had become? Adachi’s stranger? Did Adachi know that he was teasing Kurosawa with calling him the one thing he wanted to be more than anything? His?

“I am.” Kurosawa answered with the reverence of someone trying to speak something into existence.

“You.” Adachi said again. And then he tipped his head back and groaned, bringing his hands up to cover his face. “Oh my god, I can’t believe it’s you! Oh my GOD, NO!

The bottom dropped out of Kurosawa’s stomach. Oh. Alright then. He had known Adachi might not be glad it was him. But he had to admit, the dramatics were worse than he had thought they would be. He really hadn’t thought it could be that bad for Adachi to find out he was who he had been talking to. He stumbled a step back, like he needed to give Adachi a wide berth now that he knew his identity wasn’t good news.

“I’m sorry.”

At his hushed apology, Adachi dropped his hands, looking at Kurosawa with wide eyes and stumbling forward, actually reaching forward to grab one of his hands, the warmth of it overwhelming even through their gloves.

“No, I didn’t mean it like that! I mean, I’m sorry! I just- Of course, it’s you! I’m not upset it’s you. I promise, I really promise, this is- You’re- I just can’t believe I’m so stupid! It was all there, you might as well have told me all the hints you dropped. You barely even hid it, if I wasn’t such a-”

“Adachi!” Kurosawa dared raise his voice and interrupt, dared reach for Adachi’s other hand, giving both a squeeze. “You aren’t stupid. I know what you thought of me when we first met, of course you never thought I could be… your stranger. The person you were talking to and ‘Kurosawa’ were worlds apart to you. And I really could have been more honest. It’s not your fault for not figuring it out. Please don’t talk about yourself like that.”

His reassurance apparently didn’t help Adachi letting out a whine that was actually… very cute. And something to table for later. “Noooo! I can’t believe this! I was so rude to you! I texted you so many times saying mean things! Why did you let me do that? Why didn’t you get mad at me?”

Kurosawa couldn’t help grinning, feeling immeasurably fond as he recalled all the ways Adachi insulted him when he first transferred to Toyokawa. “Dear, why would I be mad? You usually weren’t wrong. When I’m at work I hate the way I usually act as much as you do. It’s fake and misleading and it makes people like me for all the wrong reasons. I only do it as a defence mechanism because I’m too afraid to act like myself. Except with you.”

Adachi blinked up at him, seeming almost dumbstruck, but that word didn’t quite capture the way Kurosawa felt like he could look at him forever, just as long as he kept looking back at him all wide-eyed and honest.

“You just called me ‘dear’. You’ve only done that over text before.”

Kurosawa startled slightly, not realising the endearment had slipped out. He flushed, looking away and feeling a hint of awkwardness even though they were still holding hands. “I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t… It’s just what I’m used to.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it.” Adachi mumbled out, obviously struggling to but still saying it, which meant so much more than the fact he was being shy.

“Do you like it?” Kurosawa couldn’t help prying, edging closer and ducking his head down a little so he could look Adachi more in the eye. “Do you like… Are you happy that it’s me? Is it okay that it’s me?”

Adachi bit his lip, obviously conflicted but after a deep breath he began to answer. “I was late… I was scared. I’m always scared. And in the end, I decided that what I wanted was more important. You were more important than any fear. I could do it because I trust you and I want this more than I was afraid. But now that all feels so stupid. All this time being a coward, letting my anxiety make my decisions, holding back when you probably would have been up for meeting ages ago. I feel so stupid, because after all of that, I come here and all I know is ‘look for a familiar face’, and the face I see is you. It’s just you. All that, and it was just you all along.”

It was clumsy, and honestly not particularly clear. No flowery words, or declarations of love. After waiting months to see what Adachi would say when he finally found out his identity, and what he got was “It’s just you.”

And it was perfect. It was perfect, and it was so Adachi, to reduce everything their first meeting could have been to “Oh, it’s only you.” It meant more than anything else he could have said, for Adachi’s reaction past the initial panic and embarrassment to be only that. Oh, it’s Kurosawa. That’s who I was afraid to meet? All that stress, and worrying, lying and hiding. And it was just Kurosawa.

Months wondering if he would be enough. Wondering if Adachi could ever see both sides of him and accept it. To hear it so easily dismissed might be the most amazing thing Kurosawa had ever heard. Well, except the part where he called himself stupid again. Kurosawa could always do without that.

“Shit, shit! I’m sorry, oh god you’re crying again. I’m sorry, why am I so bad at this? I’m happy, please don’t cry! I’m so happy it’s you, this could have been so horrible or awkward and instead the fact it’s you- please stop crying- Why are you laughing?! You’re laughing at me! You weren’t supposed to cry or laugh!”

Kurosawa didn’t try to wipe away his tears, he didn’t try to stifle the relieved laughter welling up from his chest. Instead, he took that last step forward into Adachi’s space, letting go of his hands to fold his arms around him, tucking his tear-stained face down against the fluff of his jacket.

Tomorrow he would probably be embarrassed by how much he was crying, but for now all he did was revel in the feeling of Adachi in his arms, the heat of his body against him, the way he first tensed up but then awkwardly arranged his own arms around Kurosawa before adjusting and putting them more comfortable around his waist.

“I’m happy too. I’m so happy.” Kurosawa said, rubbing his cheek against Adachi’s coat, feeling Adachi’s fingers tighten into the fabric of his own coat. “I was scared too. And now I’m not. I’m so happy.”

They stayed embraced together, unconsciously swaying slightly, Adachi’s hands reflexively tightening and releasing where they were holding onto him. He didn’t let go, in no hurry to break this moment, unwilling to let go now that he finally knew what it was to hold Adachi after so long wondering if he would ever get to touch him at all.

Kurosawa almost missed it when Adachi started to whisper, hushed and not meant to be heard, even by him.

“It really is you… Finally.”



Chapter Text

Chapter Forty Five

 

He had expected… No actually, Adachi wasn’t going to pretend he had known what to expect, that he had any idea what he was walking into. Running. He ran headlong to the plaza from the train station, mind turned to pudding by his spontaneous epiphany and then a heap of panic when he realised he was late. And he had no idea what he was running into, but if he had tried to guess, he never would have landed anywhere near what he actually found, and he didn’t just mean “who”

He was being held. By Kurosawa. Or rather, he was holding Kurosawa. He guessed it didn’t really matter which way you said it. Kurosawa was holding him close, head tucked down into the crook of his shoulder like he wasn’t the one here that was noticeably taller. Adachi had grabbed onto the back of his coat and couldn’t seem to let go, not that it mattered since Kurosawa showed no signs of letting go either.

It felt startlingly familiar. Like it was a place he knew, remembered. Remembered fondly.

It was familiar. He never would have guessed that it would feel familiar. Not because it was his stranger. Not because it was Kurosawa. But because he was standing there, being held, holding on, feeling the slightly congested snuffly breaths against his neck, the slightly tear-damp skin against his, and the nuzzling of a cold nose against his shoulder. And all Adachi could feel was that it was so wonderfully new, but the man holding him was so wonderfully familiar.

It was kind of funny, given that he had been told to look for a “familiar face” He hadn’t really known what that meant. What made something familiar? The guy at the convenience store was familiar. The woman who restocked the paper for the office was familiar. Tsuge was familiar. How was he supposed to work off that kind of range of possibilities? He got to that plaza and had been sure he would run around like a chicken without its head and have no idea who he was supposed to find.

And then Adachi saw him. He was obviously freezing, even in his perfect peacoat and his stupid expensive scarf, no doubt stupidly expensive gloves on the hands that were in his pockets. His hair was actually ruffled for once, probably because it was a little breezy. As Adachi approached he was so stunned, it was like he couldn’t even feel it. Emotional shock or something, leaving him feeling almost blank.

Well, there was the guilt when he realised the flush on Kurosawa’s face wasn’t just cold and the water on his face wasn’t melted snow. And more guilt as he realised how much he had complicated everything by being too blind to see through Kurosawa’s incredibly awful attempt at hiding. If he had figured it out weeks ago… he didn’t really know what would have happened but he had a hard time imagining it would be messier than what actually happened. He at least wouldn’t have called Kurosawa unbearable that many times to his face.

Kurosawa didn’t let him stay in his guilt, he made it impossible to feel anything but this bright, shiny thing that was welling up in him, the more he realised what this meant. He had messed up so much. He had done so much wrong, had missed so much. And he had also stumbled into a man that cared about him more than he could believe. Said he loved him.

It was a mess. But it was a mess that ended with him standing in a plaza, surrounded by lights, one growing in his chest as Kurosawa called him “dear

As soon as he realised this was really him, really Kurosawa, he’d understood that it was exactly what he said, as dumbly simple as it was. It wasn't earth-shaking. It wasn't a bomb. Wasn't fireworks going off, just the tree lights around them, and Adachi realising "Oh. It’s just him. There he is. There he is. Right. Of course. It's really, finally him."

He barely noticed when that thought slipped out of his mouth.

Kurosawa didn’t react so he didn’t know if he caught it.

They couldn’t really stay hugging in the middle of a walkway forever and eventually drifted back apart, Kurosawa still looking at him with this smile that was just as blinding as the ones that Adachi used to scoff at, but now it was hard to resist how genuine and happy he looked with his eyes all squinted and his an almost bashful tinge to the curl of his mouth. They sat in a moment of silent awkwardness before for lack of anything better, they both started laughing.

Kurosawa gave a heavy sigh, tipping his head back a little and looking up at the tree nearest them. “I did actually think about what I would say when you showed up, believe it or not. And I thought maybe if it went well we could walk around for a little while, and then maybe we could go somewhere to have dinner and get out of the cold?”

“That sounds good. And I guess it… gives us time to talk about… things.”

“Yeah… We have a lot to talk about, don’t we?” Kurosawa said, smile going a little strained.

Adachi just nodded, eyes widening in surprise when Kurosawa reached out and took his hand, thumb stroking over the back of his glove as he gave him a little tug to start walking.

“I think it would only be fair to let you go first, considering I was the one holding the most cards the past few weeks. So go ahead, dear. You can ask me anything.”

Adachi would love to ask him any of the questions he had, which yes he certainly had at least a dozen questions he needed to know the answer for, and that was before he even knew his stranger was Kurosawa. Now that had at least doubled. Problem was he couldn’t actually figure out how to speak, too busy having some kind of out-of-body experience.

He was on a date. Somehow it took that moment Kurosawa took his hand for him to realise that. He was on his first date. Him, immortally single and inexperienced him, was on a date with an amazing guy who had invited him out to a ridiculously romantic event and was now walking around with him, holding his hand like they were the same as every other couple he could see walking around.

“Adachi?”

His eyes snapped up from where they had drifted down to the pavement, his feet having stopped moving without noticing, Kurosawa looking back at him with a little frown. “Adachi, are you alright? Is this… too much?”

It was, but not in the way he meant. Not in a bad way. Had Kurosawa always said his name like that? Surely he couldn’t have, because there was no way he wouldn’t have caught on ages ago if he did. No way he wouldn’t have realised at some point that every time Kurosawa said “Adachi” it sounded just like how he imagined his stranger would say “dear” The way he now knew it did sound. Except he was apparently an idiot, so.

He shook his head and gave Kurosawa’s hand a squeeze, resuming their walk and somehow finding a way out of his own head enough to speak. “How long have you known it was me?”

It wasn’t really the first thing he wanted to ask, but it was one of the more obvious ones. Kurosawa seemed to think over his answer, which didn’t quite make sense since it seemed a pretty straightforward question.

“I kind of knew as soon as I met you. I knew you worked in an office, and guessed it was in the area of Toyokawa. So when I decided to get a new job and got an interview there, it was in the back of my mind that I might find you. But I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. So really, the first time we met I knew, but I didn’t let myself believe it for a while.” His smile grew slightly teasing and he threw Adachi a wink. “You made it a little difficult to live in denial, since as soon as you met me you started complaining about me, and very specifically too. Obviously by the time we were literally texting each other while sitting at the same table, I didn’t have any doubts.”

Adachi groaned, rubbing his forehead with his free hand. “I really can’t believe I spent all that time complaining to you about you. ” He dropped his hand, playful embarrassment giving way to something more solemn. “You… you really recognised me that quickly?”

“Well, yes. Why wouldn’t I?”

Adachi didn’t respond, not feeling like it was a good time to spew months of accumulated self-deprecating thoughts on how unlikely it was that his stranger would feel like the person he met if he actually met Adachi would match up to the person he knew over the phone, therefore meaning that if they met by accident he wouldn’t ever see it was him and more likely think something like “Huh, what a loser.”

“You know who I also recognised almost immediately?” Kurosawa asked, obviously trying to lead him out of his growing malaise.

“Who?”

“Rokkaku. I can’t believe you really weren’t exaggerating. If anything you were downplaying it.”

It startled a laugh out of Adachi, Kurosawa and Rokkaku’s stranger rivalry suddenly taking on a whole other dimension. “Oh my god, no wonder you two were so weird about each other. I still can’t believe you were jealous of him of all people.”

“Well, why wouldn’t I be? He was the first one who cracked the code on how to get close to you, he got to see you every day while I just got texts and pictures before I moved to Toyokawa, and afterwards… Well, you let him in a lot easier than you did me.”

“Because he made it easy.” Adachi said with another laugh. “Like you said, he’s a puppy. You’re not. You’re… Letting you in was a lot more dangerous. Which is why I did such a bad job. I’m sorry again about… what happened at that dinner. When you asked me out.”

“You don’t need to be sorry.” Kurosawa responded with a smile that was miles above the broken one he gave Adachi that night. “I’m not upset about it anymore, I promise. Actually, now that I know why you said what you did, I’m happy about it.”

Adachi raised an eyebrow. “You’re… happy, that when you asked me out, I said no?”

“But you didn’t really say no, did you?” Kurosawa shot back, more than a little smug. “You just said no to ‘Kurosawa’ . You only said no because we were already together in all the ways that mattered. You were being loyal to your stranger.

Adachi cleared his throat at that, looking back at the ground, not noticing before that that slipped out. It was more than a little mortifying that he had been calling Kurosawa something so possessive, even if before it was only in his own head.

Kurosawa didn’t let him avoid eye contact, ducking down until he looked back up with a roll of his eyes. “Don’t, don’t be embarrassed. I love that you called me that. And I love that you are the kind of person who turns down the coworker who has been flirting with you for weeks because you cared enough about someone you hadn’t even met. You let ‘Kurosawa’ as close as you could, until you couldn’t let me any closer without feeling like it was wrong.”

“I guess… That’s not entirely the wrong way to look at it.” Adachi mumbled, flushing at hearing the word ‘love’ thrown around so easily, and at having his own actions spelled out like that. When he made the decision, he’d looked down on himself for it. But somehow, Kurosawa made it sound admirable

They paused their walk for a moment as Kurosawa reached out, stroking his thumb across the apple of his cheek like he was trying to follow the blush. “I mean it, Adachi. I spent a lot of time thinking I wasn’t enough. And then you showed me the only reason I wasn’t enough was because I wasn’t showing you all of me. Of course you said no, I asked you out as half a man. And now we’re finally together, every part of us.”

Adachi blinked up at him, that smile he had wanted to know so badly and was every bit worth it, those eyes as bright as any of the Christmas lights around him. Kurosawa. His stranger. Every part of him.

“Are we?” Adachi said, immediately flushing even deeper when he realised he actually said that out loud.

“Are we what?” Kurosawa asked, lifting an eyebrow.

“Together.” He made himself say it, even though it was mortifying.

“Aren’t we?” Kurosawa’s smile faltered slightly, other hand disconnecting from his to cup his other cheek. “I guess I didn’t exactly ask outright, did I? Alright, then. Adachi, do you want to go out with me? Be together, officially. Not just texting, not just coworkers. Do you want to be my boyfriend?”

Even though he was the one insecure enough to ask, Adachi still baulked at the actual question. Was that what was happening now? He was on a date, somehow. And now he was being asked out? That could happen? This was happening?

Ages ago, he freaked out in the middle of work because Urabe pushed him about who he was texting. And he freaked, because he realised he would keep talking to the stranger even though he believed deep down that meeting could only ever be a worst-case scenario. He had asked himself what would happen, and even though his belief in the worst-case scenarios had changed since then, those questions hadn’t gone away. Would his stranger still call him dear after they met? Would he still be kind and open and shine at him with a real smile instead of those little suns? Would they still laugh and would the stranger still be so sweet to him he could barely stand it?

Would the stranger keep loving him?

As he stood there, Kurosawa’s hands holding his face, waiting with all the patience in the world for him to give a yes or a no, he felt like he finally had all the answers.

When this story was told later, he would have liked to be able to claim his response was something approaching romantic, or charming. Even articulate, he would have taken. Instead all he managed was to nod back with his throat so tight there was no chance of getting actual words out along with it.

The way Kurosawa beamed at him, he might as well have said a soliloquy. And then he was tearing up again. Crap. Adachi really couldn’t stop making Kurosawa cry tonight, could he? It seemed only fair, that this time he was the one who reached out, drew Kurosawa in, tucked his head back against his neck because that was apparently his favourite spot. They were hugging again. He was there, in that familiar place again, for the second time that night. And now he knew for sure that he didn’t have to be in a rush to leave.

This place was his.



Chapter Text

Chapter Forty Six 

 

The sound of his phone going off dragged Adachi out of sleep. He didn’t open his eyes, burrowing his face deeper into his pillow and trying to ignore that he was awake. Surely if he pretended he was asleep still, he would drift back into unconsciousness.

His phone went off again.

He groaned, squinting his eyes open and flailing an arm out to pick it up from where it was sitting on his bedside table. A few clumsy swipes and it lit up, showing him two text previews. He frowned in half-conscious befuddlement, sure it must be too early on a weekend so he just didn’t have the ability to actually read yet. The fact it took him three tries to unlock his phone so he could actually see the texts didn’t dissuade him of that idea.

 

Sunday, December 12th

 

(Sun, 8:11 am)

Good morning dear

 

(Sun, 8:11 am)

☀️☀️☀️ ❤️❤️❤️

 

 He groaned again, tossing his phone back down onto the beside and pulling the covers back over his head.

“Why are you texting me while we are in bed together?

A sleep-rough laugh came from behind him, a second later an arm winding across Adachi’s waist under the covers, a thumb sneaking past the hem of his t-shirt to stroke along the exposed skin. A nose nudged against the back of his neck and he shivered at the feeling of the air moving from the laughter.

“I always text you good morning.”

Adachi didn’t try and fight the growing smile on his face as he turned his head to look at Kurosawa, making sure to not pull away from his arm. “Most people would just say it.”

“But I’m not most people. I’m your stranger.” Kurosawa rebutted, self-satisfaction all but oozing from him.

How he still looked so handsome first thing after waking up, Adachi didn’t understand. All pretty and artfully sleep-mussed and maybe still a little drowsy based on the dreamy edge of his expression. Adachi looked messier than that halfway through the morning after already having had a shower and gotten ready. His hair certainly didn’t behave that much. He didn’t even want to know what his hair currently looked like.

It wasn’t something he had ever had to worry about, what he looked like when he woke up. There had never been someone there to see him who he actually cared about seeing. It was probably weird that he was enjoying being self-conscious, enjoying it because it meant someone was there. His someone.

Adachi’s head spun a little, remembering what happened after they left the plaza. Somehow, they went from walking around and looking at the Christmas trees and talking about all the small random things they thought to ask each other now that they could finally talk about anything, to his apartment. His bed. Except it wasn’t even ‘somehow’. In a crazy way it made sense, nothing about it was all that confusing. It made sense.

Adachi traced over the path the night took. Kurosawa started shivering, imperceptibly, politely, all bashful when Adachi pointed it out. He was enjoying himself so being cold didn’t matter. Still Adachi mustered a little sternness and a little bravery and said they should go get dinner, was even ready to suggest a place but thankfully Kurosawa took charge of that.

The place he led them to wasn’t one Adachi knew, it wasn’t the kind of place he would ever take Tsuge to and who else did he go to dinner with? No, he definitely wouldn’t take Tsuge to the place Kurosawa picked, but that didn’t mean it was sickeningly romantic or concerningly fancy. It just better suited Adachi’s first-ever and probably best-ever date better than it would suit hanging out with his buddy. It was almost a waste actually, that he got all nervous and then the restaurant was so perfect, and Kurosawa was so perfect, that it took him all of a few minutes to calm back down and go back to enjoying himself.

And he enjoyed himself all the way through dinner, dessert even too, and when they finished and Kurosawa insisted on paying and they walked out of the restaurant holding hands… He realised he wasn’t ready for the night to end.

He wasn’t ready for the part where they walked away from each other and he had to think, and wonder, and face trying to figure out what happened next without Kurosawa standing right at his side, there for him to ask. And somehow he reached down into the very vestiges of his well of confidence, and managed to admit that.

“I’m not ready for this to be over.”

Kurosawa looked surprised for all of two seconds before he seemed to realise something and he gave Adachi an annoyingly suave smile, and asked with an annoying amount of smoothness “Yours or mine then?”

Adachi sputtered, mind popping like a toaster that just had a fork put in it. “I mean- Well, we- I don’t know if-”

Kurosawa huffed a laugh, too fond for even him to misconstrue as mocking. “Dear. It’s alright. Breathe. It’s a simple question, yours or mine. It’s late, let’s go home, spend some more time together, and then sleep. I don’t want this to be over yet either, I would very much like to spend the night with you. And we will just sleep. So tell me, yours or mine?”

Adachi gaped. He blinked. He opened his mouth. He closed it.

Kurosawa laughed again and nodded, putting his arm around Adachi’s shoulder and starting to steer him down the sidewalk. “I see. How about yours?”

“Uh. Sure. I mean… my place is…”

“I’m sure it will be very nice, and I think after today you might want to sleep in your own bed?”

Adachi hadn’t known what to do except nod, lost in that subtle moment Kurosawa knowing what he was saying when he didn’t even know, taking care of him like it was no big deal when he didn’t even know what he actually wanted. Yes, he did want to sleep in his own bed. And yes, Kurosawa joining him in that bed sounded like everything he never knew he wanted but desperately did.

But just to sleep. God it was mortifying for someone his age, but he would definitely have some kind of meltdown if even the possibility of more than sleep was there, and here was Kurosawa, effortlessly fixing that issue before it could even really be an issue. Adachi didn’t really know what it meant in the long run that Kurosawa glossed over the fact he was a virgin like it didn’t matter in the slightest, but for now he wasn’t going to actually bring it up himself, so he figured he might as well enjoy that it was already being accommodated for.

Kurosawa got them a cab and had Adachi give his address, insisted on paying the fare because apparently this was still part of their date, and when they got to Adachi’s apartment he looked around with a strange curiosity and excitement for his boring place, but not so much of either for Adachi to feel weird about it. Well, not creeped out. He did feel weird, it was weird Kurosawa looked so at home and comfortable in his place, especially since he would bet if they were at Kurosawa’s he would be marvelling in terror at how tidy and nice and well decorated it was.

Instead he got to watch Kurosawa settle on his half-made bed and inspect the titles of the comics he left in a crooked pile on the carpet, he got to awkwardly offer his bathroom and a pair of sleep clothes that were just a tad big on him, just enough to be comfy, or to fit someone just a little taller and wider in the shoulders than him.

And he got to spend the rest of the night talking with Kurosawa, whispered jokes and softened flirting passed back and forth, first sitting against the bed, and then laying on top of the covers, parallel lines just separated by a few inches. The low light of his bedside lamp made Kurosawa’s face kind of golden and fuzzy. Or maybe that was just what Kurosawa looked like to him now.

Eventually their words slurred too much to ignore and they slipped under the covers with shy smiles, Adachi tense and bowed away as much as he could until Kurosawa apparently hit his limit for resisting reaching for him.

The first time Kurosawa touched Adachi in bed, he slid one of his hands along under the duvet, slow, inch by inch, until his pinky hooked over Adachi’s. Adachi turned his hand enough to curl his pinky around in return, a little pinky promise that meant who knew what.

Kurosawa knew, apparently, as the second time he touched Adachi in bed he slid his whole body closer, their knees slotting together, his other hand coming to rest on Adachi’s hip, right where the subtle line of the bone peeked out of the hem of his pajama pants. It wasn’t chaste. It was warm. In winter anything that was warm was a miracle. Especially when you were sleepy. And the fact it felt wholly nonplatonic, and yet Adachi didn’t worry for even a moment that it was about to go somewhere he wasn’t ready for?

The fact he didn’t worry for even a second, that Kurosawa would break their promise, the one Adachi didn’t even know?

He drifted off to sleep easier than he would have ever believed.

And woke up to Kurosawa being a dork.

“Most people would also just say boyfriend. You’re not a stranger anymore.”

Kurosawa grinned like Adachi had just walked into his trap, leaning in to rest his forehead against Adachi, nuzzling in slightly like he was going to nest in Adachi’s bedhead. “I’ll always be your stranger. But yes, I’m your boyfriend, if you really want me to say it. Yours whatever way you want me. Good morning, dear.”

“I should have guessed your stupid morning person thing would be even worse in person.” Adachi deadpanned back.

“You like it though, don’t you?” Kurosawa teased, just a hint of insecurity in his voice, in the way his thumb stroked a little faster back and forth on Adachi’s hip.

“I do.”

Kurosawa was quiet for a moment, a thinking kind of quiet. And then he tucked his face into the back of Adachi’s neck and gave a dramatic sigh, ruffling his hair.

“I’m going to need you to say that again one day, to a different question. But for now, until I’m lucky enough for that to happen, this is more than good enough.”

Adachi was still too sleepy to try and decipher what the hell that meant, so he just made an agreeable humming noise and closed his eyes, hoping this cuddly and for the moment silent Kurosawa meant he could maybe get in a little more sleep, before his very cute and affectionate boyfriend actually needed his attention.

He didn’t quite fall back to sleep, but he did drift in that nice, warm, fuzzy space, Kurosawa’s breath like a metronome following the rhythm of his thumb still moving over Adachi’s skin. Whatever it was that Kurosawa wanted him to say, he probably would if it meant more mornings like this. Hopefully they would at least be lucky enough for a few of those.

A slight shifting behind him disturbed his dozing, but it stopped after a moment, so he just snuffled a little in annoyance and pressed his face harder into his pillow.

There was a buzzing noise from the bedside table.

Kurosawa.



Chapter Text

Epilogue

 

“I’m going to throw myself into the sea.”

“No, you are not.”

“Yes, I am. I’ll have to come back out eventually, yes. But first I am going to throw myself into the ocean fully clothed and let my waterlogged sweater drag me into the icy abyss.”

“You are not going to do that. You will not ruin your sweater. You hate having to buy new clothes.”

“I don’t care, I deserve it.”

“Look, I am very happy for you. I couldn’t be happier.”

Tsuge’s face was not happy. His voice was not happy. He looked and sounded like someone who had just discovered three-week-old leftover curry in the back of their fridge that they forgot about.

“I am so sorry. ” Adachi moaned, flopping his head down onto the table next to his untouched plate of pancakes.

“It’s fine. I understand. It happens. You fell in love. I am your friend, and if that means I have to occasionally… put aside my own feelings, then that’s fine.”

“Can I do something to make up for it?” Adachi asked, somewhat desperately. More than somewhat really.

“I think you’ve done enough.” Tsuge said quickly, expression souring further. “At least Minato wasn’t there. We just got back into a good place, that’s really the last thing he needs to see right now.”

Adachi moaned again. He was literally the most incompetent person to ever person. He and Kurosawa hadn’t even been dating for a month, and already he was making a mess of things! And this time Tsuge was dragged into it!

It was the night before. He had been in bed, fresh out of the shower, on his phone answering texts he got while he had been in, of which there were two. One from Tsuge asking after their plans to meet for breakfast the next day. And another from Kurosawa, where he was continuing to complain because he had been on a business trip for the past three days and he didn’t want to have to wait for the next evening to see Adachi again, especially hating that he was out of town on Christmas Eve.

Adachi wasn’t over the novelty of a needy boyfriend who so obviously wanted him around, Kurosawa acting like going more than a couple of days without seeing Adachi was like losing a kidney, apparently not afraid to be unabashedly clingy and whiny when they were still in what he called their “Honeymoon phase” He knew he shouldn’t be so easily flustered by the attention, but with everything so new, he couldn’t help it.

 

Friday, December 24th

 

(Fri, 9:34 pm)

I went out to dinner with the client and the whole time all I could think was that the food was awful and I wished you were there to complain about it to

 

(Fri, 9:45 pm)

Dear?

 

(Fri, 9:50 pm)

Deeeaarr

 

(Fri, 9:52 pm)

:( I’m gone for so little time and you already don’t love me anymore

 

(Fri, 9:57 pm)

I was in the shower you dork

 

(Fri, 9:58 pm)

No excuse, you don’t love me :((((

 

(Fri, 9:59 pm)

Stop fishing, I’m allowed to shower without you

 

(Fri, 10:00 pm)

No you’re not ;)

 

(Fri, 10:01 pm)

STOOOP we’ve never even showered together

 

(Fri, 10:02 pm)

Wrong, I’ve texted you in the shower before

 

(Fri, 10:03 pm)

Well that was very irresponsible, you could have drowned your phone

 

(Fri, 10:04 pm)

Worth it ;)

 

(Fri, 10:05 pm)

DORK. STOP with the winking

 

(Fri, 10:06 pm)

No. I miss you. I miss your handsome face. Send me a pic!

 

(Fri, 10:07 pm)

No! I just told you I just got out of the shower! I’m in bed and I haven’t dressed yet

 

(Fri, 10:08 pm)

You definitely HAVE to send me a pic then. I miss you. And your bed. And at least if you send me a pic I can pretend I’m there with you 

 

(Fri, 10:08 pm)

;)

 

(Fri, 10:09 pm)

 

And then Adachi made his mistake. His mistake being that in-between flirting with Kurosawa, he had been negotiating with Tsuge where they would eat breakfast. And after he buried his head in his hands and made a high-pitched noise of embarrassment, somehow he found himself actually taking a picture.

Nothing risque, he still had a towel around his waist. But it was a picture of him. In bed. Without clothes on. Hair still fluffy from being dried, flush high on his cheeks from his shameless boyfriend’s texts.

Adachi took a picture. And then he sent it. With a short text, saying something about wishing he wasn’t alone in the bed.

And obviously, because it was him, he didn’t realise he was in the wrong text thread when he sent it.

Which brought him to that morning, having a nice Christmas breakfast with his friend. And melting into a puddle of embarrassment all over the diner table.

“I am going to throw myself into the sea.” He repeated.

“If you do, apparently your boyfriend will miss you. So you should at least wait until you’ve seen him tonight. Apparently, the two of you have plans.” Tsuge said dryly, taking a drink of his coffee and averting his eyes from Adachi’s sorrows, like a true friend.

“Oh my god, we haven’t even kissed yet! It wasn’t like that. We’ve had a few sleepovers but no matter what it looked like, that message was meant completely innocently.” Adachi denied, waving his hand and accidentally bumping into his plate, getting syrup on himself.

Tsuge raised a single judgemental eyebrow, watching him try and fail to clean himself of the stickiness. “Sure. And I have a purely academic interest in watching Minato dance.”

“Is he letting you come to his practices again?” Adachi asked, eagerly grabbing onto the potential change in topic.

“Yes. It took some time, but I managed to talk to him, like you suggested. I told him that I… was somewhat saddened by the growing distance between us, and that I hoped he knew he could speak candidly with me.”

“You said you missed him and asked him if he would tell you what was wrong.” Adachi translated.

“Sure. Let’s go with that. Anyway, it turned out that you were right, it didn’t really have much to do with me. Since he made the cut for that competition, he has been feeling a lot of pressure to do well and keep advancing his career as a dancer. And as someone with an already well-established career in my own industry, talking to me as someone just starting out was hard for him. And since his dancing is the biggest part of his life, if he couldn’t talk about that, there wasn’t really anything he could talk to me about.”

“That makes sense, but I’m guessing you two figured it out?”

“Yes, I told him he should really think of it the other way around, that as someone who was once a struggling writer fighting to get editors to even look at my manuscripts, I am uniquely suited to listen to his concerns and worries, and empathise with them. And I would always be there if he needed encouragement, to remind him that one day he would be successful as well.” Tsuge smiled, an adorable and disgustingly sappy smile. “Really, he’ll be more successful than I could ever be. The kind of fame he can get as a dancer is a lot different than the kind of recognition I get for my little novels, even if I am perfectly happy with that. The idea of being a commonly known name sounds quite honestly stressful, but he will be one of those names soon, and most certainly will deserve it.”

“Aaawww, you love him.” Adachi cooed, just to be annoying.

Tsuge’s sugar sweet expression sloughed off in a fraction of a second, replaced with a grumpy frown. “Speak for yourself.”

“No, we aren’t talking about me anymore today.” Adachi denied, stuffing a big bite of his food into his mouth to make his point.

They did talk about him more, but thankfully avoided the unfortunate incident the night before so Adachi got to keep the last shreds of his dignity. After that they parted ways and Adachi went to do some errands, including some incredibly late Christmas shopping. He knew it was horrible but every time he tried to pick out any gifts for Kurosawa before, he had gotten too anxious wondering if it was too much or not enough, if he would like it, if he would be offended if he didn’t because it meant Adachi didn’t know Kurosawa enough to guess what he would like…

So yeah he finished his Christmas shopping that afternoon, feeling a deep sympathy for all the people working at the stores he went to, and a guilt for being the reason they had to work. Usually that sympathy was reflected back because it was obvious Adachi was some kind of idiot who needed sympathy when you saw him dithering around the aisles of a shopping centre on Christmas Day.

The plan was that Kurosawa would be getting in after three from his trip, and he would go home to drop off his things and then come by Adachi’s around six. When Adachi got back to his place, it was already past four, which meant he had less than two hours to wrap his gifts, clean, change into something decent, and order food so there would actually be dinner when Kurosawa came over to have dinner with him. He really was setting a precedent their first date, wasn’t he?

He unlocked his door, juggling shopping bags and thankfully not dropping anything, too preoccupied to notice his door wasn’t actually locked and that the lights were already on until he walked in and almost ran straight into Kurosawa.

Kurosawa, who was in his apartment. Apparently having used the spare key Adachi told him about under the doormat.

“Adachi! You’re home. Uh, I’m here. Already. I found an earlier train. Surprise!” Kurosawa said, beaming that smile at him.

Or maybe he just picked the lock, because who lets a little thing like a locked door stand in the way of sneaking into their boyfriend’s empty apartment and setting up a perfect Christmas dinner to surprise him with?

… And clean. Dear god, Adachi realised, looking around at the spotless apartment and perfectly arranged table. Kurosawa cleaned, and brought dinner himself. And here he was, a rumpled mess, dripping melted snow on the carpet, holding unwrapped presents, like Adachi was actively trying to be the absolute worst boyfriend he possibly could be and prove he did not deserve a surprise like this.

He dropped his things, wishing there was some way to hide them. “... Hey.”

Kurosawa deflated slightly at the complete lack of enthusiasm, but he rebounded after a second. “Merry Christmas.” He said warmly, coming forward to hug him.

Adachi collapsed into the hug, melting snow be damned snuggling into the heat and comfort, breathing in his boyfriend’s familiar scent and presence. He might not have been quite as vocal about it, but he did miss Kurosawa quite a bit. You would think when so much of their relationship had been using only over the phone communication, he would have an easier time not seeing him, especially since now they could even call each other or facetime. Apparently not.

“Merry Christmas.” Adachi parroted, cheek pressed into Kurosawa’s shoulder.

“I missed you. ” Kurosawa almost whispered, like it was a revelation he was having, nose buried in the crook of his neck and feeling almost hot against his chilled skin.

“I missed you.” Adachi responded, not really repeating, not saying “I missed you too.”  because it was his own kind of missing, it was his own feelings that were his own kind of revelation. Less than a month together, only a few days since he last saw Kurosawa.

Adachi missed him.

“I didn’t- It’s not too much, is it? I just thought… Who doesn’t like a surprise on Christmas?” Kurosawa asked when they stepped apart. His eyes caught on the bags at their feet. “Though maybe I should have warned you…”

Adachi suppressed a grimace. “It’s fine, I’m just running a little behind. My fault. I might need to duck into the bathroom with the wrapping paper for a moment. And maybe take a shower. But it’s fine, really.”

Kurosawa looked more upset than Adachi could understand at that, sighing and reaching for one of Adachi’s hands. “I definitely should have warned you. I didn’t want it to be fine, I wanted it to be romantic. I was just over-excited for our first holiday together I guess.”

“Don’t, you should be able to do things like this. I’m excited too. This is very romantic.” Adachi tried to reassure.

“You didn’t look happy when you saw me.”

“I was, I promise I was. I’m just kind of a mess today. I’m glad you’re here.”

“But-”

“Kurosawa!” Adachi cut him off. “Why are we arguing right now?”

Kurosawa seemed to come up short. “I… don’t know. Were we arguing? Was that our first fight?”

“I don’t know. But if you’re going to do romantic sappy things like this, you have to know I’m not always going to get it right.” Adachi said, feeling some of his desperation melt away as he figured out what he actually wanted to say, needed Kurosawa to hear. “I’m going to mess up sometimes. I’m going to be a wreck, I’m going to make the wrong face and say the wrong things. It doesn’t mean I don’t…”

He sighed, looking up at Kurosawa, his face open and honest, ready for whatever Adachi said to him. Always ready, for whatever Adachi had to give him.

“It doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

Kurosawa took a deep breath, so deep his shoulders went up, like he was taking the moment into himself, so the first time Adachi said “I love you” could live in his chest forever.

“You love me?”

“Yes. You can’t tell?” Adachi said, trying for a joke, smile wobbly.

“No. No, I can. And I know you can tell that I love you.” Kurosawa answered, easy as anything.

“So… I saw Tsuge today.” Adachi said suddenly, Kurosawa patiently waiting to see the reason for this non sequitur with just a raised eyebrow. “I didn’t tell you because I was embarrassed, but I accidentally sent him that photo last night.”

Kurosawa’s eyes darkened, that jealousy Adachi had grown to enjoy showing its head. “You did?”

“Yes. He wasn’t particularly impressed. And it maybe gave him some wrong ideas about what I would be doing tonight.” Adachi didn’t really know how he was managing to tease about this, but he was doing it.

“Oh?” Kurosawa said, catching on based on his growing smirk.

“Yep. I told him that we hadn’t even kissed.” Adachi’s cheeks were flaming but he didn’t back down, letting Kurosawa step in a little closer, letting him raise a hand and gently place it under Adachi’s chin.

“No, we haven’t.”

He didn’t lean in. He stayed still. He waited. He let Adachi take a moment, take a breath. Kurosawa waited, until Adachi found what he needed.

He was done waiting. It was time. Their time.

Adachi leaned in.