He just laced their fingers together and squeezed tightly with as much reassurance as he could convey without words. Takaki had been with Chinen long enough to know that speaking his encouragement out loud would only make Chinen scoff and pretend not to be apprehensive about the situation. Instead, he just offered his hand to be a steady anchor of support because Chinen had always been the same for him.
“When I said take me on a date somewhere other than the beach, this is not what I had in mind,” Chinen finally spoke. They still hadn’t moved further than the entrance to the petting zoo. The sea of people continued to shuffle past them, not seeming to mind the motionless couple with the clasped hands.
“Do you want to go somewhere else?” Takaki offered. He felt a bit embarrassed that he’d forgotten Chinen didn’t really like animals that much. But as Chinen looked back at him, their eyes met and the vice-like grip on his hand relaxed.
Chinen smiled back at him. “No, let’s go see some cute animals.” He pulled Takaki forward a few steps, leading the way. “But I’m not touching any of them. I’ll be in charge of photos.”
The two of them wandered hand in hand down the pathways leading to each different animal exhibit. The tiny baby bunny rabbits were the first thing that caught their eye. The little creatures hopped around in their pen, all together in a huddle of tight browns and grays. Chinen hung back by the gate entrance, but Takaki bent down and held his hand out for the nearest bunny. He had a few treats which the bunny sniffed cautiously before finally nibbling on them. Happy he had been successful, Takaki grinned and turned to make sure Chinen had seen his achievement. But Chinen had apparently already taken a multitude of pictures as evidenced by his sneaky smirk from behind his camera phone.
“We should get a pet bunny,” Takaki suggested as he used his free hand to pet the soft fur of its long ears.
“We have Yuto. Isn’t that good enough?” Chinen teased.
Takaki snorted, thinking back to a recent photoshoot where Yuto had a set of rabbit ears on the top of his head, those ears flopping up and down while he hopped around the studio. It had been amusing to watch until Yuto had tripped over some lighting equipment and sent the whole thing crashing down on top of him.
“Yeah, you’re right,” he laughed. “A pet bunny would be a lot of work to take care of.” Takaki stood up and watched as the satisfied bunny scurried back to rejoin the rest of its group. But before he had time to suggest they head to the next animal pen, it started raining. Not very hard, but the raindrops were big enough to soak into their clothes and make them both shiver.
Chinen grabbed his hand and dashed with him to the nearest shelter to wait for the sudden storm to pass. It was just a simple park bench with a wooden roof overhead. They were both a little breathless from their frantic rain escape once they collapsed onto the bench. Chinen automatically curled up against him, looking for warmth now that he was chilled from the rain.
“You didn’t check the weather forecast today, did you?” Chinen asked. His eyes were closed and he had a peaceful look on his face like he was about to fall asleep.
“Oops” was really the only way he could respond to the question.
Chinen chuckled. “It’s not so bad. I think we’ve escaped the worst of it.” It was raining much harder now, each drop splashing into the pavement like tiny missiles, and only the people lucky enough to have umbrellas were still moving at a leisurely pace. Chinen’s hands found Takaki’s again, and he liked the pleasant feeling of Chinen’s slightly smaller fingers curling over his knuckles.
“So…” Chinen began, “why did you bring us here?”
He was glad Chinen was looking out at the people passing by instead of at him because he was sure that a blush was creeping across his face at the moment. Truthfully, he’d thought of the idea last week when the two of them were watching movies together on his couch. It had been late at night and Chinen had been curled up against him much like he was currently. Like a cat, Chinen had stretched and then buried his face in the fuzzy sweater Takaki was wearing. And Takaki ran his fingers through Chinen’s dark hair, feeling the soft damp strands from when he’d showered earlier. The idea of cute animals and petting zoos just popped into his head and stuck there.
“I just like… cute things?” Takaki finally answered.
Chinen shifted closer to press a kiss to his cheek. “Am I the cutest thing here?” He was always teasing, and that’s one of the things Takaki loved about him.
“I don’t know,” Takaki teased too as he stood up, pulling Chinen along with him. The rain shower had finally stopped. “We haven’t seen everything here yet.”
Taking charge, Chinen firmly grasped his hand again and dragged him forward once more. Takaki was glad that Chinen’s nervousness about the animals had disappeared. “I’ll prove to you I’m the most adorable thing here,” he declared. “Let’s go look at some goats!”