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Pink Seashells on a Hot Summer Day

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A night under the stars would be perfect.

That is, if it were actually nighttime. And if there were actually any stars. But nooo, here they were under the blazing hot sun in the middle of the day because Hikaru was sure the universe had something against him. This was completely the opposite of the romantic date he’d envisioned originally before busy schedules and life made that first idea impossible. Hikaru was going to murder Takaki when he got home later for suggesting the beach as an alternative (even if he was the idiot for listening).

But at the moment, Keito seemed content. Hikaru glanced over at his date who was engrossed in picking up seashells, taking the time to examine the colorful ones more closely. A few wisps of his brown hair fell into his eyes, but Keito just brushed them away. Hikaru could also see tiny beads of sweat rolling down the sides of his face. It was tempting to reach out and just wipe that all off, but Hikaru thought that might be too forward on a first date. They’d only met a few weeks ago.

“Hey,” Keito said, breaking him out of his thoughts. “This one reminds me of you.” He held out a small shell with pink streaks in it.

Hikaru laughed as he automatically reached up to touch his hair, currently blond with recently added pink highlights. “I guess we are similar.”

“I’m definitely keeping this one.” Keito slipped it into his pocket.

They kept walking down the beach together in silence, letting the cool ocean waves wash over their feet. It was the only relief they had from the blazing hot sun. Again, Hikaru secretly grumbled to himself about the heat which felt like thick wet blankets clinging to his skin. He was sweating so much, he figured he probably smelled bad. Hopefully Keito was enjoying himself though. He really hoped so. Stargazing still would have been a better first date if Keito wasn’t busy working at night.

“Can we check that out?” Keito pointed towards the large wooden fishing pier they were approaching. A few old fishermen were out there, casting their lines and hoping for something good. Hikaru was hoping for something good too.

“Sure,” he agreed.

The wood was old and warped from the weather over the years, but it was still sturdy enough for them to feel secure when they walked out. Hikaru paused to enjoy the moment and take a deep breath, inhaling the mix of beach scents in the air.

Salty, fishy, sweaty.

It actually smelled terrible. (Hikaru wondered why the hell Takaki was so in love with the beach anyway. Was he secretly trying to sabotage his date??)

But Hikaru had to admit that the sight of the sun sparkling on the waves below them looked nice. He was about to voice this thought out loud, but at the same moment, Keito tripped over a loose board, sending him headfirst towards a bundle of fishing poles stacked against the pier railing.

Hikaru’s hand shot out to grab Keito’s arm, saving him from what would be certain disaster. He pulled Keito close to steady him but held on a second or two longer than necessary.

“Thanks,” Keito said. His eyes were wide from the shock of almost impaling himself on several fishhooks. “I’m sorry. That kind of thing happens to me all the time.”

“I know,” Hikaru laughed. The two of them had met in a music store when Keito had accidentally tripped and knocked over all the bass guitars on display that Hikaru was looking at.

The incident on the pier had knocked Keito’s phone out of his pocket, so Hikaru reached down for it. “I think your phone is ringing,” he said. The name Ryosuke had popped up on the screen. He remembered that was the name of Keito’s best friend.

“Sorry,” Keito apologized again and then ignored the call. But a second later the name appeared again. Keito sighed. “Do you mind if I just check to make sure it’s not an emergency?”

Hikaru shrugged. He supposed that could be a valid concern.

Keito turned his back to Hikaru and then put the phone to his ear with a very terse “are you dying?” question. His voice was low but Hikaru could still hear what Keito said. “Then I’m going to hang up—what?? No, I’m not drowning. I’m standing on a fishing pier. Stop using the GPS while I’m on a date.” He paused as his friend spoke on the other end. Then Keito dropped his voice even lower where Hikaru could barely hear him and quickly whispered, “Yes I like him a lot. Now leave me alone on my date.” With that, he ended the call and Hikaru quickly pretended that he had been watching the waves instead of eavesdropping.

“Sorry,” Keito said once again.

“It’s no problem,” Hikaru said, feeling suddenly much better about this date. He took a step closer, and without a word, he gently took Keito’s hand, encircling his fingers with his own. It didn’t matter that Keito’s palms were sweaty and Hikaru’s were just as bad. Keito just smiled at him. And that smile made Hikaru feel warm and nice, like there wasn’t a problem in the world. It was the same way Keito had made him feel the day they first met, when Keito was apologizing profusely about making a mess and then laughing sheepishly once Hikaru told him not to worry about it.

“How about we get out of this heat and eat lunch in the air conditioning?” Hikaru suggested. “How do you feel about seafood?”

Keito laughed a little nervously. “Actually, I don’t really eat seafood. I’m sor—”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Hikaru cut in to reassure him. “We can go eat anywhere you like.”

He hoped Keito understood that he didn’t mind. That even if it was a million degrees outside, even if everyone was sweaty and gross, even if fishhooks presented potential hazards to their health, none of that mattered. All he cared about was getting to know Keito better and spending time together.

“Then let’s go,” Keito said. “You look like you’re melting out here.”

Hikaru laughed and let Keito lead the way. He was still going to question Takaki’s love of the beach later because other than Keito being here, he couldn’t find much else appealing about it. Still, Hikaru thought, spending a night under the stars would have been the perfect romantic first date.

Keito stopped briefly to pick up another pink streaked seashell and give it to Hikaru.

Perfect was overrated.