As the last customer left the coffee shop, the silver bell over the door tinkling and sounding her exit, Atsushi sighed. Another day done; how lonely it is without anyone to keep me company… the boss wants me to hire someone by the end of the week, he reminded himself, maybe I should actually look through the resumes…
Sighing heavily as he shut the break room door behind him, Atsushi lit a cigarette. He knew he might get reprimanded later if the break room smelled of smoke; but he didn’t care all that much. After all, the boss rarely came by these days and he was left to manage the shop on his own. He leaned back in his chair, careful not to fall over. He looked around a little and made a mental note to tidy the space up; it was poorly lit in the first place, and the clutter made the room seem smaller than it actually was. Smoke curled around Atsushi’s head, and he breathed deeply.
Resumes covered the small table, hopeful smiling faces peeking out from under the pages. He scanned the names. Kimura Yuta, age 23, no experience. Yamaguchi Natsumi, age 19, no experience. Matsumoto Hideto, age 24, two years’ experience… he leaned forward again and picked up the resume. His eyes were drawn to the small photo in the left-hand corner; big brown eyes and bright pink hair, a grin that almost said, “hire me, I dare you.” Atsushi smirked, and scanned the rest of his resume. Actually, he’s not bad, he thought. He’s a musician in his spare time, how cute. He worked at McDonald’s, and at the French café a few blocks over. So at least he has service experience. Shrugging, Atsushi picked up the phone and called him. What a look, he mused, staring at the bright pink hair.
Hide bounced his leg where he sat on the crowded bus. He had such a nice voice on the phone, he’ll probably be a nice boss, he thought. I shouldn’t worry so much. He absent-mindedly played with a piece of hair, twirling it in his fingers. And he wasn’t put off by the pink in my photo, that’s something. At last at his stop, Hide disembarked and found his way to the coffee shop. Nervous, he stood to the side of the doorway and lit a cigarette to calm his nerves. Café X, huh… looks cute.
After a few moments, the door opened, startling him. A tall, slim man with long black hair stepped out – Hide couldn’t take his eyes off of him. He’s so pretty! He remarked. Quickly, he averted his eyes. The tall man stood to the other side of the doorway and lit his own cigarette. The two men stood in silence, smoking. Then, after a while:
“You shouldn’t smoke before an interview, you know,” Atsushi’s voice cut through the silence like a hot knife through butter; his tone playful, but serious.
Hide was startled. “How do you know me?” He asked, tone blunt and without formality. Atsushi smiled.
“I’m only teasing,” he ran a hand through his long hair. “I recognized you from your resume photo. It was me who called you for your interview today.”
Ah shit, I’ve really ballsed this up! Hide thought reproachfully. He flicked his cigarette away quickly and bowed in the direction of the other man. “Sorry!” he exclaimed. What a start… He could hear Atsushi laughing, his voice deep.
“Don’t worry about it,” he reassured. “Looks like I have a smoking buddy, at last.” He motioned for the other man to follow him inside the shop.
Hide smiled to himself despite his nerves. I was right, he seems kind.
Atsushi led the other man to the back room, where they both took a seat. Atsushi crossed his long legs and flipped his black hair away from his eyes. Hide couldn’t help but stare; what is such a pretty man doing, working in a coffee shop? He should be a model…
“So,” Atsushi began, reading Hide’s resume, “Matsumoto Hideto,” he looked at the other man from behind the paper. Behind that loud hair, he has such a pretty face… long eyebrows, like me. How cute, Atsushi remarked. Focus, Atsushi…
“Actually,” Hide interjected, “Everyone calls me Hide, so you can call me that, too.” He sat on his hands, suddenly feeling small.
“Hide,” Atsushi corrected, smiling kindly. “It looks like you have a decent amount of experience behind the counter, so why don’t we just set you up for a trial shift? Work with me until we close at 6, and if that goes well, you can start officially tomorrow.”
Hide’s eyes brightened. That’s all? “Yes, sure!” He replied, excitedly. “I’ll do whatever!”
Atsushi laughed. “You’re so blunt,” he shook his head, smiling. “Be more polite to the customers, okay?” Hide blushed, embarrassed. “Now, come on out to the front. I’ll show you around.”
Tuesday night: Hide’s apartment
I can’t believe he just gave me the job, Hide pondered. He lay flat on the couch, staring up at the white ceiling. I wonder what he’s really like… he’s so handsome, what a pretty face he has! And that hair… mine used to be that long, before I cut it all off… he touched the top of his head, remembering how heavy and long his hair used to be. That was back when I had dyed it blood red, he recalled. It’s a wonder anyone let me work for them. Though of course, I was never serving people, just flipping burgers…
He turned onto his side. Atsushi seems like a kind boss, he thought. I wonder what he thinks of me? He smiled. “Looks like I have a smoking buddy, at last.” His words echoed in Hide’s ears.
“Ahh, what should I do?” he whined aloud, covering his face with his hands. “I can’t like him already, can I? Dammit…”
Tuesday night: Atsushi’s apartment
“Yeah, I found someone today,” Atsushi balanced the phone in the crook of his neck as he searched for a hair tie. “His accent is thick, it makes him sound too blunt. But he’s cute.”
The voice on the other end laughed. “Don’t you think you hired him too quickly? You can’t just hire someone because he’s nice to look at.”
“Yoshi,” Atsushi reassured, “I’m sure it will be fine. If you’re skeptical, come into the shop more often! You’re the boss, after all.” Having at last found what he was looking for, Atsushi attempted to tie his hair back while still balancing the phone on his shoulder.
More laughter. “I know, I’ve been absent lately. But I’m trying to nail down a second location, for a new shop. I’d like to make Café X a chain, Acchan.”
“I know, I know,” Atsushi smiled. “But Yoshiki, don’t worry about this guy. I think it’ll be fine. I’ve got the shop under control.”
“Good,” the older man replied. “I didn’t make you the manager for nothing.”
Saying their goodbyes, Atsushi hung up the phone. He smiled. I’m sure it will be fine, he reassured himself. Someone with a face like his can’t be a bad person, right? He’s so pretty… shaking his head, he wondered where that thought came from.
Hide arrived early to his shift the next day, to Atsushi’s surprise. He must be serious, he thought. That’s a good sign, right?
When there weren’t any customers, Atsushi continued to show Hide the ropes; how they stored the coffee, how to clean the expensive machines – “these are from Italy, right?” Hide had asked excitedly, making Atsushi laugh – and how to clean up and pack away the leftover food. Hide wasn’t exactly a fast learner, but his heart was in the right place. No matter how many times he nearly tripped on his own foot, or confused a customer’s order, Atsushi couldn’t get mad at the pink-haired man.
“Look,” Atsushi motioned with his head towards the door, “a line is starting to build up. Why don’t you take over at the counter, and I’ll make the coffees?” Atsushi offered. “You could use the break.”
“Thanks,” Hide nodded, and swapped places with the other man. “How can I help you?” He grinned at the first customer in line, who blushed. He seems to have an effect on women… how annoying, Atsushi noted, ignoring the tiniest dagger of jealousy.
Soon, Hide had charmed everyone in the line, one after the other; smiling widely and winking, bouncing from end to end of the counter and wishing them a good day as they left. After just an hour, he’d been slipped three phone numbers – from two women and one man – not wanting to be rude, he kept them in his apron pocket.
Once the men were on their own, sweeping up the service area after closing, Atsushi ventured as coolly as he could, “So, Hide, what will you do with those phone numbers you got today?” He kept his eyes fixed on the floor as he dragged the broom around, ignoring the pounding in his chest. Why do I care so much? Calm down, Atsushi, he thought. Hide was thoroughly washing the display case, making sure there were no fingerprints left on it – oblivious to the other man’s nerves, but picking up on his jealousy.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he mused, enjoying Atsushi’s obvious interest. “I’ll probably throw most of them away.”
“Why?” Atsushi swept an area closer to the other man, trying to appear natural. “The girls that gave them to you were so pretty.” And they flirted with you so brazenly, he added mentally. How annoying.
“Oh, I don’t like girls,” Hide replied, bluntly. “I have no use for a woman’s phone number.”
Hearing that, Atsushi’s back stiffened. I wasn’t expecting that, he thought. He just came right out and said it, huh…? He’s so direct. I guess that clears a few things up. “Ah,” he said, “I didn’t know.”
“It’s not a big deal, is it?” Hide asked, looking up at Atsushi from where he was crouched. “It’s the 90s, after all.”
Atsushi smiled kindly and shook his head. “No, it’s fine,” he replied. “I’ve just never heard someone talk so openly about it. I’m not used to it.” Then, a thought occurred to him. “Ah! So… you’re going to keep the man’s number?”
Hide smiled. Are you jealous? “Maybe,” he replied. “He was rather cute. He had nice long hair like yours, I like that,” he teased. Atsushi fought a rising blush. “I used to have long hair, just like you. Longer, actually.”
“Really?” Atsushi was glad for the subject change. “What must that have looked like?”
“I’ll bring you a photo tomorrow, if you like,” Hide smiled, “It was a different colour, too. Red.”
“That’s pretty,” Atsushi nodded, “I’m sure it suited you well.” He stopped sweeping and looked at the other man, a softness in his face. “Hide,” he ventured, “do you want to go get a drink once we’re done clearing up here?” he swallowed hard. Say yes, he thought.
Hide smiled. “Yeah, let’s go to the noodle shop around the corner. I’m hungry too.” Looking at Atsushi over his shoulder, Hide flashed him a cheesy grin. “Since you’re younger than me, you can buy dinner.”
Atsushi playfully hit Hide’s shoulder. “Brat,” he laughed.
Wednesday night: Hide’s apartment
Delightfully tipsy, Hide collapsed onto his large sofa; the night had gone by much faster than he’d anticipated, and both he and Atsushi had drunk more than either of them had intended. The evening had been an eye-opening one, though – he learned about Atsushi’s fear of heights, his ambitions of one day making music. And, once he’d had a few too many, Hide learned that Atsushi, too, liked men... at least a little. He’d let it slip somewhere in between the fifth or sixth beer, but Hide had picked up on it.
“Are you mad that I got so many phone numbers, on my first day?” Hide grinned, face close to Atsushi’s.
“A little,” the other man admitted, taking a long gulp of his beer. “Though really, I couldn’t care less about the women.”
“Oh?” Hide’s ears perked up.
“The man whose number you said you’d keep, he looked just like me,” Atsushi mumbled. “That’s not fair, Hide.” He downed the rest of his drink, and slammed it theatrically against the bar, signaling the bartender to give him another. His long black hair covered part of his face, and he peered out at the other man through the black curtain.
“Are you jealous?” Hide teased, but leaned in to hear the younger man’s answer.
“Maybe,” he said. “I don’t know.” He ran his hand through his hair, exposing his face. He really is so pretty, Hide thought. “We’ve only just met,” Atsushi continued, “but there’s something…” he turned and faced the other man, and reached out a hand to touch Hide’s cheek.
Hide felt the bartender’s eyes on them, and worried that he was listening. “Let’s go,” Hide said suddenly, not wanting Atsushi to be judged by the people in the bar. “We have work tomorrow.”
Hide smiled. He allowed himself to remember how warm Atsushi’s face felt against his shoulder in the cab home from the restaurant. It’s an intimate pleasure, to be able to touch another man so gently like that, in public. He dropped the younger man off first; he was more worse for wear than Hide had been. I won’t mention our conversation, he thought. Not unless he brings it up first. But, how fortunate that he looks at me in the same way as I look at him… even if he doesn’t quite realize it yet.
It seemed that Atsushi was in no mood for levity; he had a raging headache and had been in a foul mood all morning. Is it because he remembers our talk? Hide wondered, unsure of how to act. He decided to shelve his usually blunt tone and speak more politely to the other man; after all, despite the fact that Hide was older, Atsushi was still his boss.
“Here,” his voice soft, Hide tentatively pushed a cup of coffee toward him, as they idled at the counter waiting for a customer. “It’s French Vanilla… you like that, right? I made it myself.” He smiled at Atsushi.
“Thanks,” he replied, taking the cup and allowing his fingers to rest against Hide’s for a moment. “I drank far too much last night, I think.” He managed a weak smile. I don’t remember much of it, he thought. But I do recall you helping me into my apartment. Thank you. Hide was relieved that his mood was simply due to being hungover, and not because he was bristly about their chat.
“It was fun though, we should go out again. When you’re feeling better, of course.” He added the last sentiment quickly, after earning a sidelong glance from Atsushi. “Thank you for dinner, I love that noodle place.”
“Well,” Atsushi rested his head against Hide’s shoulder and looking up at the other man through his lashes, “then we should definitely go back,” Atsushi said, cracking a smile at last. Hide blushed a little. What’s he doing, so close to me like that? Don’t you know how pretty you look, like this?
“Are you,” Hide composed himself, “are you feeling dizzy?” he asked, wondering why Atsushi had decided to rest on him like that.
“No,” Atsushi replied, “I just have a memory of doing this, last night. You have a good shoulder to rest on.”
Hide smiled wide. So… you do remember, at least a little… “Did you sleep well, in the end?”
Atsushi straightened up, but remained close to Hide so that he could almost feel him breathing. “I did, actually,” he said, looking at the floor and then back up to Hide, almost quizzically, as though he were trying to figure out a riddle. “I had interesting dreams.”
“Oh?” Hide couldn’t conceal his curiosity. I wonder if they were about me…? “In any case, I’m glad you slept well.” He felt nervous all of a sudden, and walked over to the shop windows to clean them. Atsushi followed him with his eyes, a little disappointed that he didn’t ask about his dreams. How pretty you looked to me last night, he thought. I didn’t know I could feel like this…
The pair spent a few more minutes chatting and attempting to sober Atsushi up before the first customers arrived for their morning coffees.
Hide kept making silly mistakes; he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of the other man, his beautiful long black hair tied in a ponytail, revealing his straight brows, like purposeful brushstrokes. Unable to focus on much else, he spilled drinks, scalded himself, misplaced the coffee filters; he even mixed up a few of the customer’s orders. I can’t believe this, he reprimanded himself, I can’t concentrate, with such a pretty boss. And now I’m making more work for him, this is so embarrassing! Why can’t I get a hold of myself? He’s going to be so mad at me…
Hide’s fears were confirmed a little after the lunch rush at last died down. Atsushi leaned against the counter, his back to the door, facing the large espresso machine. He sighed. Hide swallowed hard, ready for the other man’s wrath.
“Hide,” Atsushi began, saying his name slowly. “What was all of that?”
“I’m sorry,” he replied.
“That’s not actually an answer to my question, Hide.” Atsushi’s tone was measured, serious. I can’t tell if he’s angry with me or not, Hide wondered.
“I’m sorry I kept making mistakes,” Hide repeated. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.” He kept his eyes fixed on the floor below, not wanting to meet the other man’s gaze.
“Hide, do you think I didn’t see you staring at me, all morning?” Atsushi said at last.
So that’s it, Hide thought. Game’s up. He’s going to fire me… he’s doesn’t want someone like me working with him after all… I thought I was getting somewhere with him, what happened?
“Hide, come to the back room with me. Flip the sign on the door. We have to talk.”
Resigned to his fate, Hide padded over to the door and flipped the sign from Open to Closed. Atsushi stood by the door to the break room, arms crossed, eyes on the floor. Hide met him at the door, looking up expectantly at the taller man. “Go inside,” he opened the door for the Hide.
The two sat down, not saying anything for a while.
Then, at last.
“If you’re going to fire me because I’m gay, just do it. I get it. I make you uncomfortable.” Hide’s voice was poisonous; he tried to sound unbothered, but inside, his heart broke a little. Not again…
Atsushi starred at the pink haired man, and blinked, stunned. What? He thought. Oh no, he’s got me all wrong… hearing Hide speak this way suddenly made him want to cry; but he forced himself to keep a straight face.
“Hide, that’s not it at all.” His voice was soft. He reached out a hand and rested it on the other man’s arm. “You’ve completely misunderstood me… I’m sorry.”
At that, Hide looked into the other’s eyes at last, frustrated that he seemed to fall in love with him every time he stared into his deep brown eyes. He sighed, realizing just how far gone he was. He is so beautiful… I’m such an idiot.
“I’m sorry I caused you so much stress today, and you weren’t feeling well, to start with… though, I suppose that’s my fault too, for letting us drink so much last night.” Hide tried to smile his little crooked smile, despite how small he felt.
“Hide, when you look at me like that, I…” he trailed off, unsure of how to continue. He took a deep breath, his hand still resting on Hide’s arm. “Yesterday, I think I saw you in a different way. I’ve never felt like that before. And today, when you watched me…”
Hide’s voice was barely audible. “I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable, Atsushi.”
“You didn’t,” Atsushi corrected. “You… you actually cleared some things up, for me.” He took another deep breath, and looked into Hide’s wide brown eyes. “I know it’s only been a couple days. But I… I think… I like you, Hide.”
Hide’s heart stopped. Blinking in disbelief, he ran a hand through his hair. “What? You… you do?”
Atsushi smiled and looked down, his hair cascading a little in front of his eyes. “I do, yeah... there’s just something about you, I can’t get it off my mind.” He slid his chair closer to Hide so that they faced each other, and he rested both his hands on Hide’s thighs, forcing the other man to look directly at him. “You making all those mistakes, and nearly getting yelled at by the old woman that you gave the wrong order to, that was annoying. I do want to talk you through the mistakes you made today, too…” he brought his face close to Hide’s so that they were just a breath apart. Hide noticed the flecks of gold inside Atsushi’s deep brown eyes. “But right now, all I want to do is kiss you… I’ve never kissed another man before, but I can’t get the thought of kissing you out of my head,” he looked at Hide for confirmation. “Can I… can I kiss you, Hide?”
Hide blushed. He’s so cute, he thought. “Atsushi…” he whispered, smiling, “yes, please.” Feeling bold, he reached out and took the back of Atsushi’s neck, and gently brought the other man’s face closer. Their mouths just out of reach of each other, Atsushi smiled. He sighed a little, and pressed his lips to Hide’s.
He’s so gentle, Hide thought. Like he’s never kissed anyone before… Hide softly caressed the other man’s jaw as he tentatively deepened the kiss.
This feels… different, Atsushi thought as Hide kissed him. But it’s… it’s good. Yeah. I like this… He pressed his forehead to Hide’s and exhaled, smiling.
“So… does this mean you won’t be mad at me for messing up orders anymore?” Hide joked, his voice gentle.
Atsushi laughed a little, looking into Hide’s deep brown eyes. “I’m still technically your boss, Hide,” he reminded the other, “you can’t keep staring at me during your shift… I can’t protect you from the wrath of old ladies.”
Thursday night: the noodle shop
I wonder if he knows how desperately I want to hold his hand…? Atsushi thought as they walked side by side down the alley towards the noodle shop. It’s dark enough, what if I just… he grazed his hand against Hide’s, who took it in his without thinking.
“Hide!” He exclaimed.
“What?” Hide laughed. “You wanted to hold my hand, didn’t you?” He smiled. “No one is here, we don’t have to hide.” He pulled Atsushi’s hand and leaned the taller man against the brick wall of the alley.
“But what if someone saw us?” Atsushi whispered, worried – but also enjoying the thrill, if he admitted it to himself.
“Then let’s give them something to stare at,” Hide grinned, and kissed Atsushi, who seemed to melt at the other man’s touch.
“Hide…” Atsushi moaned, his hands in Hide’s hair, “someone will see…” but he kept kissing him.
“Don’t worry about what others think,” Hide whispered against Atsushi’s lips, “they don’t matter.”
Hide slipped a hand under Atsushi’s shirt and felt how smooth and strong his chest was. Just when he was about to start kissing the other man’s neck, a cat hissed and startled them both.
Then, after a moment.
“Let’s get some food,” Hide smiled, “you seem hungry.” Winking, he stole one last kiss from the other man before they exited the alley onto the main street.
I like this side of you, Atsushi, Hide thought as they walked side by side. But I know I should take it slow, right? You’ve never been with a man before… and I want to be the only one. They arrived at the shop and ordered the same dishes as they had the night before; the bartender seemed to recognize them, and kept giving them looks while they ate, laughing loudly at each other’s jokes. The tables were small, so their legs interlocked underneath the surface; neither man seemed to mind. Not wanting to drink as much as they had the previous night, they paid their bill and left a tip for the owner, despite the stares they’d received throughout the evening.
As they left, Atsushi grumbled, “what’s his problem?”
“People have such small minds, Atsushi.” As much as I talk big, I’m scared sometimes, too, he wanted to say, but he didn’t. “Do you…” he ventured, “do you want to come back to mine? It’s close by, and I’ve got some cool foreign beers.”
Atsushi smiled. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
Friday morning: Hide’s apartment
The morning light woke Atsushi first; he blinked a few times, remembering where he was. Hide lay next to him on the expansive couch, face turned away from him, snoring; their clothes wrinkled and twisted from a night of spooning. Even his snore is cute, he thought. Trying not to wake the other man, he snaked his arm around his slim waist and pulled him closer, spooning. He smells good, Atsushi noted.
“Atsushi…?” Hide’s sleepy voice broke their silence. He blinked awake and turned his face upward, looking at the other man. He smiled.
“Good morning, Hide,” Atsushi kissed his cheek. “Did you sleep well?”
Hide rolled on to his back and looked at Atsushi, who was leaning over him, resting his head on his hand and smiling. “I did.” He gave a cheesy grin. “Did you?”
Atsushi sighed happily. “I did.”
“It’s almost a shame we have to go to work soon,” Hide sing-songed, “it’s been a long time since I slept next to such a beautiful man…”
Atsushi blushed. “We have to go into work, Hide,” he looked at him lovingly, playing with his pink hair and twirling it in his free hand. “I think the boss will come in, he mentioned wanting to meet the new hire.”
“What’s the boss like?”
“Oh, he’s great. He’s young like us, so he’s really relaxed. He has a big dream of making Café X into a chain, so he’s always going off to look at cheap locations for a new place. You’ll like him, I think.” Atsushi kissed Hide’s forehead, and sat up. “We should get going.” He looked down at his wrinkled clothes and then at Hide. I look a mess, he thought. If the boss sees me like this, he won’t be happy.
“You can borrow something of mine, don’t worry,” Hide seemed to have read his mind. “I have some shirts that would look cool on you.” Atsushi extended a hand to help Hide up, and was led to his bedroom; it was a little messy, loose papers full of scribblings and song lyrics littered the wood floor. A guitar rested on its stand in the corner; bright yellow with pink hearts in a pattern. How cool, Atsushi thought, taking it all in. He sat on Hide’s bed while the other tore through his closet, tossing about shirts until he found the right one.
“Aha!” He exclaimed at last, “found it.” He produced a white sleeveless turtleneck top from one of his drawers and tossed it onto his bed next to the waiting Atsushi, who picked it up to examine it.
“I never wear white,” he explained. “Why this one?”
“Because you have nice arms, and I want to look at them all day,” Hide explained, grinning like a child. “Come on, wear it for me. At least try it on.”
“Alright, alright,” Atsushi agreed finally, slipping off his wrinkled shirt. Hide’s eyes were drawn immediately to the smooth, pale skin of the other man’s chest. God, he’s so pretty… that jet-black long hair and his skin contrast so well… does he know how handsome he is? Hide watched him lovingly. Atsushi caught Hide staring at him, and smiled. “You know, if you keep looking at me like that, you’re going to make us late for work,” he reached out a hand and beckoned Hide sit next to him. Hide wrapped an arm around the taller man and rested his chin on his shoulder.
“Would that be so bad?” Hide whispered.
Atsushi took Hide’s chin in his hand and kissed him. “Yes, it would,” he cooed, smiling. “Get changed, we have to go.” Hide put on a pout, making Atsushi laugh. “It’s only an 8-hour shift! And after that, I’m all yours.”
Friday: Café X
The boys managed to get to the café and open it on time, despite Hide’s many attempts to distract Atsushi along the way. While Hide helped Atsushi put his hair up in a ponytail before they opened, the phone rang.
“Café X!” Hide answered brightly, one hand still holding Atsushi’s hair.
“Who’s this?” the voice on the other end questioned, confused.
“Matsumoto Hideto, at your service! How can I help you?”
The voice laughed, immediately charmed. “Ah, Hideto! You must be the new hire my Atsushi was speaking so well about, the other day.”
“I’m your boss, Hayashi Yoshiki. Nice to meet you,” he said. Hide could feel his smile through the phone. My Atsushi, huh? He ignored the jealous feeling that threatened to crop up. “I’ll pop in today for a visit, and to meet you formally.”
“Sounds good,” Hide replied, “Atsushi is here, would you like to speak with him?”
“Yes, sure. Put him on.”
Hide handed the receiver over to Atsushi, who was trying not to laugh. His customer service voice is so different to when we’re alone, he noted. I prefer his real self. “Hi, Yoshi,” Atsushi spoke calmly as Hide continued stroking his long hair.
“He sounds adorable,” Yoshiki remarked. “What’s he been like in the shop?”
“Oh, he’s been great. A couple mistakes as he learns the ropes,” Hide pulled on Atsushi’s hair jokingly when he said that, and kissed the top of his head. “but he’s a quick learner and we get on well.” Atsushi added, stifling a giggle.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Yoshiki said. “I’ll come by around lunch, alright?”
“Okay, see you then,” Atsushi replied. “Have a good morning!”
Once he hung up, Atsushi spun around in the chair and pulled Hide onto his lap, kissing him. “Don’t make me laugh when I’m on the phone with the boss!” he smiled.
“You two seem pretty close,” Hide noted, trying not to sound jealous. “How long have you worked for him?”
Atsushi thought for a moment, counting the years. “Maybe two and a half years? It’s been long enough that he doesn’t really feel like a boss, more like a friend that pays me.” He smiled, having picked up on Hide’s true feeling. “Don’t be jealous,” he cooed, kissing Hide’s cheek. “I don’t think of him like that at all.”
“Good,” Hide grinned, “Cause I’m not the sharing type.”
“Just one more kiss,” Atsushi sighed, looking into Hide’s eyes, “before we open.”
Hide took Atsushi’s face in both hands and kissed him deeply, stroking his jaw with his thumbs. This has been an interesting week, hasn’t it? He thought. I feel as though I’ve known you for a long time.
At last, they broke apart. Hide kept his hand in Atsushi’s back pocket and snuck a pinch before they left the break room. Hide flipped the sign from Closed to Open, and they stood behind the counter waiting for their first customers. Preparing to start the coffee, Atsushi looked back over his shoulder at the pink haired man, who had begun humming a song. How pretty he is… what a week. I can hardly believe it’s only been five days. Somehow it seems like you’ve always been in my heart. How is that possible?
“It’s a slow morning,” Atsushi commented after a while. They had only served a handful of customers, and it was nearly noon.
Hide stopped humming and looked over at the other man. “I was right, you know.”
“That shirt makes you look so sexy.” He slid over to Atsushi and rested a hand on his waist. “Come on, there are no customers in. Kiss me.” He looked up at the other man, eyes soft.
How can I say no to that beautiful face? Atsushi wondered. He took Hide’s chin in his hand and lifted his head a little to kiss him.
Suddenly, the silver bell above the door chimed.
“Yes, I can see how well you two get on,” Yoshiki’s voice startled the men and they broke apart, red-faced.
“Yoshiki!” Atsushi exclaimed. “We… I…”
Yoshiki waved his hand as if to say, “forget it,” and laughed. He stepped over to Hide and smiled kindly. “I’m Hayashi Yoshiki,” he introduced himself. “Nice to meet you.”
Hide bowed comically low and kept his head down. “I’m Matsumoto Hideto!” he replied, still flustered. “Please forgive me!”
Yoshiki laughed. “Atsushi, he’s cute. Be sure not to scare him off.”
Atsushi tried to calm the blush in his face. “Ah… it’s a long story.”
“Not that long, I think.” He smiled. “As long as you work well and make money for me, I don’t mind.” He looked at Hide and said softly. “I wish I was as brave as you.”
“Hayashi-san…?” Hide questioned.
“It’s hard for men like us, isn’t it,” he sighed.
Atsushi looked on, understanding. He, too…? This world is a small place… how could I not have known?
Yoshiki continued, looking around the shop, “quiet today, isn’t it?”
Atsushi was surprised by Yoshiki’s sudden change in tone. I suppose we’re just going to gloss over my boss coming out to me, too? Though… what does that make me? I was the one kissing another man… he shook his head, and replied, “yeah, there haven’t been that many people in. Yesterday was quite busy though. I meant to tell you on the phone this morning, but we’re almost out of the Guatemalan blend.” Back to business, I suppose. I’ll have to talk to him later…
“I’ll order more, don’t worry.” Yoshiki smiled. “Is there anything else we need?”
“New lightbulbs for the back room, I think one or two have burned out.”
How can they just carry on talking like nothing happened? Hide wondered, in disbelief. He just caught his employees kissing! How strange that he’s just letting it go… he busied himself arranging the fresh muffins while Yoshiki and Atsushi continued to chat about inventory. How strange these two are…
After a while, Hide felt a hand on his back. “Could I speak to you in the back for a bit?” Yoshiki stood behind him, smiling. “Just to make sure Acchan took all your details properly when he hired you.” He’s smiling, but I’m nervous, Hide thought. He stood and followed him into the back room.
“Have a seat,” Yoshiki’s face was calm and shining, like a welcoming buddha. Hide did as he was told, and Yoshiki took the chair next to him. He moved papers around on the desk until he found Hide’s file, and looked through it, nodding. “Everything seems to be here, that’s good,” he said after a while. “I did just want to tell you, Hide…” he looked up at the other man over top of the personnel file – Hide swallowed hard, unsure of what to expect – “Acchan is very precious to me. Don’t hurt him, understand?”
Hide looked down at the floor. I knew there was something there, he thought. “Yes, sir,” he said softly. “I have only just met him, but hurting him is the last thing I want.” He looked up at Yoshiki and felt he understood. He added, “if I’ve overstepped, I apologize. I didn’t know about you.”
Yoshiki smiled, genuinely this time. “Years ago, I hired him because I thought he was beautiful. But back then, he didn’t give any sign that he liked men. So, I let it go, and we became friends. I care about him a lot… but, I’m alright with just being his friend. Besides, just one look at the two of you and I can see he’s smitten.”
Hide smiled, despite the awkwardness of the situation. “Hayashi-san,” Hide said after a moment, “I will do my best, here. I won’t let you down.”
“I know.” Yoshiki looked at Hide’s nervous expression, and added, “You don’t worry about me thinking of him, Hide,” he smiled genuinely, “I’ve just started seeing someone, actually. Acchan is all yours.” He extended a hand. “Friends?”
Hide took the man’s hand and shook it. “Friends,” he agreed. “So, what’s his name?”
Yoshiki laughed. “You really are blunt!” He ran a hand through his hair. “I can see why Acchan likes you.” He crossed his leg as he sat, and his eyes grew soft. “His name is Gakuto. Why I keep falling for musicians, I’ll never know.” He uncrossed his legs and stood up. “We should get back. It’s not very nice of us to have Acchan alone in the front for so long.”
Hide smiled. “I’m glad we talked, Hayashi-san,” Hide said softly. “I feel like I understand things much better.”
“Call me Yoshiki, it’s alright,” he smiled. “I’m glad to have had a chance to talk with you, too.”
The men emerged from the back room with smiles on their faces, each for different reasons. Hide slid behind Atsushi and touched his back gently, letting him know he was back. Atsushi smiled and leaned into the other man’s touch. He looked back over his shoulder and gave Hide a look that said, “is everything alright?” Hide nodded and smiled. Don’t you worry, he thought. Everything’s fine.
Saturday: closing time at Café X
“Hide, would you mind sweeping?” Atsushi called from behind the counter, his back turned. He had been intently cleaning the espresso machine for the last few minutes, determined to get the water spots out.
“Sure,” Hide replied, turning the sign on the door. He slipped behind the counter and snuck a quick kiss to Atsushi’s cheek before grabbing the broom from the supply closet. Atsushi blushed, surprised. He really doesn’t care if anyone sees… I wish I could be so carefree. But I’m still not used to it… be patient with me, okay?
As he cleaned behind the counter, Atsushi watched the other man sweep the floor of the shop, dancing a little between the small tables. He was humming a song that Atsushi didn’t recognize; after a while, almost as if he forgot that Atsushi was there at all, Hide began to sing softly.
Why don't you stay asleep inside me,
and bask in the envy of the world…
Why don't you sleep in my hand baby?
Why don't you dance on my mind baby?
Why don't you smile for me?
Please, please, please don't let you go…
“What is that?” Atsushi asked after a while. “It’s nice.” He stopped cleaning the espresso machine and joined Hide in the middle of the café, taking the broom from him.
“It’s just something I’m working on,” Hide smiled. “Like it?”
“Yeah,” Atsushi said. “It’s catchy.” Then, remembering, “your room is full of your ideas for songs, isn’t it? I saw all those papers everywhere, the other day.”
“Is that your way of asking to spend more time in my room, Atsushi?” He gave a cheesy grin.
Atsushi playfully punched his arm, but didn’t deny it. Instead, he thought for a moment, and said, “There’s a cassette player in the back,” he motioned to the door. “Want some music?”
“Sure,” Hide replied, going to retrieve it. He returned quickly and plugged it in. “What’s in it now?” He hadn’t bothered to check.
“It’s just some classical piano, my friend Hisashi made it for me. Took him ages, he said.” Hide nodded, and pressed play. The sounds of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata began to flood the small café. Atsushi stood still, listening for a moment; Hide moved to take the broom away from him and continue sweeping, but instead, Atsushi took his hand and pulled him close.
“What’s this?” Hide asked softly, looking at the other man with soft eyes.
“I wanted to dance with you.” Atsushi explained, his voice just above a whisper. He began to sway, Hide in his arms following suit. As they turned about the room, Hide reached up and gently pulled Atsushi’s long hair free from its ponytail. Smiling, Atsushi shook his hair so it practically covered his face, making the other laugh. Hide parted Atsushi’s hair at his lips and pressed a soft kiss to them.
“Atsushi,” Hide said softly after a while, “come back to mine tonight.”
“It’s a deal,” the other replied, without having to think it over. “Would you play for me?” He remembered the guitar he’d seen in Hide’s room. “You have such a nice voice.”
Hide thought about it for a moment. “Only if you sing with me,” he smiled, “I bet you have a beautiful voice.”
Sunday: Hide's apartment
Hide awoke with a gentle start when he felt the other man stirring in the bed next to him. He blinked awake and turned to face Atsushi, his hair a tangled mess. He smiled. How cute he is, when he is sleeping, Hide thought. I was right, you do have a beautiful voice. Especially when you say my name...