The barley tea was lukewarm by the time he started to drink it. He withdrew his hands from where they were buried in soft fur, nudged one of the cats away from the mug, and took a sip. It was a little bitter, and he wished that he’d remembered his little packet of artificial sweeteners, but it was at home in a cupboard somewhere, useless. He drank a little more, and checked his watch.
“Maybe I came a little too early,” he murmured to one of the cats nearby. “Do you think he’s the kind of person to be late? Or would he arrive just on time?”
“I tend to be about five minutes early, actually,” came a voice from behind him, “but the staff say you’ve been here for about half an hour already. That’s a bit too much, even for me.”
Yagi turned, dislodging one of the cats from its perch on his shoulders, and gazed up at his colleague - friend? - potential date partner?? - who stood rather closer than he’d expected.
“You certainly are quiet,” he said. “I didn’t see you come in. I was watching for you.”
“I came in the back,” said Aizawa, settling into a soft armchair just across from Yagi, their knees brushing a little. “That’s the kind of privileges you get when you spend enough time here.”
“That’s the kind of privileges you get when you spend too much time here,” said one of the waitresses, setting down a plate and a cup in front of Aizawa. He seemed to ignore her entirely. She stood up straight and tossed her head.
“I hope you’re not planning on trying to spend any time with this guy outside of our café,” she said to Yagi. “ I don’t think he actually has a house. He just goes to work, comes here, patrols, and sleeps in his classroom.”
“Thought I slept in a dumpster,” said Aizawa through a mouthful of what looked like some kind of strawberry cake.
“You alternate,” she said, and stuck her tongue out at him when he flipped her off. Yagi’s gaze darted from one to the other. Were they about to get thrown out of the café?
“Anyway,” she said, turning to Yagi fully, “he’s an asshole, is what I’m trying to say. More tea?”
“Don’t worry,” said Aizawa, having finished his cake. “She’ll only spit in my drinks, not yours.”
“Mr Yagi is a valued customer, unlike you,” said the waitress.
“Oh, she’s got your name, huh? Did she make you sign up for their newsletter?”
“That newsletter is an important way for us to get these cats adopted out-”
“That newsletter is an important way for you to poke around looking for a cute girlfriend, you mean-”
“Listen, it’ll work someday!” She poked Aizawa in the chest ruthlessly. “Just because you’ve somehow snagged Mr Yagi, the cutest man alive, doesn’t mean the rest of us can fall into a relationship just like that!”
“Relationship?” said Yagi. The conversation seemed to be running away from him.
“Get lost, Miko,” said Aizawa, and drained his coffee. “Get Yagi a refill, and me too, while you’re at it.”
“I’m definitely going to spit in your cat-puccino, old man.”
She left. After a moment of awkward silence, Aizawa took pity on him.
“She’s the daughter of one of my mother’s close friends. Almost like a niece to me, but with no familial obligation to respect me at all. Also, she has definitely seen me climb out of a dumpster on multiple occasions, none of which she has forgotten, nor will she ever let me forget.”
“Right,” said Yagi.
“She loves me really,” said Aizawa dryly. “Probably. I’m sorry about the relationship comment, though. She didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“It’s fine. Honestly.”
“Not that I wouldn’t want to have a relationship with you, of course.”
“Of course,” said Yagi. It wasn’t often he felt out of his depth, considering his height, but right now he was barely able to touch the bottom of the pool.
“Yagi,” said Aizawa. Yagi looked up and immediately went pink. Aizawa had leaned forward in his seat and was suddenly a lot closer to him than he’d been before.
“I like you,” he said. “I understand that might be moving a bit fast, but I’ve been told that I tend to be hard to read. I want to make it clear to you that I am actually looking to date you, preferably, if you’re interested in that. If not, that’s fine - I understand that I’m certainly not someone that many people would be interested in.”
“I’m interested,” said Yagi. His mouth felt dry, possibly because of the bitter tea, possibly because he’d started breathing a little faster as Aizawa got closer to him. The man’s eyes seemed impossibly dark. “I’m very interested.”
There was a short shuffling movement from behind them and Yagi was thrown forward against Aizawa with a thump and the rush of air from his one remaining lung. On his shoulder, a black and white cat rubbed its damp nose against his ear, then batted at his hair.
“Yeah, that one’s new. He does that,” said Miko, settling down their beverages. She made no move to lift the cat from Yagi’s back.
“You didn’t tell me you had a new cat,” said Aizawa, sounding very put out.
“We got him last week, there’s not been time.”
“I was here yesterday, you should have told me then.”
“We don’t have to tell you about every change we make, you weirdo.”
Yagi was glad that they seemed to be ignoring him. The weight of the cat had pushed him forward slightly and his head was almost resting against Aizawa’s shoulder. He could feel the heat of embarrassment rushing up his neck, but couldn’t move - the cat had placed both front paws on his neck and was currently attempting to stand on his head.
“Aizawa-kun,” he said eventually, interrupting their bickering, “a little help, please-”
Aizawa broke off from his quiet but still semi-vitriolic argument with his niece and made a little grunt of surprise, as though he hadn’t noticed Yagi’s face pressed into his neck. After a moment he felt the weight of the cat lift from him and he sat up straight, catching sight of the delighted, slightly anticipatory look on Miko’s face as he did. He glanced at Aizawa, wondering if he was missing something, and was surprised (and pleased) to see that he too was faintly pink.
“Here,” said Miko, and dropped the black and white cat into Yagi’s lap. “He seems to like you.”
The black and white cat leaned up and bunted its face against his.
“Wow,” said Miko, almost drowning out the tiny “oh my god” from Aizawa. “He really does like you. Kisses and everything. Very possessive.”
Then she turned to Aizawa and said, almost innocently, “Can’t believe you let a cat kiss your boyfriend before you did.”
“Leave,” said Aizawa. She smiled at him, then actually smiled at Yagi, and left.
“…As I was saying,” continued Yagi, for lack of anything else to say, “before we were interrupted..”
“Yes,” said Aizawa. He set his hand down next to Yagi’s, close enough that they almost touched.
“I was saying,” said Yagi, “that I was interested.”
“You said you were very interested,” said Aizawa. He leaned forward and began to pet the cat in Yagi’s lap. This coincidentally meant that their faces were once more very close together.
“I did say that,” said Yagi. He was starting to run out of steam. What should he say next? Was there something he was supposed to say next? Was he allowed to just assume they were dating now? Also, was he ever going to be able to keep his eyes away from Aizawa’s mouth?
“I’m not very good at this,” he said, and then wished he hadn’t.
“That makes two of us,” said Aizawa. As he spoke, Yagi could feel the breath from his mouth.
“Are we allowed to just kiss?” he asked. “I haven’t dated very many people. Or, you know. At all, in the last fifteen years. At least.”
Aizawa seemed to be fighting a smile.
“I think that’s allowed, yes,” he said. “I have to stake my claim, after all.”
Yagi leaned forward, just a little more, and tasted strawberries.
On his lap, the black and white cat began to purr.