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The Meaning of This

Chapter Text

Usually, Samatoki didn't care about his neighbours. The only requirement he had was that they kept quiet, kept clean, and didn't ruin anyone else's business. So, he didn't know what to think when the empty building next door was taken over and renovated into a tattoo parlour.

Compared to his shop, Mad Flower Crew's, soft sea blue and green scheme, they contrasted with red and black, catching everyone's attention. They definitely screamed 'different' when the regular customers were housewives and little old ladies with too much time on their hands.

Samatoki didn't want to interact with them.

He wouldn't have if it wasn't for Jyuto.

"Courtesy," was what the damn four-eyes told him. "We must be welcoming neighbours."

"You go ahead then."

"Samatoki, you're the owner."

Samatoki grunted. He really didn't want to interact with these people. He had a reputation to uphold and these...kids (they were probably kids, right?) would ruin it.

But it was also bad if he didn't at least show his business smile.

"Whatever!" Samatoki growled. "Riou! Prepare some flowers!"

"Yes, sir."

The bouquet was done an hour later. It wasn't big and they even provided a vase that matched. They'd probably throw them out if they didn't have and like hell Samatoki was going to let that happen. But as long as they don't cause trouble for them, they should be fine.

Samatoki and Jyuto went next door while Riou manned the shop. When they entered the door, they spotted a kid at the front desk. Samatoki swore he couldn't be more than sixteen, even with that height. He definitely didn't lose all that baby fat yet and his mismatched eyes were still wide and innocent.

"Hello," Jyuto placed on a polite smile. "We're from the flower shop next door. I'm Iruma Jyuto and this is the owner, Aohitsugi Samatoki. We thought we would welcome you to the neighbourhood. Here are some flowers as a gift."

The kid looked at them suspiciously at first before accepting the flowers. When he deemed them acceptable (what did this kid know about flowers anyways?!) he looked back at them.

"Thank you. I'm Yamada Saburou. Nice to meet you." At least he had manners. "My brother is in the back. Please wait here while I go get him."

Jyuto nodded as Saburou scampered away. Samatoki took this moment to sit down on one of the chairs in the waiting area. Jyuto was about to scold him but they heard footsteps approaching.

"Sorry for the wait!" Samatoki looked up at the voice and felt his jaw drop.

He wasn't sure what he was expecting when he came in but it certainly wasn't this guy. He was fit, wearing a black tank that showed off his arms littered with tattoos. Samatoki couldn't make out all the images in the intricate design but he was mesmerized. He wanted to learn them all. He had a mop of black hair and expressive green and red eyes, a mole underneath one to tempt him. He wore the brightest smile that almost made him look away but he didn't because damn .

He was hot.

"I'm Yamada Ichirou. Nice to meet you."

Samatoki was fucked.

Chapter Text

Jyuto laughed at him when they got back to the store.

Samatoki only yelled at him to get back to work and Riou looked over in confusion. He shrugged him off though and proceeded to water the plants.

Most of the day proceeded like normal though Samatoki was a bit distracted, accidentally pricking himself on one too many rose thorns, cutting off a stem too much to render the flower useless, and nearly tripping on every pot in his way.

He was angry.

Stupid BB City Tattoos, just moving right next door. Stupid BB City Tattoos for having an unfairly hot shop owner. Stupid BB City Tattoos for having said owner have so many tattoos that when he stretched, Samatoki could see the trail of tattoos under his shirt going down to his—

“Samatoki. I don’t think that’s how you wrap up the flowers.”

He looked at Riou angrily for ruining his daydream then looked down to see that he had wrapped the bouquet but with tape all over the place.

He frowned and unwrapped it to start again.

Jyuto eventually sent him outside to sweep up. They couldn’t risk him ruining the business they so carefully built up. Samatoki only agreed because he knew he was fucking up.

So he took care of the outside. Regulars came by and greeted him, asking for tips to take care of flowers. Inaba from the apartment complex a few blocks away even gave them some apples from her hometown.

Samatoki was gaining back focus after talking to customers. Things had returned back to normal. He finished wiping front window and when he turned, Ichirou was there.

His brain short-circuited.

“Hi, um, Aohitsugi-san,” Ichirou smiled sheepishly. He held up the white plastic bag he had. “Thank you and Iruma-san for coming to greet us. It really means for us that you’re so welcoming. I, uh, got you some croissants. I hope they’re okay.”

Samatoki accepted it, recognizing the familiar logo of Fling Pastries and Books. 

“Thanks.” He managed to say. Ichirou handed him the bag and he was trying hard not to turn red when their fingers touched. He instinctively moved his hand away quickly. “I’m sure the others will like them too.”

Ichirou grinned, the shyness instantly fading away.

“Great!” Ichirou cheered. “And, um, if you ever want a tattoo or something, feel free to contact me. I can even give you the...the neighbourhood discount.”

“Ah, sorry. I don’t think I should.”

“If it’s about design, I can totally help you think about a design.”

“Nah, it’s fine.” Samatoki shook his head. “I haven’t gotten a tattoo before so—”

“If you’re worried about that, don’t worry! I can personally do it for y—”

“I just don’t do tattoos.”

Ichirou stopped at once. The light from his eyes faded and his face fell, causing Samatoki to panic. Did he say something wrong?

“I see,” Ichirou began rubbing his arms. “Ah, well, if you ever need help from us or something, you know where we are.”

Samatoki nodded. Ichirou had stopped looking at him.

“I should head back. Uh, I’ll see you later, Aohitsugi-san.”

“Yeah.”

Ichirou quickly went to his store and closed the door after the chime. That had been so awkward and Ichirou’s mood just suddenly changed? Samatoki couldn’t fathom it.

“Why are you such a disaster?” He looked at the storefront. Jyuto was there, “You’re almost twenty-seven, not thirteen. I can’t believe you.”

“Hah?!” He really didn’t need Jyuto to tell him off. “The kid just suddenly became depressed! What am I supposed to do?!”

Jyuto sighed. “‘I don’t do tattoos.’ Samatoki, you were talking about a tattoo artist about it. He probably thought you were talking about his.”

Samatoki ran through the conversation in his head. If what Jyuto said was true, the sudden mood change definitely made sense.

He groaned.

“That’s not—” He ran a hand through his hair.

He couldn’t outright admit it but he had problems with it.

One: he hated needles with a fucking passion. The only one who knew was Nemu and only because she basically has to drag him to Jakurai’s every year to get his flu shot. He often put up a fight and only relented when Nemu vowed to never talk to him ever again.

Two: the thought of Ichirou touching him brought chills down his spine and warmth to his cheeks. He could barely brush fingers with him before going crazy but having his hands on his body like that?

Samatoki might as well just die.

“I swear, I haven’t seen someone this pathetic in love since Izanami back in high school.” Jyuto said with a roll of his eyes. “Yamada-san probably has a bad impression of you now.”

Samatoki kicked a rock that was on the sidewalk.

“You think…you think he’d forgive me if I gave him flowers?”

When Jyuto didn’t immediately answer, Samatoki looked up at him. He had his arms crossed and eyebrows raised like he was surprised Samatoki ever suggested that.

“I mean, what else do I have?” Samatoki mainly spoke to himself. He stomped into the store, heading to the back. “Hey, Riou! Do we still have any geraniums?!”

He would definitely make Ichirou the best bouquet he could to apologize.

He had to get working.

Chapter Text

Samatoki has been criticized for many things in his life – his past, his fashion choices, his taste in music, his career – the list was endless. However, one thing he has never been criticized for was his eye for flowers.

As much as he appeared intimidating, he liked flowers. His mother was a florist before she died so Samatoki watched her a lot at the store and he helped entertain guests while they waited for her to make a bouquet. He got used to picking out flowers for her, trying to choose the prettiest ones. She always agreed with his selections or if she didn’t, led him to the right ones.

So he was confident in his choices. He had made a ton of arrangements for different companies and occasions and none of them had any complaints.

But for Ichirou, he wanted to make the perfect one.

He left the store with his bouquet. Jyuto was holding in his laughter, probably at Samatoki’s expense.

He ignored him and went next door.

It was probably weird for them to get two bouquets in one day but Samatoki had to clear the misunderstanding. He entered the shop and this time, there was another boy at the front desk. He also had mismatched eyes so he assumed he must’ve been another brother.

“I’m looking for Yamada…Ichirou-san,” Samatoki clarified. “I’m from the flower shop next door.”

“Ah! Alright!” The kid got up from his seat. “Nii-chan! The neighbor is here!”

He disappeared in the parlour. Samatoki waited, suddenly feeling nervous. He stared at the bouquet, having second thoughts about it. Ichirou had accepted it earlier that day but was it too much to bring another? Should he have gotten something else instead? Beer? But what if he didn’t like beer? He couldn’t very well go to Fling Pastries and Books since Ichirou got them stuff from there.

He heard the footsteps.

It was too late to back out now.

“Ah, Aohitsugi-san…” Ichirou was surprised. “Is something wrong?”

“Ah, yes. I mean, no,” Samatoki felt himself at a loss of words. He held out the bouquet. “For you. I think I said something that you took the wrong way? About tattoos…I don’t do them myself but yours are fine. I mean, they’re pretty cool, they’re just not for me—tattoos in general, not you—your tattoos. I just…I can’t get them—”

Ichirou laughed.

“Alright, I got it.” He smiled and Samatoki felt himself freeze again. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I’ve been judged because of them before. I mean, we live in Japan.”

“I’m not judging you by them.” Though Samatoki wasn’t going to admit that he had started judging the shop for their design and the idea of a tattoo parlour. “I thought it’d be good to clear up the misunderstanding. This neighbourhood is pretty calm and no one likes drama here—except Ramuda from Fling Pastries. You met him, yeah?”

“I’ve met Ramuda-san,” Ichirou nodded. “And he seems…nice.”

Samatoki snorted.

“Oh, before I forget,” Samatoki handed over the bouquet. “This is for you. As a, uh, apology. For earlier. For offending you.”

Ichirou took the bouquet. He was smiling but it slowly dropped as he stared at the flowers.

Samatoki started to freak out.

What now?

“These…are, uh, really nice.” Ichirou said awkwardly. “Um…why these flowers in particular?”

“Hmm? They’re nice colours,” Samatoki answered. “The geraniums, yellow carnations and orange lilies are really striking but the foxglove and meadowsweets soften it, making it pretty balanced.

“Do…do you not like it?”

“Ah! I like…it.” Ichirou’s smile was strained. “I just didn’t expect a florist to give such a combination. Or, I guess it’s sort of expected.”

Samatoki furrowed his eyebrows.

“But, ah, thanks then, Aohitsugi-san!” Ichirou nodded. “I guess I’ll see you around?”

“Y…yeah,” Samatoki could sense the air. Ichirou wanted him out. “Then, I’ll see you around, Yamada-san.”

Samatoki walked towards the door but Ichirou stopped him.

“Um, actually,” Ichirouu began to fiddle with one of the meadowsweets. He looked away shyly. “…you can call me, Ichirou. I don’t really like the formality. Ah, you can call my brothers by their names, Jirou and Saburou too! Ichirou is just fine with me.”

Samatoki tried not to choke.

“Then…you can call me Samatoki…san! Samatoki-san would be fine,” He nodded furiously. “I’m your senior around these parts so I’ll help you out.”

Ichirou smiled again and if he kept doing that, Samatoki would have to consider visiting Jakurai to do something about his damn heart.

“Alright, Samatoki-san.”

The way his name rolled off his tongue made Samatoki flush. He quickly said goodbye and practically ran out, back to his shop. He charged into the back, past Riou and a customer, and sat down on one of the stools, putting his head in his hands. He could feel how hot his skin was.

Jyuto was in the corner, dealing with financial things on the computer like usual, spoke up.

“How did he take it?”

“Ichirou…” Samatoki began to mutter. “He’s letting me call him Ichirou. And he…he’s calling me Samatoki. Samatoki-san.”

“And you’re freaking out over that?”

Samatoki held back a scream.

He really had to see Jakurai soon.

Chapter Text

Rainy days were slow for business. Nobody wanted to buy flowers and carry them home when it was pouring out, so it was always devoid of people during that time. When that happens, Samatoki took to drawing.

He didn’t necessarily do it as a hobby. He was just drawing flower arrangements that needed to be done eventually to plan out what to order. He knew that the winter holidays were just a couple of months away and some of the biggest sellers during that time were the Christmas and New Years’ arrangements. They had to be different every year and he had to provide a large selection so it was a good time for him to actually start planning them.

Usually, he was the one to do it. Jyuto was only helpful in the business side of things and typically stayed out of the front except if it was to ring up a customer. Riou preferred to take care of the plants, even going to the mountains once or twice a month to find something new (even if they were…questionable). Samatoki dealt with the designs.

He was trying to figure out some new Christmas designs, determining where the best place to put the little Santa Claus trinket, when the chime for the shop rang. Samatoki looked up and nearly dropped his pencil when he saw Ichirou there, wet from the rain.

“Ichirou…” The name was still foreign on his tongue even though Samatoki spent the last week practicing in front of the mirror for at least an hour each night. “Welcome. What can I do for you?”

Ichirou had a backpack on. He fiddled with one of the straps, looking sheepishly.

“Um, there’s a customer that wants to use some flowers in their tattoo and I need to figure out the composition. I was wondering if it was alright if I could take a look at them and like, do that here? Of course, I’ll pay for using the flowers!”

“Oh, sure.” Samatoki nodded. “Which ones?”

“Cosmos, balsams, purple lilacs, and pink camellias.”

“Okay. Cosmos are in season now but the other three aren’t, though for the season for camellias isn’t too far away. We can provide some pictures of them if you need.”

“Yeah, sure.” Ichirou nodded. Samatoki went to the front to the back to grab some cosmos and the flower selection book. He laid them on the counter for the other to see. “Thank you, Samatoki-san.”

Thump.

“No problem.”

Ichirou took out his own sketchbook and they both began to draw. Every so often, Samatoki saw Ichirou lifting the flower to get different angles before drawing again.

Samatoki was working on his third design when Ichirou suddenly spoke up, eyes on his page.

“You’re…really good.” He said. His arm moved to cover his own sketchbook. “They’re like real flowers!”

“Well, when your entire job is flowers, you sort of get used to it,” Samatoki raised an eyebrow. He wanted to take a look at how Ichirou was doing with his design. “You probably can do better. I mean, you’re entire job is design, yeah?”

“Well, I guess…” Ichirou blushed. “But I mean, I’m not really good with…flowers.”

Ichirou slowly revealed his sketch. He had drawn the cosmos in various angles but could see that they were still messy and there was nothing defined yet. The shape was also a bit off and he could see other flowers there though Samatoki couldn’t really tell what they were.

“Hmm.” Samatoki looked at it before looking up at Ichirou’s red face.

‘Cute.’

“It’s a bit embarrassing now that I know a pro is looking.”

Samatoki snorted.

“You have the right idea about the details but it’s just lacking in form,” Samatoki pointed to one drawing. “Cosmos are pretty simple, just four hearts going around. They don’t need to touch or anything but don’t make it so detached. Balsams and lilacs are similar in their shape as they usually follow a long stem…”

Samatoki broke down the different points of the flowers and Ichirou listened, drawing every so often. He corrected him, improving the leaves, stems and the other details. They went through this for a bit before Ichirou felt a little more confident drawing them individually.

“I have to put them together for a design now,” Ichirou stated. “I was hoping that you’d have the other flowers too so I can see how they look together.”

“In terms of design, the dynamic between balsams and lilacs are fine with camellias and cosmos. The problem is that they’re all pretty bold colours so you need something to soften them too. Maybe some pampas?”

“Pampas?” Ichirou frowned. “What are those?”

“They’re sort of like grass? They’re pretty soft looking so it’d look good in design.” Samatoki looked at the calendar on the wall. “Actually, right now is a good season for them since they’re going for a warmer look.”

“Is there a place where I can see them myself?”

Samatoki thought about it. “There’s a place in Kanagawa in the mountains. You wanna go with me? I was planning on stopping by since I get some at the farms there in the fall.”

“Can I?!” Ichirou’s eyes shone and Samatoki felt himself turn red at his eager eyes. “That’d be great! When were you planning on going?”

“Uh, Sunday. I was going to stop by in the afternoon so if you’re available, we can go to the mountains in the morning.”

“Sure thing!” Ichirou nodded excitedly. “We can even stop for lunch, too. We should find a good place to enjoy the mountain…”

Ichirou babbled on about what kind of food there was in Kanagawa. He started to search on his phone when Samatoki realized the implications.

Did…did he just invite Ichirou out on a date?

No. That definitely wasn’t it.

They were just going to look at some grass in the mountains, grab food, and then he would do his pick-up. It was all for both of their works anyways.

This was not a date.

Ichirou found some restaurants in the mountains. Samatoki agreed to one of them as it looked like it would be in a good location to see the flowers so Ichirou could sketch while relaxing.

“Great! Thank you, Samatoki-san!” Ichirou closed up his sketchbook. He reached into the front pocket of his backpack and pulled out his wallet.

“It’s fine,” Samatoki put a hand up. “You were only using them as a reference and you handled them gently. I don’t need money for it.”

“But—”

“It’s fine.”

Ichirou frowned. He pointed to the cosmos. “I’d like to purchase these then.”

Samatoki didn’t argue. If he was going to buy them, then it was okay.

After he rang them up and Ichirou paid, he held them up for him to take but Ichirou refused.

“A gift,” Ichirou’s face was completely scarlet at this point, “For you. As a thanks.”

Samatoki laughed. What was the kid doing, giving flowers to a florist? Especially the one that just sold it to him.

“You’re a weird kid, Ichirou,” Samatoki shrugged. He guessed he’ll have to buy something for Ichirou with the money he gave him later. “Thanks.”

Ichirou nodded stiffly as if he was expecting something. Samatoki was confused when he didn’t move for a bit. Things became a little awkward before Ichirou glanced around the room again.

“So, meet me at the front then at eight?” Samatoki cleared his throat to clarify the meeting.

“Y-yeah.” Ichirou stuttered. He gave an awkward wave. “I’ll see you then!”

Ichirou walked out of the shop to his next door. Samatoki only stared at the door, confused at what just happened. He turned back to the cosmos. They were cute flowers and now that they were technically sold so Samatoki should find a nice vase for them.

He couldn’t help but smile.

What a weird kid.

Chapter Text

Ichirou arrived right on time in front of Mad Flower Crew. They boarded the shop’s delivery van (decorated with their logo on the side) and took off on their two hour ride to Hakone.

Samatoki, admittedly, had a hard time sleeping the previous night. When he realized that he was going to be alone with Ichirou in the van for two hours, he started worrying about it. Would he be able to hold a conversation for that long? Their longest conversation was probably about thirty minutes when they were talking about drawing flowers but that was more of Samatoki instructing him.

Looking at Ichirou, Samatoki wasn’t even sure they had anything in common. They could talk about the neighbourhood but it had been two weeks since BB City Tattoos opened for business – he was sure that he had gotten used to it. He had seen him and his brothers around town, visiting Fling Pastries and Books often enough and once in a while, eating at Hifumi’s restaurant. They would probably run out of topics.

And music.

Samatoki had paled at the thought.

He could admit that Nemu didn’t like his music and Samatoki often questioned her tastes too but he didn’t because she was his precious sister. Jyuto often commented about it but Jyuto had awful taste so he didn’t count. Riou didn’t say anything, taking whatever he could.

But Ichirou. Samatoki thought about filling any dead air with music but what if he hated it? What if he was immediately disgusted and wanted to stop the van in the middle of the highway and leave? If he hated it enough and he wasn’t willing to sit with Samatoki anymore—

The radio was a safe choice. News. Yes. News.

With that figured out, Samatoki realized something at one ‘o’ clock in the morning, right when he was about to lose conscious. He shot out of his bed and opened his closet.

What the fuck was he going to wear?

Was this sweater okay or was the other one better? Was this pattern too much or was this plain shirt too boring? Why were all his jeans ripped up or dirty? Why didn’t he deal with the overflowing laundry the other day to have more choices?

Nemu was asleep so he didn’t want to disturb her. Riou’s fashion was complete rubbish, wearing almost the same things every week. He only had one choice.

“Samatoki, I swear to God, it’s almost one-thirty—”

“Jyuto, what the fuck do I wear tomorrow?”

What?”

After getting an earful from Jyuto, Samatoki decidedly hung up on him as he was too loud and most likely not going to be helpful in this situation.

So he was stuck on his own.

He tugged on the collar of the dark blue turtleneck he chose, hoping it wasn’t too bad. They were heading up the mountains anyways so it was better to be warm so he wore a coat as well. Ichirou was casual in a white t-shirt and red jacket. His black jeans weren’t too baggy except around his calves, but they fit well around his thighs.

(It took all of Samatoki’s willpower not to ogle.)

Traffic moved a little slowly but wasn’t as bad as Samatoki expected it to be. However, he knew that it would take longer than anticipated which made him antsier, thinking about the amount of time he was to spend with Ichirou in the van.

“I’m glad the weather is so good today,” Ichirou said as he looked out the window. “I’ve never been to Hakone before. Do you think we have time to visit a hot spring?”

“Probably not,” Samatoki answered as he checked to switch lanes. “I have to head back to the shop as soon as possible so the pampas don’t wilt too much after we collect it.”

And Samatoki really didn’t know if he could handle being in a hot spring with Ichirou.

He hasn’t visited Jakurai yet to do something about his heart palpitations yet.

“Ah,” There was disappointment in Ichirou’s voice. “Too bad.”

“We can always go next time.” Samatoki replied as he changed lanes. As soon as he realized what he said, he quickly tried to cover it up. “I mean, Jyuto and Riou have been working hard recently so I guess a day trip would be good. And I’m sure your brothers would like it too. There’s a lot of great hot springs in Hakone. There’s even one filled with green tea or coffee.”

“…yeah. Sounds great, Samatoki-san.”

The air suddenly became tense and Samatoki wondered why did this always happen? He didn’t think he was that bad at carrying a conversation as he deals with customer service half the time and had to hide his temper the other half. When it came to Ichirou, it was like any tactic he knew just disappeared and he couldn’t do anything.

“How old are your brothers anyways?” He asked, switching to a different topic. “I see one of them—S-Saburou? In a uniform sometimes.” He hoped he got the name right or he was screwed.

“Saburou is turning sixteen in a couple of months, yeah!” Ichirou immediately pepped up. “He’s really smart and got into Hanazaki nearby on a full scholarship.”

Samatoki raised his eyebrows.

“Impressive.”

“Yeah. We were really happy about that,” Ichirou continued to chattering. “Jirou is nineteen. He turns twenty next year—almost an adult. I can’t believe how much time has gone by. He helps at the shop often but I force him to take classes so he has more options, y’know? The tattoo parlour is a place I wanted and even if he wants to follow in my footsteps, I don’t want him think that’s his only path.”

“You’re a good brother,” Samatoki smiled. That’s exactly what he would do for Nemu too.

“Do you have any siblings, Samatoki-san?”

“I have a younger sister. She’s finishing up at the local university right now. You haven’t been around when she’s been in but she sometimes helps and works part-time. How old are you, Ichirou?”

“Twenty-one.”

“Ah, you guys are the same age,” Samatoki nodded. “You’d probably get along.”

There was silence for a moment. He glanced over to see Ichirou looking down in his lap.

The silence stretched on for a little longer than Samatoki liked. He turned on the radio as per his plan and let it fill the silence.

He wasn’t sure how to read Ichirou. One moment, he was chatting happily and the next, silence seemed to be his best friend. He couldn’t figure out his moods or what to do with them.

Maybe they wouldn’t get along after all.

Samatoki’s stomach churned at that.

“How did you get into tattooing?” Samatoki finally decided it was time to go back into conversation. He really did want to get along with Ichirou. He would just have to start with baby steps. “It’s not exactly a popular occupation, especially since you’re so young.”

“Ah, it’s…it’s gonna sound childish,” Samatoki saw his cheeks turn pink. “But when I was a kid, I really liked Zutto Zutto Print.”

Samatoki paused, recognizing the name.

“…that anime where they had magical tattoos that gave them powers?”

“…yeah.”

Samatoki snorted.

‘Cute.’

“W-what? That’s not cute!” Oh shit. He must’ve said it aloud. “It’s embarrassing!”

“You like something because of anime, so what? We all have our reasons for liking things. What’s important is that you enjoy it, not what other people think.”

“…man, Samatoki-san. You’re so cool.”

If Samatoki didn’t have damn good control of his emotions, he probably would’ve crashed the van from shock.

“You better remember that, kid.”

“I’m not a kid!”

“You’re younger than me, therefore, you’re a kid.”

“How old are you?”

“Older than you.”

“Aw, come on!”

And like that, conversation moved easily. It was easier to talk to Ichirou now that Samatoki knew he could tease him. Their discussions went from their family to work to the neighbourhood and places to go to food and music (which Samatoki learned that he didn’t have to worry about his own music since Ichirou had excellent taste). And Samatoki learned a lot about him.

Yamada Ichirou, twenty-one years old, born July 26th. He loved anime and manga and could draw characters really well but sucked at things such as details. He got his first tattoo when he was seventeen (illegal in Japan but Ichirou didn’t seem to care, that brat) of his favourite anime idol girl and it was on his left arm. He liked seeing how the tattoos filled out his plain skin and started adding more and more, first starting out with characters before changing them.

“Each tattoo has a different meaning,” Ichirou began to explain. “Each image has their own history and importance. I chose mine carefully to represent different parts of my life whether it was my family or something I felt shaped me. I learned from my teacher about tattoos and at his parlour, learned about the customers that came in. It’s pretty permanent so people have to think carefully about what they want to put on their skin. I like knowing about what makes them tick.”

“Huh, I never thought about it like that.” Samatoki admitted. He just assumed people got tattoos to look ‘cool’ or ‘dangerous’. He never considered getting one himself. “It’s pretty interesting when you put it like that.”

“So, you’re not interested in getting one…?”

“Nope.”

“Aw,” Ichirou pouted. Samatoki laughed. “Why not? I want to design it.”

“With the way you draw flowers, I’m not sure I want you to.”

“Samatoki-san, don’t be mean! I’m a pro!”

Two hours passed by in a flash. There were a lot of cars parked near the field but they managed to squeeze in. Ichirou was in awe as they approached large field. They came at a good time where the pampas were silvery and the wind was just lightly blowing, making it look like the ocean, light reflecting from the sun. Ichirou shuddered, however, when a strong gust suddenly came.

“Here,” Samatoki took off his coat. His turtleneck was warm enough for him. “Your jacket is pathetically thin. Take this.”

“What about you?! I can’t possibly—”

“I’m pretty sure my clothes are thicker than what you have combined.” Samatoki tugged at Ichirou’s jacket to feel it. He was right. “Take my coat. I won’t freeze to death. It’s only fall.”

Ichirou tentatively accepted. He slipped it on and Samatoki had to compose himself at how nice Ichirou looked in his coat. They weren’t too different in height but Ichirou had broader shoulders so it might have been a little snug on him there. He didn’t complain though, looking cozy and warm.

“Thank you,” His cheeks were still a bit red from the cold though, Samatoki noted. They should probably get something warm to drink later.

They went to the fields and Samatoki watched Ichirou act like a kid, cooing over how pretty the pampas and view were. The grass was still green so it was striking against the blue sky and white clouds. Ichirou wandered ahead, taking in the sights.

There was such unbridled joy on his face as he looked around. Even though there were people around him, Samatoki only saw Ichirou – his smile, his shining eyes, the look of awe, and an outstretched hand, as if asking him to take it.

And he did.

He didn’t realize it until he felt himself being tugged by Ichirou more, going to different parts of the field to look at the same place in different angles, marveling at all of them.

Samatoki was marveling at Ichirou.

He caught himself staring at Ichirou way too much and had to stop so it didn’t seem creepy. He didn’t want to give a bad impression, especially since he seemed to be having fun.

He was glad.

After a while, he could sense exhaustion piling up on him. They decided it was a good time to head to the restaurant Ichirou had searched up.

It was filled with people already and they had to wait. Samatoki heard Ichirou’s stomach growl and laughed much to his dismay. When they finally were seated, they quickly made a decision so they could get their food as soon as possible. As they waited, Ichirou pulled out a smaller sketchbook from his jacket pocket and a pencil. Samatoki automatically began to instruct him on how to draw pampas.

Lunch proceeded without any problems. The only issue was that Ichirou was a messy enough eater to get pasta sauce on his face. Samatoki tried to guide him to where it was but Ichirou kept missing. Finally, when he got it, he just smeared more on his cheek.

“You’re hopeless,” Samatoki reached over with a clean napkin and began to wipe Ichirou’s face. It still didn’t fully come off so he gently held the other part of his face to get better traction. Nemu hated it when he did that but it had to be done. “It should be okay now.”

“Oh, um,” Ichirou’s voice cracked. “T-thanks.”

They finished and Ichirou insisted in paying for half but Samatoki held the bill out of his reach.

“You paid for flowers that you ended up giving back to me,” Samatoki scoffed. “I’m just taking that money and using it to pay for your food. So technically, you paid for your own meal.”

“That’s not nearly enough—”

“The rest is covered as a welcome gift to the neighbourhood,” Samatoki reasoned. “And the help you’ll provide to carry those flowers into the van and the shop.”

Ichirou sighed. He rubbed his neck. “Fine! But next time! I’ll treat you.”

“Hmm, we’ll see about that.” Though the idea of hanging out with Ichirou again made his heart beat.

They picked up the pampas order and drove back. Samatoki could sense Ichirou’s fatigue but he stayed awake, wanting to talk more about the day, excited to show his brothers the pictures of the scenery he took. In the middle of his talking, it suddenly became quiet. When Samatoki looked over, Ichirou was sleeping peacefully, a satisfied smile on his face.

Traffic had slowed down a bit so Samatoki was able to admire how soft he looked at that moment. It made him warm inside knowing that he seemed content with how the day went. Samatoki didn’t go out with people other than Jyuto, Riou, and Nemu much, so he wasn’t sure if it was going to be interesting, especially since half of it was for work.

He reached over, brushing a lock of Ichirou’s hair away from his face. Ichirou groaned, suddenly snuggling into Samatoki’s fingers.

He blushed and pulled away, gripping the steering wheel.

His fingers felt like they were on fire.

They got back to the shop with the quiet chatter of the radio distracting Samatoki from losing his mind and trying to poke Ichirou’s cute cheeks. Ichirou woke up flustered, apologizing for just sleeping but Samatoki brushed it off.

“You were tired. Don’t worry about it.”

“No! I feel bad. You just basically were a taxi driver and I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even be a good travel companion.”

“It’s fine.” Samatoki said as they began to unload the van. “It was a long day and you just opened your shop a few weeks ago. You must’ve been drained.”

“Let me make it up to you!” Ichirou said. They dropped off the flowers in the back. Riou was there, experimenting with some new arrangements. “Dinner! Are you available for dinner tonight?”

“I’m planning on having dinner with my sister tonight.”

“Then—” Ichirou fiddled with the sleeve of the coat. “Next Sunday? Are you available?”

“Uh…” Samatoki tried to think about his schedule. He had to do some clean up in the greenhouse they were renting and there was no telling how long it would take. Usually he had dinner with Nemu too on Sundays.

“I can take care of clean up next week.” Riou suddenly said from his spot at the counter. “Don’t worry about it.”

“That’s a lot of work, Riou.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.” Riou nodded affirmatively.

Samatoki sighed. He trusted his co-worker and knew that if he said it, he was going to do it.

“Alright. I’ll take your next shift then.”

“Okay.”

“Yeah, I’m available.” Samatoki turned back to Ichirou who looked like he was vibrating. He looked like he was about to explode. He guessed he had push Nemu to a late-night dessert date instead. He could take her to her favourite dessert café. “Let me know the place, yeah?”

“Sure!” Ichirou practically cheered. “Right, okay! I’ll contact you later this week—uh.” He paused. “I-is it okay to get your cell phone number? In case we’re busy this week and I don’t have a chance to pop by.”

“Oh…yeah.” Samatoki took out his phone from his back pocket and felt his hand shake. He was going to get Ichirou’s number? They were going to make plans with each other in this form of contact? He could contact him while he was at home instead of always just at work?

This was too much responsibility for him.

“Can I contact you tonight?” Ichirou asked.

“Yeah, sure.” Samatoki was screaming inside. “Around what time? Just so I have an idea.”

He needed to prepare himself.

“Is nine okay?”

“That’s fine.”

“Great!” Ichirou beamed and Samatoki tried not to look away. “Then, tonight then.”

“Yeah,” Samatoki exhaled to calm himself. “Tonight.”

Ichirou left. Riou didn’t say anything but there was something telling about his eyes. Samatoki ignored him.

He prepared to go outside, walking to the coat rack and then—

Realized he never got his coat back.

Chapter Text

Samatoki wasn’t nervous at all.

Absolutely not.

It was just a normal Sunday evening. Nemu was finishing some work for her seminar, went to her tutoring gig, and came home right on time. Samatoki served her the best fried rice in the neighbourhood and some cold beer like usual.

He asked about her day and let her rant on about the troubles of being in her last year and how she was going to fail (even if that was far from the truth) and how pressured her students were since they were graduating soon and trying for the university entrance exams.

Samatoki comfort her like usual, knowing that she only needed reassurance. She feared for her future but Samatoki knew how hard she worked. He had confidence in her.

And he told her this.

She gave him a tight hug then moved to clean up the dishes.

When she left and he heard the water running, he realized how much time had gone by. He realized that he would now be facing the truth of the matter soon.

He looked up at the clock on the wall.

Five minutes.

Samatoki exhaled.

He went to the living room where he was charging his phone. He unplugged it and sat on the couch, just staring at the wallpaper of him and Nemu, removing notifications from the apps he had on his phone.

It was fully charged. He didn’t want his phone to die in the middle and he needed to plug it in, just in case Ichiro thought he was taking too long.

It changed from 100% to 99% and he frantically plugged it in again.

The conversation shouldn’t be long. Ichiro was only going to give him the location for the restaurant and they were just going to plan when to meet. It wasn’t that big of a deal.

But why did it feel like he went through a marathon with how much his heart was racing?

He wasn’t ready.

He was going to fuck up even more than he did the past two weeks he has known Ichiro. Every conversation they had, there was always something holding Ichiro back - like he wanted to say more but didn’t.

Samatoki wasn’t a fucking mind reader so how the hell was he supposed to know?

But he wanted to know. Was he that bad of a conversationalist? Were there just some things wanted to say to him but didn’t because he was being polite? Did he just want to spit in Samatoki’s face?

He looked at the clock again.

It was nine but there was nothing .

Maybe Ichiro forgot? He was pretty tired when they came back. He probably fell asleep. Or maybe he changed his mind about contacting Samatoki about dinner? Maybe he did really hate him so now was the time to ignore him.

Samatoki fell on the couch, putting his face in a pillow and cursed.

Should he text? But Ichiro said he would so if he did it, it would be rude, right? But it was rude to not contact him at the right time…

He screamed and fell off the couch when a chime similar to a corny space gun came from his phone. He groaned in pain but made no move to answer it.

“Onii-chan! Are you okay?!”

“I’m fine!”

He had set that tone to indicate it was Ichiro. He didn’t want to get it mixed up with the default that he let Jyuto and Ramuda had so he didn’t accidentally ignore him.

So. He knew Ichiro made contact.

What did he do?

“Onii-chan, why are you on the floor?” He looked up and saw Nemu above him with her arms on her hips. “You weren’t drunk last I checked.”

“Nothing,” Samatoki replied as he got up. “I’m fine.”

Another space gun sound interrupted them. Nemu looked over to where his phone was.

“Aren’t you going to answer?” She asked with a curious expression. “It’s not Jyuto-san.”

“Y-yeah…” Samatoki nodded. He sat back on the couch and grabbed it, instantly paling when he opened it up.

From: Yamada Ichiro
Received: 21:01

[Samatoki-san, I hope you are doing well this evening. I was hoping you had a moment to discuss a dinner meeting between us this Sunday.]

From: Yamada Ichiro
Received: 21:02

[I apologize if I have disturbed you.]

What the hell? Why was he so formal? Yeah, sure, he spoke with respect when they talked but sometimes, he felt comfortable enough to speak casually.

This hardly sounded like Ichiro. Samatoki stared at the text.

Did he hate him? Is this a subtle hint by being so formal? He wanted to keep him at arms-length so he did it like this. And how was Samatoki supposed to respond to this? Was he expected to reply like that too?

He was raking his brain. It had been two minutes since Ichiro had sent it. Had it been too long? What was the appropriate amount of time for him to send a message? Was it too late now? He couldn’t figure out what to send!

To: Yamada Ichiro

[Salutations, Ichiro. Thank you for your contact. There is no need to apologize as I must do for the delay. I am available now to discuss details if you are ready.]

…was that okay?

He read it over again and again. He would’ve done it five million more times but realized that Ichiro was waiting.

He reluctantly hit the ‘send’ button and dropped the phone on the couch.

That was so exhausting.

“Who were chatting with?” Nemu asked. She was sitting between the coffee table and the couch next to him, doing some work. “That’s a new chime. New business associate?”

“Oh, you haven’t met him probably, but you know that new tattoo place next door? I was talking to the owner.”

“Oh! Really?” Nemu turned, suddenly very interested. “Jyuto-san told me he was very nice.”

“Yeah…he is,” Samatoki replied.

“You get along with him well enough to exchange contact information too! That’s great.”

“I get along with plenty of people.”

“You also scare a lot of people,” Nemu stated matter-of-factly. Samatoki scowled. “You even gave him a custom sound on your phone.”

“Well, yeah. I do that to some people.”

“Not many though,” Nemu replied.

The space gun sounded off again.

Samatoki inhaled.

He picked it up.

From: Yamada Ichiro
Received: 21:13 

[Excellent! Then I must inquire, would ‘Wolf’s Heaven’ be an appropriate restaurant to eat at? I apologize for it being a local establishment but as you have mentioned you have enjoyed the food there, I thought it would be comfortable for both of us.]

Izanami’s restaurant would definitely be a safe place but at the same time, if Izanami saw him with Ichiro, what would happen? Not that he was worried about reputation. He was more worried about Izanami probably teasing them and making things so fucking uncomfortable when Samatoki only wanted Ichiro to have a good time.

He’d have to tell Kannonzaka to keep in the kitchen only that night.

And if they were at Wolf’s Heaven, at least they had a good alcohol selection.

Now to reply.

To: Yamada Ichiro

[I believe ‘Wolf’s Heaven’ would be a very good choice. Shall I call them to make a restoration?]

“Hey, Nemu, does this look right to you?” Samatoki frowned, showing his sister the message.

After she read it, she made a face.

“Well, first, you got the kanji wrong for reservation,” Nemu took the phone to fix it. “Second…who are you talking to again? The tattoo artist, right?”

“Yeah.” Samatoki fiddled with the hem of his shirt.

Nemu began scrolling through the message, her face changing each time.

“Onii-chan!” She turned to him angrily. “What’s with all these messages? Why is it so…cold?! Aren’t you friends with him?!”

“That’s…we haven’t established that…”

You haven’t—ah, Jyuto-san was right!” Nemu shook her head and turned back to his phone, leaving Samatoki confused. “Give me a minute.”

She began typing. Samatoki would be worried but he trusted his sister’s judgement. She would know exactly what to say with perfect grammar and the correct kanji. She definitely received the brains in their family so he knew she wouldn’t do him wrong.

She sent the message.

And in almost no time flat, there was a reply.

What magic did Nemu pull?

She handed him the phone. “It should be okay now.”

He took the phone back and began to read.

From: Yamada Ichiro
Received: 21:17

[Oh, thank God. I didn’t know how i was gonna keep it up. I was losing my mind. (シ_ _)シ Really sorry about that. I just though, ya know, ur older and proper grammar and stuff like that… If you don’t mind the occasional stupid texts… |д・)]

What the hell? He was like a completely different person.

He scrolled back up and gasped, looking over at Nemu who was just smiling innocently at him.

To: Yamada Ichiro
Sent: 21:16

[Yo, Ichiro, let’s like, drop this act, y’know? This formal shit is not my thing and I feel like it’s not yours either? If I have to check my kanji once more I might break something. (╯°益°)╯彡┻━┻]

Nemu wasn’t…too far off with his usual texting style though that emoji was a little much.

Well, whatever. It seemed like it was fine.

As soon as they started texting normally though, Samatoki felt a little…too comfortable. The more they chatted after figuring out their plans, the more flustered he began to get because, dear God, he sounded cute even over text.

It got to the point where Samatoki wondered if he sounded too aggressive. Was he saying the right things? Was Ichiro offended in anyway about his messages? He didn’t say anything but maybe he thought it. It was so hard over text!

He sent a message and flopped down on the couch, face first.

He couldn’t do it anymore. Just the smallest things was enough to set him off. Those cute, frustrated emojis as he teased him? Was he really offended or was Samatoki being stupid? But whenever he gave a positive response, Samatoki thought his face was going to explode from all the blood.

Another space gun.

“Nemuuu…” Samatoki called. She turned to him. “What do I do?”

“Answer him.”

“But he’s just…” Samatoki waved his hand around, trying to make sense of it all.

“Onii-chan, that’s completely useless.”

“What if I mess up?”

“You’ve been texting for the past half an hour non-stop. You really think you’re messing up?!”

“What if.

“What happened to Mr. Hardcore—”

“Don’t bring that up!”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t have had any problems with this back then. Why are you freaking out now?”

“I don’t know! I just hate the idea of messing up with him. He’s a good guy. He looks so badass but he’s still innocent? It’s weird but it’s not bad.”

It was far from bad. It was enough to make Samatoki question his entire existence and wonder how he was able to talk so easily to him. It drove him mad to think that they were planning on going out to dinner that Sunday. Wasn’t that…getting personal?

Business dinner. It was a business dinner.

Should he switch back to texting formally?

“Oh, my God. Nemu, what the fuck do I do?!”

Nemu grabbed his phone and opened it with the passcode. She fiddled with it for a bit before throwing it to him, got up, and walked to her room.

Hello?

Samatoki nearly squeaked in shock, throwing his phone to the other end of the couch. When he realized that, actually, Ichiro was on the phone, he rushed over to it.

“Hi.” Samatoki breathed, feeling his pulse through his neck. “I, uh, hope I’m not disturbing you.”

“Nope. Everything is fine.” Samatoki was sure he heard the TV before it became muted background noises, like Ichiro had moved to another room. “Uh, so, um. How are you?”

“Fine.” Samatoki moved to the balcony, suddenly feeling too hot. The moon was shining brightly and the sky was clear. It was a cool fall night. “Sorry for the sudden call. I’m…I’m not good with texting.”

“I’m definitely not either, as you can tell,” Ichiro laughed. “I’m not exactly the best conversationalist but…I really like talking to you, Samatoki-san.”

“Really? I’m not that interesting.” Samatoki said. “I’m just a florist, y’know.”

“An interesting one.” Ichiro laughed. “Your…flower selections are nice if not a little questionable.”

Samatoki frowned. Was that an insult?

“Did you not like them?” Samatoki guessed he should try again next time.

“No, I did!” Ichiro replied. “I…I just didn’t expect them.”

“Are there any particular flowers you like?” Samatoki suddenly asked. He wanted to know if he could incorporate them in the next bouquet for Ichiro.

“I like amaryllis.” Ichiro answered. “I think they’re nice.”

Samatoki thought about the flower and how they stood tall on their stem, facing straight-forwardly to the world. Amaryllis can come in many colours but the most distinctive one was the red one – the same as Ichiro’s red eye.

“It fits you.” Samatoki said. “It’s a nice flower.”

“You think so?” There was awe in Ichiro’s voice. “I think you have a lot of flowers that can fit you.”

“Uh…really?” Samatoki never thought about it before. He liked flowers because they were pretty and chose certain ones just for aesthetic.

“Yeah.” He could imagine Ichiro nodding. “Like…cattleyas, white jasmines, ranunculi…”

“You know a surprising amount of flowers for a tattoo artist.” Samatoki raised his eyebrows. “I’m impressed but I don’t think those fit my image? I’m more of a cactus.”

“No, those definitely do.” Ichiro replied calmly. “I’m sure of it.”

Samatoki blinked.

He supposed it didn’t matter. Ichiro could think what he wanted.

“A-anyway…” Ichiro coughed. “It’s getting a little late. We have to start preparing to go to bed. You know, Saburo’s gotta wake up early for school and all that.”

“Yeah, alright.” Samatoki nodded, though he didn’t want to hang up. He wanted to know why Ichiro thought of those flowers when it came to him . More than that, he just wanted to keep talking. “I’ll see you on Sunday then.”

“Definitely!” Ichiro said. “Good night, Samatoki-san.”

“Night.”

They hung up. Samatoki merely looked at the screen, staring at Ichiro’s name, trying to summon him again. When there wasn’t a phone call, he put his phone in his pocket and gazed at the moon.

He didn’t know if he was excited or nervous about Sunday at this point but knew that he was longing to keep talking.

Chapter Text

With a week’s notice, Samatoki had the chance to ask Nemu about outfit choices before Sunday. Everyday, he would come in with a new outfit, asking if it was okay.

He didn’t have to get that far into the week before Nemu shoved into his room on Wednesday, went through his closet, and pulled out an outfit, setting it on a hanger for him so he wouldn’t touch them until Sunday night.

Samatoki spent the following nights, wondering if Ichirou would like it.

On Saturday night, right before he fell asleep, he shot back up.

He needed a gift, right?

He could get him something anime or manga related but other than Zutto Zutto Print, he didn’t know what else he liked. (And Zutto Zutto Print was at least twenty years old at this point so he wasn’t sure if he could find anything for it.)

He could always get a gift card but was that…impersonal?

Chocolates? But what kind?

Samatoki had no fucking clue.

So, he did the only thing he could do: make a new bouquet.

He met Ichirou in front of Wolf’s Heaven right on time. It took him a little longer than he thought, picking out flowers and he almost didn’t make it. And the outfit Nemu chose for him wasn’t exactly the most flexible.

“Hi!” Ichirou’s eyes lit up when he approached. Samatoki swallowed, trying to look like he wasn’t out of breath. He felt himself tremble when Ichirou’s eyes scanned his outfit. The expression changed but Samatoki couldn’t make out to what . “…you look good. Really good.”

“Thanks,” Samatoki flushed. He put a hand over his mouth to cover the stupid smile he knew was forming. “You look…good, too.”

Ichirou wasn’t wearing his usual baggy casual wear. He wore a dark red button-up shirt; the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and exposing his forearms and the tattoos there. He wore a pair of black, fitted pants, showing off his long legs. Samatoki really didn’t want to be caught looking at his ass (it hasn’t happened so far but Ichirou just keeps tempting him).

The outfit was simple but it worked so well for him.

“Oh, um, here,” Samatoki held out the bouquet. “I…I thought it’d be polite to bring a gift. Sorry, I’m not sure what to bring…I realized I didn’t know what you liked in terms of anime, chocolate, or wine. This is all I can really do.”

“Thank you!” Ichirou looked pleased. Samatoki’s heart stuttered a bit. “They’re beautiful. What kind of flowers are they?”

“Candytuft, cannas, lobelias, and yarrows.”

The strange look whenever Samatoki gives Ichirou flowers appeared again. He was trying to hide it behind his smile, but he could see how tense he became.

Maybe Ichirou really didn’t like flowers and he was just trying to be polite. But whenever Samatoki first gave them to him, he seemed happy until a few seconds later…

Maybe they weren’t the right flowers?

Amaryllis weren’t in season now. Maybe he should plant a few in the greenhouse? Ichirou would probably like that more.

They entered the restaurant and a part-timer lead them to their seats. It was a cozy place that was bright in the day, a little more intimate even in the evening. Samatoki wasn’t even sure if Ichirou knew that this was a popular date spot in the neighbourhood as he’s seen him and his brothers there during the day.

He stopped.

Wait, no, what?

Date?

Were they on a date?

It didn’t even occur to him. They were just guys having dinner since Ichirou felt bad about sleeping during their trip. It was just an apology dinner. That’s it.

But Ichirou dressed up so well. And Nemu gave Samatoki a good outfit.

Besides, Ichirou didn’t call it a date. Neither did Samatoki. So this was not a date.

“So, how was your week?” Ichirou asked after they placed their order. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to visit. Advertising had been really successful so we’ve gotten a lot of customers recently!”

“Nothing particularly special,” Samatoki answered. He took a sip of his water. “Just normal business and classes.”

“Classes?”

“Yeah, flower arrangement.” Samatoki stated.

“You guys do flower arrangement classes?” Ichirou blinked. “I never knew!”

“It’s only once a month at the shop,” Samatoki replied. “We also do beginner classes with kids a couple of times a month at the community center.”

“The ones at the shop is for adults?”

“Yeah. They’re more of an intermediate class though since it’s mainly those who want to practice.”

“How long have you been doing flower arrangement?”

Samatoki thought about it. “As long as I remember. My mother was a florist so it just happened? I just watched her all the time and eventually picked it up. She was really good.”

“And you became a florist to follow in her footsteps?”

“You can say that,” Samatoki nodded. “I didn’t want to at the beginning. I went through a bit of a rebellious stage when I was a teen. You know how it is, flowers are too girly, too pretty – I’m a guy so I wanted to be a man to everyone.

“But things happened,” Samatoki felt himself stop. He looked at Ichirou, who was patiently waiting for him to continue.

He didn’t really like telling this to many people, only his closest friends. Ichirou, he has only known for a few weeks.

For some reason, Samatoki felt it was okay to tell him.

“My mother died at the end of my last year of high school.” Samatoki finally said. “Car accident. She was doing a delivery for a wedding but a drunk driver hit her. I didn’t even know since I was skipping school. It wasn’t until I came home and the shop was completely empty. The neighbours told me and I rushed to the hospital. My sister was there with Jyuto comforting her.”

“I’m sorry.” Ichirou reached out to touch his hand. Samatoki didn’t even realize that it was balled into a fist. “I shouldn’t have brought her up.”

“I chose to talk about this.” Samatoki shook his head. “And I shouldn’t have seeing as all we’re trying to do is have dinner. My bad.”

“But I get it,” Ichirou held his hand tighter. “I went through something similar. My parents died too and I had to take care of Jirou and Saburou. I felt guilty because I was just hanging around with bad crowds and then, the few things that were stable just disappeared. It was hard to get back on our feet.

“But you’re doing well.” Ichirou lifted up his hand. “You have a successful business and you’re passing on the beauty of flowers. People in the neighbourhood really care for you. Your sister is finishing university soon. I’m sure your mother is proud of you.”

Living in the neighbourhood where he grew up in, Samatoki was used to the regular talk. He was used to people remembering his mother and wishing she was still alive. It always pained him because despite his co-workers and friends being with him, they always discuss the past and what could’ve been.

Ichirou didn’t know anything about his past. He didn’t know the people there or the situations. For Samatoki, Ichirou was like a fresh and needed breeze on a hot summer’s day – something he didn’t realize he yearned but it happened, there was only relief.

Being with Ichirou, despite the stress Samatoki had every time he couldn’t figure out what to say, was relaxing. When all the nerves disappeared, the flow of their conversation calmed Samatoki.

The warmth of his hand disappeared when the waiter came with their food. Despite it being a peaceful meal, Samatoki laughed at how indiscreetly Ichirou was removing the green peppers from his meal.

“They’re not bad,” Samatoki said as he ate his vegetables with problems.

“They’re disgusting,” Ichirou gave a face. “I can eat almost everything but green peppers?”

“Be a man and eat them up.”

“I don’t wanna.”

“You’re such a kid,” Samatoki snickered. He then remembered something he did with Nemu when she refused to eat her spinach. “How about this? Eat up all your vegetables and you get a treat.”

“A treat?” Ichirou raised a suspicious eyebrow. “What treat?”

Samatoki hummed. “We can get some ice cream after.”

“You really think I’m a kid,” Ichirou pouted causing Samatoki to laugh harder. “I’m not falling for that.”

“Cake?”

“I don’t want sweets!”

Samatoki clicked his tongue. He placed his elbow on the table and propped his chin in his hand, leering at Ichirou. “Oh, please, Ichirou- kun , what is it you so greatly desire?”

Ichirou stayed silent for a moment as if considering his options carefully. He finally turned back to Samatoki with determination in his eyes.

“Come to my place after dinner.” Samatoki’s head nearly dropped onto the table. Ichirou had a mischievous smirk. “I’ll show I’m no kid .”

Samatoki shivered at that look . His eyes were on him, challenging and sly. He couldn’t feel himself refusing with that stare.

Forget a fresh breeze – Ichirou was definitely a whirlwind he suddenly got himself trapped in.

 

Chapter Text

Samatoki grunted, feeling the sweat pour down his temple. Never had he ever felt so stressed, so tense , over any situation. Looking at Ichirou’s face, he was so concentrated, so focused – it lit a fire inside of Samatoki he didn’t know he had.

They had stumbled into the apartment after buying some beer at the nearby convenience store when Ichirou challenged him to see who could drink the most. Samatoki never backed down from a challenge and accepted immediately. They had drank a fair amount, perhaps about ten each (Samatoki lost count) before running out. He felt a little tipsy but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Ichirou also looked fine.

Damn kid shouldn’t be that strong.

Now, they were playing video games.

“I swear to God, I’m going to kick your ass!” Samatoki growled. Ichirou’s character had launched a missile, knocking Samatoki’s off the ledge and putting him in last place. “GOD FUCKING SHIT.”

Ichirou laughed hysterically when he saw him fall. Samatoki swore on his mother’s grave that he was going to get back at him for this if it was the last thing he did.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

He apologized to his mother for swearing on her grave.

They got to the last stage and it had to be the hardest freaking course in the game, Rainbow Street or some shit like that. Samatoki was basically falling off every second. He got so angry that he almost threw his controller across the room.

“I can’t believe this!” He glared at the screen. “What kind of bullshit is this?! I hate this fucking game. I’m never playing again – do you find this funny, you shitty brat?!

“I do!” Ichirou was laughing so hard. Samatoki has grabbed his collar threateningly but he didn’t stop. “I-I didn’t think you’d lose your cool over a game.”

“When it’s clearly an asshat of a game that you obviously tweaked in some way to win—”

“I didn’t do anything!”

“Yeah, sure.

“Samatoki-san, don’t be like that~” Ichirou grabbed his wrist, effectively making him loosen his grip. Ichirou placed his cheek in Samatoki’s hand. His heart quickened at the sly expression. “I’ll let you win next time.”

“I don’t need your pity!”

He quickly removed his hand and turned away. He felt a weight on his back. Ichirou’s arms snaked around his shoulders, one finger poking his cheek.

“Samatoki-saaan. Don’t be angry.”

“I’m not angry.”

“I’m sorry,” Ichirou’s soft voice was like a wisp in his ear. He actually sounded upset. “Please forgive me.”

“Tch.” Samatoki gave up too easily. He didn’t turn around, still needing a bit of time to cool his head, but he did pat Ichirou on the head. There was a happy sound from him.

Samatoki’s hand dropped from his head to his arm. It made its way down to the exposed part where he could see his tattoos. Subconsciously, he ran a finger down one line, following it until it connected to another and diverging to a new pattern.

He did that for a minute or so before Ichirou spoke up.

“Did you want to see them?”

Samatoki was curious. There were so many and with the way Ichirou spoke about tattooing, he had no doubt that each one had a different meaning to him. Samatoki felt like if learned about each one, he would feel a little closer to Ichirou.

“Yeah.”

He turned back around.

Ichirou began unbuttoning his shirt and Samatoki felt his breath hitch in this throat. He exposed the white tank top underneath and could see the colour through the thin fabric. Ichirou took that off too, revealing all of it.

From his wrist to his shoulders, he was completely covered. More trailed from under his left pec onto his ribs, going down past the ban of his pants. As much as Samatoki wanted to see it fully, he knew he would choke up more than at that moment.

“There’s some on my back too.” Ichirou turned so he could see and Samatoki saw it connect with the ones on his ribs.

“Okay.”

He cautiously reached out for Ichirou’s right arm, his skin feeling hot against Samatoki’s. He examined the first sleeve, eyes scanning the various anime characters. He almost laughed. He should’ve seen this coming, the nerd.

“Ah,” He recognized one as the main character from Zutto Zutto Print .

“It was my first,” Ichirou answered his unvoiced question. “It had that much of an impact.”

“And look at you today,” Samatoki chuckled. “Now, you’re giving people superpowers with your designs.”

“Ha! If only.”

His fingers continued to each one. Ichirou explained each one without prompting. The baseball bat represented his time in his school’s team before he became a rebel; the paintbrush was from his dream to draw anime characters; there was a monster with a scar from the time Ichirou fell into a river bank and injured himself against a rock. Even the stories of his scratches and injuries were integrated into this piece of art.

He moved to his left side where it appeared more daunting. The first thing that popped out at him was there was a lot more numbers on that side, especially the prominent ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’.

“How obvious,” Samatoki said as he brushed a thumb over ‘1’. Ichirou laughed.

The left side seemed more in relation to people than the right. There were dates. Ichirou claimed they were his brothers’ birthdays.

“When’s yours?” Samatoki asked, determined to have amaryllis prepared by then.

“July 26th.” Ichirou answered. It was still far away but Samatoki made sure to keep that date in his memory. “You?”

“November 11th.”

“That’s soon.” Ichirou became quiet. “I’ll remember it. How old will you be?”

“27.”

“Hmm.”

“If you give a joke about how old I am—”

“I’m not!”

Samatoki looked back down at the tattoo and noticed that the parts relating to the second Yamada weren’t coloured in.

He asked why.

“Jirou said he wanted to colour part of my tattoo.” Ichirou smiled softly. “I’ll let him colour the part that represents him. He’s still in training, so I’m waiting for him to complete it.”

“The other one?”

“Saburou will help in the shop but we know he won’t go on to tattooing. I don’t even think he’ll get one. He turns away any time I work on a customer.”

Samatoki couldn’t believe his dislike of needles was on the same level as a high schooler.

He frowned at the thought.

The tattoos cascaded into various things that represented his family – a soccer ball for Jirou, a chess piece for Saburou, a group of cute looking owls (“We like owls,” Ichirou replied much to Samatoki’s amusement) and various others that had some meaning to them.

Once Samatoki finished with his left arm and rib, finding a ticklish spot in the process (something else Samatoki filed away for future reference), Ichirou turned around so he could look at his back.

It wasn’t as big as the one his ribs but it was impactful.

Covering a quarter of his back around the shoulder blade was a beautiful, colourful rainbow. There were five colours – his and his brothers’ favourite of red, blue, and yellow as well as green and pink. On both sides of the rainbow were clouds, each with two dates, signifying a birth and a death. At the bottom was a quote in English.

“My mom died not long after Saburou was born.” Ichirou explained. “My dad died a few years later and we were in an orphanage until I was eighteen.”

“What’s the English part?” Samatoki traced along the letters.

“‘You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.’“ Ichirou turned to him with a smile. “Just as a reminder.”

Samatoki wasn’t sure what had drawn him to it but he placed his forehead on Ichirou’s shoulder. He stared at the details of the rainbow. The pink and green must be his parents’ colours. Even if they weren’t alive at that moment, Ichirou always had them imprinted with him.

He gently brushed his lips against the red of the rainbow before straightening.

The alcohol must’ve affected him more than he thought.

“Do you plan to have any more tattoos?” Samatoki asked.

Ichirou’s eyes were a bit cloudy. He touched his left arm before putting it on his chest.

“Here. Just one more. But not yet.”

“Yeah?” Samatoki raised an eyebrow.

“One for my lover,” Ichirou’s voice became quiet. “For the one I know I’ll spend the rest of my life with.”

“How romantic,” Samatoki exhaled. “It’s gotta be a special one.”

“Yeah,” Ichirou nodded. “I want flowers for them.

“I want your help designing it when the time comes.”

‘Ah.’

He wanted Samatoki to help design the tattoo for his future lover – the one that would be on his skin forever to symbolize how much they meant to him. Flowers were romantic gestures. They were good choices when it came to tattoos. They died in real life but not on one’s skin.

“Yeah, sure.” Samatoki laughed. He rubbed his hair a bit roughly. “Find yourself a lover first and then we’ll talk.”

He could only keep up a smile.

For some reason, it hurt.

“It’s a bit late. I gotta get home so I can rest up for tomorrow.” Samatoki stood and dusted off his pants. “Thanks for tonight. I had a lot of fun.”

“I’m glad.” Ichirou stood up as Samatoki made his way to the door. “I can walk you home.”

“I’m not some girl that needs protecting.” Samatoki slipped on his shoes. “I’m fine.

“I’ll see you later.” With a final wave, Samatoki left the building, arriving at his apartment fifteen minutes later.

The lights were on which meant Nemu was studying in the living room. He entered and she greeted him with a grin before her face changed to worry.

“Onii-chan! What’s wrong?”

He didn’t know what she meant until she grabbed her handkerchief and started dabbing his cheeks. He touched the corner of his eye, feeling the tears.

Ah .

He didn’t even realize it.

The pull in chest, the feeling of loss - he had felt numb to all of it. After Ichirou said he had a special place for his lover.

And asked Samatoki for help to design the tattoo.

There was that moment where everything had gone dark and he realized why.

He didn’t want to design the tattoo.

He wanted to be the reason why Ichirou had it on his chest instead.

Chapter Text

Samatoki was only glad for the onslaught of deadlines the following week so he was in and out of the shop a lot. Nemu had to come in more than usual to help Jyuto as Samatoki and Riou had to go and make deliveries. This, on top of their regular jobs, made it impossible to think about anything else.

However, when there was this spare moment of relaxation, whether at home or taking care of the plants in the greenhouse, memories of that night came back to him. The alcohol, the tattoos, the discussions…

The realization that probably his feelings towards Ichirou were much more different than he thought.

And they hurt .

He knew he was probably being overdramatic. He should be flattered that he was asked to help with a design.

But he also didn’t want to.

Not if it was going to be on Ichirou’s skin.

He couldn’t understand why.

It was another Sunday at the greenhouse and two weeks after their time at the Yamada home. Ichirou had texted him every night and Samatoki replied back because at least he could hide behind that. Ichirou had suggested for them to hang out again and play some games so Samatoki actually could try next time (he nearly threw his phone at that). As tempted as he was to beat his ass, he knew he wasn’t ready.

Repeatedly, Ichirou texted him and repeatedly, Samatoki told him he was busy.

Eventually, Ichirou stopped texting.

And he was left at peace.

He could tell by Nemu’s expression that she was concerned. She didn’t say anything, respecting his privacy and giving the space he needed.

But others weren’t that gracious.

“Samatoki!” Jyuto’s loud voice ran through the greenhouse. 

Immediately, Samatoki stood up, a potted plant held closely to his chest. He held his right hand out and ran to Jyuto, stopping him before he entered fully.

“I thought I told you you’re not allowed here!”

“I’m wearing gloves,” Jyuto lifted up his hands to reveal his hands. Samatoki narrowed his eyes but let him in, walking back to the plants. Jyuto followed. “Let’s head back to the shop.”

“I’m still busy here.” Samatoki said as he looked at the bud that had just started growing in the pot. “I’ll head back later.”

“You’ve been coming here more than necessary. Our regulars have noticed you’re not around much.”

“There’s been a lot going.”

“And now the rush has died down. You can relax.” Jyuto leaned on one of the tables. Samatoki eyed him, making sure he wasn’t getting too close to any plants. “Nemu-chan told me you’ve been coming in on your days off too.”

“It’s relaxing here.” It was the one place Samatoki could focus on everything but himself. He could think about which plants were doing well or poorly; what he could do to improve their conditions and which to plant next.

Jyuto sighed.

“I’ve known you since we were kids,” Jyuto said. “You’ve only been like this when there was some big change and the only thing I can think of is a certain Yamada Ichirou.”

“Well, you’re wrong.” Samatoki lied even though Jyuto saw right through him.

“Let’s cut to the chase so we don’t waste time,” Jyuto crossed his arms. “Something happened with him, causing you to be some moody teenager, you’re in denial or something similar and now you’re doing all you can to avoid him. Is that correct?”

“I’m not in denial about anything.”

“Ah, so the other parts are true? Please clarify that one detail for me then.”

“I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“If you’re not going to talk about it, at least act like everything is normal,” Jyuto said. “Miyabi-san came by to ask you about tulips but you weren’t in. She’s worried about putting it in the wrong pot. Also, we got a message from the community centre. They want to talk about increasing the kids’ lessons for the next term since they seem to be enjoying it.

“Samatoki, this is your business.” Jyuto’s was firm but gentle. He had no right to be. “We might have worked on this together but ultimately, you’re the boss and you’re integral to it. If you don’t want to tell us about it, but don’t let this be the reason the business fails.”

Samatoki pursed his lips. He knew Jyuto was right. It was his business and even though he trusted his co-workers to handle things when he’s not there, this was unfair to them.

He would have to brood some other time.

But he knew he couldn’t go back with this unease.

“I’m pissed off.”

Jyuto waited.

Samatoki sighed.

“I’m pissed off at nothing and I don’t know why,” Samatoki played with some of the soil in the pot he had. “He just gave me a hypothetical situation and basically praised me but I’m not happy about. I feel…used?”

“Wait,” Jyuto raised a hand up. “A little more detail would be very useful here.”

Samatoki retold him about what happened a few weeks ago. Jyuto listened carefully all the way to the end.

He was hardly fazed.

“He asked you to help design a tattoo.”

“A lover’s tattoo.”

“I don’t see what’s wrong with that.”

“I don’t either! But I don’t want to do it because when I think about it, it just…sucks.”

“You must be over—wait.” Jyuto suddenly stopped. “You’re angry at the idea of designing, yes?”

“Yeah.”

“Like the actual designing part or designing for Ichirou?”

“Not for Ichirou…” Samatoki tried to think of the right words. “Designing for…whoever he wants it for.”

“…his future lover?”

“Yeah but they don’t exist yet so I don’t know why I’m pissed at nothing.”

Samatoki scowled. He waited for Jyuto to advise him. That’s the most he expected for telling him this.

Jyuto only sighed and rubbed his temple.

“Why are you stupid?” Jyuto asked. Samatoki was indignant. He told him all that and that’s what he had to say?! “No, both of you…I’ll have to talk to him later…”

He looked at Samatoki, looking exhausted.

“You’re jealous.”

“Jealous?” Samatoki blinked. “Of what?”

“Ichirou-kun’s non-existent lover.”

“But they don’t exist!”

“Dear God, Samatoki. Why are you like this?” He could sense his frustration and that was just making Samatoki angry as well. “You’re jealous of the idea of Ichirou-kun having a lover.”

“Why would I be?”

“I cannot believe this.” Jyuto grumbled. “Because you want to be his lover.”

Samatoki stared.

“You’re in love with him, you moron.”

“I’m not a moron!”

“Is that what you should be focusing on?!”

Samatoki stopped and repeated the conversation just now. When he realized what the important part Jyuto said was, he widened his eyes and shook his head.

“No! I can’t be!” He couldn’t be. In love with Ichirou? Sure, he thought Ichirou was hot and he liked being with him but he could say that about any of his friends.

…he couldn’t think of anyone at that moment but he was sure he would later!

“I’ve only known him for two months!” Samatoki tried to reason. “Falling in love takes longer than that!”

“Says who?” Jyuto raised an eyebrow.

“Says…me!” Samatoki failed. He deflated. “I can’t fall in love with him.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s too fast,” Samatoki answered. “I don’t want to expect anything. If these past two weeks taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to feel like that. In the end, when Ichirou does get a lover, I’m the one who’s going to get hurt.”

“Why don’t you just be his lover then?”

“…he’s a good kid.” Samatoki spoke quietly. “He’s working hard at building his business and taking care of his brothers. He’s got a lot on his plate. More than anything, he needs a friend more than a lover.”

“…are talking about yourself or Ichirou?”

“Can’t it be both?” Samatoki asked. “We both are busy with work. There’s no way we have the time to do it.

“I’ve made up mind, Jyuto.” Samatoki frowned. “I’ll keep being his friend. That’s it. I don’t want to be a distraction when he’s working so hard now.”

Jyuto looked like he wanted to say something but he held back.

“Just…do what you think is right in the end.” Jyuto placed a hand on his hip. “Come on. Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s head back to the shop. You have some work back there.”

Jyuto helped clean up and Samatoki made sure he didn’t get too close to the plants. When they finished up, Samatoki didn’t see an additional car and he asked how Jyuto got there.

“Taxi. Don’t worry, I charged your card.”

“You what?!

Samatoki felt a little more relaxed as Jyuto drove them back in the van. He even managed to fall asleep even with Jyuto’s shitty music playing.

It only felt like a few minutes before he was woken up. Samatoki felt sluggish but refreshed. He really needed that nap.

Jyuto dropped him off at the front so he could go park. Once he closed the door, a familiar voice called him out.

“Samatoki-san!” He turned and saw Ichirou come out of his shop. By the time he knew it, Jyuto drove off and he had nowhere to escape.

This was too quick.

“Hey, Ichirou,” Samatoki tried to greet him as casually as possible. “It’s been a while.”

Ichirou nodded. His eyes were pleading.

“Did…did I do something wrong?”

“What do you mean?” Samatoki asked in confusion.

“I mean,” Ichirou ran his hands through his hair. “I felt like you were avoiding me the past few weeks, always rejecting my offers to hang out and never being at the store. I was wondering if I screwed up somehow.”

Oh.

Despite Ichirou’s pained face, Samatoki couldn’t help but give a soft smile.

‘He was worried too, huh?’

“It’s like I said, I was busy with work,” Samatoki placed an arm around his shoulders and rubbed his hair, ignoring how soft it was. “It was hectic. We had a whole bunch of events to deal with on top of with our regular stuff and the greenhouse was a complete mess. Sorry about that. I should be good to hang out again this week.”

Ichirou’s eyes lit up. “Really? Then are you available this Sunday?”

It should be enough time to prepare himself.

“Yeah, what did you have in mind?”

“How about a movie?” Ichirou asked. “You mentioned you liked Seiryuu Kazusa before, right? We can watch her new film.”

“Ah, right,” Samatoki had been so busy the past weeks, he forgot. “Sounds good.”

“Great! I’ll text you with the info later tonight?”

“Sure.”

Ichirou beamed. Samatoki felt his face soften, heart becoming weak.

He couldn’t let this happen.

“Ah, wait! Wait here!” Ichirou quickly went back in his shop. He came out a minute later with a carefully wrapped paper Samatoki recognized from his shop.

“Uh, this is for you.” Ichirou held out the purple hyacinth. “I got it because I thought you were mad...”

Samatoki snorted. He accepted it nevertheless.

“I’m not mad,” Samatoki stated. It was the truth. “Thank you, Ichirou.”

He turned red. He looked away but still looked pleased, grinning from ear to ear.

He was so cute.

And Samatoki was in love with him.

He bit the inside of his cheek when he thought that.

He couldn’t let Ichirou know.

He should be silent.

Chapter Text

Over the next few weeks, Ichirou kept coming by every other day. Usually, it was in the morning before he opened his shop but just as Samatoki opened his.

He came, chatted, sketched some flowers (he had really improved a lot at this point), bought the flower and gave it to Samatoki.

It would’ve been a romantic gesture if Ichirou didn’t use it first before purchasing it. He had felt bad for freely using them so he paid every time even if he never took it with him.

Now, in one of the vases Samatoki had in the shop, displayed an array of flowers in one mismatched bouquet.

Agapanthus, pink tulip, Rose of Sharon, purple lilac...

Samatoki was still surprised Ichirou knew that many flowers.

“Samatoki-san,” Ichirou looked up from his sketchpad. It was mimosas this time. “What do you want for your birthday?”

Without missing a beat as he flipped through his magazine, Samatoki replied.

“A million yen.”

“Come on! Be a little more serious!”

“Ten million yen.”

Ichirou groaned and flopped on the counter.

“Something I can actually give you.”

“There’s nothing in particular,” Samatoki answered with a shrug. “I have a steady job and income. I can afford what I need.”

Ichirou pouted. Samatoki glanced down at him and smiled. He reached over to ruffle his hair.

It was almost like having a dog.

“What do you like to do for fun?” Ichirou stood back straight. That look of determination was back. “In your free time?”

Samatoki took a moment to think about it.

“Clean?”

“You like to do that?”

“Not really but it has to be done.”

“Anything else?”

“Cook?”

“You can cook?!” Ichirou exclaimed in shock. “I wanna try your food!”

“Yeah, sure.”

There was a pause.

“Really?!”

“Yeah, just let me know when so I can prepare enough food.” Samatoki said nonchalantly. “We can do it on Sunday. I usually have dinner with Nemu but you can join if you want.”

“…is that okay?”

In most cases, it wasn’t. Samatoki enjoyed the dinners he had with his sister without anyone else there. It was a good way for them to catch up after a busy week. 

“Yeah, that’s fine.”

For some reason, he was okay with having Ichirou joining them.


He instantly regretted it as soon as Sunday came.

He went to the grocery store earlier that day and went a little overboard, accidentally buying enough food to feed six people rather than three. He guessed this would be leftovers for the week.

While he was cooking, he started second-guessing his food. Was the flavour good enough for Ichirou? Was it too sweet? Too salty? What if he preferred it spicy? No. He saw how Ichirou handled spicy food (it was unfortunate and hilarious).

He spent so much time worrying, he didn’t notice Nemu enter the kitchen, let alone return home.

“How are you doing, onii-chan?” She asked as he tasted the pasta sauce again. He jumped, nearly choking himself in the process.

“I’m.” Cough. “Fine.”

Nemu looked uncertain. She leaned on the counter with her forearms and watched him cook. 

“Yamada Ichirou-kun, hmm?” Nemu pondered. Samatoki tried to decipher the tone in her voice. “You’ve been hanging out with him a lot recently. You went to the movies with him last week too.”

“He wanted to see the new Seiryuu Kazusa movie too so we went together.”

Nemu made a face.

“How did he like it?”

Samatoki snickered to himself. He was sure Ichirou really had no idea what kind of director Seiryuu Kazusa was nor was he aware of the amount of jump scares she liked to put in her films.

Ichirou screamed at every single one, no matter how predictable they were. He had clung onto Samatoki partway through the film and just stayed like that; a grown, tattooed man clung onto him for his dear life as he watched an awful horror film.

How precious.

Samatoki practically had to carry him out. Ichirou was that exhausted from all that screaming.

“He loved it,” It was difficult for him to contain his laughter. “Ten out of ten.”

“I somehow doubt that.”

Nemu went to set the table like usual. Samatoki almost forgot that Ichirou was coming over until the doorbell rang.

He froze.

“He’s here,” He muttered. He looked around the kitchen looking for a clock, not that it mattered. There wasn’t one in the kitchen but that didn’t stop him from walking around like a mad man. “He’s here. He’s here! Nemu, can you answer the door? I’m not ready.”

She popped her head in with a sardonic look. She scanned him up and down.

“You look fine.” She reassured him. She waved as she headed for the door. “Very domestic.”

He was still wearing his apron but he had to serve the food. He groaned, checking in on the appetizer.

It was ready.

He served them on a plate and walked out to the dining room to greet Ichirou but stopped, almost dropping the plate.

For someone who was only visiting someone’s home for the first time, Ichirou was dressed…really well. He had on black slacks that did nothing but highlight his nice thighs. His white dress shirt fitted him perfectly, accenting his broad shoulders and narrow waist. They were rolled up to his elbows like every time he wore such a shirt, exposing his forearms.

But his hair .

What kind of magic was this?

Instead of the messy mop he always had, it was styled. It was mainly slicked back except his bangs which fell elegantly on his forehead. With how much was removed, his eyes were shown more, forcing Samatoki to stare at them longer than he should.

He exhaled.

He didn’t even notice he was holding his breath.

“Hi.” That was it? That was all Samatoki could say? “You look…nice.”

“Thanks,” Ichirou scratched his cheek. “You do too.”

That was a complete and utter lie. Samatoki was dressed in a pair of old sweatpants, a dark shirt and an apron.

Ichirou looked like just stepped out of a magazine.

This was hardly fair. He was a brat. He wasn’t supposed to…to do whatever he was doing!

“Thank you for joining us tonight, Ichirou-kun!” Nemu suddenly stepped between them. She had a large smile as she lifted a bottle Samatoki didn’t recall they had. “And thank you for the wine! Let’s open it right away!”

“Thank you for having me.” Ichirou gave a small bow. Samatoki raised an eyebrow at the politeness.

“Uh, no problem.” Samatoki went to the dining table. “Let me grab the pasta. Nemu, serve the drinks?”

“On it! Please have a seat, Ichirou-kun. You can sit next to onii-chan.”

“Okay.”

Samatoki grabbed the pasta and sauce and Nemu returned with the wine glasses. She poured them expertly and handed one to each of them.

“You look a little tense,” Nemu smiled pleasantly with a tilt of her head. She poured a bit more into Ichirou’s glass. “Relax.”

“Thank you.” Ichirou nodded.

“To good food!” Nemu lifted up her glass for a toast. “To my brother’s amazing cooking!”

“Of course,” Samatoki grinned as he drank the wine. He placed a hand on the back of Ichirou’s chair. “So eat up, Ichirou.”

“Thank you for the food!”

Their cutlery clattered as they grabbed the food. Ichirou sounded incredibly satisfied to Samatoki’s relief.

“This is amazing,” Ichirou said between mouthfuls. “Seriously. You could’ve opened your own restaurant.”

“Izanami made me promise not to,” Samatoki laughed. “He even threatened me.”

“Really?! Hifumi-san did?”

“He can be pretty cutthroat if he wants to. He acts like a completely different person in that case.”

“It’s a little hard to imagine…”

“It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it’s like a switch was flipped.”

“Doppo-san and Jyuto-san have a pretty good handle on him at least.” Nemu said before she took a sip of her water.

“It’d be mass chaos in this neighbourhood if someone didn’t.”

The conversation shifted to the neighbourhood and its inhabitants: Jyuto was childhood friends with Kannonzaka and Izanami; Ramuda moved when he was in junior high school and became good friends with Yumeno when they were in high school; they picked up Arisugawa one day off the streets and in exchange for room and lodging, forced him to work at Fling Pastries and Books. Jakurai was the local doctor and has basically known the Aohitsugi siblings since they were children.

“Amazing,” Ichirou marveled at the history. “You’re all so close. I’m jealous.”

“Some of them are a pain to deal with though. We have a block party every year and it always changes from a party to a competition to see who has the best dishes.” Samatoki laughed. “You and your brothers should come next year and be a judge. It’s in the shared courtyard of our apartment buildings.”

“Everyone lives here?!”

“Sort of. Jyuto lives a couple floors above us. Ramuda, Yumeno, and Arisugawa live in the Terrace building. Jakurai, Izanami and Kannonzaka live in Heights.”

“What about Busujima-san?”

“…in the forest.”

“I didn’t see a forest building?”

“But you did see the forest next door, right?”

“…is that legal?”

“Probably not.”

“I see.”

Dinner continued with light conversation. They cleaned up all the food in front of them much to Ichirou’s disappointment. However, when Samatoki mentioned he could have the leftovers, Ichirou perked up.

“Can I take some home for my brothers?” He asked excitedly. “I’m sure they would love to have some.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. If you guys even want, you can even come by for dinner. You cool with that, Nemu?”

Nemu had been silent for the past couple of minutes as she observed them. When she was acknowledged, she smiled.

“Of course. Saburou-kun was just telling me about an interesting board game the other day.

Maybe he can bring it over so we can play it.”

“He’d love that!” Ichirou nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”

“We can do it next week,” Nemu said. “One of my students has to do something next week so I get off early.”

“Yeah, that’s fine.”

“Sounds great,” Ichirou cheered. He stopped smiling then turned to Samatoki. “But your birthday is next Monday!”

“And?”

“Do you really want to spend your birthday weekend with a bunch of kids?” Ichirou frowned. 

“I spend most of my weekends with you anyways, brat.” Samatoki said as he pinched Ichirou’s cheek. “It’s no difference if there are two more.”

“Ouch, ouch.”

“You’re going drinking with Jyuto-san and Riou-san on Saturday, right?”

“Yep. So you’ll have to figure out dinner on your own. Sorry.”

“Nah, that’s fine.”

The conversation continued but Ichirou was strangely subdued. Nemu brought out ice cream she got from the convenience store for them.

By the time Samatoki knew it, it was already past eleven. He got up to fill some containers with leftover sauce and put it in a plastic bag for Ichirou. He did a bit of cleaning, putting the pots and pans near the sink for Nemu to clean. He walked out, pausing to see them both giggling.

It was a sight to see: both young adults having fun before traversing into the real world. His dear sister and this young man whom he had some strong feelings for.

Both were laughing together and having a good time.

He silently exhaled to calm himself.

He could probably accept that.

“Sorry to interrupt you two,” Samatoki walked in. “I still need to get up early for work and I know someone has her seminar in the morning.”

“Please, no.” Nemu placed her face in her hands. “Tohoten-sensei gave me so many corrections last week. I’m not ready to face her yet.”

“Then you better get to work.”

“Yeah, you should focus on your studies.” Ichirou stood. “And I should head back too. Don’t want Jirou and Saburou to worry too much.”

Samatoki and Nemu followed him to the door. Ichirou put on his coat which Samatoki recognized as his.

But it was cold out so he’ll allow Ichirou to borrow it…again.

“Here,” Samatoki handed him the bag. “Do you need me to walk you home?”

“Hmm,” Ichirou gave it a thought. “Nah. You have work in the morning. I’ll take that offer next time.”

“I can at least take you to the lobby.” Samatoki said as he slipped on some outdoor slippers.

“Thanks for having me over,” Ichirou turned to Nemu and bowed. “And thanks for…everything.”

Samatoki looked over at his sister who waved dismissively. 

“It’s no problem!” She smiled. “As long as you do what you can.”

“What? You guys have a secret?” Samatoki tried not to show how jealous he was, especially over his own sister.

Nemu shook her head. “I just scolded Ichirou-kun. It’s similar to when I do it to you.”

Samatoki snorted.

They both bid Nemu goodbye for now as they headed down to the lobby. Maybe Samatoki was imagining, but he thought Ichirou’s hand was brushing against his more than usual as they walked.

It stopped being his imagination when they went into the empty elevator. While it moved, Samatoki felt something hooking on to his pinky. Peeking down, he saw it was Ichirou’s.

He looked over at him. His cheeks were flushed and he wasn’t looking at Samatoki.

‘Please don’t do this.’

It took all of his will power to not grab him on the spot.

He didn’t in the end.

But he didn’t remove his hand either.

The ride down to the first floor was the slowest and fastest Samatoki has ever taken. When it pinged to indicate that they had made it to the first floor, there was a sense of relief and disappointment as Ichirou released his pinky.

When it came to the moment when they had to part, neither said anything at first. Did Samatoki acknowledge what happened in the elevator or did he ignore it? What was he supposed to do in this situation?

What was the right answer?

“Alright,” Samatoki told this mainly to himself, preparing himself. “I’ll see you later this week then. If not, I’ll see you Sunday.”

“I’ll definitely come in before then.” Ichirou stated.

Samatoki smiled. “As long as you’re doing your work properly.”

“Don’t worry. I am.”

They said their goodbyes and when Ichirou was out of sight, Samatoki returned to his apartment where Nemu was waiting.

“You took your time,” Nemu smirked when he plopped on the couch next to her. “You’re so smitten, onii-chan.”

He thought about denying it.

“I am.” Samatoki admitted. He couldn’t just lie to Nemu. “But…”

“But…?” She turned to him.

“I don’t have time to date anyone, let alone Ichirou,” Samatoki replied. “I remember when I was in his situation. Distracting someone with romance at this important time isn’t productive.”

“I think you’re underestimating Ichirou-kun.” Nemu placed a hand on his in a comforting manner. “And you’re being an idiot.”

“Hah?”

Nemu giggled. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders in a hug. Samatoki held her by the waist.

“Good night, onii-chan.” Nemu whispered. “Just do what you can, okay?”

“Okay?” They released their embrace. Nemu got up and went to prepare the bath while Samatoki was left to ponder what she said.

Chapter Text

Samatoki knew very little about Ichirou’s younger brothers except for what he told him. He always saw them go in or come out of the tattoo parlour. Occasionally, he would greet them but other than their first meeting, they never talked.

Ichirou came in on Tuesday like he usually did, a little later in the day. He was grinning.

“My brothers really liked the pasta sauce!” He laughed. “They ate it all and can’t wait for Sunday.”

“Any allergies I have to worry about?” Samatoki smiled. He was glad he was able to appease their tastes.

“Not a lot.” Ichirou leaned on the counter. “Jirou is allergic to lemons though.”

“Second brother is allergic to lemons. Got it. Any foods they like?”

“Steak.”

“Hey now. Do I look like I’m made of money?”

“It was worth a try,” Ichirou snickered. “They basically eat anything though Saburou hates mushrooms and Jirou freezes up at spinach.”

“Perfect. I can make a spinach, mushroom, and green pepper quiche.”

“…how about no?”

“You’re not the cook so I can do what I want.”

Ichirou frowned.

“Can I help?” He suddenly asked. “I feel bad having to leave you to all that. I can at least help you prepare food. Oh, I can help grocery shopping too.”

“Do you know how to cook?” Samatoki raised an eyebrow.

“I-I can!” Ichirou flushed. “A little. You can teach me.”

There was doubt in Samatoki’s mind. “Can I even trust you with a knife?”

“A needle is like a knife.”

“No, it’s not!”

Eventually, Samatoki agreed after a bit of teasing. Ichirou went to sketching the flower of the day before paying for it and giving it to Samatoki. 

It was a purple pansy.


They met on Sunday, Ichirou insisting they go to a cafe near the supermarket nearby so they can prepare for the long day. Samatoki had a coffee and a sandwich while Ichirou had strawberry milk with gratin.

It wasn’t a bad place but it didn’t escape Samatoki’s eyes at the amount of couples there.

They went to the grocery store, bellies full and now capable of resisting impulse buys. Samatoki picked out meats and vegetables he needed, including green peppers, spinach and mushrooms. (Ichirou made a face and tried to argue. Samatoki ignored him.)

“I can pay!” Ichirou insisted when they got in line for the register. “After all, a majority of the food is going to be eaten by me and my brothers.”

“I invited you guys over. It’s fine.” Samatoki replied. “I would’ve paid for all of it anyways.”

“But that’s not fair to you!”

“You should save your money for something you need in the future,” Samatoki handed the cashier the basket and she started ringing them up. “Your brothers’ futures, perhaps? It’s only one meal, Ichirou. It’s not like I’m going to go bankrupt.”

Ichirou frowned, lips in a thin line.

“Partial.”

Samatoki gave the cashier his credit card without saying another word to Ichirou.

He grumbled as they went out. He grabbed a majority of the bags and stomped away. Samatoki shook his head and walked up next to him before he got too far.

“I wish you’d stop treating me like a kid that can’t even pay for his own dinner,” Ichirou mumbled with a pout. “I’m an adult. I earn money. I can afford it.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Samatoki said. “But I’m older than you. I should take care of you.”

“I want to take care of you, too!”

Samatoki turned to him with surprise. Ichirou had stopped on the sidewalk. He seemed to realize what he said and his face turned red.

“I-I mean…” Samatoki waited. “I appreciate what you do for me and my brothers but I’m a man, too! I can take care of things on my own and…I don’t need you to think we’re charity cases just because we’re new and we just started a business. I want you to see me as an equal.”

“Ah.”

Samatoki remembered when he lost his mother. He had to do everything he could in order to make sure he and Nemu were safe and were able to function on their own. Even so, he knew that he wouldn’t have done it without everyone in the neighbourhood. He was able to get back on his feet because of the community there. Despite being rough around the edges, everyone was willing to help and he couldn’t have been more thankful.

But he remembered there were times where he knew it was all because of pity. He had pride too and he swallowed it just so he could get Nemu to live comfortably and be able to go to school without any worries. He hated how pathetic he really was.

“I get it.” Samatoki finally said. “My bad. From tomorrow on, you can start paying for your own stuff.”

“From tomorrow on?”

“Yeah. I’ll just take the payment from the flowers the past few weeks as the payment for the food today.”

“But those were gifts for you. I don’t want those to be counted as payment,” Ichirou looked desperate for some reason.

“I appreciate the gifts but it’s a little weird for you to give them to me,” Samatoki explained with a tilt of his head. He couldn’t understand why Ichirou was acting like that. “I’m a florist. Just buying them and then giving them back to me? That’s a little weird.”

“…you don’t like them?”

“I didn’t say that,” Samatoki smacked him in the head. Ichirou held his head in pain. “I wouldn’t be a florist if I didn’t. I’m just saying, you don’t have to waste your money on them if all you’re going to do is give them back.”

“…but I want you to have them. I don’t want them to go back to the shop.”

“It’s fine to give them back to the shop. I told you that at the beginning.”

“Samatoki-san, you really don’t get it. I give them to you because I li—”

Ichirou stopped. He put a hand up to his mouth quickly, body being knocked over a little by the heavy plastic bags he was still holding. He looked at him in horror causing Samatoki to worry.

“…you okay?” Samatoki asked cautiously.

“…yeah.” Ichirou nodded. He visibly swallowed. “Uh, we should get going.”

Ichirou sped up towards Samatoki’s apartment building and he couldn’t do anything but follow.

Samatoki was worried about Ichirou’s mood when they got to the kitchen. He seemed to be avoiding his eyes as they worked. Despite this, he took instructions well. It seemed everything was back to normal when Samatoki told him to cut up the green peppers.

Ichirou just glared at them, causing him to laugh.

“Oh, come on.” He smiled. “Those peppers aren’t going to cut themselves.”

“Why are we having these when you know I hate them? Why the mushrooms and spinach too? I know I said my brothers liked the sauce but do you want them to hate you with this?”

“Oh, they’re just the right ingredients for this quiche.”

“Something else, please!”

“No. You kids need a nutritious meal.”

“Samatoki-san…”

Samatoki ended up cooking most of the quiche since Ichirou was being so stubborn about it. He instructed him to deal with the chicken soup instead.

Nemu had returned with Jirou and Saburou trailing after meeting them in the lobby.

“Thank you for having us over,” Saburou bowed like the polite honour student Ichirou always raved about.

“Yeah. Thanks, man.”

“Jirou!” Ichirou scolded him.

“I mean, thank you, Samatoki-san.”

“No problem,” Samatoki gave a nod. He looked over at the soup Ichirou was stirring. “Let me taste it.”

Ichirou lifted up the ladle with a bit of it. Samatoki leaned forward, just over his shoulder, and took a sip, swishing it in his mouth a bit.

“Add a bit more salt and stir it then we’re almost done.”

“R-right.”

“Okay! Jirou-kun, Saburou-kun, you can wait at the dining table while I help set up.” Nemu smiled to them.

“Is there anything we can do?” Saburou asked.

“Nope! You’re our guests so please sit comfortably!”

The two left the kitchen while Nemu opened up the cabinets. Samatoki and Ichirou finished up and brought out the food.

“We got some quiche, roasted potatoes, and chicken soup.” Samatoki pointed to each one of them as he sat down in his spot next to Ichirou. “Dig in, boys.”

“Thank you!” Both Jirou and Saburou grabbed their knives and forks and began scarfing down the quiche. Ichirou watched on, concerned as they ate without any problems. Samatoki elbowed him, indicating for him to eat as well.

“This is really good, Samatoki-san!” Jirou said between mouthfuls that reminded Samatoki of Ichirou. “Best quiche I’ve ever eaten!”

“It is.” Saburou agreed. “We expected it since the pasta sauce was good but this is amazing!”

“Glad to hear,” Samatoki smirked over to Ichirou. He didn’t look pleased. “What about you, Ichirou? Aren’t you going to eat?”

Ichirou looked at the quiche in front of him. He looked up at his brothers as they ate happily then back to the quiche. He sighed and finally cut it with a fork.

He chewed and Samatoki watched him with bated breath. Ichirou’s eyes widened and he sighed.

“It’s really good.”

Samatoki laughed.

They cleaned up the food without any problems, everyone looking satisfied. 

“You guys did well,” Samatoki leaned on his palm, elbow on the table. “I’m glad you liked the spinach and mushroom quiche.”

“Spinach…?”

“…mushroom…?”

Jirou and Saburou looked at each other before looking over at Ichirou. They then turned to Samatoki and slammed their hands on the table, startling him.

“That was amazing!” Both shouted, praises going everywhere. Samatoki didn’t know who to focus on as the babbled on at the same time. They finally calmed down after a bit, breathing heavily and Samatoki only sniggered.

“Your nii-chan knows how to make it now,” Samatoki placed an arm around Ichirou’s shoulder and patted him on the head. “He can make it any time you want now.”

“Really?!” Jirou and Saburou looked over at him with stars in their eyes. Ichirou coughed.

“I know the basics at least. To do it all on my own…”

“You’ll be fine,” Samatoki patted him on the head again. His hair was so soft. “Don’t worry about it.”

Jirou and Saburou insisted on helping clean up the table. Nemu accepted and they followed her in the kitchen, leaving Ichirou and Samatoki alone.

At first they didn’t say anything. The only thing that filled the silence was the dishes clinking in the kitchen.

“Your brothers are good kids.”

“It’s because they liked your cooking, isn’t it?”

Samatoki chuckled. “That’s part of it. They’re kids but they’re not bad kids. You did a good job raising them on your own. 

“Ah,” Ichirou looked down at the table. He looked pleased. There was a gentle smile on his lips that made Samatoki’s heart beat a little faster. “Thank you.”

He wanted to just kiss him there.

Before the urge took over him, the lights went out and both of them turned around. Nemu stood there with a cake in her hands, candles lit up on top of it. Jirou and Saburou held plates and cutlery, grinning next to her.

“Happy birthday!” The three of them chimed together. Samatoki stared in shock as the cake was set in front of him and the four of them started singing off-tune.

When did they get the cake? When did they manage to put it in the fridge when he was there the entire time and didn’t see any signs of a box? Did he overlook it? How long was this planned for? All these questions raced in his head until they finished singing. He couldn’t figure out what to say.

“Uh, thanks?” Samatoki said stupidly. Nemu clicked her tongue before laughing. He blew out the candles and everyone cheered. They served the cake up and sat down. Saburou reached for his bag with the board game he brought and held out a nicely wrapped present.

“Here you are,” He said. “Um, this is from all of us but Ichi-nii planned it all so it’s mainly his gift!”

“Saburou.” Ichirou hissed. His cheeks tinged pink from embarrassment and Samatoki only smiled softly. He accepted the present.

“Can I open it?” He asked the older Yamada. Ichirou nodded shyly, turning away.

Samatoki carefully took off the wrapping revealing a dark brown book. At first, he didn’t quite know what it was until he opened it. Memories were filled in the form of pictures and notes. Pictures of when he was young from various points in his life were glued in, some with notes next to them, handwritten by many people. There were pictures of when he was in elementary school, at past block parties (often with food on his clothes from whatever fight they had that year), at flower arranging classes and many more he didn’t know existed. Flowers and drawings were added into it too as if signifying the seasons.

He recognized some handwriting – he knew Jyuto’s and Riou’s and saw Jakurai’s barely legible script. He saw Ramuda’s fancy curls, Yumeno’s precise kanji, and Arisugawa’s sloppy furigana. Izanami’s flashy handwriting was often next to Kannonzaka’s neat print. Nemu’s was next to many of the childhood photos along with some that were signed from the neighbourhood aunties.

Then he saw some that he didn’t quite recognize but based off the Seiyruu Kazusa movie ticket dated from a few weeks ago, he knew who it belonged to. A picture of the pampas fields was there along with the food from the little restaurant. There was a picture of a horse that had been drawn on a page, coming out of a field of flowers he recognized as the ones Ichirou had worked on.

There were more pages but they were blank, as if telling him to continue the scrapbook himself. He looked up at the others, all of them with expectant faces, wondering if he liked the gift.

There was only one answer to that.

“This is beautiful,” He couldn’t help the smile that appeared on his face. “Thank you.”

He heard Ichirou exhale next to him. He had his face in his hands.

“I’m so glad you liked it.” Ichirou said. “I didn’t know what I would’ve done if you hated it.” 

“Punch me, obviously.” 

With his arm still around Ichirou’s neck, he pulled him closer to him, placing their temples next to each other. He ruffled his hair and placed his lips on the top of his head, almost kissing it before stopping. He inhaled the fresh scent of Ichirou’s shampoo now mixed it with a bit of the cooking from earlier and just stayed there for a moment before relaxing back in his seat.

He was so happy that he almost kissed him. His body was moving on its own now. 

He knew he had to control himself more but with each passing day, it became harder to.

It was getting dangerous.

Chapter Text

The problem with pursuing Ichirou was that Samatoki was scared.

He would never admit it to anyone (though if Nemu or Jyuto coax it out of him, he might) but he was terrified of failure.

He worked hard to make sure his business was successful, grooming himself to be a businessman with a winning smile and tough attitude so nobody could back down from his persuasion. He made sure he worked sleepless nights just so everything would go as he wanted. After his stint as a student and his mother’s death, failure was not an option for him.

Pursuing Ichirou was just an invitation for failure.

First was that Ichirou was in the same position as him all those years ago – a young businessman that needed to gain a reputation in order to get business and take care of his family. That was a lot of pressure and a romantic relationship had to be the last thing on his mind.

The second was would Ichirou want to date a guy like him? He was older and boring. They got along fine but what if it was just because Ichirou saw him as a friend? He couldn’t even think of any hobbies he did outside of work other than cleaning. Ichirou was young and probably had tons of hobbies that were closer to what Nemu liked rather than him. 

And last - Samatoki has never been in a relationship before.

Like, a real one.

When he was a student and free, he had relationships left and right. Not of them lasted long though and he often found himself alone. There was no time for him to date anyone when he had to establish a business so he has been out of the dating scene for at least ten years.

What do people his age even do on a date?

What about Ichirou’s age? Were they so vastly different?

Samatoki paused.

What did Ichirou like to do?

The times they’ve hung out, they’ve just been doing Samatoki’s activities – going to the pampas fields, the movie theatre to see his film, hanging out at his house (with his sister and his brothers too). Did Ichirou really like doing those things or was he being polite because Samatoki was older?

“Hey, Ichirou,” Samatoki spoke suddenly after watching him sketch. Since Samatoki told him he didn’t need to buy the flowers, Ichirou had been drawing the ones on display instead. “You wanna go out this Sunday?”

Ichirou’s head whipped over to him so fast, he thought it would break.

“Really?” Ichirou rushed over and placed his hands on the counter, similar to how his brothers did last time they were at his house. “Y-you want to hang out with me?”

Samatoki blinked.

“I mean, yeah? We usually hang out, don’t we?”

“Yeah, but this is the first time you actually asked me out to just hang out!” Ichirou’s face showed relief. “It’s just been me, tagging along because it’s convenient or it’s like you’re just trying to appease me.

“I’m really happy.”

He was so stupidly straightforward that Samatoki just blushed in embarrassment.

“My bad,” Samatoki mumbled. “I…I do like hanging out with you.”

Ichirou beamed.

Samatoki tried not to look directly at him.

“You can choose the place,” Samatoki stated. “Everywhere in the past has just been convenient for me. If you have a place you wanna go, let’s go.”

“Alright, alright,” Ichirou was laughing and Samatoki only stared. “How about the amusement park?”

Samatoki raised an eyebrow.

“Amusement park?” A place that was constantly crowded, overpriced and they had to wait hours in line just to ride a single thing?

Kids were weird.

“Yeah!” Ichirou nodded, eyes waiting as if looking for approval. “If you don’t mind missing dinner with Nemu-chan, we can go in the evening when there’s less people and it’s cheaper. We can even catch the fireworks!”

“You know what? Sure.” Samatoki shrugged. He didn’t want to let Ichirou down and shoot down his suggestion. “Just let me know when and where.”

“Awesome,” He was glowing. The brat was glowing. “We can get dinner at a nearby place too.”

“Should we be eating before going on those roller coasters?”

“Don’t worry, Samatoki-san. We’ll go on the slow ones just for you.”

“Oi!”

When he told Nemu that night that he wasn’t going to eat with her on Sunday, she smirked. There was a knowing twinkle in her eye that caught him off guard.

“Are you going out with Ichirou-kun?” Her voice was curious and strangely innocent.

“…yes.” Samatoki was hesitant to answer. “Is that a problem?”

“Nope,” Nemu leaned back in her seat. “What’s the plan?”

“Eat dinner, go to the place at night and go on some rides then watch fireworks, I guess. Nothing is set in stone because it depends on how crowded it is. The only thing Ichirou seems dead set on is the Ferris wheel.”

“Oh? I see.” Nemu grinned. “Have fun then.”

Nemu was way too hard to read these days.

They met at Ichirou’s shop on Sunday afternoon and took a ride in the red car Ichirou rented. It would be at least an hour before they even got close to the amusement park.

“You can nap if you want,” Ichirou stated as they got on the highway. “Save your energy for screaming on the rides.”

“Based on what I know from when we watched Seiryuu Kazusa’s film, you’ll be the one screaming his lungs out.”

“This and that are different!”

“Yeah, sure.”

Low background music and easy banter kept them awake and going. Ichirou was easy to read. He was always expressive from every pout to every click of irritation. It made it easy for Samatoki to pinpoint his moods and how far he could push him. He was always entertaining because of how quick they changed.

Being with Ichirou was fun.

An hour passed quicker than anticipated. They arrived at a small ramen restaurant, eating cheap but delicious food (Ichirou insisted on going somewhere ‘better’ but Samatoki chose the restaurant this time so he ignored his suggestions) before heading back to the car to go to the amusement park.

Because it was late fall, it was already dark by the time they got there. The theme park was lit up brightly with various colours moving around at different speeds. There was still laughter and screaming from those who haven’t left yet. Ichirou managed to find a spot not too far. They bought the tickets and went in.

“Let’s head to the gift shop first, Samatoki-san!” Ichirou pointed to the sign with a white cat over the words Mitty Kitty’s Thingies. “It’s late so if we don’t go now, we won’t have a chance to grab souvenirs!”

“Who needs souvenirs from this overpriced place?” Samatoki snorted. They were just cheaply made items with the brand name as their only value. He could get better at the local one hundred yen store.

“Really? I was going to get some for Jirou and Saburou,” Ichirou’s eyes shone with mischief. “I thought Nemu-chan would like them too.”

Ichirou was hitting his weak spot and the brat knew it. Samatoki huffed out of his nose angrily.

“Fine, whatever.” He knew souvenirs were stupid and too expensive, but if they were for Nemu, he could stretch his budget a little.

“Great!” Ichirou laughed. He grabbed Samatoki’s hand, dragging him into the store.

There were still many people there. Samatoki looked at the displays as he got pulled around. There were stuffed toys of the main mascot, Mitty, and her friends, Moxy, Miru, and Fred; pens, notepads and sketchbooks with the characters on the cover; mugs, plates, and even cutlery; clothes ranging from sandals to t-shirts.

There was just so much to choose from. It made Samatoki’s head spin a little.

“Ah! How about a keychain?” Ichirou went to a rack with keychains of the same design but with different kana for the names. “Jirou and Saburou’s names are pretty basic...”

“Found Jirou’s,” Samatoki lifted up one. “Saburou’s should be near you.”

“It is!” Ichirou lifted both of them up. “Thank you, Samatoki-san! Let’s find Nemu-chan’s!”

They searched for at least five minutes, spinning the rack various times before admitting defeat. Nemu’s name wasn’t there so they had to find another gift.

They walked along each section with Ichirou pointing to an item before Samatoki rejected them. They weren’t good enough for his dear sister.

Ichirou tugged him towards the hats.

At this point, Samatoki noticed that their hands had been linked together since they got to the store. How was that possible? Why didn’t he notice until now? Why wasn’t it out of place when Ichirou’s hand was in his?

Samatoki was anxious of the answer.

Even so, he didn’t let go.

“Samatoki-san!” He turned to Ichirou only for a hat to be placed on his head. “You’re Samatokitty-san now!”

He frowned and looked at the mirror that was readily available. He had a white cap with the same coloured cat ears on top, a happy grin and the name ‘Mitty’ in tiny script on the side.

Ridiculous.

He looked over at Ichirou to scold him for this travesty but saw that he had put on a hat with cat ears as well. It was Moxy’s black one complete with a little red bow on the right ear.

“How do I look, Samatokitty-san?” Ichirou winked. Samatoki snorted.

“Fantastic, Ichinya.”

Ichirou paused and just stared at him.

“Say that again.”

“Hah?”

“Please.”

“Fantastic.”

“After that!”

“Hah?”

“I mean my name!” Ichirou screeched, releasing Samatoki’s hand and grabbing his shoulders instead.

Samatoki smirked.

“Ichirou?”

“The cat version! ‘Ichinya’! But no ‘ichi’.”

“Fuck no.”

Ichirou persisted even after they put the hats down (much to Ichirou’s chagrin) and continued looking for a souvenir for Nemu. Samatoki finally decided on a weekly planner with the characters dancing on the cover. He grabbed a box of cookies for Jyuto and Riou while he was at it.

They finished shopping, putting the goods away in Ichirou’s backpack safely, and made their way over to one rollercoaster. There weren’t a lot of people there so they managed to get through the line quickly and ride it.

They did this for the next few rides, both able to last through each without any problems. Soon, it became a competition to see who could ride on the biggest rollercoaster the most.

“Listen, brat,” Samatoki said as they made their way through the line for the Black Oni for the third time. “You lack the experience when it comes to dealing with this stuff. You should just quit before you get sick.”

“But my youth is the reason I’ll definitely do better here,” Ichirou replied. They got in their seats – the very front row. “I have more energy and endurance. My health is at its peak, unlike some old men.”

“You really pulling that old man card, huh?” The rollercoaster started moving. “Pretty sure you’ll throw up at the top.”

“Is that a bet?!” Ichirou yelled as they went up the steep track.

“Bring it on!”

Both screamed when going down.

After the fifth time, both were exhausted. They managed to find a bench to rest and breathe. They were barely able to move and Samatoki was surprised that neither of them had thrown up yet (though he was definitely close to). There was a silent truce between them, both needing to stop before losing their minds though neither vocalized it. 

Samatoki stood up and tried not to let the sudden weight change bother him.

“Going to the vending machine. Want anything?”

“Sports drink, please.”

Samatoki nodded. He found one close by and got their drinks.

Ichirou still had his head in his hands when he came back. Samatoki pressed his drink to his cheek and sat next to him.

“Drink up. It’ll make you feel better.”

Ichirou accepted. Samatoki drank carefully while keeping an eye on the other. He was still a little pale. Maybe they went a little overboard with the Black Oni.

“Let’s head home,” Samatoki placed a hand on his shoulder. “I can drive back. You look like you’re gonna pass out any second now.”

Ichirou shook his head. He opened his bottle, inhaling the drink.

“Fireworks…Ferris wheel…”

“We can do it another time,” Samatoki placed a hand on Ichirou’s hair to comfort him. “There’ll be plenty of opportunities.”

Again, Ichirou shook his head.

Samatoki frowned.

He sighed.

“Let’s take a walk there,” Samatoki stood up, offering a hand for Ichirou to take. He didn’t think of it as anything romantic at that moment – he was more afraid that Ichirou would wander off on his own with how he currently was. “We’ll take it slow.”

Ichirou took his gloved hand, the weight feeling a little heavy. They walked through the thinning crowd, taking in the brightly coloured lights, the scent of late night snack food and the cool fall breeze.

Samatoki felt a bit better after a few minutes. Looking over at Ichirou, he seemed to be fine as well.

He was still worried though. Samatoki stopped, catching Ichirou’s attention. He leaned forward, their foreheads touching so he could check his temperature.

He seemed relatively fine. It was cool, probably from the air. Judging by his curious and responsive eyes, nothing was out of the ordinary.

Suddenly, Ichirou let go of his hand, pushing him away. His cheeks were red, something Samatoki swore he did not see before.

“The hell?!” He exclaimed. He was irritated. “Ichirou! What was that for?”

“What do you mean? What the hell were you doing?” Ichirou took a step back. His entire face was red now.

“You looked sick so I was checking your temperature!” Samatoki retorted. He couldn’t understand what the hell was wrong with him. “Have you not check your brothers’ before?”

“Not like that!” Ichirou waved his arms wildly. “You do it with your hand! That’s how people usually do it!”

“You think I’m gonna take off my gloves in this weather?” Samatoki glared. “It was convenient at the time.”

“Don’t you feel any embarrassment?!”

“Hah? What the hell are you talking about?”

“I mean—you don’t—how…?”

“You’re not making sense,” Samatoki was both annoyed and amused with Ichirou’s yelling. If he really didn’t like it, he just won’t do it again. There was no reason to throw a stink over it. “Are we going to the Ferris wheel or are you going to have a midlife crisis at the age of twenty-one?”

“It’s not a midlife crisis!”

They continued walking as Ichirou sulked next to him. He was mumbling incoherent but Samatoki did hear him say ‘natural airhead’ which pissed him off a lot.

“I’m not!”

“You are!”

“I am the least air-headed of the two of us!”

“The hell! I’m definitely not the air-headed one here!”

They continued to fight until they reached the Ferris wheel. They were so busy doing that that Samatoki didn’t notice that the only people in line seemed to be couples. They finally cooled down right before it was their turn. They got in their gondola and sat in complete silence.

The Ferris wheel overlooked the entire park. He could see the rides they had gone on, especially that cursed Black Oni. The sky was completely dark at this point and he knew the fireworks were going to light up soon.

“Hey, Samatoki-san?” He looked at Ichirou, pausing for a moment.

Ichirou’s expression was soft, if not a little tired. He could see that his energy was still not one hundred percent but it didn’t matter. He was looking directly at him like he was the only thing he could see.

“Even though we fought a lot today, I wanted to say thank you for coming with me today,” Ichirou was stiff, switching back to a more formal tone.

He raised an eyebrow.

“I invited you out so it was only natural.” Samatoki leaned on the window ledge with his elbow, cheek laying in his palm. He smiled. “I had fun.”

Ichirou reached out for his hand. Samatoki was startled but he didn’t resist. Something inside him was panicking, questioning whether it was a good idea to be in such a small space with Ichirou alone. At the same time, the comfort of his hand on his nullified his fears.

“Samatoki-san, I—”

Loud popping could be heard from outside. The fireworks had started going, sparkling in the dark blue sky in various colours. Samatoki watched as the designs formed from pinwheels to flowers to the familiar faces of the amusement park’s mascots. They were dazzling.

“Beautiful…” Samatoki found himself say unconsciously.

“…yeah. Really beautiful.”

Ichirou’s voice was gentle.

Those fireworks were really lucky.

They finished not so long after as they neared the end of their ride. Samatoki looked at Ichirou who was still staring at him as if he didn’t move the entire time.

“What did you want to say?” He asked.

Ichirou was silent for a moment. His head fell on Samatoki’s shoulder and for a moment he thought he had gone to sleep.

“Samatoki-san, I—” Ichirou paused. Samatoki felt his heart speed up though he was unsure why. “…I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Not on me, you asshole! We’re almost there just…hold on!”

They made it to the bottom just in time, finding a washroom so Ichirou could do his business. He apologized as they made it to the car. Samatoki went to the vending machine to buy another sports drink and gave it to him. He took the driver’s seat as Ichirou reclined his chair back to lie down to rest.

For some reason, Samatoki had thought Ichirou was going to say something else. His heart had been anticipating something but he wasn’t quite sure what.

Whatever it was, Samatoki wasn’t expecting that.

He glanced over at Ichirou, who was now sleeping soundly.

‘What a dumb brat,’ Samatoki shook his head with a fond smile as they made their way back home.

Chapter Text

“We need some time apart.”

Samatoki couldn’t believe his ears when he heard that. He merely stared at the phone as if it had grown three heads and just asked him to go back to his home planet with him.

“Hah?!”

“I mean, I need time apart…” Samatoki could imagine Ichirou hiding his face behind his hands. “I feel so bad about what happened yesterday that I…can’t face you without feeling shame. I need to reflect and get my shit together. I need to be on equal footing as you.”

Samatoki wanted to argue but he could tell that Ichirou was set. 

It had been a week since then. He stopped coming to sketch and there had been no late night texts. Samatoki didn’t message him because he didn’t want to push him when he was the one who asked for space.

But it was lonely.

He didn’t realize how much Ichirou had become a part of his life these past few months. Every time the door chimed open, Samatoki quickly looked over only not to see him. He was home on Sunday, sitting on his couch and watching TV when he realized he hadn’t had a free Sunday of nothing in a long time.

Ichirou had seeped into his life and suddenly he was gone.

He missed the brat.

But he was stuck. Samatoki couldn’t contact him.

This sucked ass.

Or maybe...

Samatoki paled.

Maybe Ichirou didn’t just need a break…maybe he just didn’t want to see Samatoki anymore?

Maybe those arguments made him realize they weren’t actually compatible? That if they were to fight over dumb stuff like roller coasters, they would just fight about anything in the future? Did Ichirou sense some bigger one in the future and decided it was better just to cut off all ties with him?

Ichirou wanted to tell him something back in the Ferris wheel. Was it that he didn’t want to meet Samatoki anymore? 

He felt his heart drop to his stomach.

It was probably better that way. Ichirou didn’t need to feel his fervent gazes or to deal with his awkwardness. Samatoki thought being friends would be good enough but if Ichirou didn’t think so, Samatoki shouldn’t push.

But that didn’t mean Samatoki didn’t feel bad about that decision.

He went to bed early that Sunday night without eating with Nemu – completely unheard of to anyone who knew him. His mood was still shitty the next day to the point of Jyuto sending him to the back to work on some arrangements instead.

“Christmas is less than a month away. At least look inviting.” Jyuto said from his computer in the corner. “We’re going to be busy for the next few weeks. If you deliver things while looking like you’re about to cry, what will the customers think?

“That being said,” Jyuto spun in his seat to face him. “Why do you look like you’re about to cry?”

“I don’t.”

“I’m pretty sure I have to see your face more than you do.” Jyuto pushed up his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. “You look awful.”

“It’s none of your business.”

“It is my business if it affects this business,” Jyuto gestured to the room. “You’re the boss, Samatoki. Act like it.”

Samatoki grimaced and turned away.

“It’s Ichirou-kun, isn’t it?” Samatoki flinched. Jyuto sighed. “What happened now? Did you two break up?”

“What?! I told you I wouldn’t get together with him and I didn’t!”

“…seriously? You actually kept your word on that?”

“Of course I did!”

“Oh, my God, Samatoki,” Jyuto slapped his hand over his forehead. “Are you really going to continue like this? This pining has gone long enough.”

“Yes because Ichirou hates my guts now!” Samatoki turned away from him like a child with a tantrum.

There was silence.

“I’m sorry?” Jyuto didn’t sound sorry at all. “In what imaginary world of yours does Ichirou-kun hate you? Are you really that blind?”

“Then tell me why hasn’t he been coming by or contacting me the past week?” Samatoki glared. “He told me he needed some time apart. Doesn’t that mean he just hates me?”

Jyuto was silent for a moment, as if taking a moment to examine. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “It could mean something on his end rather than yourself personally. He’ll contact you soon.”

“But it’s been a week!” Samatoki argued. “Does it really need more than a week?”

“For some people, yes.”

“I don’t believe you!”

“Just because you barely reflect on anything doesn’t mean others don’t.” Jyuto sighed. “You need a break – a change of scenery. Go buy us some muffins from Fling Pastries . Take a walk. Come back when you’ve calmed down a bit.”

Samatoki accepted the break. He knew he wouldn’t get anything done at this rate. 

It was calm walking over to Fling Pastries . The housewives and elderly were out and about, going shopping and doing errands. It was a little cloudy and colder than normal. He was in his winter coat, bundled but still a little cold. He should probably take some time to take out his winter clothes.

Fling Pastries and Books was only a five minute walk from Mad Flower Crew . It was getting close to lunchtime but Samatoki was sure he could make it before the crowd came in.

From a distance, he could see the large window with the logo etched on there. Sitting inside the shop, he could see a couple—

That consisted of Ichirou and Nemu.

He immediately stopped in his tracks.

Samatoki really didn’t mind if Ichirou and Nemu hung out together.

Really.

They were the same age. They probably had a lot more in common than Samatoki had with either of them. It was probably easier for them to connect with each other than him.

But the way Nemu was laughing…

The way Ichirou blushed…

Was this the reason why Ichirou was avoiding him? He didn’t mind. If they decided to go out, Samatoki would support them. It was only natural. Nemu was his sister and Ichirou was a good friend—

Samatoki’s gut twisted.

Was it bad that he didn’t want that? Was it bad that he didn’t want Nemu to be in a relationship with Ichirou and for Ichirou to be just a friend? Was it bad for him to want to be selfish and be the one to make Ichirou blush and laugh and…make him happy?

Was it bad?

Samatoki watched Nemu’s beautiful smile. He watched Ichirou’s lively expressions.

It was bad.

He turned and walked back to the shop empty-handed.


Jyuto had asked why he came back so quickly with no food but he didn’t reply. He went back to his work and threw himself into it, needing to distract himself.

He was so jealous .

He shouldn’t be. Nemu was his dear sister and she deserved the world. Ichirou was a good guy. He was kind, a hard worker and also cared about his family. He was so easy to read which made him honest and genuine. Samatoki couldn’t ask for someone better.

He really couldn’t.

It drove him mad that he wanted to be the one Ichirou turned his affections to even though he knew he shouldn’t. He wanted to be with Ichirou and didn’t want to at the same time. He wanted him to hold Samatoki’s hand again but put his energy into his business and his brothers.

One thing was for sure: he didn’t want Ichirou and Nemu together.

But if they did end up in a relationship, Samatoki had no choice but to accept it.

Even with these thoughts running through his head, he had to keep moving forward. He needed to distract himself from such things or he’ll go insane and depressed.

In the evening, he and the others began to clean up. Samatoki reluctantly went outside to bring the sign in. At this point, he wanted to avoid seeing BB City Tattoos as much as he could.

He opened the door to put the sign in when he recognized another chime from the store next to him.

Shit.

He could still hurry and go in without—

“Samatoki-san!” It was too late. Samatoki turned to Ichirou. His face was flushed even though he was wearing a coat – the same one he never returned to Samatoki. “I-it’s been a long time.”

“Yo, Ichirou,” Samatoki nodded. He was calm.

He was ready to give up.

“I-I talked to Nemu-chan recently…”

Ah, so this was it.

He didn’t expect him to move so soon. He’d probably get a similar talk from Nemu tonight. At least he could prepare himself for that one right now.

“…and I heard that you two didn’t have any plans for Christmas…”

How would he continue the conversation? A warning? Congratulations? Samatoki wasn’t mentally prepared.

“…and I was wondering if you’d like to spend Christmas,” Ichirou pointed to himself, “with me.”

Samatoki’s thoughts paused.

He stared at him.

“Hah?”

“I mean, if you’re not busy!” Ichirou arms began to flail around. “I mean, we can go to dinner or something, see the illumination…just. You and me. The two of us.”

It felt like a dream. It almost sounded like a date with how shyly Ichirou was acting.

In fact, Samatoki could definitely feel heat rise to his cheeks.

This…this was real, right? An actual date? Ichirou was asking him out on a date on Christmas?

This definitely wasn’t true.

But…he didn’t want to miss the chance.

“Yeah,” He nodded. He felt his hands shaking and was lucky that he was holding the heavy sign so Ichirou couldn’t see. “Let’s hang out in Christmas. Just. You and me.”

Ichirou exhaled as if he had been holding his breath. He smiled so gently, Samatoki thought he was going to have a stroke.

“Y-yeah. Great. Just. You and me.” He repeated.

Samatoki really liked the sound of that.

“So, we’ll message each other for details?” Samatoki didn’t know how to continue. He was actually going to go on a date with Ichirou. “Like always.”

“Yeah,” Ichirou nodded. “Like always.”

Ichirou went back into his shop with a small wave. Samatoki went back in his and immediately collapsed on the floor, legs giving out as soon as he could process it.

“Samatoki, are you okay?” Riou asked as he ran up to him. He placed Samatoki’s arm around his shoulder and lifted him up.

“A date,” He was quietly mumbling in disbelief. “A real date.”

He felt his heart race. This was what he wanted from when Ichirou spoke in the ferris wheel. Something like this. A date. An interest.

A chance.

Chapter Text

December was one of the worst months for him and Samatoki couldn’t wait for the New Year to arrive. He could stay home for a few days and completely pass out.

But until then, it was hell.

Riou and Jyuto were mainly in charge of delivery as Samatoki had to stay back and work on the arrangements. Too many companies wanted custom designs to impress their staff and often, it was quite a hefty piece. Nemu came in during this time since Samatoki could only do so much at the front. He even hired temporary workers and had trained them earlier in the month. People wanted bouquets for their loved ones during this time and as much as they prepared them early in the morning, some customers just suck and want them to be remade.

December was definitely a test on his patience.

There were a lot of late nights. Jyuto checked with orders and inventory while Samatoki and Riou prepared for the next day, occasionally needing to go to the greenhouse to get more flowers.

By the time he knew it, it was a week before their date and Samatoki didn’t have a present. He barely had enough time to think about it, let alone go out and buy it. Ichirou had given him such a nice birthday present – he really wanted to give something just as nice back.

But what was time?

He managed to go to the mall after work a few days before, going after a delivery, grabbing what he thought was good though he was no expert on the subject. With the bag in the van, he returned back to the shop to work on some more arrangements for the next day.

Jyuto had brought them some take out from Wolf’s Heaven and they ate while deciding their next plan of attack. Because Samatoki was going to take the evening to go out with Ichirou on Christmas (something he regretted and didn’t regret at the same time), he had to make it up the days after for the New Years’ arrangements. He knew he would be working later than the other two without the schedule change anyways. He hated given them extra work they weren’t responsible for and quite frankly, it wasn’t fair to them.

“Okay, you guys are done for now,” Samatoki looked over at the bouquets off to the side. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

“It’s almost eleven,” Jyuto glanced at the clock. “Make sure you don’t just sleep over again.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Samatoki waved dismissively as the other two left. He sat down and continued working on his current creation when there was a knock. He turned to the doorway between the shop and the back and saw Ichirou there with two steaming mugs and a paper bag.

It felt like Samatoki’s stress had melted away.

“Hi,” He stepped in. He handed him a mug. “Sorry to bother you. Um, Iruma-san let me in. I thought you’d like a break?”

“Yeah, sure,” Samatoki accepted the drink. It was hot chocolate based on the scent. Ichirou opened up the paper bag.

“Just some late night muffins.”

“Sounds good.”

Samatoki took off his gloves and pulled up a stool so Ichirou could sit next to him. They slowly ate the muffins and sipped on the hot chocolate. It was just so relaxing having Ichirou by his side with all that was going on. Clients and customers disappeared from his mind; the busy days had paused and all that was there was him and Ichirou sitting in a comforting silence.

Samatoki sighed. Quietly, his head drift to Ichirou’s shoulder. It was comfortable.

“Sorry.” Samatoki muttered. “Just…give me a few minutes.”

“That’s fine.”

Samatoki closed his eyes and inhaled. Ichirou’s after shave was mixed in with the scent of flowers all over them. It wasn’t bad and it calmed him down a little. If time could stop just for a moment – for this moment – Samatoki would be fine going back to the chaos.

He sat back up, the drowsiness almost getting to him. He lifted his arms up to stretch, hearing a small pop from his back. He drank the hot chocolate and finished the last of his muffin.

“Thanks,” Samatoki nodded. “I really appreciate this.”

“It’s no problem.” Ichirou said as he cleaned up the muffin wrapping. “I was worried. Nemu-chan and Iruma-san told me you’ve passed out before.”

“Those two…” Samatoki sighed. He shook his head. “It was a while ago back when the shop was first opening. I mean, we had a reputation to build so I was doing what I could. I’ve paced myself since then so it’s fine.”

“That’s…” Ichirou frowned. “Can I stay here while you work?”

“I won’t pass out,” Samatoki scoffed. “I just have this arrangement to finish.”

“Still…” Ichirou looked down sheepishly. “I want to see you do flower arrangement too.”

Samatoki’s cheeks turned pink at his earnest voice. He turned back to the arrangement he was working on.

“Fine.”

He worked silently. Ichirou didn’t say anything to not disturb him. It was easy for Samatoki to get lost in designing, figuring out what was the best shape and making it come to life. Poinsettias were mainly what he used for this season but red roses were popular too. 

“Is it hard?” Ichirou asked quietly. “Flower arranging?”

“I don’t think it’s too difficult. As long as you’re careful and you have a creative mind, anyone can do it.” Samatoki nodded to the scrap pile of wires and parts he didn’t need for the arrangement. “If you want to try, you can use those. Start with a shape to make a base and go from there. There’s some tape off to the side to the side and I think there are some extra gloves in the drawer. Be careful since they’re roses.”

Samatoki continued as Ichirou started. He was a dexterous guy so he didn’t need to worry too much. Glancing over, it looked like Ichirou was making a wreath with the extra flowers. He could let Ichirou take it home for his family after he was done.

He laughed occasionally when Ichirou cursed about not getting the shape right or when the flowers weren’t sticking. He had difficulty shaping some of the stems into his base, accidentally breaking them. When Samatoki offered to help, he refused, telling him to turn back to his work. He was going to face this challenge on his own.

Samatoki smiled and went back to work.

He finished not too long after. He put his work off to the side and started cleaning up as Ichirou continued, almost finishing his wreath. Samatoki came up to him when it looked like he was putting the final touches.

He had used some flexible branches around the wire, making a perfect doughnut shape. Various roses and white poinsettias filled it out and Samatoki even saw a mistletoe weaved in.

“Hey, that looks good,” Samatoki placed a hand on his shoulder. “Good job. It’ll look nice hanging on the shop door.”

“It’s not a wreath, Samatoki-san,” Ichirou laughed. He stood up and placed it on his hair gently. “Perfect!”

Samatoki blinked, slowly putting his hand on it. Ichirou had made sure to cover as much wire as he could so it wouldn’t hurt him. It felt a little small on his head as it wasn’t fitted and he didn’t have enough material. It was imperfect.

But Samatoki couldn’t help but turn red.

“You idiot!” Samatoki scolded. “What’s a man my age doing wearing a flower crown? What’s a man like you doing making one for someone like me?”

“You look cute though!” Ichirou grinned. As soon as he said that, the embarrassment had set in. “I mean, you look good—not that you don’t look cute but you’re really pretty and all--but you’re a guy so you probably don’t like that—you’re really cool!”

“I doubt I look cool with a flower crown in my hair,” Samatoki shook his head. It shifted slightly so he stopped.

“You look great!” Ichirou’s voice cracked. He looked nervous. “Um, so. What flowers did I use? I know those are roses…”

“Roses, poinsettias and mistletoe,” Samatoki answered. “They’re really popular around Christmas.”

“Mistletoe, huh?” Ichirou’s response was quiet. He appeared absent-minded, staring at Samatoki unusually.

He didn’t know what to think until Ichirou leaned forward. At first, Samatoki thought he was going to lean on his shoulder until he felt something warm press again his cheek, right next to his lips.

He merely stared as Ichirou moved back, eyes glassy and dreamy. At some point, their hands had intertwined and Ichirou was rubbing Samatoki’s with his thumbs.

There was a moment where they just stared at each other, breaths slow and easy. Samatoki didn’t feel nervous or his heart beating a thousand times a minute.

Everything was just right.

“Uh, um!” Suddenly, Ichirou broke the moment, deep red in the face. “M-mistletoe! A kiss for mistletoe! Like tradition!

“So, I’ll see you in a few days? Okay! Bye, Samatoki-san!”

Ichirou talked so fast and left just as quickly. Samatoki didn’t even have time to say anything, merely watching him as he went. He was then left alone in the room in complete silence.

At first, he didn’t even register what had happened. He lifted his hand to his cheek, rubbing the spot where Ichirou kissed, brushing against the corner of his lips.

Kissed.

Ichirou kissed him.

Sudden heat exploded from inside at the realization. He stumbled, sitting on his stool, hand still on his cheek. He felt himself utterly confused, embarrassed and happy?

Ichirou had kissed him.

Samatoki pinched himself to make sure it wasn’t a dream. When he recognized that he was still in the back of the shop, he smiled.

He couldn’t stop.

Chapter Text

Samatoki was nervous.

This was first date with Ichirou. He couldn’t fuck it up.

Nemu had spent hours the other night, even though she was exhausted, going through his closet. They were going to the restaurant The Empress , which all though wasn’t the most expensive restaurant in town, was definitely pricier than Wolf’s Heaven and anything else Samatoki had gone to before. Nemu searched and searched until she found acceptable white slacks and matching blazer with a light blue shirt that didn’t overpower him.

“It’s Christmas though...” She tilted her head as she examined him. “Maybe red would be better? But all your red shirts have such horrendous patterns…”

“They don’t!”

“Onii-chan, it’s okay to have a weakness. Yours just happens to be fashion.”

Samatoki protested but she ignored him. Nemu walked up to him and placed her hands on his shoulders. She looked at him with a serious look.

“Don’t mess up,” Her voice was firm. “Or if he messes up, let me know. He needs a stern talking to then.”

“There’s nothing to mess up,” Samatoki said with uncertainty.

Nemu pursed her lips.

“Prepare yourself anyways.”

Samatoki offered to drive this time in case Ichirou fell asleep again (he whined at that). He pulled up in front of BB City Tattoos . Before he got a chance to inform Ichirou he was there, he had already rushed over and opened the car door.

“Hey. Sorry for the wait. I hope I didn’t take too long,” Ichirou said. He had put a bag between his legs on the car floor.

“Nah. I just got here,” Samatoki said. He checked traffic and drove off to the restaurant. “What are your brothers up to?”

“They’ll be out with their friends until a little later,” Ichirou explained. “Jirou’s going to karaoke and Saburou has a class party. I had to force him to go to that though.”

Samatoki snickered.

“Really? That bad?”

“He’s such an unsociable kid sometimes. If he’s left alone too long, he’ll play video games for hours without answering his phone. He just turned sixteen a few weeks ago. Jirou and I got him a new game and he spent every waking moment he isn’t sleeping or studying to play. We had to take it away from him.”

“Sounds rough.”

“Yeah. He fought. He’s our brother so of course he did. Still have to control him somehow.”

“Understandable.” Samatoki laughed. “Nemu was rebellious when she was in high school too. She hardly listened to me, going off with her friends and we didn’t see each other much. I had work so that didn’t really help.”

“Really? Nemu-chan as a rebel?” Ichirou laughed. “Well, I guess she has a certain toughness.”

“As expected from my sister.”

Samatoki found a spot in the parking lot of the restaurant eventually. With it being Christmas night, it was busy. Samatoki hoped he was presentable enough that they would let him in.

The hostess led them in after Ichirou told her his name. They took off their coats and Samatoki could see how sleek Ichirou looked with a dark red shirt, a black and grey patterned vest and black slacks. The problem was that the vest cinched his waist to make an appealing line that accented how broad his shoulders were.

Seriously. Life was not fair.

Ichirou was not fair.

Samatoki looked at the menu, eyes boggling at the prices. He and Ichirou had agreed to pay for their own meal so Samatoki calculated the cost of one of the dishes and a drink. He could reason that he had a bit of extra money this month from all the Christmas orders and he deserved a break but…

Fuck it.

He ordered a steak. He needed more energy for the night. They still were going to head downtown anyways and exchange presents.

Samatoki hoped he liked his present.

“So, what are you guys planning for New Years?” Ichirou asked as they waited for their food. Neither ordered alcohol. Samatoki wanted to but he was driving. He didn’t know why Ichirou didn’t.

“The shop is closed on the 31st so Nemu and I will just spend the day lazing around, eating osechi . We’ll probably go to the local shrine during New Years Day. What about you guys?”

“About the same. We’re watching the end of the year music show. An idol group Jirou and I like will be on it this year.”

“Heh? Sounds like a plan,” Samatoki nodded. He cleared his throat, suddenly nervous. “If…if you guys don’t have any plans, you can join us to go to the shrine. We usually head out right before midnight so it’s not in the way of your daily activities.”

“Yeah, that’ll be fine!” Ichirou nodded. “We haven’t been to the local shrine so if you can show us to it…”

“Sure.”

Although Samatoki acknowledged that this was more or less a date, conversation with Ichirou flowed like always. They somehow always got into ridiculous arguments that got them fired up but later laughing.

“I’m pretty sure I can last longer in a sauna than you.”

“Oh yeah? Bring it on.”

Their food was brought out. Ichirou got a seafood dish that looked amazing and extravagant. Ichirou offered him some of it on his fork. Samatoki took it, approving the savoury taste.

He offered some of his steak for Ichirou.

“Sure!” Ichirou opened his mouth. “Ahh.”

It was ridiculous how much of a kid he was like. However, it just occurred to him that by feeding him the steak with his fork, Samatoki was having an indirect kiss with him.

Wait. He just ate from his fork too. Did they already have an indirect kiss?!

Memories of a few nights ago appeared in his head.

Samatoki blushed.

He really wished he could drink some alcohol at that moment.

They finished up and paid for the bill. They got in the car and Samatoki drove down a few more minutes to find some parking in the main part of town. Christmas lights were everywhere along the streets with at least seventy people already wandering around. Ichirou and Samatoki walked down, joining the throngs of people.

The amount of people was overwhelming. Samatoki was lucky that Ichirou was a tall guy and he could recognize his own coat easily.

But it wasn’t enough.

He reached over and grabbed his hand. Even though they were both wearing gloves, Samatoki was sure Ichirou could feel the heat radiating off of him.

With that, Ichirou pulled him closer so their arms were pressed up against each other.

Samatoki couldn’t even look at him in the face.

The further they walked, the more impressive the lights were. They shaped into Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen and many more. They reached the town square where a giant tree covered in lights took over the centre. Samatoki had never seen lights in that capacity before.

“Amazing,” He said as he looked up. “How big is that?”

“At least twenty metres.”

“Impressive,” Samatoki scanned it again. They walked around the tree and watched a small choir performing Christmas songs before moving to the Christmas market.

There were a lot of things; food and drinks, some Christmas ornaments and clothes and finally some smaller things such as wallets and notebooks. Samatoki stared at them with a tilt of his head.

Jirou was a working guy so he’d probably needed a wallet. Saburou was a student so a new notebook would be good.

“Here,” Samatoki turned to Ichirou after paying for the items. He handed him the bag he just received from the vendor. “For your brothers.”

“I—really?” Ichirou blinked as he carefully took the bag. “Is that okay?”

“Yeah.” Samatoki shrugged. “Christmas presents.”

“Thank you,” Ichirou smiled. For some reason, he seemed close to tears. “I’m sure they’ll love them.”

“Are you okay?” Samatoki asked with worry. Was he crying like that? Was it that bad? He placed his hand on Ichirou’s cheek to wipe away one. “What’s wrong?”

“You thought of my brothers,” Ichirou answered. He sniffed. “You saw something, immediately thought of my brothers and got it for them. I’m just…so happy.”

“They’re just small items,” Samatoki snorted. What a silly brat. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Maybe so.” Ichirou placed his hand over the one Samatoki had on his cheek. He smiled softly. The lights from the shops and illumination made his tears sparkle and it caught Samatoki’s breath at how soft he looked. “Thank you, Samatoki-san.”

He thought he couldn’t breathe.

They walked around a little longer, grabbing some hot chocolate and shared a slice of hot apple pie. Ichirou’s eyes shone brightly as he ate the treat. Samatoki told him he was full so he could have the rest.

“Samatoki-san,” Ichirou placed his forehead on Samatoki’s temple after he finished his pie. His breath was hot. “Merry Christmas.”

Samatoki turned his head so their foreheads touched. Ichirou was so cute with his face slightly flushed, a smile on his face and just…happiness.

He looked happy.

“Merry Christmas, Ichirou.”


Samatoki drove back to their shops and stopped next to the sidewalk there. He surprised Ichirou when he got out but told him to wait.

He unlocked the store and went to the back where he had Ichirou’s presents. One was in a bag filled with coloured tissue paper – the gift he had picked up from the mall. The other was a bouquet he made.

When he came out, Ichirou was waiting. He held out that bag he had brought originally to Samatoki.

“F-for you…” Ichirou stuttered. He scratched his cheek.

Samatoki smiled.

He was so cute.

“And for you,” He handed up the bag and bouquet. Ichirou gasped, eyes going wide at both.

“These are amazing!” Ichirou grinned. His eyes softened. “Amaryllis. I thought these were out of season.”

“Y-yeah but we just happened to have some. In the greenhouse.”

That was a lie. He had started growing some as soon as Ichirou told him those were his favourites. He made sure that each was taken care of properly. He really wanted them to turn out well.

“And what are these other flowers?” Ichirou asked curiously and tentatively. He was very careful when asking, as if he was scared of the answer.

“Daffodils, heaths, and scabiosas.”

The light slowly extinguished from his eyes. Samatoki was surprised at how quickly it faded until tears welled up in Ichirou’s eyes.

Instead of tears of happiness, they were of pain.

“I-I’m,” Ichirou coughed. He rubbed his eyes, trying to wipe them away. “I’m sorry about this, Samatoki-san. I had…a great night. Thank you for indulging me all this time.

“Good night.”

And he left.

Samatoki stood shell-shocked. Everything had been going so well, yet every time – every time – he gave Ichirou flowers, it always ended up like that.

And he had no idea why.

Chapter Text

Samatoki rang the doorbell only for nobody to answer at first. He rang it again and this time, he heard footsteps rushing. Jyuto opened it dressed in a shirt, pajama pants, and his hair was slightly damp. He squinted even though he had his glasses on.

Before Jyuto got a chance, Samatoki spoke.

“Are my arrangements that bad?”

Jyuto stared. Samatoki could see he was contemplating something before he sighed and let him in.

“What’s this about?” Jyuto asked as Samatoki sat on his couch. Jyuto sat across from him. “Shouldn’t you be on your date now?”

“He was crying!” Samatoki explained. He looked up at the ceiling. “I don’t get it. We were having a good time and I gave him his present and…he started crying. Not a good cry. He was upset.”

“I see.”

Samatoki leaned back on the seat, hitting his head against the wall. He flinched but didn’t cry out in pain..

“Why are my bouquets such shit?”

“You gave Ichirou a bouquet?” Jyuto’s glasses lowered. He looked exasperated. “What flowers did you put?”

“Amaryllis, scabiosa, heath, and daffodils.”

“Are…are you serious?” Jyuto was less surprised than frustrated. “You’re a florist. How can you pick out the worst combination of flowers?”

“What do you mean? Don’t they look good?” 

“Yeah, they do but what are your chances?” Jyuto put a hand to his forehead. “I’m surprised Ichirou even lasted this long with your idiocy.” 

“That’s besides the point here!” Samatoki yelled. “Why the fuck am I being insulted?”

“Because you deserve it,” Jyuto rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Once again, why don’t you, a florist, learn about flower language?”

“There’s no point. Flowers are flowers and are there to as something visually pleasing. Nobody cares enough about some damn meaning. It’s aesthetic. Besides, who has the damn time to learn about thousands of man made meanings behind plants?”

“How about a certain tattoo artist whose job is to create and imprint works that have meaning to the customer?”

“Ichirou? Knowing flower language? That’s rid—”

 But it wasn’t ridiculous.

He put so much care into his designs. Every tattoo on his body and everything put into his customers was special. He made sure that they were personalized for them. The selection of flowers…the different meanings…

Samatoki paled.

“I-in flower language…were my bouquets bad?”

Jyuto stood up and walked to his bookshelf. He pulled out a dark green one with flowers on the cover and handed it to him.

“Read and find out.”

Samatoki flipped through the pages of the flowers he used. With each one he read, he felt a part of himself die each time, realizing his ignorance; realizing how cruel each bouquet he made was.

They were all just giant ‘fuck you’s.

Why did Ichirou even bother with him?

“I think it’s even more amazing that you always choose flowers with a negative meaning.” Jyuto crossed his legs. “The first time could be a mistake. The ones after are…definitely questionable. At this point, Ichirou-kun must think this is your way of rejecting him.”

“Rejecting?” Samatoki frowned. “Maybe but it’s not like I knew he was interested in me before. Tonight was our first date and even so, we didn’t call it a date. It just seemed like it because, you know, Christmas. Maybe Ichirou really thought it was us hanging out on a holiday.”

“I can’t believe I have to deal with you.” Jyuto grumbled. “Look up every flower he has ever bought for you.”

Samatoki did.

He hit himself with the book.

“Am I that much of an idiot?!”

“Yes.”

“How the hell am I supposed to know?!” Samatoki yelled. He was angry. “What’s a tattoo artist doing using flower language to say these things? I don’t expect him to know. I definitely don’t.”

“Some people just know. They’ve studied it.”

“That’s stupid. He could’ve just told me straight up.”

“Right. Have you?”

Samatoki stayed silent. He scowled.

“Thought so.” Jyuto smiled smugly. “He went with a subtle approach to tell you he liked you and in turn, you subtly rejected him.”

Samatoki held back a scream.

“Fuck! What do I do? He hates me!”

“Just…tell him.” Jyuto stated calmly. “At this point, it’s not even funny anymore. It’s pathetic.”

“It’s not that easy!” Samatoki snapped. “How can I tell someone that I like them that easily? What do I do after? I mean, Ichirou is going to reject me—”

“Samatoki, those flowers—”

“I know but does he have time to deal with my apparent stupidity?!” Samatoki argued. “Like I said, he’s busy. It’s hard being a tattoo artist in Japan. All I am is just extra shit he has to deal with!”

“Did Ichirou say that?” Jyuto asked carefully.

“No, but—”

“Then stop forcing what you think on him.”

That immediately shut Samatoki up. Jyuto was annoyed.

“I get that you’re worried. You probably see a little of yourself in him but you have to remember that you’re not the same. What he does in a situation may be different than you. All you have to do is let him make his own decisions.”

“Why do you make things sound good?”

“Because someone has to be rational when our leader is not.”

Samatoki cursed. He got up quickly and made his way to the door.

He had to fix this tonight.


He had knocked on the door behind the store space of BB City Tattoos. He had texted Ichirou to tell him he was coming over but didn’t get a response.

“Oi, Ichirou,” Samatoki shivered. It was freaking cold now. “I need to talk to you.”

He knocked again. It was Saburou who opened up and he didn’t look happy.

“Oh, look who it is,” The polite tone he always carried disappeared. He was pissed. “What are you doing here Aohitsugi-san? Haven’t you done enough damage?”

He tried not to let the words of someone thirteen years younger than him hurt.

“That’s the reason I’m here – to undo the damage.”

“You can’t undo it!” Saburou yelled, shocking Samatoki.. “We trusted you to take care of Ichi-nii! Do you know how much he talks about you? How much he thinks about you? How he squeals like a teenage girl whenever you send him a text? Do you know how much he adores you?

“Why would I let someone who crushed all of that to go near him?”

“I get it! I fucked up!” Samatoki lost control of himself. He knew that what Saburou was saying was true and he hated it. “I led him on and rejected him! I didn’t mean to do any of that!”

“It’s too late! You kept asking him to hang out, raising his hopes! He was so hopefully even though he gave him bouquets that told him otherwise! I knew we should’ve stopped him before he got too deep.”

Saburou was heaving. He looked like he could go for another round.

“You’re some fucking asshole and you don’t deserve someone like Ichi-nii! He works so hard and is such a good guy. He doesn’t need someone like you in his life.”

“Saburou, that’s enough.” Ichirou’s voice was faint. He appeared behind his brother, eyes swollen, tears streaking down his cheeks and hair a complete mess. Samatoki felt his heart being crushed. “Come back in. Let me talk to him.”

“No!” Saburou put his arms out to block the way. “You shouldn’t listen to anything he tells you! He hurt you so many times already.”

Samatoki flinched at that.

“I’ll be fine.” Ichirou replied. He placed a hand on Saburou’s head. “Trust me.”

Saburou’s resolve crumbled. He walked back in the house, still yelling.

“If anything happens, I will personally drag stupid Jirou from wherever he is so we can both beat him up!”

There was a faint smile on Ichirou’s lips as he closed the door behind. He had put on a jacket — not the one he took from Samatoki — but it still looked too thin for the temperature.

“Let’s go in the shop.”

Ichirou unlocked the way to the shop. Samatoki hasn’t been there since he first came over. Ichirou was always the one that came by. He came by so much that some regulars had asked him about the prices of flowers (and he always knew the answer).

He sat on the couch in the waiting area. Ichirou glanced around, trying to figure out where he should be.

Samatoki couldn’t wait anymore.

He threw the flower language book he had taken from Jyuto on top of the table. He frowned, feeling more irritated than he wanted to be.

“You…you got me flowers,” Samatoki was calmer now than when he was dealing with Saburou. Just looking at Ichirou made him lose his cool. He was still hurt. “Tons of them. Why didn’t you just tell me you liked me?”

He saw Ichirou stiffen.

“I thought it was pretty obvious,” He said slowly. “I don’t just go out of my way to visit every shop, or go on dates with everyone on Sundays—”

“Wait, those were dates?!” Samatoki was baffled. He thought they were hanging out. “Wasn’t today our first date?!”

Ichirou raised his eyebrows.

“I considered them dates. You know, eating out, going to all those places, seeing fireworks together and riding a Ferris wheel…you couldn’t tell?”

“I thought we were going…as friends.”

“Ah.” It was quiet and barely a sound but Samatoki could hear the disappointment.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

He really was a goddamn idiot.

They had been dating for months already, Ichirou had been giving him flowers that had all these romantic meanings and he just thought it would be better if he wasn’t with him?!

“I didn’t know about…anything, really.” Samatoki gave up. “I didn’t know they were dates, the flowers…fuck, I didn’t think you were interested in me.”

“Are you fucking idiot?” Samatoki was shocked by his change of tone. Ichirou looked irritated. “Why the hell wouldn’t I be interested in you? You’re so hot and cool for some guy who works as a florist. You’re so mature but there’s something that tells me you weren’t always like that and I just want to be like you! You’re successful, caring, popular with everyone — how can I not like you?”

Hearing all that made Samatoki turn red.

“I honestly thought I had no chance with you because you might think of me as a kid,” Ichirou pouted angrily. It was actually kind of cute. “I didn’t want you to think that, so I wanted to prove I was just as capable but…I kept failing and you kept giving me those…those hate bouquets.”

Hate bouquets.

That hurt.

“Yet you still treated me well.” Ichirou’s voice wavered. “You still invited me out and we always had a good time. When you returned some of my actions, I felt happy.”

Samatoki stood when he saw Ichirou about to cry. He rushed over, putting his hands on his face, brushing the tears away with his thumbs.

“I honestly thought I had a chance. Maybe those flowers had different meanings. And then you gave me daffodils of all things…”

“I didn’t know.” Samatoki muttered. “I don’t do flower language. I didn’t fucking know until tonight when Jyuto scolded me.

“But I know now.” Samatoki placed  his forehead on Ichirou’s, looking in his eyes. They were beautiful; expressive and genuine. He should’ve been able to decipher the loving gazes before.

He leaned in, kissing the outer corner of one eye. 

“I’m a fucking moron.”

Ichirou laughed. His arms wrapped around Samatoki’s waist.

“I like you anyways.”

Samatoki thought his heart was going to leap out of his throat. He was speechless and his tongue was tied as if trying to find the right words.

“I like you, too.”

Suddenly, he felt lighter as if the entire world was lifted from his shoulders. All that worry and fear disappeared.

Ichirou’s smile at that moment was the best he had ever seen.

And that’s when he knew he was ready.

Chapter Text

“Nemu! We’re gonna be late!”

“No one is rushing to be there, onii-chan!” Nemu walked to the foyer dressed in her coat, a large purse and scarf. She slipped on her shoes as Samatoki opened the door. “I’m sure Ichirou-kun has waited long enough for something else.”

“…shush.”

Nemu giggled.

She wrapped her arms around his as they went down.

“But you’re happy, right?” Nemu looked up at him. Her eyes were serious. “Ichirou-kun makes you happy?”

“…he does.” Samatoki tried to hide his face with his free hand.

Although the New Year rush had kept him busy, having Ichirou call him right before bed to talk to him calmed him down, preparing him for the next day. Jyuto and Riou even allowed him to get lunch with him one day.

Ichirou was working on a client during that time so Samatoki had to sit awkwardly with Jirou manning the front. He was glad it wasn’t Saburou (even though Ichirou said he talked to them and they approved) but something about Jirou’s stare unnerved him.

Samatoki was messaging Jyuto about something for inventory when he felt the weight shift on the couch. Looking over, Jirou merely watched him.

He waited.

“I heard from nii-chan that you guys are together.” He stated simply. “But I also heard from Saburou what happened that night.”

Samatoki bit the inside of his cheek so he wouldn’t retort. Jirou wasn’t finished.

“If nii-chan is happy, that’s all that matters.” Jirou scanned him from head to toe. “But if you hurt him again, you better prepare. I won’t let you off so easily like Saburou did.”

“You don’t have to worry about that.” Samatoki spoke with confidence. “I won’t.”

“You better fucking keep your word.”

That was as good as an approval he was going to get.

For now.

He’ll work on it.

They arrived at the park near the shrine where the Yamadas waited. The younger ones held on to Ichirou in a similar manner Nemu held on to him, but their eyes were less friendly as they approached. Nemu released his arm and waved to them.

“Ichirou-kun! Jirou-kun! Saburou-kun! Happy New Year! Please take care of us this year as well!”

“Happy New Year.” Ichirou smiled. He looked up and suddenly became shy as he turned to Samatoki. “And us as well.”

Samatoki smiled. “Happy New Year.” He turned to the younger brothers, trying to stay friendly under their glares. “Please take care of us this year too, Jirou, Saburou.”

“…sure.”

Nemu clapped happily.

“Shall we get going?” She grabbed an arm each from Jirou and Saburou, dragging them forward. “The shrine is really pretty at night! I’m sure you guys will love it!”

Neither of them argued as she took them away. Samatoki and Ichirou watched as Jirou and Saburou got taken away with her pace. She barely stopped stopping, chattering along.

“Nemu-chan sure is something.”

“She has that kind of power.” Samatoki laughed as he stood next to Ichirou.

He felt his fingers interlock with his. They turned to look at each other.

“Let’s have a good year, yeah?” Samatoki spoke first.

“Yeah.”

Samatoki leaned to give Ichirou a kiss but only felt Ichirou’s cold hand against his lips instead. Ichirou looked around, checking the entire street.

“What if someone sees us?!” He hissed.

Samatoki raised an eyebrow.

He grabbed Ichirou’s hand, keeping it in place. With their eyes locked on each other, Samatoki kissed the lower part of his palm up to the top. He traced his fingers with his lips and watched as Ichirou’s face contorted.

“Not in public!” Ichirou took his hand away and smacked him on the back of the head.

“That hurt!”

“Then don’t do that!” Ichirou scolded as they made their way to the shrine. His cheeks puffed out angrily, now ignoring Samatoki.

He clicked his tongue. Samatoki reached over to Ichirou’s hand, placing it in his coat pocket.

“Where are your gloves?”

“Forgot them. We were rushing out and I left them on the counter.”

“Hmm, I’ve got some extras here,” Samatoki pulled out his old pair from his other pocket. “Someone gave me some new ones recently. And my old ones match your coat. 

It was the same coat Samatoki had given up on getting back. Not because he had forgotten – merely because it wasn’t necessary anymore.

“I’m good.” Ichirou mumbled. Samatoki felt his hand being squeezed. “I’m warm enough.”

They stayed in a comfortable silence all the way to the shrine. The three main staff of Fling Pastries and Books and Jakurai were already there. Various others from the neighbourhood greeted them as well as they made their way to meet their siblings.

Jirou and Saburou fought before they prayed, wanting to be the first ones to do it. Nemu silently prayed next to them, already used to ignoring petty arguments.

Samatoki wondered what he should pray for. Usually, he wished for good health for him and his sister.

He glanced over at Ichirou who already had his eyes closed and hands clasped together.

He wanted to pray for so much more now.

“What did you wish for?” Ichirou asked when they got out of the crowd. “I wished for a lot of things. I hope that was alright.”

“Just good health, like always.” Samatoki said.

“Aw, how dull,” Ichirou laughed. “I feel bad now.”

“Nah, it’s fine to wish for a lot. It means you have a lot of goals,” Samatoki said as he grabbed Ichirou’s hand. “All my wishes have been granted so I’m happy now. 

Samatoki lifted up Ichirou’s hand and kissed him on the knuckles. He held on so he couldn’t pull away. Instead of hitting him with his other hand, Ichirou hid his face.

“That’s not fair, Samatoki-san!”


They went back to the park with their siblings before parting.

They reluctantly let go of each other’s hand, prepared to say their goodbyes when Samatoki stopped him. He turned to Nemu who just reached into her purse and pulled something out.

Wrapped in crisp white paper, It was a single red rose. He gave it to Ichirou.

Ichirou stared at it before he accepted. This time, with a smile on his face. 

Because both knew exactly what it meant.

I love you.