Tecchou finds Jouno in the Uzumaki café beneath the Armed Detective Agency. He hovers outside for a moment, staring at him through the glass.
He’s spent a week thinking of what to say and how to say it. Each time he seeks Jouno out, however, the man seems to disappear.
Maybe he’ll disappear again, but at least Tecchou has a chance of him listening. He lets himself into the café, grateful for the fact Jouno is the only patron.
He would not have entered if members of the Agency were present. This isn’t something anyone else needs to hear.
Tecchou knows Jouno is aware of his presence as he walks towards him. Still, he’s quiet until he’s within arms reach.
“Jouno,” he says in greeting. Then he pulls out the stool next to Jouno’s for himself, taking off his hat and placing it against the polished wooden surface of the bar. He removes his sword, too, propping it against the edge.
Jouno is silent at his side, drinking his coffee and ignoring him. Tecchou tries not to think about how nice he looks like this, out of uniform and in such a cozy location. The wine-red of his cardigan, the crisp black of his shirt and trousers, the way the warm lighting makes the white of his hair look silver-hued.
He tries not to think about it. He fails spectacularly.
“Jouno,” he says again, when the other man says nothing. Jouno doesn’t turn his head towards him; he stares unseeingly down at his coffee instead.
The manager, who had been in the back room, appears at the doorframe behind the bar. Tecchou glances at him but only has time to give a polite nod before the elderly man is retreating.
“Sai—” Saigiku, he intends to say, fed up with this wall of silence. Jouno lowers his coffee so aggressively that the porcelain of the cup clatters against that of the saucer, a noise Tecchou knows Jouno hates. He almost flinches.
“What,” Jouno says flatly. It’s the first thing he’s said to him in a week.
Is he really that mad? Of course he is. He must be. Tecchou swallows, the guilt and shame he’s become familiar with these past eight days churning in his gut.
“You’re avoiding me,” he says. He’s going to say more—that he understands why, that he’s sorry, that he’ll never do it again and he’ll request a transfer from the commander if Jouno would prefer not to see him again—but Jouno sighs heavily.
“Contrary to what you might expect, Tecchou-san, not everything is about you.”
“Of course not,” Tecchou says immediately, confused. “But you haven’t spoken to me since...since last week. You’ve left the room whenever I show up. Even the Commander commented on it.”
The Commander had actually dragged Tecchou into a private room and all but ordered Tecchou out of the base, actually. He had been so distracted lately he’d gone into work despite it being his day off and the Commander had looked him dead in the eyes and told him not to come back until he spoke to Jouno.
Now, Jouno’s face twists into a grimace and he knocks back the remaining half of his coffee without savoring it, which is practically a sin to him.
Your fault, Tecchou thinks with self-directed vitriol. He did this. He remembers dozing on the couch at the ‘office party’ last week, the alcohol making him languid and drowsy; he remembers Jouno’s hands on his face, fingers gentle as they ran across his jaw, his cheekbones, his brow. He remembers opening his eyes and seeing Jouno’s own, milk-white in their sockets, for the first time.
He had thought himself dreaming. It wouldn’t be the first time he had dreamed of Jouno above him, of his warm hands, of what his eyes might look like. It would not have been the first time he had reached out and taken dream-Jouno’s face in his, pressing their warm mouths together.
But it hadn’t been a dream that time.
Jouno stands abruptly.
“Thank you for the coffee, manager,” he calls out as he does, pushing the stool back into place carefully.
The manager in question steps out from the back at the sound of his voice. “I’ll come again,” Jouno adds when he does, “To try that vanilla blend.”
“Of course. Your patronage is always welcome,” the manager says kindly. Only a month ago had their combined presence made him clammy with fear and anxiety; only a month ago had Tecchou dug the sharp end of his sword into Jouno's foot in irritation at his behavior towards a civilian.
As Jouno turns to leave, Tecchou picks up his hat and sword and bows awkwardly to the manager. Next time he’ll order something—perhaps extra, to make up for not doing so today. He follows after Jouno, reattaching his sword to his hip, the café’s door closing with a ring of its bell behind them.
Jouno doesn’t wait for him. He keeps walking, but he doesn’t tell Tecchou to leave, so he’s certain they’re going somewhere more secluded for this conversation.
“Where are we going?” He asks as he follows Jouno toward the nearby crosswalk.
“My place,” Jouno says, which is. Unexpected, but not unwelcome. Maybe he doesn’t hate Tecchou if he’s going to let him inside his apartment.
That might be wishful thinking, though.
Tecchou stays quiet as he follows Jouno. He’s been to Jouno’s apartment before, though he’s only ever gone as far as the genkan—it’s a twenty minute walk.
Those twenty minutes are agonizing. Tecchou and Jouno usually talk—a lot. About work, about what Jouno has been reading in his off hours, arguing about music and having petty little competitions with each other that always brighten Tecchou’s mood.
They don’t talk about anything during this walk. Tecchou’s words are all stuck under his tongue and Jouno faces ahead of him, eyes closed, the gold of his bell-shaped earring glinting in the light as it sways.
Tecchou tries not to stare too much, but it’s hard not to. He looks so nice. The sun reflects gold off the white of his hair; it makes the red-hued ends look almost pink. The summer air gives his skin a healthy flush.
He looks away, then, and keeps his own gaze focused forward. If Tecchou allows himself to think of that right now the guilt will eat him alive.
Tecchou empties his thoughts. He doesn’t think about how Jouno looks now or how he had looked last week; he thinks about nothing at all, only focusing on each step forward he takes, avoiding collisions with other pedestrians.
He trails after Jouno when they arrive at his apartment building at last; he keeps a step behind him until they enter the elevator together. Jouno jabs the button for the ninth floor with a surprising amount of aggression and without bothering to feel for the braille lettering to make sure he got it right.
Well, he’s lived here long enough. He probably has it memorized.
It’s harder to avoid glancing at Jouno in this enclosed space with nobody else around; even if Tecchou looks at the opposite wall, he sees Jouno reflected in the polished metal surface.
The minute and a half it takes to get to the ninth floor is even more agonizing than the entire walk. As soon as the elevator doors slide open with a chime, Jouno is swiftly stepping out ahead of him, and Tecchou can only follow.
He stares only at the sign with Jouno’s name on it and not at the other man’s hands as he unlocks the door and holds it open.
“Pardon my intrusion,” Tecchou says out of habit as he steps into the genkan, Jouno closing the door behind them. Jouno doesn’t acknowledge his words, so he takes up his hat and hangs it on the rack near the door before bending over to take off his shoes. Jouno, wearing flats instead of his work boots, toes out of his with ease. He drops a pair of slippers in front of Tecchou, which he steps into and follows Jouno up out of the entryway.
“Alright, then,” Jouno finally says, speaking for the first time since they left the café. “Go ahead and say whatever it is you’ve been wanting to tell me.”
He isn’t facing Tecchou, which makes him feel oddly uncomfortable. Jouno always looks in his direction when they talk, but—
Well. He has every right to be angry. Tecchou breathes deep into his stomach, fidgeting with the hilt of his sword before finally bowing low. He almost drops right to his knees in dogeza, but Jouno always gets angry when he does that for people.
“I am so sorry,” Tecchou apologizes, keeping his eyes on the floor. Jouno’s slippers are pink. The wooden flooring is a rich mahogany. “Last week, I kissed you without your permission. Such a thing was wrong of me, regardless of my state of mind. I promise it will never happen again, but if you can no longer bear to work with me, I will file a transfer request with the Commander.”
It’s been a long time since he’s spoken so politely to Jouno, who says nothing for a long moment. Tecchou keeps his eyes down, guilt and anxiety curdling in his stomach.
“Straighten up,” Jouno finally says. Tecchou does so slowly, blinking at him. The light streaming in from his thin curtains illuminates half of his face, making Jouno look angelic in his beauty.
Tecchou wonders, despite his guilt, what Jouno’s eyes might look like in this light. He wonders if he keeps his eyes shut even alone at home; he wonders if he’ll ever see them open again.
“You don’t need to go that far,” Jouno continues. “I’ll accept your apology if you answer something for me.”
“Anything,” Tecchou says immediately, hope and relief bubbling in his chest. If that’s all he wants, surely—surely Jouno doesn’t hate him now.
Then, facing Tecchou, Jouno asks, “How long have you had feelings for me?”
Tecchou’s breath catches in his throat.
Part of him had hoped Jouno would ignore it. That he would pretend he couldn’t tell, because surely he could—even if months had passed without him realizing, after last week he must have. He has seen plenty of love-struck fools, after all, and though Tecchou’s body has been changed by government sanctioned surgeries he is still human.
His heart must have quickened in his chest; his face must have flushed under Jouno’s hands. He would have heard it, felt it, and known.
Jouno waits expectantly.
“I’m...not sure,” Tecchou finally admits. “I became conscious of it a few months ago, but I think I felt it longer.”
Actually, he knows he felt it longer than that, even if he had only realized it then. And it had been such an innocuous thing, too; the way Jouno had held him by the elbow as he stumbled, delirious from the blow he had taken to the head, courtesy of their targets ability.
What am I going to do with you, Jouno had said with exaggerated exasperation. Better yet, what would you do without me?
His hand had been warm. His breath had been, too, as he held Tecchou in place and muttered the exact distance between them and their target in his ear so he could lengthen his blade. He hadn’t let go of him until Okura had arrived with paramedics.
Tecchou had been fine, of course. The blow was superficial. He hadn’t even been concussed; he’d been fine after a few hours.
But that moment had been enough. He had always known, objectively, that Jouno is an attractive man. He had always enjoyed his company, regardless of how much they argued, but that was when he knew with sinking resignation that his objective thoughts about Jouno’s looks and how often he went out of his way to spend time with the man was, well.
He should have realized much sooner. Tecchou never thinks about his other colleagues as often as he does Jouno.
“A few months,” Jouno says to himself, like he can’t believe it. He runs a hand through his hair, a nervous gesture Tecchou has rarely ever seen from him. “Right. Okay. Well...apology accepted.”
“Really?” Tecchou asks, dubious and concerned. He had done something he thinks should be—well. He should never have done it.
“Really,” Jouno says, tone dry. “But will you also tell me why?”
Tecchou reddens. Well. Of course he’d want to know, but it’s humiliating to admit that he hadn’t been able to tell dream from reality.
Still, he says, “I thought I was still dreaming. Alcohol makes me sleepy, so I fell asleep, and I...well.”
To Tecchou’s surprise, Jouno seems to flush across from him as well, cheeks darkening in color.
“That’s not—I meant why me, you idiot, not—” Jouno turns his face away, hand reaching back into his hair, red to the tips of his ears.
“I’m not a kind person,” Jouno spits out after a moment of embarrassed silence. “Especially not to you. We fight all the time.”
“I know that,” Tecchou says, brow furrowing. “That’s just how you are, though. I never minded it. I still don’t.” He pauses, considering.
Tecchou hasn’t really thought about why he likes Jouno. He had realized his feelings and simply accepted them. But…
“Trying to think of any one reason is, hm…” he palms at the hilt of his sword, thinking hard. “You’re hardworking and dedicated...I’ve always admired your work ethic. When we started working together, I wasn’t so sure, but despite our fighting I always thought we got along. We work really well together, and I’ve always trusted you. You say you’re unkind, but it’s not entirely true. You show kindness in your own way. And…” he trails off, dropping his gaze and swallowing back the rest of his words.
Jouno made it clear enough when he fled last week and avoided him all this time that he doesn’t feel the same. He doesn’t need to hear Tecchou tell him he’s beautiful.
“And?” Jouno prods, and Tecchou clutches the hilt beneath his palm, red-faced.
Jouno makes an impatient sound.
“Just say it. It can’t be more embarrassing than everything else you just said, Tecchou-san.”
Tecchou’s flush creeps down his neck. He grips his hilt tighter, wishing he could detach the scabbard from his belt and turn it in his hands.
“When you smile,” he mutters, knowing Jouno will hear him no matter how quiet his voice goes. “It’s...when you’re genuine, your face gets...it’s warm. And your eyes. I wasn’t meant to see them before, but they’re—they’re pretty. I like the way the sun looks in your hair, and the face you make when you’re worried, and the one you make when you’re mad, and…” he stops himself from saying more, feeling overheated in the layers of his uniform.
He glances towards Jouno, who’s facing towards him, as red in the face as Tecchou feels. It’s strange. Tecchou has only seen him blush from exertion, not embarrassment; it looks…
He shifts his gaze again, guilty. Jouno doesn’t speak, but he does step forward.
Tecchou watches him approach, staring not at Jouno’s face but at his feet. He stops when he’s close enough for Tecchou to touch if he lifts his arm.
“You can look at me,” Jouno says. Tecchou does so, lifting his gaze.
Jouno is looking at him, too, eyes open yet unseeing. He looks right through him. It makes Tecchou’s skin crawl in a way that isn’t unpleasant.
“Jouno?” He says questioningly. Jouno tugs at the sleeve of his cardigan, still looking at him.
“I thought about it a lot this week,” he says slowly. “You, I mean. And me. You apologized for kissing me, so I’ll...don’t get used to this, but I’m sorry, too.”
The words are all but forced out. Jouno is unapologetic in all things he does; Tecchou opens his mouth to ask why, confused, but Jouno keeps going.
“I was touching you. I should have asked you when you woke up, instead, but I was—fuck, I don’t know. Embarrassed, I guess. It was a stupid whim. When I heard you sleeping on the couch, I thought, I’ve never felt what Tecchou-san looks like, so I just...figured I’d do it while you were laying there, even though it’s. Well. About as inappropriate as kissing someone without asking.”
In truth, Tecchou had been so caught up in his guilt in overstepping Jouno’s boundaries that he hadn’t once thought to consider why, exactly, he woke up to Jouno stroking his face.
“Oh,” Tecchou says eloquently. “I, ah. That’s fine.”
“Good,” Jouno says, sounding firm rather than unsure. “So. While we’re having this frankly nauseating conversation about feelings, I might as well get this out of the way. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about you in that context before. Physically, anyway.”
What, Tecchou thinks, gripping his sword hilt tight enough that his knuckles ache. Jouno what?
“But I hadn’t let myself think about anything else,” Jouno keeps saying. “I was fooling myself, of course. The reason I left last week, without listening to your reasoning, and the reason I avoided you all this time—it’s because I wanted to kiss you back and I absolutely hated that I hadn’t realized it until you had the audacity to kiss me. Because you thought you were dreaming, apparently, and don’t think I’m going to forget that implication.”
Tecchou’s face feels hotter than he can recall it ever being.
“Don’t expect me to wax some poetic nonsense like you did a few moments ago,” Jouno continues, apparently on a roll, “But I do—feel the same as you. That is, I,” and there he stops, apparently unable to say it.
“You like me,” Tecchou says. Jouno groans, taking a step back and bringing his palm to his forehead.
“Shut up, that sounds so juvenile, like we’re talking about middle school crushes.”
“But it’s true,” Tecchou says, something like hopeful delight stirring in his chest. “You like me. And I like you.”
“Please shut up,” Jouno says as he drags his hand down his face, his words briefly muffled by his mouth. “God. Okay, yeah. I like you. I want to kill you half the time, but I do.”
Tecchou’s mouth hurts. He realizes belatedly he’s smiling.
“Jouno,” he says, and Jouno drops his hand to face him again, the rips of his ears as red as he ends of his hair.
“What now?” He asks, and Tecchou lets go of his sword to reach out and grasp Jouno’s fingers in his. Jouno glances his unseeing eyes downward, then back up.
“Can I kiss you?”
Jouno stares towards him, mouth slowly curving into a smile—one of his rare and honest ones.
“Yeah,” he says, briefly returning Tecchou’s grip on his hand. “Yeah, okay. I’ve been wondering if you’re a shitty kisser or if that was just because you were drunk and half asleep.”
“I wasn’t that bad,” Tecchou says petulantly, letting go of Jouno’s hand to touch his cheek instead. Was he? It had barely lasted a few seconds.
“It definitely was. I was sober, unlike you,” Jouno says, leaning into Tecchou’s palm. When Tecchou leans in he barely has to bend; their difference in height is minor, and Jouno must know it’s coming because he leans in too.
Jouno’s mouth is so much softer than his; softer than anything his sleepy, alcohol-addled memory could have recalled. Tecchou’s hand slips from his cheek into his soft hair; he can feel Jouno’s reaching up into his.
Tecchou wonders what Jouno must hear from him, now; his heart is thudding in his chest so noisily it pulsates in his own ears. Surely it must be beating like a drum for his partner, but if it’s annoying—as Jouno tends to insist his body is—no complaints are voiced, because Jouno licks at the seam of his mouth.
Tecchou shivers, lips parting; Jouno’s tongue is warm and he tastes like coffee, rich and faintly sweet. His fingers tangle themselves in the thick mess of Tecchou’s hair, kissing him deeper and deeper, in a way Tecchou is decidedly out of practice in.
He hasn’t kissed anyone in a long time. Before Jouno, it had been years since he met anyone he wanted such a thing from; Tecchou can only pray his inexperience goes unnoticed as Jouno pulls back from him.
His mouth glistens faintly, curving into another smile.
“Out of practice, are you?” He asks. Tecchou’s face burns from more than the pleasant effort of Jouno’s mouth on his.
“A bit,” he admits reluctantly. Jouno’s fingers are still in his hair, dull nails scratching very faintly against his scalp and sending a fresh shiver down his spine.
“Well, that’s fine. You weren’t bad, even if you taste disgusting. Don’t ever eat sriracha before kissing me again, asshole.”
“I ate that hours ago,” Tecchou huffs, moving the hand that had been cradling Jouno’s jaw to pinch his cheek slightly. Jouno yelps, tugging his hands out of Tecchou’s hair and knocking Tecchou’s away from his face.
“Do you want me to kill you for real? Also, brush your goddamn hair sometimes. It’s a nest.”
“Okay,” Tecchou agrees. He can do that. He usually forgets, but if Jouno likes putting his hands there, he should make an effort to remember.
“And take your cloak off if you’re staying. I have reports to finish up that are due in tomorrow, but if you don’t mind, you can stick around.”
“Okay,” Tecchou repeats, smiling more than he has in a long time. “Should I make something for dinner? I can—”
“If you touch anything in my kitchen, not even Edogawa will find your remains,” Jouno interrupts firmly, taking Tecchou by the elbow and steering him towards the couch. “You can be a good boy and sit while I make coffee and get my stuff. Turn on the tv or something.”
Tecchou lets himself be pushed into the cushions, face aching with his happiness. Jouno kisses him again when he sits him down, then hurries off down the hall, shrugging out of his cardigan and muttering something about Tecchou’s taste in food.
Tecchou undoes the clasp for his cloak around his neck, draping it over the back of the couch and then detaching his sword from his hip to put against the coffee table. Only then does he sink into the fine cushions of Jouno’s couch, far more pleasant than his own second-hand one.
Jouno likes me, he thinks, delirious with the relief of it. He likes me, he wants me, he doesn’t hate me. He kissed me.
A week of guilt, anxiety and stress melt out of him. Tecchou wonders if Jouno will kill him if he starts doing push ups in his living room; the giddiness that fills him makes him feel as though he could do a thousand without feeling a hint of exhaustion.