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The port is loud with the caws of sea birds, the creak and clang of cranes and shipping containers, the rough calls of workers. Atsushi’s ears pick up all of the cacophony but parse none of it. All he can focus on are the words spoken by the dark figure in front of him, quietly, almost as though he is of half a mind not to be heard.

 

“Go out with me.”

 

Atsushi blinks. His ears don’t lie, but this isn’t making any sense.

“What?”

Akutagawa growls. “You heard me. Go out with me. This weekend. Let’s go somewhere.”

A hint of red crawls over Akutagawa’s cheeks. He wouldn’t blush if this were just a joke, would he?

All at once, Atsushi’s body and mind catch up with the situation and he feels his face flushing uncomfortably hot. He has wondered before, idly, while sitting on the window sill to watch the sunset, what Akutagawa might sound like if he said these words. Angry, perhaps. Aggressive. Go out with me, or else . At other times, Atsushi thought Akutagawa might sound cutely embarrassed.

 

He was wrong. Apart from his quieter than usual tone, Akutagawa’s voice doesn’t sound much different. Raspy and somewhat aloof at first, then slightly annoyed the second time. Determined.

 

“Okay.” The word falls out of Atsushi’s mouth, and his stomach squirms uncomfortably.

Akutagawa’s eyes widen. “Really?”

“You heard me, too.” Atsushi aims for mocking, but somehow ends up sounding accusatory.

Akutagawa opens his mouth as though for a retort, but visibly catches himself. “Fine.”

“Fine! Pick me up on Saturday at seven.”

“No. I’ll come get you at ten in the morning, and you better have a bag packed, Jinko.”

 

Before Atsushi can get another word in, Akutagawa stalks off, disappearing in the busy ant hill of the port. The birds still cry out high above in the sky, and all around Atsushi, life continues as usual. Atsushi needs to sit down for a minute.

 

***

 

On Saturday, some time before ten a.m., Atsushi sits on the stairs outside the agency’s dorm, a patched duffel bag from the secondhand store at his feet. He wonders whether he’s packed the right things. In the end he’d simply gone with a fresh set of clothes and a toiletry bag. Should he have gotten some sort of present for Akutagawa? Assuming they would spend the night somewhere, where would Akutagawa take him?

 

Does Akutagawa have… expectations?

Atsushi blushes just thinking about it, but the strange sensation winding itself through his body is not disgust.

Over the last months, he has often found himself stealing glances at Akutagawa. At his elegant hands, his jawline. At the way his lips touched the rim of his teacup when they met at cafés to go over mission notes and plans.

 

He’d caught Akutagawa watching him in return.

Then there were the missions themselves, which often led to physical contact of some kind, be it Atsushi using his strength to throw Akutagawa, or Rashoumon wrapping around Atsushi, or the two of them leaning against each other in exhaustion once the job was done.

Atsushi took note of their points of contact, but he was not sure what they meant, or what kind of possible interest Akutagawa had in him.

 

The rumble of a motor shakes Atsushi out of his thoughts.

 

***

 

Akutagawa’s car is nothing fancy. It’s black and so nondescript that it wouldn’t look out of place in a suburban neighborhood. After an awkward greeting, Akutagawa puts Atsushi’s bag in the trunk and they hop in.

 

“There’s CDs in the glove compartment, if you want to have a look. Otherwise I’ll just play whatever I want.”

Atsushi rolls his eyes at the roundabout way of asking for his input, but curiously starts rooting through the music collection as Akutagawa navigates them through the streets. It’s mostly western bands, none of which Atsushi has heard of before, so he just picks a couple based on the album covers.

 

“Are these any good?”

Akutagawa glances over when they stop at a red light. “I like all the music I gave you to choose from. Do you know any of these bands?”

Atsushi shakes his head, then realizes Akutagawa can’t see because his eyes are responsibly on the road.

“No. But I’d like to check them out.”

 

Atsushi pops in one of the CDs and leans back. With something to fill the silence, some of the tension flows out of him. He can’t understand the lyrics, but he likes the guitar, tapping his finger on his knee to the beat. Yokohama passes them by and Atsushi realizes they’re driving away from the city center.

 

“So… where are you taking me?” He should probably have asked that way sooner.

Akutagawa shifts gears, the movement smooth and practiced. He’s wearing a pair of loose, dark blue cotton pants and a black sweatshirt with a drooping neckline. Nowhere formal, then, although he still manages to make the casual outfit look stylish, especially paired with the toned glasses he wears for driving. Atsushi feels self-conscious; he’s wearing a pair of his usual work pants and one of his better button-downs. It’s purple and matches his eyes, according to Yosano-sensei.

 

“Out of the city.” Akutagawa checks the rearview mirror before turning onto the ramp of the highway. They turn in a loop before the view opens up and Atsushi stares in wonder at the sea and port laid out before them.

“Are we going up to Tokyo?”

Akutagawa shakes his head. “No. Somewhere quieter.”

Atsushi hums and leans back in this seat. Somehow, he’s content going along with whatever Akutagawa has planned for them, even if he doesn’t know what exactly that is.

 

***

 

The mansion (Akutagawa calls it a retreat) they eventually stop at feels massive to Atsushi. Hidden from sight behind walls and greenery, the traditional Japanese house is spacious and light, windows and sliding doors letting in the sun and giving a breathtaking view of the sea. There are eight bedrooms. Eight!! Even though they are only using one wing of the house, Atsushi still gets to take his pick between three different rooms. It’s a bit overwhelming to have options, but he settles on the room with blue accents that give him a calm, cozy feeling.

 

There is a yukata laid out and Atsushi sheds his clothes to carefully put it on. He meets Akutagawa in the living room, sitting on the tatami in front of a low table and sipping on a cup of tea. He looks unfairly good in his gray and blue yukata, at home and more relaxed than Atsushi has ever seen him.

 

Akutagawa gestures to another cup on the opposite side of the table. “I had them make a cup for you as well.”

Atsushi sits down, humming in pleasure at the tea’s fragrance. “Them?”

“The staff,” Akutagawa clarifies. “They also need to know what we want for dinner.”

“Staff,” Atsushi says, slowly lowering his cup. “Of course you have staff. In your mafia vacation luxury house.”

Akutagawa blushes. “This place is usually reserved for the higher-ups. Chuuya-aniki did me a favor.”

Atsushi, still dumbfounded, nods and finishes his tea.

Akutagawa takes a breath, then hesitates. He clears his throat. “They packed a light lunch for us. Do you… want to go to the beach?”

 

***

 

Atsushi isn’t sure why Akutagawa suggested going to the beach because he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying himself. Or, at least he doesn’t act the way Atsushi thought people acted when they went to the beach, not like he has much personal experience.

 

It’s a small bay, nobody there except them. Private, Atsushi is pretty sure. They climbed down some flights of stone-hewn stairs to reach the sand. Akutagawa immediately put up a big parasol and laid out his towel in the shade.

 

Atsushi laughs. “You didn’t have to take me to the beach if you don’t enjoy it, you know?”

Akutagawa looks up at him with what Atsushi has learned is his surprised face. “I like it. The sound of the waves rolling in is… soothing.”

He looks away and warmth spreads through Atsushi’s chest when he sees the hint of a blush.

“You’re still all covered up though,” he points out. Akutagawa hasn’t changed out of his yukata, only his bare feet buried in the sand.

“The sun isn’t kind to my skin.”

“Ah,” Atsushi nods sagely. “Lobstertagawa.”

 

He should have expected what happened next. Rashoumon shoots out from Akutagawa’s yukata and winds around Atsushi’s waist before he can react.

“Aku— w-wait I’m sor—” he’s gasping from both laughter and the squeezing, but Akutagawa, face impassive, shows no mercy in his pettiness. Atsushi is thrown into the shallow water, coming up spluttering and drenched.

 

He gets his feet under him, the yukata soaked and heavy, slipping halfway down his shoulder.

“It’s on,” he grins, the spirit of the hunt rising in him, eyes focused on the man in the shade. He shrugs the yukata all the way off, letting it drop into the sand. He’s left in a pair of swimming trunks he borrowed from the house.

 

Akutagawa gets to his feet, looking ready to scram.

“Oh no you don’t!”

Akutagawa makes an effort to fight him off with rashoumon, but Atsushi dodges the strikes easily. He’s holding back.

Atsushi tackles Akutagawa to the ground, cushioned by warm sand. “Sorry, but you can’t escape me without going all out.”

“Get off me!” Akutagawa struggles, but Atsushi, following a hunch, starts to tickle him.

“Hck! Noo-ho-ho, stop!”

 

In his shock, Atsushi nearly does. He’s never seen Akutagawa’s face like this before, eyes crinkled up in laughter, white teeth glinting in the sun. His body wriggles this way and that, yukata slowly coming undone under Atsushi’s hands.

Beautiful . Atsushi swallows against the lump in this throat. His hand has slipped beneath the fabric on Ryuu’s chest, and his skin is warm and smooth.

They’re close. I’m practically on top of him

It’s too much, too fast.

 

“Let’s see how you like it!” Atsushi forces out, before getting to his feet and lifting Akutagawa like he weighs nothing, throwing him over his shoulder.

“Jinko! Let me down, what are you doing?!”

Atsushi gains speed, running towards the shore before throwing the both of them into the water with a gleeful scream.

 

***

 

They return from the beach with salt-crusted hair and heavy limbs. Akutagawa calls the staff about dinner while Atsushi drags himself to the bathroom to wash the salt and sand from his skin. Once they’ve both changed, they enjoy the afternoon sun on the veranda. The shoji screen opens to a beautiful garden, and Akutagawa watches with amusement while Atsushi, as Akutagawa claims, “smells every flower in the whole place”. What of it? Atsushi isn’t used to flowers. They smell amazing.

 

They play cards on a small table, sitting on soft cushions. A cool breeze rings the wind chimes overhead, and Atsushi feels a deep sense of peace settle over them.

“This is really nice,” he says with a smile. “Thank you for inviting me here.”

Akutagawa leans back on one hand, his expression unusually soft. “Thanks for agreeing to go out with me. I know this isn’t a common first date.”

Atsushi laughs. “It would be strange if it was. There’s been nothing common about anything we’ve ever done together.”

 

Akutagawa inclines his head. “True. Also, I win.”

He smirks, and Atsushi leans forward with a squawk to look at their cards. “Dammit. Another round!”

Akutagawa’s smirk widens. “Sure. But honestly, do you really expect to win against someone from the Port Mafia? Chuuya-aniki taught me how to play, you know.”

Atsushi huffs. “Doesn’t matter. I’ll get you sooner or later.”

Akutagawa’s eyes linger on Atsushi’s face, flicking to his lips and back up. “Yes, I believe you will.”

Atsushi blushes and looks away.

 

***

 

Dinner is easily the best food Atsushi has ever eaten. The fish and seafood is fresh from the ocean, the vegetables taste amazing, the spices and seasoning are expertly balanced out by the cook. There are several courses, and each one consists of enough food to satisfy without leaving Atsushi hungry or feeling like he’s overeaten. The breaks between courses give him and Akutagawa more time to talk and just enjoy each other’s company. 

 

There’s a fluttery feeling in Atsushi’s chest that, out of fear of spoiling it, he doesn’t quite dare to call happiness. He feels deeply content, more so than he’d ever thought possible — especially in Akutagawa’s company.

 

“You have a beautiful smile,” Akutagawa says out of the blue, his own expression softer than Atsushi has ever seen it.

Atsushi blushes, fidgeting with his chopsticks. What does he say to that? Thanks?

“You give me reasons to smile,” he blurts out. He wants to sink into the ground from embarrassment, but seeing the flush rise on Akutagawa’s face and neck makes him feel a bit better.

Akutagawa coughs into his hand. “It’s infuriating how you can just say these things.”

“Likewise,” Atsushi mumbles and finishes his dessert. He feels buoyant, carried by the herd of butterflies in his stomach.

 

He turns to the side, looking out into the garden. Lanterns are dotted across the space, emitting a warm glow and transforming the darkness into a magical twilight. The sound of the ocean waves carries on the wind, accompanied by the singing of the crickets.

“Let’s walk a bit?”

Akutagawa nods and rises, extending his hand to Atsushi. When Atsushi clasps Akutagawa’s fingers with his own, all sensation seems heightened.

 

The garden air is heavy with the smell of night-blooming flowers, lit up by the silver shine of the moon and the gentle glow of the lanterns. In their light, Akutagawa looks ethereal, his edges softened. His grip on Atsushi’s fingers tightens a bit before he slowly raises his other hand, cupping Atsushi’s cheek. He leans into the warmth, unable to resist, and hears Akutagawa’s breath catch.

 

“Please…” It’s a whisper, and Atsushi nods before Akutagawa can finish.

Their lips meet softly, timidly. Atsushi can’t stop the quiet sigh leaving his mouth, or how he leans closer, clutching at Akutagawa’s yukata. Arms sneak around his shoulders, pulling him in. He feels so cherished he could cry.

“Akutagawa—”

“Ryuu.” He leans his forehead against Atsushi’s. “Please call me Ryuu. Atsushi.”

Atsushi’s lips grow hungrier, trailing down Ryuu’s jawline, ghosting over his neck. Breathing Ryuu’s name against his ear and making him shiver.

 

“Atsushi,” Ryuu whispers into his hair. “Let me stay with you.”

Atsushi presses his face into Ryuu’s collar bone. Unbelievable that this is the same man who had, only days ago, growled at him to ‘better pack a bag’.

“Yes.” His voice breaks. “Stay, Ryuu. Let’s stay here a bit. The city can wait.”