It would be incredibly, fantastically, and unfathomably stupid for Mei to have a crush.
It’s ridiculous, deranged, and completely idiotic to even consider. The question is so absurd and Mei scoffs at it out loud; boisterous and obnoxious as is warranted for the star of every show.
“What a waste of a question!” He performs. “Booo so bad. A waste! A waste!”
It’s another closing-day party; the sixth Mei has been to since starting university. It’s a good chance to let loose with the rest of the theatre program and celebrate a job well done, particularly by him. (It should go without saying that Mei is always always the star.)
It usually only takes an hour or so for their parties to devolve into games—anything that involves some level of dramatics. Oh, and Mei always, always wins those too. (Or more specifically, he quits before he loses). For the past twenty minutes or so, they’ve been trapped in a vicious game of truth or dare that stopped being fun about 19 minutes ago.
“You just have to say ‘no,’ then.” Akamatsu relents, exasperatedly looking to his seniors for some kind of help. Mei makes sure he can’t find it.
“Well think of a better one next time! NEXT!”
It’s quiet for a second. Shirakawa mumbles something incoherent into Carlos’ ear. It’s probably insufferable. And as far as Mei’s concerned, its criminal for something to be said that he can’t hear. Mei slams his hands down on his knees. “ What did you say?”
Shirakawa stares at him like he's dirt on the bottom of a new white shoe. Carlos shrugs. “He said you didn’t answer the question.”
Mei waves it off, insistent and demanding. “Who cares! That’s yesterday’s news. Move on already.” The glance he throws Itsuki’s way is accidental, but it's enough that a couple people snicker and someone whistles. Mei glares daggers at them.
Right, so it would be obscene, impossible, and inconceivably out of touch for Mei to have a crush on anyone . Especially not --
“Itsuki!” It’s Mei’s turn anyway, so he turns to the second-year beside him. Mei didn’t think much of him when he first joined the program, but he has an undeniable knack for production. Mei shines naturally, but Itsuki’s directing that places him right in the sun. And maybe he’s grown on him. Like a chubby-cheeked fungus.
“Truth or dare!”
“Mei-san, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to ask the same person every t--” Itsuki starts but Mei cuts him off before he can finish.
“--Truth. Or. Dare.”
“Truth then,” Itsuki gives up, with an apologetic glance to the people who haven’t had a turn in a while.
Mei already knows what to ask. “Do you have a crush on anyone?”
Masa-san side-eyes him, which Mei absolutely ignores. The other second years are far less discrete.
“Didn’t you just call it a ‘waste of a question?’” Carlos calls him out, then turns to Itsuki. “You don’t have to answer him.”
Itsuki is quiet for a bit and looks between Mei and Carlos. Mei is about to say more when he finally speaks.
“It’s okay.” He says to Carlos. Then to Mei. “I do. But I don’t think he sees me as more than a producer.”
“--Who!?” Mei nearly chokes on his breath. His heart leaps into his chest like it’s trying to get the better of him. He leans forwards to get into Itsuki’s face, waiting for the answer.
“Don’t say anything.” Masa-san says, ruining everything. “You answered the question, you don’t need to say more.”
“I--” Itsuki starts then shuts his mouth. “Okay, then.” He shares a look with Masa-san that holds too much sentiment for Mei’s liking. Then again, Mei has always hated any interaction he wasn’t at the center of.
Mei stares holes into them both until Itsuki catches his eye, his brows turned inward in some kind of conflict only pathetic people deal with. Mei turns away guiltily, like he just noticed the old movie posters in their clubroom.
While Mei seethes, the rest of the room moves on beyond truth or dare, beyond stupid Itsuki and his dumb mysterious crush. They talk like adults, like they’ve accomplished something. They celebrate the end of one play and the start of another. With their team, it’ll surely be good, and Mei will thrive once again in the crowd chanting his name, regardless of if the producer at stage right is paying attention… ‘Narumiya, Narumiya, Narumiya…..’
“Narumiya.” Shirakawa brings him back, staring him down like he’s the scum of the earth. “Can you do it?”
Mei has no idea what he’s talking about. He also has far too much pride to ask. “Of course I can!” He boasts. He can do anything. Narumiya Mei never misses a cue and never, ever turns down a challenge.
Masa-san clears his throat and suddenly Itsuki is on his feet too. “I’ll go too.” At another time, Mei would complain that Itsuki didn’t ask permission. But he’ll let it slide.
Mei parades them out of the club room and down the long dingy corridor passing beneath the stage. They pass the dressing rooms where Itsuki forced him to try on outfits Mei ended up loving, the rehearsal rooms where they spent endless late nights yelling at each other about delivery and presentation.
“You followed my advice on the confession scene.” Itsuki says, probably to change the subject from earlier. “I thought you were going to shout it.”
On a particularly rough night, the two of them had exchanged “I love yous” for the scene where the protagonist confesses what he believes to be his unrequited love. It had been Itsuki’s idea for Mei to whisper it, to let his voice crack and quake like he was afraid to say it. Mei had of course made sure everyone working knew it was a dumb and stupid and bad idea.
He whispered it every night since.
Mei stretches out his shoulders, nonchalant as if Itsuki’s attention isn’t burning him up. “My throat was sore.”
“You were really amazing.” Itsuki continues, stoking Mei’s esteem in just the right places.
“You know what I mean.”
When they leave the theatre, the parking lot is long since empty. It’s well past midnight. It’s past past-midnight. Only a few scattered bikes and scooters litter the spots around Masa-san’s old shitty Toyota. With no way anyone inside will hear them, Mei grabs Itsuki’s arm to keep him from going any further.
Itsuki doesn’t fight back or try to pull his arm away. He turns over his shoulder to face Mei. “Mei-san, my bike’s over there.” Itsuki is just tall enough that Mei likes it--just big enough that Mei notices. He has broad shoulders, and a strength in the way he moves that comes from endless set work. Of course, only an idiot would be so smitten with pathetic little Itsuki who’s so kind and eager to please. Stupid . Mei takes his frustration out on Itsuki’s cheeks, squeezing them together with one hand. “Who. is. it?” He orders.
Itsuki releases a hot huff of air through his restricted aperture and tilts his head to the side. “Mho?”
Mei has no patience. This is unsurprising. So it must be unsurprising when he squeezes Itsuki tighter and stands on tiptoe to get in his face. Closer, so they’re nose to nose.
Itsuki doesn’t waiver, stubbornly pretending that Mei isn’t even in front of him.
Mei clicks his tongue.
Itsuki’s brow furrows and he frowns. Mei’s heart aches. A firm grip closes around Mei’s wrist and yanks Mei’s hand down. “Mei-san.” It gives Mei chills--the same kind he got the first night Itsuki stood up to him. “You can’t expect me to just read your mind.”
Mei boils over. “You like someone! You’re in love with someone!”
Itsuki turns away and trudges on towards his motorbike. “I just said it was a crush.”
Mei feels his tone climbing. He’s never been good at controlling his emotions and never much cared to. Itsuki is supposed to be his partner. He’s supposed to tell him everything. Itsuki should know by now that he’s Mei’s. 1000% until he graduates and maybe even after. “That’s not the point--” It’s louder than it should be. Mei’s voice shakes to the point of ignominy.
It’s a mercy that Itsuki cuts him off. “--I know. And I guess you’re right about the other part too.”
Mei’s processing lags with his outrage. There’s almost a 5 second silence before Mei is shouting. “You’re in LOVE?”
“Yes” Itsuki must be making a point to avoid Mei’s face. He digs through his bike’s saddlebags for his jacket, gloves, and helmet, then tosses Mei the spare gear he keeps mostly for him.
“And you didn’t tell me?--Where are we going?” Right. He forgot he agreed to do something.
It’s obvious that Itsuki is pissed. For someone so notoriously even-tempered, he ignites easily when it comes to Mei. Even if it’s a bad thing, Mei likes being special. He deserves to be.
Itsuki runs with the change of subject and mounts his old kawasaki, holding it in place between his thighs as Mei climbs onto the back. “Snack run.” He explains curtly. “You agreed to go, remember?”
Itsuki’s shoulders are tense when Mei uses them to hoist himself over the back of the bike. Even when they fight, he’s not usually so cold. Mei decides right there that he hates it. And with Itsuki as his chauffeur, Mei has a captive audience for his displeasure.
He has to lean against Itsuki’s back to more or less shout in his ear as they pull out of the parking lot and onto the city streets. “Tell me wh--”
They stop abruptly at a light, and Itsuki finally swivels around to face him. He’s serious. It doesn’t suit his gentle features and his warm, kind eyes. “If you don’t know by now, Mei-san, it’s probably best I don’t.” It’s cold, and it’s burning.
The conversation ends, and the light changes. There’s a Daily Yamazaki not too far from campus that’s open all night. It won’t be long until they’re back with the others, particularly at the speed with which Itsuki roars down the near-deserted street. Mei has to cling to him tightly, partially because of his driving and mostly as an excuse.
Even though Itsuki is particularly touchy-feely with the cast and crew, he and Mei have never had a physical relationship. It’s only on drives like these where Itsuki runs an errand and Mei insists on joining, or when he’s driving Mei home from a particularly boisterous opening night. Itsuki’s never mentioned it one way or another, so it’s probably just par for the course. But even like this Mei can feel that Itsuki is stiff and on edge, arching uncomfortably away from where Mei’s chest is pressed against his back.
When they park, Mei reluctantly lets him go. “Don’t worry so much!” He forces his levity and a shining grin, patting Itsuki on the stiff, cold shoulder. “I betcha he likes you back. Even if you won’t tell me wh--”
“--He doesn’t.” Itsuki slams the kickstand down and ducks out of his helmet, tucking it under his arm and folding his gloves up inside. “Just drop it, okay? Please?”
End of conversation, end of discussion. Itsuki has made himself an impenetrable barrier to Mei’s nosiness (and maybe to his jealousy). Mei rips off his helmet and gloves, and stomps to Itsuki’s side. “WE’RE FIGHTING.” He jabs him in the chest with his limp gloves. “I’m mad at you.”
“He doesn’t like me like that.” Itsuki drops that non sequitur as the doors slide open and he beelines to the cooler. “So there’s no point in talking about it.”
It’s not what Mei wants but it’s something. It puts him in a good enough mood to at least pick out the drinks he wants (a fruit drink (strawberry)), and the snacks that he likes best (assorted gummies and a bag of corn snacks). He holds them in the crook of his elbow while leaving Itsuki to grab literally everything else in a basket he carries on his forearm.
While Itsuki checks the orders from the cast, Mei leans against his arm to look at his messages. “Anyone who doesn’t like you is stupid.” He mutters, almost embarrassed by the admonition (as if Narumiya Mei superstar theater star could feel such a thing). It’s not what he wants to say at all. He’d rather Itsuki be alone and miserable forever than with anyone else but him. At least, that’s what he wants to want. But this level of chagrin looks bad on Itsuki’s cute-but-in-a-handsome-way face. And Mei wants it gone. Their old rapport is better than this, even if it means Itsuki will be happily in love with someone else. (The now-second worst possible thing that can ever happen.) “Whoever it is is a stupid idiot. You should move on.”
To me . He thinks.
Itsuki scoffs, or maybe it was the start of a laugh, and glances down at Mei with a lingering smile. It’s bittersweet. It’s hiding something. “Thanks. That must have been hard for you to say.”
“Yeah, so you know I’m serious about it.” Mei would deny it in front of anyone else, but there’s no point in pretending here, even if he does it with a pout plastered across his face.
It’s worth it, because Itsuki smiles for real, cheeks pulling up high enough that Mei can see his dimples. Cute. Mei can’t help but reciprocate, although it’s definitely more of a sneer.
His spirits lifted, Mei bounces ahead of Itsuki towards the cash before stopping mid-way in the aisle and turning on the ball of his foot. “Did you get everything you wanted too?”
There’s a dumbfounded silence that sweeps over aisle three of the convenience store. Itsuki stares at him like he just asked him to forget about theater and become a baseball star instead. Mei nudges his shin with his toe. “What? Cat got your tongue?”
“It’s just you’re being considerate of me.” There’s an offensive amount of shock in Itsuki’s breathy words. Mei goes flush in the face and he’ll say it’s because he’s mad.
“Don’t get caught up in it and fall for me or anything.” But he wishes he would. Mei tilts his chin upward to feel like the bigger, less infatuated man. “Do you want me to grab something or what?”
Mei grabs Itsuki’s usual; an onigiri and a grape soda, and the two of them pay and leave in a far better mood than when they came in .
Itsuki tucks the snacks away into his saddlebags and pulls his gloves and helmet back on. Mei watches him just for a second. Itsuki looks like a different person than he is. From here, he looks badass and confident, a good looking guy on a motorcycle (although not as good looking as Mei, of course). But Mei knows better. He’s goofy and eager to please. He has a lot to learn but he learns it quickly. He always shows up to rehearsal with a smile, and knows exactly when to praise Mei or shoot him down.
So maybe he’s perfect. (But not as perfect as Mei.)
Itsuki catches him staring and flashes a friendly grin. “Everything okay?” The bastard doesn’t even know the effect he has.
“Yeah.” Mei answers, lifting himself up behind Itsuki once again.
It’s an easier drive back to campus this time. Itsuki’s body is relaxed which means Mei can enjoy holding him while he drives. He ducks his head behind his back to protect it from the wind. Even if he can’t feel it through the helmet, he knows Itsuki’s back must be warm. It must be nice to rest against. He shuts his eyes and thinks about it.
Mei only lifts his head when he feels a hand on his. They’ve stopped at a light and Itsuki is definitely, certainly, resting his palm against Mei’s hands that are clasped over one another around Itsuki’s waist. It’s hard to tell through the gloves, but Mei is sure that Itsuki’s hands must be warm too. Like his back. Like the feeling. He looks up from his resting place; surprised and speechless.
Itsuki’s already turned over his shoulder. He doesn’t move even when the light changes. He squeezes Mei’s hands.
“Did you say something?” Mei asks. “It’s too loud with the wind.”
Itsuki lifts his visor, his face lit up by another lonely set of headlights coming from down the road. “I like you.”
Mei lifts his too.
They both jump when the car waiting behind them honks. Itsuki hastily wheels the bike towards the sidewalk and hoists it up onto the curve. The car speeds past and they’re alone again.
Itsuki screws up his face like he’s thinking of something to say. He’s even cute like this. Mei beats him to the punch.
“Say it again.” Mei is serious, focused. He wants to be sure he didn’t mishear it. He wants to hear it again and again and again until the words lose their meaning.
Itsuki nods. “I like you.” He swings his leg over the bike and holds it in place for Mei to get off.
But Mei only adjusts to sit sideways in the saddle. He plants his hands on either side of Itsuki’s helmet and tilts it from side to side. “You said love earlier.”
Itsuki ducks so that Mei pulls it off. “I did, didn’t I?” He lifts Mei’s helmet off as gingerly as one can one-handed, and hangs it on the handlebars. Wordlessly, he takes his from Mei’s hands and does the same.
“So---” Mei is eager for him to get to the point.
Tentatively, Itsuki steps forward so he stands just barely between Mei’s knees. “Isn’t that too much? I don’t even know what you think about it yet.”
Positions of power suit Mei’s ego, especially after a night full of guessing at how Itsuki feels about him. He grins, wide and smug and giddy. There’s a sadist in him that savors Itsuki’s uncertainty. There’s a romantic in him that wants Itsuki to feel what he feels too.
He settles for something in between, letting the tension emanating from his producer linger just a while longer. “Well-----” He sighs, taking his gloves off one at a time. “You pick ugly costumes for me, and you’re always telling me to talk quieter.”
“You’re making me wait.” Itsuki sighs, shaking his head. There’s the slightest smile left on his lips. Mei hates and loves it simultaneously. “Can’t you make this easy and say you like me back?” It’s oddly presumptive, and it’s worse when Itsuki pauses to pull his gloves off with his teeth. Typically, Mei hates the flipside; the side where he’s predictable and vulnerable and where Itsuki is the one with a beautiful, unearthly smirk. But it’s different here. He watches at full attention while Itsuki puts on a show, and finally sets his gloves on the saddle. Itsuki holds Mei’s jaw this time. It makes Mei feel like he’s teetering on the edge of something, unsure if he’s going to fly or fall.
At this point, he’s fine with either. “I like you too.” It’s almost pulled out of him like it’s automated. Itsuki grins, and his dominant air is gone.
“Really?” He draws closer in between Mei’s thighs. His hold lifts into a soft caress. Mei can’t help how it makes him smile.
“Now you can say you love me.” Mei wants to hear it. He’s ready to hear it. He’s going to hear it.
But it doesn’t come. The script’s off.
“I’m going to kiss you now.” Itsuki tells them both in Mei’s favourite attitude. Then of course, he adds something in from Mei’s favourite person. “If that’s okay.”
There’s nothing Mei can say, so he nods instead. Itsuki can tell him after. Or maybe Mei will say it first.
There’s no kiss. No even close. Itsuki can’t follow through because there’s fucking quacking coming from his jacket pocket . Itsuki pulls back, only now blushing furiously. Leave it to casanova Itsuki Tadano to have the damned duck ringtone. He checks the screen, much to Mei’s outrage. But no one ignores Masa-san. They all respect him far too much for that.
“--We’re almost back.”
“--actually we were about to--”
“Okay, okay, be back soon, thank you again.”
Mei only has the patience for about minus 2 sentences, so when they get closer to 10, he snatches the phone away.
Masa-san is laughing, and Mei can hear the rest of the room behind him too.
“Sorry for interrupting you, Mei.” He barely manages in a rare bout of laughter. Mei isn’t seeing what’s so funny.
“Stop laughing!” He barks. “What’s going on?.”
“Nothing, nothing…” Masa-san is still losing it. “Just be sure not to distract Tadano when he’s driving.”
Mei feels his neck set ablaze and shoves the phone into Itsuki’s chest, who whispers a quick goodbye and hangs up the call.
“Is this a joke?” Mei is frigid.
“No! No!” Itsuki is horrified and stammers before he can properly reply. “I was just--” “He was just--”
Mei stares, cold and unimpressed.
Itsuki is practically pleading. He takes a couple breaths and steadies himself. “He guessed how I felt. Actually everyone did. Harada-san asked you to get everything so that we could be alone.”
Mei is conflicted. On one hand, he hates that he was left in the dark. On the other, he can’t really care about that right now.
The bike beneath him wobbles when Itsuki leans against it clumsily. With a mumbled and adorable “whoops” he catches it before it tumbles over with Mei in tow. Itsuki steadies it with a hand on either side of Mei’s hips. And finally, finally and at last he kisses him.
It’s not so sweet and innocent as Itsuki’s face. He sighs against Mei’s lips immediately and urges his open. Their first kiss is instantly deep and indulgent and dramatic.
Mei shudders and tilts his chin to welcome Itsuki closer. He obliges immediately.
While Itsuki is holding the bike, Mei’s hands are free to roam. He crawls his palms over Itsuki’s chest and to his shoulders and finally into his hair. It’s soft and untreated, unlike Mei’s which is gelled to all hell. He tugs at it gently, earning a sweet and irresistible groan from his partner.
Itsuki half pulls back to kick the stand down. The bike still teeters with Mei’s weight, but not enough that Itsuki can’t let go momentarily.
This is just what he does. Despite his recent brashness, Itsuki lifts Mei off the bike with a velvety ease. He gazes up at him for just a moment. It’s definitely loving. He doesn’t even have to say it.
And he doesn’t because he’s kissing Mei again, letting him slide down gently till he stands on his feet.
This is exactly when Mei feels his legs shaking. He steadies himself on Itsuki, who pauses to catch him by his shoulders, and looks down at him with concern.
Mei scoffs. “Don’t look at me like that.” But he definitely doesn’t want Itsuki looking at anyone else.
“Like what?” Itsuki smooths down his hair which is a total disaster between the helmet and Mei.
“Like you’re in love with me.”
“I am.” Itsuki says immediately. It’s not satisfying, not at all. The audience wants to hear him say it. Mei narrows his eyes until Itsuki gets the point. “Oh!” Itsuki runs his thumb over Mei’s lips, reminding Mei of how kissing him felt. “I love you Mei-san.”
It was what Mei wanted, and what he was expecting. But it still hits him like a damned truck. His eyes widen, and Itsuki probably notices, because he leans in closer and whispers.
“That’s your cue.”
Mei has never missed a prompt, and he’s not about to start. It’s no rainy gazebo, no water-filled room, no life or death fight with a dashing rival. It’s the middle of the night, it’s on a cracked and smelly sidewalk near campus. And it’s real. This time when Mei takes hold of Itsuki’s cheeks, it’s soft and cautious. This time, when Mei kisses Itsuki, it’s stubborn and it’s short.
Mei whispers it. It’s not some cracking, quaking, thing like he’s afraid to say it. This is just how it’s supposed to sound.
“Of course I love you too.”