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“You don’t get to just kick me out—”

“’Course I do,” Osamu said. “This is my shop.”

So he kicked Atsumu out and shut the pull door in his face. Shouyou laughed. Atsumu was shouting outside. Osamu came back in, tying his apron behind his back. Bonding time, he’d claimed. Plus Shouyou-kun can help me with prep work.

I can help you with prep work!

You don’t do anything but steal my food. Shoo, go buy us beer or something. There’s a convenience store at the end of the street.

I’m not your errand boy—

“He’s a handful, isn’t he?” Osamu asked. He was smiling, resigned. He turned on the faucet and washed his hands. Shouyou came behind the counter and rolled up his sleeves.

“In a good way.”

“You’re too good for him.” Osamu gestured at the carrots and instructed Shouyou how to slice them. Shouyou hefted the knife. It was heavy and sharp. “I heard, by the way. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Shouyou said. “I thought Atsumu would tell you.”

“You have no idea. He came in the dead of the night and looked like he didn’t know to be smug or embarrassed. He was freaking out.”

Shouyou smiled, small. “I tried not to freak him out.”

“You’re never going to achieve that.” Osamu spooned rice into his palms and started molding an onigiri. Shouyou looked, entranced: the curious way the rice shaped itself after a few simple gestures, nudging—guiding, subtle. Osamu made the best onigiri. He shaped flavors with his bare hands, as though this was the only way he trusted.

“Not even thirty years later?” Shouyou asked.

Osamu paused, taken aback. He looked at Shouyou. Declaration or challenge—a question or a promise? Shouyou grinned. He felt the prominence of the silver chain around his neck—however light, however thin—the shape of the metal in front of his chest, warm against skin.

Slowly, Osamu smiled back.

 


 

Atsumu sulked all the way home.

Shouyou let him. He detoured into the convenience store and bought Atsumu’s favorite drink. Atsumu followed him into the store and out again. He was too busy sulking to notice.

Shouyou handed him the drink. Atsumu blinked.

“Is this an apology?”

“What do I have to apologize for?”

Atsumu scowled and took it. Shouyou smiled. Atsumu popped the can open and took a sip, shrunk into the collar of his jacket. The sunset colored him in warm oranges and yellows, softened the sharpness of his frame, dragged long his shadow.

Atsumu muttered, “What did you talk about?”

“You,” Shouyou answered, honest.

The pink of Atsumu’s cheeks in the sunset. Shouyou had decided this was his favorite shade.

“Bet he didn’t say anything nice.”

“That’s not a smart bet,” Shouyou said. “I was there. I can win very easily.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Osamu-san’s plenty nice.”

“Oi, where’s favoritism for me?”

“You’re nicer,” Shouyou said. “In some places.” He reached into Atsumu’s pocket for his hand. Threaded his fingers through, held it; with his other hand, he tugged Atsumu down by his collar and kissed him on the cheek.

You know we went back home last week. He made a huge fuss because he couldn’t find his handkerchief. None of us knew what he was on about—he hadn’t used his handkerchief in fifteen years and even back when he’d had it, he’d never used it. That evening before he showered, he took off his chain and his ring and spent ten minutes arranging it on that little square piece of cloth. I’d never seen him that careful with anything.

Atsumu flushed redder than a tomato. In his pocket, he squeezed Shouyou’s hand tight.

“Tons of places,” he muttered.

Shouyou hummed.

I guess I just want to say thank you, Shouyou-kun. Thank you.

“Let’s go home,” Shouyou said.

“Wait. I forgot to buy pudding at the convenience store.”

“Okay.”

Osamu-san. Thank you.