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Sweet Like Caramel

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Iwaizumi had never delivered to the library before. Truthfully, he didn’t even know they had a library. But here he was, standing in front of a plain two story building with a caramel iced coffee in his right hand and a receipt in his left.

He hadn’t been working at this coffee shop for very long, but he was already accustomed to the routine of delivery. This would be no different than any other order. He’d be in and out in no time.

The library was a lot more impressive than its outer appearance let on. Dozens of shelves were scattered around, along with chairs and couches of several different styles and colors. If Iwaizumi had more time on his hands, he might’ve considered getting a library card.

“May I help you?”

Iwaizumi titled his head down. The librarian had sandy brown hair and a helpful expression, but his eyes were threatening, almost, as if they were daring Iwaizumi to mention his height.

“I have an order for,” he read the receipt again, “Sugawara Koushi?” The guy smiled.

“He works upstairs. Follow me.” Iwaizumi complied, his jaw dropping in awe when he saw the giant tree sculptures on either side of the staircase. They were dark brown and twice Iwaizumi’s height, fairy lights strung around the branches like spider webbing.

“Nice, aren’t they? They were donated to us by a local artist. Every inch of it’s made from recycled materials. Except the lights; that was an addition Sugawara made, actually,” he said, leading Iwaizumi up the stairs and onto the second floor, which was just as nice as the first. The only real difference was the skylights on the ceiling.

“Suga? There’s an order here for you,” he called out.

A moment later, someone appeared from behind one of the shelves, holding more books in his arms than Iwaizumi even owned.

“Thanks, Yaku!” he said

Yaku shot him finger guns, and headed back downstairs. Sugawara sat the books down on the counter, and rushed over to receive his order.

Iwaizumi handed him the drink and his copy of the receipt, but it was more muscle memory than anything else. He was too focused on Sugawara’s silver hair. Was it as soft as it looked? Probably, considering—

“Thank you so much for coming all the way out here just to caffeinate me,” Sugawara said, smiling. Whipped cream stained his upper lip, and Iwaizumi smirked.

“Anytime.”

 

~~~

 

Three days later, Iwaizumi found himself in front of the library once again. It was the same order, except this time it included a lemon poppy seed muffin. Iwaizumi ignored his coworker when she questioned why he was being so careful with the coffee. He was allowed to be a good employee from time to time, okay?

The first floor librarian from the other day wasn't there this time, but Iwaizumi knew generally where the staircase was, and it only took him a minute or two to find himself on the top floor.

Sugawara's was checking someone out when Iwaizumi saw him. His hair was perfectly styled and neat, which made Iwaizumi self-conscious about his own. For some reason.

He waited patiently a few feet away until the transaction had finished. Sugawara spotted him, and grinned.

“You got here fast!” he commented, grabbing his wallet from somewhere inside the desk. Iwaizumi scratched the back of his neck.

“I guess I just knew how to get here this time,” he said. Outside of sports, he never had been very good at giving or receiving compliments.

Sugawara handed him the money, and eagerly grabbed his muffin. Iwaizumi wondered if he had even eaten breakfast that morning, but judging by how quickly he tore open the plastic wrap, that was a no.

“I uh, think you miscounted? There's more money here than necessary,” Iwaizumi said. He wasn’t the best at math, but he was pretty damn sure there was an extra six hundred yen. If he were less honest, he might’ve pocketed it to help pay for something other than cups of ramen. Unfortunately for his stomach, he had morals.

Sugawara shook his head. “That's your tip, of course.”

Iwaizumi didn’t really know what to say. He hadn’t received a single tip his entire time delivering coffee (though to be fair, it had only been two months).

“Thank you,” Iwaizumi said, finally. He was smiling wider than he should’ve been, but he did his best not to feel too ashamed. “You’re very kind.”

Sugawara’s eyes lit up at the praise, and Iwaizumi found himself staring.

“I uh, guess I’ll be going then,” he said, straightening up. He’d already been there longer than he originally intended. His boss would probably have a word with him when he got back on not slacking off, which he was oh so excited about. Iwaizumi started walking toward the staircase when a voice stopped him.

“Wait!”

“Yes?”

Sugawara titled his head to the side, and it reminded Iwaizumi of a bird. He’d always liked birds.

“What’s your name?” he asked. Iwaizumi raised an eyebrow. He didn’t expect that, at say the least.

“Iwaizumi Hajime,” he replied, swearing he saw Sugawara mouthing it a few times afterward as if to test the feel of his name on his lips.

Hajime. Nice name.”

Iwaizumi gulped. “Thanks,” he muttered. Sugawara waved, and Iwaizumi made him way downstairs, unsure why his skin felt so warm. It was only April, after all. He regained his composure over the car ride, but he had a feeling that wouldn’t be the last time he delivered to Sugawara Koushi.

 

~~~

 

It wasn’t. Over the next two months, Iwaizumi was there constantly, always with a caramel iced coffee and some type of pastry. It got to the point where he was surprised if he didn't receive an order from Sugawara, who had quickly become a regular.

He had become friends with Yaku pretty quickly. They were fairly similar, and considering how often Iwaizumi delivered there, it was no wonder they hit it off.

Sugawara was a bit of a different story. They got along well, and Iwaizumi saw him more often, but there was something about him that made Iwaizumi… uneasy, which was exactly why he felt so nervous right now.

It was almost seven, and Iwaizumi was standing in front of the library. He’d been planning to actually visit for days now, but he’d always been busy with work. However, today was different. Today, he got off early. And now he was trying to work up the courage to go inside.

He wasn't even sure why it was such a big deal. He saw Sugawara every day. Why was it different now that he didn't have an iced coffee in his hand?

Grow a pair, Hajime.

Iwaizumi took a deep breath and walked inside.

Yaku was sorting the book returns, shaking his hips to some song that was playing through his earphones. Iwaizumi couldn't stifle his laughter in time.

Yaku apparently heard him, and whipped around. Iwaizumi had never seen someone look so mortified.

“Uhh…”

Iwaizumi crossed his fingers. “I won't tell a soul.”

Yaku rolled his eyes, pulling his earphones out and wrapping them around his neck. “Shut up. No one would believe you anyway.”

Iwaizumi held up his open palms in surrender, which seemed to satisfy Yaku enough. He finished his task quickly, and rolled the cart over to the side to be dealt with in the morning.

“Suga’s upstairs, if you were wondering,” Yaku finally said, eyeing him with a confused expression, like he didn't expect Iwaizumi to still be standing there.

“Why would I wonder where he is?”

Yaku stopped, turning to face him. He seemed to think over something in his head, and based on the knowing smirk that found its way onto his face, Iwaizumi was positive he was missing something.

“No reason,” Yaku said, chuckling. Iwaizumi glared at him. He had a feeling Yaku was mocking him in some way. Nevertheless, he still walked up the stairs to find Sugawara.  

By the looks of it, Iwaizumi was the only person still left at the library. One of the only ones, at any rate. Sugawara was missing from the front desk, which was to be expected. He was always off doing some little task like reorganizing the shelves or cleaning the windows. It was quite admirable, how devoted he was to his job. Iwaizumi wished he could say the same thing about himself.

Being in the library at night felt strange, in a way. He’d come to associate it with the morning and with coffee and pastries and work. The only light was provided by the moon and a few lamps, giving the upstairs a shadowy look that was effectively calming.

Iwaizumi made his way over to the fiction section, skimming over the neatly organized shelves with interest. It had been a while since he had sat down and read anything; he was too busy nowadays. But the presence of so many books made his heart swell, and his fingers itched in desperation to pick one up.

“Iwaizumi?”

He turned to find Sugawara standing behind him with a pleasantly surprised smile on his face. He looked tired, though that was to be expected, considering he had worked about twelve hours without a break longer than half an hour.

“Hey stranger,” Iwaizumi said, painfully aware of how dumb he sounded. When was he born, the 1950’s? Nobody said that anymore was he stupid?

Sugawara giggled, though Iwaizumi wasn’t quite sure why. Maybe he could read minds? “Well hello to you, too. I didn’t expect you here this late, so please excuse the mess,” he said, leaning down to tie his shoe. Iwaizumi narrowed his eyes.

“You do realize this place is spotless, correct?”

“I haven’t vacuumed,” Sugawara admitted, his cheeks dusted pink. Iwaizumi’s chest tightened with an unexpected burst of fondness, and it took him several moments to regain his composure.

“Need some help?”

Sugawara doubled knotted the laces of his sneakers and stood up. “Nah, what kind of host would I be?”

“This is a library.”

“Details!”

Iwaizumi chuckled, turning back toward the bookshelf. Part of him felt embarrassed with Sugawara standing right there, as if he was being silently judged for every move he made.

Sugawara walked up closer, and pulled a book from the shelf. The cover was green and black with a unique illustration on the front. “If you’re unable to decide what book to read, I recommend Tell the Wolves I’m Home. It’s American, and some of the themes may be a bit questionable, depending on who you are, but it’s… good. It’s really good,” Sugawara said, handing it to him. Iwaizumi failed to recognize the name, but the shiny look in Sugawara’s eyes told him enough.

“How did you know I was having trouble finding a book?” he asked finally. Sugawara shrugged.

“A hunch, I guess. Though you weren’t very subtle in the first place. Been a while?” Iwaizumi nodded. “Yeah, I figured. But that’s okay! There’s never a bad time to start reading again,” he said, smiling. Iwaizumi’s head pounded, and his neck felt way warmer than it should’ve. Maybe he was catching a cold?

“Anyway, but come on. I’ll help you get signed up for a library card.”

Iwaizumi followed him to the front desk. He felt oddly excited, despite how trivial the act was. It was just a library card, after all. But something told him that no, it wasn’t just a library card. It was sort of an unspoken promise, a factor that tied him to Sugawara. He was slowly starting to realize exactly why it made him feel as happy as it did, though he refused to admit it to himself. Not yet, at least.

“This way you’ll be able to check tons of things out at a time! You’ll be fined if you turn them in late, of course, but the fines are itty bitty,” Sugawara explained, handing him the card. It was orange, of all things.

“Thanks,” Iwaizumi said, pocketing it. Sugawara was smiling at him, and everything felt a lot warmer than it should've.

Sugawara was busy doing something at the counter, and Iwaizumi wondered if this was his cue to leave. He had only been there about fifteen minutes. There wasn't really an obligation for him to head home. But maybe Sugawara was implying it anyway?

“I guess I should head out then,” he said awkwardly, though he wasn't quite sure why it was awkward.

Sugawara turned his head. He looked surprised, and a little… disappointed? No, that probably wasn't right. Iwaizumi never had been the best at reading people.

“Well, okay then,” he said, standing up straight. He grabbed a light denim jacket from a rack behind the desk and shrugged it on. “But let me walk you to your car.”

Iwaizumi, once again, didn't know what to say. The denim brought out the silver of Sugawara’s hair, and his brown eyes looked even bigger in the shadowy light of the library. Iwaizumi wasn't one to go appreciating the beauty in mundane things, but Sugawara wasn't mundane. He was ethereal, a way. The circles under his eyes and the paleness of his hands set flames inside Iwaizumi that refused to go out.

Maybe that's what Sugawara was. A flame. Burning and uncontrollable and real. And something Iwaizumi would never be able to touch.

Then again, metaphors were never his strong suit.

“If you want to,” he said. Sugawara grabbed a small white remote from inside the desk and pressed a button. All the lights faded out. All except the moon, of course, which was a lot brighter than Iwaizumi realized.

Sugawara skin reflected the light, and Iwaizumi’s breath caught in his throat. That seemed to be happening more and more often.

They descended the stairs side by side, and it wasn't until he saw him that Iwaizumi remembered about Yaku. He was smirking (as always). Iwaizumi glared at him, but the smug expression he wore only strengthened.

“Going somewhere?”

Sugawara smiled. “Nah, I'm just walking him to his car,” he said. Yaku turned to Iwaizumi.

“That's sweet. Isn't it sweet, Iwaizumi?”

“Put a sock in it,” he said, rolling his eyes. Sugawara didn't seem to pick up on anything, but he didn't seem to mind all that much, either. Iwaizumi punched Yaku in the shoulder on his way out the door. Yaku only cackled.

Iwaizumi’s car wasn't far away, and he started to wonder why Sugawara was so insistent on walking him there. The sun had only gone down an hour ago. He was perfectly capable of getting to his car okay. But Sugawara seemed happy to be doing it, and Iwaizumi couldn't bring himself to take that away.

“Thanks,” he said once they reached his vehicle. Sugawara nodded, smiling.

“Of course.”

Iwaizumi felt like saying something. The time felt right, and so did the place, despite the fact they were in a parking lot.

Sugawara waved, and Iwaizumi watched him walk away. The opportunity was slipping through his fingers faster and faster.

Come on, stupid. Do something.

“Hey, Sugawara?”

He turned back to face Iwaizumi, though the look on his face showed that he was probably expecting this to happen. “Yeah?”

Iwaizumi jogged over to him. This was it. He was going to act. He was going to be assertive, and fight for what he wanted. He was going to-

“Uhh… thanks for the library card.”

What?!

Sugawara’s smile was small and halfhearted. “You're welcome.” They stood there for a moment or two, the silence getting staler every second. “Anyway, I'm gonna, y’know.”

“Yeah! Totally. Me too. Right,” Iwaizumi said, nodding. It was official: he was a moron.

He watched Sugawara get in his car and drive off, wishing more than anything that he could just have a do over.

 

~~~

 

It had been a week since Iwaizumi got his library card, and Sugawara had reverted to ordering coffee every single day. Iwaizumi didn't mind the change, but considering that he apparently had a big gay crush on him, it wasn't the best for his pride.

10:00 am. Sugawara would be calling in his order soon. Iwaizumi got out the stuff and already began making the caramel iced coffee Sugawara adored so much. He might as well get it out of the way now.

He was almost done when he heard familiar voices behind him, causing him to drop the lid on the floor.

“So this is where he works?”

Iwaizumi froze. Yaku. Did that mean Sugawara was here too?

“Yep. I wonder if he's here today…”

Yaku laughed. “Of course he's here; it’s a week day. And stop worrying, you look fine,” he said. Sugawara huffed.

“I'm not worrying.”

Iwaizumi’s cheeks were warm. Was Sugawara really worried about whether or not he would be there? He turned around, doing his best to look surprised when he saw them standing at the counter.

“Oh hey.” Nice going.

Sugawara grinned. “Hey! Long time no see,” he said. Yaku gave him a weird look.

“Suga, it's been like a day—”

Sugawara elbowed him in the side, which effectively shut him up.

“Is that for me?” Sugawara asked, pointing to the drink in Iwaizumi’s hand. He nodded, and slid it across the counter. He hoped Sugawara didn’t ask why he already had it prepared.

“Why was it already made?” Yaku asked, and Iwaizumi was sure he must’ve done something really bad in a past life to deserve this treatment.

“I uh, was just, anticipating the order, so I thought I’d go ahead and get it done,” he said. Yaku didn’t say any more, and Iwaizumi was grateful.

Sugawara reached in his bag to pull out some money, but Iwaizumi grabbed his wrist gently. “Don’t worry about it. It’s on the house,” he said. Sugawara’s ears were pink, and Iwaizumi hoped it was in a good, blushing way and not in a ‘Why is this freak holding my wrist and paying for my drink’ kind of way.

“T-thank you,” Sugawara said, smiling. Iwaizumi returned it, releasing his arm and grabbing some money from his pocket. Yaku was wiggling his eyebrows at him, and Iwaizumi wondered how much he’d miss them if he woke up one morning to find them shaved.

“Are you busy?” Sugawara asked. Iwaizumi shrugged.

“Not really. Why?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to sit with us,” he said. Iwaizumi looked around. There was only one other customer there, and he already had his order. Besides, it’s not like he was the only one working today.

And, if nothing else, this was an opportunity, one he didn’t intend to waste.

“Sure, why not?”

Sugawara beamed, and followed them to a table in the corner of the cafe. Sugawara was sporting the same denim jacket from several nights ago. Iwaizumi wondered how long he’d had it. Maybe he’d ask him sometime.

Sugawara sat directly across from him, which really wasn't all that far away, considering the length of the table. It felt odd seeing him outside of the library, but it wasn't an unwelcome feeling. It was actually pretty nice, and Iwaizumi hoped they'd get to do it more often.

“Crap,” Yaku said, looking down at his phone. “It's Lev, he needs me to help him bathe the cat. Looks like it's just gonna be you two.”

Iwaizumi’s eyes widened in horror. Just the two of them, drinking coffee and talking about themselves? That sounded a lot like a—

“Bye guys,” Yaku said, looking genuinely regretful for the first time. Iwaizumi had to wonder who Lev was, and what type of person he must be to need help bathing a cat.

Sugawara sighed, but there was a smile on his face. “Lev’s his boyfriend,” he said, as if he were reading Iwaizumi’s thoughts. “Really nice guy, and he makes Yaku happy. A handful, though.”

If he wasn't a little gay himself, Iwaizumi might've been more surprised to find out that Yaku had a boyfriend. But he was, and after being told about Lev, he realized it made a lot of sense.

The two of them sat there for a while, neither saying anything. It wasn't a bad silence, really. But Iwaizumi did wish that one of them would speak up. He didn't want this to end up as awkward as last time.

That's if you even work up the courage to tell him, Iwaizumi thought. It was true; he was scared. But if Yaku liked guys, then who knows? Maybe Sugawara did too. And if not, at least he wouldn't be disgusted by the confession.

“Iwaizumi,” Sugawara said, fiddling with the Styrofoam cup. He looked to be deep in thought, and Iwaizumi wished he had the ability to read minds.

“Yeah?”

Sugawara met his eyes. They were beautiful, and the feeling of them staring into Iwaizumi’s was unlike any other he'd ever experienced.

“Can I ask you something?”

Iwaizumi nodded.

“The other night, when I got you your library card, were you going to say something different to me? Yaku’s just convinced you have like, a crush on me or something, so I was wondering,” he said, laughing. Iwaizumi was silent. Well that escalated quickly.

Sugawara’s laughter faded out, his voice taking on a more serious tone. “I mean, do you?”

If there was a device that could turn back time, Iwaizumi would travel across continents just to press it and pretend this conversation never happened. Sure, maybe he wanted to tell Sugawara how he felt. But it was too soon. He was too nervous.

“Uh…”

Sugawara looked down. “Because if so, well. I kinda feel the same. If you know what I'm saying.”

Iwaizumi wasn't quite sure he did.

“Hajime, do you understand? I like you. Romantically.”

Was he hallucinating?

Sugawara sighed, and grabbed Iwaizumi’s hand in his own. His fingers were soft on Iwaizumi’s skin, but not as soft as his lips when he pressed a kiss against the back of his hand.

Was this not some type of joke? Was Sugawara actually saying what Iwaizumi thought he was saying?

“Look, I know it hasn't really been all that long. But I know what I feel. I feel it every time you come to see me. If fine if you don't feel the same way, but I wanted you to know,” he said, the pad of his thumb gently caressing Iwaizumi’s skin.

Sugawara’s words went straight to his heart. Past his chest and ribs, right to his core. Iwaizumi had never felt it before, but he was pretty sure he wanted to feel it again.

“Sugawara?”

Their eyes met, and something in them gave Iwaizumi the courage to act. He grabbed Sugawara’s hand and pressed a kiss against it, just like the other had done just a moment before.

“I think I’d like to do a little more than bring you coffee for now on. Is that alright?”

Sugawara grinned. “I think we could arrange that.”