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Hot Fudge

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Kei’s worn a button-up shirt exactly once in his life. For middle school graduation.

Not the casual white button-up shirt that’s part of his school uniform. That hardly counts as a button-up at all. He’s worn it enough for it to be soft, and he usually wears a sweater over it anyway. But this one is plaid and stiff, like a button-up should be. He can barely move his arms, and the top button is almost suffocating him.

Maybe the feeling of imminent suffocation isn’t entirely the button-up’s fault.

Actually being here shouldn’t scare him as much as it does. The leadup was the part that should have been the worst. And it was. He’d never sweat that much before and he doubts he ever will again.

But this is different. He couldn’t have expected anything like this.

He’s stood on the front porch of the Yamaguchi household probably hundreds of times since elementary school, waiting for someone to come and open the door. But his hands have never been this clammy, he’s never fiddled with his phone in his pocket this much, he’s never been this nervous in such a familiar location.

He finally managed to do it two days ago. He finally swallowed his pride and asked Tadashi out. It was due to a lot of prodding from Hinata and Yachi, sure, and one very small Kei did it was to tell them that he wasn’t afraid of doing it - even though he very much was - but he did.

It isn’t a huge date. They’re only going to the fanciest restaurant Kei can afford with his broke-high-schooler-budget, but it’s something.

Which brings Kei back to the shirt. Is he overthinking this? He’s wearing jeans, is he dressed to informally for this? Is he dressed to formally? He has no idea.

Finally, finally, the door clicks open, only a little. Tadashi peeks his head around the door before he smiles, all wide and bright and toothy like he does whenever he’s really happy. Kei’s incredibly relieved to see that they’re dressed almost the same way; Tadashi’s wearing a button-up just like Kei is, except his is a solid dark red and looks a lot less stupid than Kei’s blue plaid monstrosity. Maybe it’s because Tadashi has the top button unbuttoned and thus looks a lot less like he’s about to die.

“Sorry for taking so long.” Tadashi’s grin turns more sheepish as he opens the door all the way.

“I’ve been here for all of thirty seconds,” Kei replies. Wow, what a great first line on a first date. At least it can only get better from here. Even though it will definitely get worse.

“Yeah, but you were still waiting for me.” Tadashi ducks back behind the door for a second and reappears again with a coat in one hand. “Aren’t you cold?”

Kei shrugs. “No.”

“I’ll hold you to that when you’re begging me for this.” Tadashi’s definitely showing the coat off as he puts it on one sleeve at a time.

“Who said I’d do that?”

Tadashi giggles, sending a cliché Cupid arrow right through Kei’s heart. How does he even do that? “Come on, let’s go.”

The two steps that take him outside the house are slow and tentative, like he can’t believe what he’s doing. Kei’s grateful the feeling’s mutual.

But every sign of hesitation is out the window as soon as Tadashi slams the door shut behind him. His steps cover more distance, he looks more relaxed, and there’s something in his eyes that oozes energy.

This is going to be interesting at the very least.

“So where is this place?” Tadashi asks, leading the way down the street. He’s almost skipping.

“It’s on that one street down by the park,” Kei says.

“By the bookstore?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool.”

They fall silent again after that, but Kei can still feel something akin to pure happiness radiating from Tadashi. Somehow, the silence is just fine.

“Hey, Tsukki?” Tadashi asks. His voice is quiet now, a little nervous. What happened?

“Yeah?”

“Do you want to... hold hands or something?”

Kei’s face is instantly on fire. “I guess...?” This is a date, that’s something people on dates do -

“Okay!” Tadashi quickly interlocks Kei’s fingers and his own, and his hand is just as clammy as Kei’s is, which is a little comforting. It’s still awkward, but it’s mutually awkward, which is a lot better. It almost doesn't make it awkward at all.

The street is surprisingly empty for the time. Usually people are outside, window-shopping and keeping track of their kids and just talking, and the street usually buzzes with conversation. But now, it's pretty much just the two of them with the odd person passing them on their way somewhere else. Maybe it's late enough so everyone who's eating out is already eating. Kei did plan to leave after the dinner rush.

He pushes open the door to a small okonomiyaki place that’s so out of the way, he wouldn’t have noticed it had it not been recommended to him. He’d begrudgingly asked Akiteru for places to go and after Akiteru had laughed him out of house and home, he’d told Kei about this place. It’s small, and from the first glance inside, it’s pretty empty, too. Not empty enough to be creepy – there are still people inside – but empty enough to be more relaxing than somewhere completely full with a twenty-minute wait just to get a table.

A waitress comes over to greet them almost immediately, asking them how many people are in their party. Kei holds up two fingers, and the waitress smiles and leads them to a table in the corner, next to the window. She sets two menus on the table, telling them she’ll be back in a few minutes to take their orders, and walks over to another table.

“So…” Tadashi starts, trying to start a conversation in the midst of all this awkwardness. “Have you been here before?”

Kei shakes his head. “My brother’s gone here a few times, he said it’s good.”

“Oh.” Tadashi looks down at the menu. “Did he say what to order?”

“Not really, he just said that anything involving seafood is pretty expensive.” Kei pauses. That was definitely the wrong thing to say. “But you can definitely still order it if you want, I-“

“It’s fine, I wasn’t going to order seafood anyway.” Tadashi smiles. “Did Akiteru-kun tease you when you asked him?”

Kei shrugs. “Yeah.” That’s the understatement of the century.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, it’s not your fault.”

“Right, okay.” Tadashi nods. “Can I ask you a weird question?”

“Yeah, what is it –“

Just then, the waitress comes back and asks if they’re ready to order. They both order the most basic okonomiyaki on the menu; neither of them seem to be in the mood for anything super extravagant.

"Anyway.” Tadashi gets right back into it as soon as the waitress is gone. “Why did you decide to ask me out now? Valentine’s Day was last week.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s… complicated.” Kei really doesn’t want to explain, not when it’s happening. When this inevitably blows up in his face, he might give details as a way to laugh at himself, but even that probably won’t ever happen.

“I want to know, though.”

“It’s stupid.”

“Still.” Tadashi gives his best puppy dog eyes. “Please?”

“Fine.” Kei crosses his arms, trying not to look Tadashi in the eye. He can’t. Not right now. “On Valentine’s Day, Hinata and Yachi-san ganged up on me and basically interrogated me to find out why I hadn’t confessed to you like everyone else was doing, and they got the idea into their heads that I didn’t do it because I was scared to –“ Wow, it sounds even worse out loud.

“Oh.” Tadashi nods slowly, obviously confused, before he lets out a tiny giggle. “Your face is really red.”

Of course it is. “Are you surprised?”

“Nope.” Tadashi grins. “I have a few questions.”

“You really want me to suffer, don’t you?”

“No, I just want to know.” Tadashi looks down at his hands, nervously folded on the table. “How long have you wanted to ask me out?”

“A while.” Short, vague answers are definitely the way to go here. It totally doesn’t make Kei look like a complete idiot.

“How did Hinata and Yachi-san know?” Tadashi’s eyes go wide. “Did you tell them?”

Kei scoffs. “Hell no, what makes you think I would trust Hinata with anything important?”

“Mm.” Tadashi smiles. “Well, thank you. For this.”

“Don’t mention it,” Kei mumbles. Why is he still this nervous?

Now that they’ve adequately addressed the elephant in the room, the environment is all stuffy and weird. They’ve talked about the whole dating thing, now nothing else seems right to talk about.

“How about we get dessert after this?”

“Huh?” Kei finally looks up again. He barely has enough money with him to get through dinner.

“I just need something sweet after the okonomiyaki, that's all.”

“Are you going to get ice cream in the middle of the winter again?” Kei asks. Tadashi’s done that no less than three times this year, and Kei has no idea how he does it.

“The places are open, why not?” Tadashi shrugs. “If you’re really that opposed, we can split a hot fudge sundae or something.”

“The fudge is only hot until it touches the ice cream, and then it just freezes on top of it.” Kei frowns. He doesn’t mean to sound ungrateful, he really doesn’t, but he really doesn’t want to freeze tonight if he can help it.

But at least the conversation's gotten a lot more normal. Arguing about sundaes is a lot better than spending time thinking about romance.

A few minutes later, the waitress comes back with their food, and it looks delicious even from a distance. Probably because the ball of nervousness in the pit of Kei’s stomach had prevented him from eating much more than two pieces of toast today. And that was for breakfast, almost twelve hours ago.

The food tastes as good as it looks, and Kei’s immensely relieved when he hears Tadashi hum happily to himself after every bite. This really would have backfired if Tadashi didn’t like it.

Eventually, Tadashi starts talking about the history quiz today between bites and how he probably missed half of the questions, even though they were all multiple choice. But Tadashi’s good at history; if he missed half the questions, Kei would get a zero on the whole quiz. So he’s sure that Tadashi only missed one or two questions out of the twelve on the quiz, if any at all.

The check doesn’t surprise Kei at all, and he has more than enough to pay for everything. Thank goodness. As soon as the receipt comes back, he’s ready to get out of here. It’s gotten hot really fast.

Tadashi leads the way out of the restaurant and starts heading down the street. He probably knows exactly where he’s going.

The nice clothes suddenly feel out of place when they walk into the tiny ice cream shop on the corner, but strangely enough, Kei doesn’t seem to care that much. He stands back as Tadashi looks at the different flavors; he only wants a scoop of strawberry if he’s getting anything at all. He doesn’t have that much money left.

“Hey, do you still want to split a sundae?” Tadashi asks with a grin. “My treat.”

“You don’t have to do that –“

“I feel bad not doing anything after you paid for dinner, please let me buy you this sundae.” Tadashi pauses. “Or whatever you want, it doesn’t have to be a sundae.”

Kei doesn’t want to waste Tadashi’s time figuring out what he wants, so the answer is obvious. “I guess we can split the sundae.”

Tadashi beams. “Great!” He orders quickly, accompanied by pointing to different flavors and toppings. After a minute or so, he comes back with a dish packed with a full four scoops of ice cream – two strawberry, two vanilla – and topped with hot fudge, what looks like graham cracker crumbs, and two maraschino cherries. There’s two spoons sticking out of the ice cream.

It looks even more delicious than the okonomiyaki earlier. Screw Kei’s persistent sweet tooth.

“I got the strawberry for you.” Tadashi sets the dish down on a table and sits down, taking the spoon sticking out of the vanilla end.

“Thanks.” Kei sits down and picks up his own spoon before taking a bite. It’s definitely going to give him a brain freeze after a few bites, but it’s really sweet and the strawberry and the chocolate combine really well.

“Want any of mine?” Tadashi asks, pointing to his side of the sundae.

Funny. Kei was about to ask the same thing. He nods anyway.

“Can I have some of yours?” Tadashi points his spoon to the strawberry end.

Kei nods again.

Tadashi spins the dish around just long enough for each of them to dig in before he turns it back around again. The vanilla is less tangy than the strawberry, but it’s just as good.

“You know what?”

“Hm?” Kei looks up at Tadashi, who’s smiling even with a drop of fudge on his nose.

“I think I know what out next date should be,” Tadashi says matter-of-factly.

“So you want another one?” Kei’s eyes widen in disbelief. He said all the wrong things, how does Tadashi want more of this?

“Yes!” Tadashi grins. “Anyway.”

“Yes?”

“I think we should go to the Starbucks by Yachi-san’s apartment next week.”

“And?”

Tadashi takes another bite of the sundae. “And you should help me study for the math test.”

Kei pouts. “That’s exploitation.”

“But it counts, right?” Tadashi huffs dramatically. “Study dates are totally a thing.”

Kei shrugs. He supposes it counts.

And even if it didn’t, he wouldn’t say no.