Disclaimer: They're Konomi's pretty boys, I'm only playing
Warnings: BL, fluff, mentions of sex, implied Yuuta/Mizuki
Author's note: This is a response to the meme I posted earlier; yomimashou requested a sequel to 20 Steps Towards Humanity that takes place 6 years from the end of the fic. This is what I came up with. It turned out a lot longer than intended, but that happens sometimes. XD; And, for the record, my thesaurus spat out "Tenderness" as a synonym to humanity, so I ran with it. XD;
The restaurant is closed now, has been closed for a good half hour, and all the lights are dimmed, the tables straightened, the counter cleared and wiped. The earlier bustle of daily business is gone now, and a thick silence hangs in the air now, buffered only by the sound of running water. Before the sink are the only two figures remaining; one tall, muscular, with a bowed head as strong hands scrub dishes beneath the faucet, and one small, slight, a smile gracing pretty features even as delicate hands use a worn dishtowel to rub the dishes dry. Neither speaks for some time, only washes dishes in the darkness of the closed restaurant.
After all, there isn't much to be said. It's a Saturday and Fuji is here for the weekend, as he always is; he arrived this afternoon after his morning class with his overnight bag from his dormitory to help in the restaurant until closing. It had been busy-- they had exchanged brief "how are you, dear"s behind the counter when they had first brushed into one another, Fuji on his way to grab his apron, Taka bringing out another tray of sushi to the businessmen crowding around one of the small tables in the corner. Weekends are usually fairly busy, which was Fuji's excuse for coming out at first, when Taka had objected to his taking the trip from school just to visit, and so they hadn't talked much besides, and now, after the day's rush, they're tired, still recovering. Taka stares intently at the dishes he washes, and Fuji doesn't interrupt his thoughts, only smiles at him when he's handed a dish is sure to brush their hands together, just slightly, when he accepts it.
They're about three-quarters of the way done when Taka finally does speak. He doesn't look at Fuji, doesn't stop washing, but, "Syuusuke," he says softly but with determination, "there's something I've been meaning to ask you," and so Fuji sets his dish aside and looks over at him, listening. Taka has only relatively recently finally settled into using his first name comfortably; it was about time, after six years of being together, but it's sweet, really, how intent on being polite and proper Taka had been, and Fuji can't help but smile softly to himself. "What is it, Taka-san?"
Taka swallows visibly and hesitates in his washing for a moment. "I... don't want you to feel like I need an answer from you right now, or that I'm pushing you in one way or another," he explains carefully. "I know... you need your space and everything..." He licks his lips and suddenly starts washing again, cutting off what he was saying, and Fuji furrowed his brows, opening his eyes. "Why do you say that?" he asks, concerned, because when Taka cuts himself off like that, it can't ever be a good thing.
"It's just..." Taka starts, staring at his dish as if it might try to escape, "When we were at your house last, I happened to end up having a conversation with Mizuki about you, and... I mean, of course, I don't question any of the choices that you've made ever, but what I'm really trying to say is--" But then, in a sudden act of rebellion, the plate really does escape from his hand and falls to the floor and shatters. "Shit--" Taka swears, which is unusual for him, but Fuji is more surprised when he realizes Taka's hands are shaking. "I'm sorry, Fujiko, I'm really making a mess of this..."
Fuji doesn't let him finish, leans in a presses a quick kiss to his lips. "Shh," he commands tenderly when he draws back, "You finish drying and I'll clean up." Taka looks as if he wants to argue, but Fuji is already getting out the broom and dust pan, and Taka, after a moment's hesitation, swaps places with Fuji and begins to dry. "... I guess what I want to say is... I don't want to tie you down."
Fuji looks up from the floor, where he's gathering the pieces of china into the dustpan, and cocks an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?"
Taka colours and licks his lips again, wringing the dish towel nervously. "I'm... I know you slept with Mizuki." After a second of silence, he seems to panic and quickly tags on, "It's not that I'm trying to accuse you or that I mind or anything like that, it's just that I--"
But Fuji is already standing, eyes fully open to meet Taka's. He doesn't know what Mizuki said and he doesn't care; he says only the truth: "That was before I was with you and it was a bad decision on my part. Whatever Hajime told you--" And even after all these years, he's still a little surprised at the panic rising in the back of his throat, because what he has with Taka is the most important thing to him in the world, and the thought of anything happening is too much for him to even consider.
But Taka is shaking his head. "No, Syuusuke, it's not-- Please, don't be upset. I really, really don't want to upset you, not at all. I just don't want to... to keep you caged up, or anything like that, because I know, really, you're so far out of my league, and--"
"Who," Fuji cuts off, dumping the shards into the trash can with some vehemence, "has been putting these ridiculous ideas into your head?" It kills him to see Taka self-deprecate this way; he's always put Fuji on a pedestal since the first day they'd been together, and Fuji wants more than anything for him to see himself for as wonderful as Fuji sees him. If it was Mizuki... well, he won't kill him, for Yuuta's sake, but perhaps maiming him would be acceptable...
Taka looks down as he sets the last dish on the drying rack. "... I've just been remembering what Saeki said that one time..."
Fuji rolls his eyes. "Saeki," he assures, "is the one who's beneath me." Moving closer, until they're almost touching, he looks up into Taka's eyes, silently entreating him to have a little more faith in himself, because he's always, always been more than Fuji could ever ask for. Ever since he had realized that, perhaps there was more to life than being amused, perhaps what he had patronized in others for so long was exactly what he needed, Taka has always been the one who was there for him, who took care of him, who supported him, and Fuji wants more than anything to make him see. For now, at least, Taka seems to relax, just the tiniest bit, and Fuji kisses him again, a light, tender brush of the lips. "Now, Takashi... what were you going to ask me?"
Taka tenses up again, looks away and wrings his hands for a moment before nodding and looking back to Fuji with a sudden sense of decision about him. Meeting Fuji's gaze and not looking away, he takes a deep breath. "Syuusuke... I... I know this is going to sound a little silly, and... and don't worry about me when you respond, but..." He suddenly shoves his hand into his back pocket and withdraws a small black box, extending it towards Fuji with almost pure abandon. "Syuusuke... will you marry me?"
Fuji inhales sharply, but Taka only has a moment to look insecure before Fuji throws both arms around Taka's neck and stands all the way up on his tiptoes to kiss him, for real this time. When he draws back, he's smiling, really smiling, and if anyone had told him that he'd be this happy to be getting engaged to Kawamura Takashi six years ago, he would have told them that they were crazy, but now he couldn't fight back this smile if he wanted to. "Of course, Taka-san, of course," he practically bubbles, though he keeps it in control enough that he still sounds like himself as he extends his left hand, "I love you."
Taka is smiling too, that silly, cute smile that he always wore when he scored a point in tennis, the way he smiled when he wasn't too shy or too polite to hold it back. He fumbles with the ring, gold with a small green stone, for a moment before managing to slide it onto Fuji's delicate ring finger. "Oh, god, Fujiko," he breathes, pulling Fuji into his arms, and Fuji can't keep himself from laughing lightly.
"You won't be able to call me that anymore, you know. Not when I'm Kawamura Syuusuke." He's teasing, of course, but he likes the way that sounds and presses closer, feeling a little bit like he's drunk, only less inhibited and happier.
"You're not really going to..." Taka starts, but Fuji looks up at him with playful seriousness. "Of course I am. And I'll move in, too, if your parents will have me."
"I think they're gotten used to you by now," Taka replies, equally playfully; Fuji has been staying every weekend now for the past two years, and there's never been any guest futon, never any separate bedrooms. Fuji has the feeling that Taka has spoken with his parents, but they've never mentioned it to him, only let him be with the proper politeness they show everyone, and Fuji considers himself lucky. Everything is perfect, really, and Fuji can't help himself, he kisses Taka again, and he doesn't care that he's acting stupid.
When he draws back, however, Taka is more serious, looks at him with such adoration that Fuji feels himself blush. "How did I get so lucky?" he seems to ponder aloud, his voice soft, emotional.
But Fuji shakes his head. "It wasn't luck at all, Taka-san. That day when I turned my ankle and you carried me to the nurse... that day, you saved me from myself." He smiles, looking down a moment before adding, "You don't... you've never tied me down, Takashi. You ground me."
And somehow, Taka seems to understand, because, tenderly, he pulls Fuji closer and they just remain that way, wrapped up tight together in the dim lighting and the silence, and Fuji can't help but look forward to every day here, this way, the way he, once upon a time, looked forward to nothing. And it's in this anticipation that he realizes, for the very first time, that he really has become soft like Eiji, getting sex and love and obligation all jumbled up together. But perhaps, he thinks, as he takes Taka's hand and leans against his shoulder and walks with him up to bed, it might be a good thing, after all.