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the heart is hard to translate

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—1—

Akutagawa Ryunosuke has a very particular taste for tea. Some brands are horrible (most of them, to be honest—especially the cheaper ones) and the few ones that are good need to be prepared in a certain way and served in a certain teacup; all the specifics are written in his brain, and he’d brew his teal as he always does if he weren’t at the Armed Detective Agency, waiting for a mission to begin.

The Shin Soukoku missions he’s gotten used to going through are always… wild, for more than one reason; he and his partner, the man-tiger, bicker more than they breathe, and it’s not like their enemies are cheap and boring either, so it’s always more than enough action for his day—especially when he has to wrestle against his own hot mess of feelings for Atsushi Nakajima, which tumble around and tug at his heart every day, even when the two of them are separated.

It’s… strange, and uncomfortable… he feels strongly, very much strongly, and that’s the most he knows about whatever it is that makes his heart beat ten times faster and his muscles feel ten times lighter whenever Atsushi speaks to him. It’s strange and uncomfortable and unknown so it’s scary, but it’s not bad either; he hasn’t felt this warm in ages.

Akutagawa slowly stirs the burning hot tea with a small spoon and leans into his hand, supported by the elbow he’s propped on the desk in front of him. It’s oddly relaxing; he gets lost staring at the cup’s contents being shaken around. He’s not sure if it’s going to have the same dulcet taste it has when he makes it at home, with his teapot, and his teacup, and his teaspoons, but… he’ll manage. He’ll manage.

He’ll manage, because the man-tiger is walking up to him. Akutagawa stops the stirring and perks up, back straightening, hand lowering, face slightly turned, trying to hide the red mark on his cheek from resting it on his hand for too long.

“Akutagawa?” Atsushi asks, voice curious. He’s wearing the same outfit as always, but Akutagawa always manages to notice something new about it every time he sees the man-tiger. For some reason.

Today, one of the outfit’s suspenders is a little off, about to fall of Atsushi’s shoulder. Akutagawa’s eyes linger on that… for some reason.

Hey, Akutagawa.”

Atsushi’s voice pulls Akutagawa’s mind out from… wherever it was.

“What is it, man-tiger?” He asks, voice neutral.

Nakajima.”

“Man-tiger.”

Atsushi huffs.

(They’ve been doing this kind of thing a lot—just… silly, pointless teasing. It’s fun. For some reason.)

“Anyways,” the man-tiger continues, like he was never interrupted in the first place, “Is that tea? Did you make it?”

“Well, it certainly isn’t soda,” Akutagawa replies, almost smirking at the new, more irritated huff he gets from Atsushi. “It really is tea. I just made it. Drinking tea before missions makes me feel better.”

“…Huh.”

Atsushi leans forward, staring into the cup.

“Can I have a sip?” He asks, innocently.

Akutagawa frowns. No one is allowed to have his tea. Not even a sip, just to know the taste. That taints the drink.

“…Just one,” he concedes, immediately after that thought. For some reason.

He takes the teacup into his hand and offers it to the man-tiger. Atsushi seems surprised at the gesture.

“Ah, really? Seriously? You’re letting me drink it?” He asks, surprised, but not negatively so. “Thank you, Akutagawa.”

Akutagawa nods (just slightly; barely enough for Atsushi to notice) and watches as Atsushi lifts the cup up to his lips and takes a tiny sip off of it. He takes a moment to take in the taste, then swallows and hands the cup back to Akutagawa. There’s a small smile on Atsushi’s face.

“It’s really good,” the man-tiger says, “I liked it. Do you always drink that?”

Blinking once (did the man-tiger just say his tea is good?), Akutagawa nods. “Yes,” he answers, “I make it to myself often.”

Atsushi’s smile grows a little. Akutagawa wonders why.

“Well, I have to do some paperwork really quick,” Atsushi starts, and he’s about to take a step back when he seemingly decides against it—he bends himself forward a little in a polite bow, then steps back. “Thank you for the tea. It’s really good.”

Akutagawa’s eyes widen a bit, but he nods as if it didn’t happen.

“No problem,” he says, “…Nakajima.”

Atsushi gasps, almost too dramatically.

“Wha— did you just— you called me— Akutagawa!”

Akutagawa would have chuckled, but he took a sip from his cup and noticed a little too late what it entails—his lips touching the same spot Atsushi’s did just now can only mean…

God, he’s made a fool out of himself.

 

—2—

It’s not a date.

It’s not a date.

It’s not a date.

It’s not a date.

It’s not a— it’s— it’s a date, isn’t it?

“The food here looks so good,” Atsushi says, from the seat in front of Akutagawa’s, leaning over the café table between them, “Thank you so much for bringing me here.”

Akutagawa hides his mouth with a hand and coughs into it. “No problem,” he says back, “It’s the least I could do.”

“For what? Me saving you in that last battle?” Atsushi asks, but he’s not weirded out—he sounds curious; playfully so even. “We’re partners, I can’t just let you die.”

He smiles. Akutagawa feels like the wooden floor beneath his feet just disappeared.

“You’re right,” Akutagawa concedes, “But still. I’m… grateful.”

Atsushi hums gleefully. His happiness would be contagious if Akutagawa didn’t feel dizzy. He’s not sick or injured or anything, which probably only makes him dizzier—those… those feelings he holds for the man-tiger, this affection, makes him weak at the knees. It’s embarrassing.

Akutagawa eyes the milkshake Atsushi ordered. According to the man-tiger, he likes sweets but can’t have too much of them at once, so a large milkshake would be enough for him (—as opposed to Akutagawa’s sweet tea and two consecutive slices of pie—) for now.

“Nakajima,” Akutagawa starts, and saying that name sets his insides on fire, “Can I try your milkshake? I never ordered one of these.”

(He’s lying.)

Atsushi perks up and smiles, causing the fire currently melting Akutagawa’s lungs to expand and reach his brain.

“What, really?” He asks, “I thought you were the number one sweet inhaler here. But yeah, go ahead.” He hands Akutagawa the large glass of milkshake as he says, “I’m sure you’ll like it. It’s sweet, so you definitely will.”

(Atsushi has yet to shut up about Akutagawa’s sweet tooth. It’s… kind of endearing…)

Akutagawa takes a sip from the straw poking out of the glass, and tries to hide the fact that he’s all but numb to the taste of sweet chocolate because he’s ordered this specific flavor of milkshake so much; he closes his eyes and nods in satisfaction, handing Atsushi the glass.

“Thank you,” he says, “I’ll probably order one of these the next time I’m here.”

Atsushi blinks, then smiles. “I’m glad you like it,” he says, “It really is good, isn’t it? Everything here is nice. Thank you again for taking me here.”

Akutagawa huffs a bit, almost dismissively, and he’d have said something if Atsushi hadn’t taken a sip off the milkshake.

There it is.

Again.

He knew he’d get an… an… an indirect kiss by drinking from Atsushi’s glass, but— that’s just—

Akutagawa looks away. Too many kisses.

 

—3—

Atsushi is nervous and Akutagawa can feel it, strongly—the man-tiger is pacing left and right around the Agency’s office and he’s humming a quiet, soft nnnnnnnnn that should get on Akutagawa’s nerves but doesn’t.

Folding his arms, Akutagawa leans back on his seat and watches. Atsushi looks prim and proper today, he notices—as Akutagawa always does; he stares at Atsushi a lot, after all—and yet, the charming looks are ruined by just how stressed out Atsushi seems to be.

Akutagawa stands up. He knows this mission is going to be tough, but getting nervous won’t help either of them. And he’s… he’s… w-worried… for the man-tiger’s mental health. (For some reason.)

“Nakajima,” he calls, and the name no longer hollows him out; it fills him in, with warmth, and… something else.

Atsushi stops his pacing and looks at Akutagawa, but doesn’t reply. There’s a frown deeply set in his features.

Akutagawa gestures towards himself. “Come here,” he asks, softer than one would expect from him.

The man-tiger walks up to him without a word while on the way.

“What is it?” Atsushi asks, and his voice holds little to no emotion. Poor thing.

Akutagawa sighs, and leans forward a little. He’s not sure why; it just feels right.

“Listen,” he starts, and decides his little speech would be more effective if there were some form of physical contact between them, so he grabs Atsushi’s shoulders. Gently enough, he thinks—Atsushi doesn’t flinch or wince. “You… you can’t be stressed or nervous right now. We’ll be okay, as always. We’ll do well. Trust me, alright?”

Atsushi’s frown deepens.

“I trust you,” he says, and that is what hollows Akutagawa out, “I don’t trust myself though.”

He looks down, to their feet. Akutagawa isn’t quite sure how to continue this, but he has an idea.

“You’ve saved my life more than once,” he reminds Atsushi, words controlled as to not show the frustration Akutagawa feels, “You’re strong. You’ll do it. We’ll do it.”

Atsushi hums. He doesn’t seem to be very convinced.

This requires drastic measures.

Akutagawa lets go of one of Atsushi’s shoulders and slowly, gently raises the man-tiger’s head by the chin. Atsushi seems surprised by the gesture, but not negatively so—rather, curiously.

Akutagawa doesn’t give himself time to breathe before he takes his other hand and places the tip of his index finger upon his lips as if kissing it—which he does, silently, to a confused Atsushi. Then, he takes the finger and places it on Atsushi’s lips (they’re soft and make Akutagawa melt—); he keeps them there for a small moment, then pulls it back.

“This is a good luck charm,” he tells the man-tiger, “Don’t waste it. It’ll work—just trust me.”

Atsushi takes his time to process and react to it. His eyes widen, his cheeks redden, and then he smiles, as bright as all the stars in Yokohama’s night sky.

“Thank you, Akutagawa,” Atsushi says, earnestly, “Really. Thank you so much. I trust you. We’ll do good.”

Akutagawa feels hints of a smile hooking the corners of his lips up, and he lets it happen. It feels right.

 

—4—

It was harrowing, and tough, and painful, but they did it. They did it. Akutagawa can’t help but let a little bit of pride wash over his heart because of it. The mission was finished; they could go home now.

However, there’s something missing—something not quite right: the man-tiger got separated from him during a fight, and they have yet to reunite.

Akutagawa walks over the destroyed remains of their battlefield (a warehouse, now bloodied, broken and messy), eyes and ears alert for any sounds that might indicate Atsushi’s presence. He hears nothing and sees even less; it’s like the man-tiger just vanished out of thin air.

He takes in a sharp breath. Where is he?

He looks around one more time. Where is he?

He opens his mouth to yell the man-tiger’s name. Where is h

“Akutagawa!”

That familiar voice, sweet like honey, rouses Akutagawa’s senses and brings him back from a panic he didn’t notice he slipped in. He looks to the direction the voice came from, and there Atsushi is: bloody and breathing heavily and alive and beautiful.

“Nakajima!” He yells back, from the other side of the warehouse. Atsushi laughs in reply.

Akutagawa takes a step forward. So does Atsushi.

Another step. Atsushi imitates him.

They walk to each other, movements mirrored like they’re one being split in two, but the walk turns into a sprint and the sprint turns into a full-blown run as they both dash madly towards each other, and then they’re close, really close, and then—

Atsushi trips over his own feet and flies forward, towards Akutagawa’s direction; he reacts quickly, catching the man-tiger with his arms before Atsushi’s pretty face meets the harsh floor. Akutagawa lifts Atsushi slowly, and waits until he seems to stand well enough on his feet to let go of him.

The places that got in contact with Atsushi burn with a weird feeling Akutagawa has, at this point, become used to.

“Well, that was embarrassing,” Atsushi says, a sheepish smile on his face, “B-But… Anyways… Akutagawa! I’m glad you’re okay.”

Akutagawa, for once in his life, smiles.

Now he knows what happiness feels like.

“Personally, I think it was cute,” he states, “But I’m glad you’re alright too. You w-worried me.”

Atsushi blushes a little and it’s the cutest thing Akutagawa has ever seen.

(His feelings are out of control. He needs to calm down.)

“You? Worried about me?” Atsushi asks, playfully. “You shouldn’t be. I had your good luck charm, remember?”

Oh.

He’d almost forgotten about that.

“I…”

Akutagawa is speechless. His cheeks are red and he’s afraid Atsushi will notice it.

“I— I’m glad. I’m so glad.”

There’s a voice inside his head and it screams and shrieks at him and he’s about to do something he’ll definitely regret later.

He takes a step forward, into Atsushi’s direction, and before Atsushi can say anything or Akutagawa can second guess himself, he wraps his arms around Atsushi’s waist, pulls him close and presses their lips together: intensely, and yet, softly, as if trying to convey the panic he had slipped in into a single gesture.

Atsushi gasps against his lips but takes no time in kissing him back—he wraps his arms around Akutagawa’s neck and responds to every movement, every gesture, until Akutagawa pulls back, and he’s breathing so heavily he might just die.

He’s happy, though, so that might be why.

Atsushi’s hands trail from Akutagawa’s neck to his shoulders and they stay there; Akutagawa leans in a little, pressing their foreheads together, and everything is just so perfect and magical he’ll most definitely die.

“Akutagawa,” Atsushi calls, “Thank you so much.”

Akutagawa frowns. “For what?”

“For protecting me. …With the good luck charm, you know?”

Oh.

He’s so sweet. What the hell. Akutagawa can’t breathe.

“I’m happy it worked,” he says, “Should I make another one for our next mission then?”

Atsushi leans forward and steals a quick kiss from Akutagawa’s lips before answering.

“Of course,” he replies, and even if Akutagawa had his eyes closed he’d still be able to hear a smile in Atsushi’s voice, “You should. I’ll make you one too.”

Akutagawa brings Atsushi close into a hug, and it feels warm and sweet and everything Akutagawa had never experienced up until this point in his life.

They spend some time in silence. Akutagawa slowly draws circles on Atsushi’s back with his thumb and lets himself be overcome by the intense calm Atsushi brings him. It’s something out of this world—that now, he has Atsushi. Atsushi, a literal angel, feels for him the same way he does for Atsushi. It’s almost a miracle.

“Hey, Akutagawa?” Atsushi calls, softly. Akutagawa hums in reply, so Atsushi continues, “Come on. Let’s go home.”

Akutagawa wouldn’t mind hugging Atsushi forever, but he nods in agreement, and decides that holding Atsushi’s hand as they both walk out of the wrecked warehouse is good enough for now.

He dares saying he’s genuinely happy.