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Found in Translation

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Sit on the corner of a street in the middle of Tokyo, and, sooner or later, the whole world walks by.

Naoya read that once, or something like it; it might have been London or New York, but it could have been written about any of them: the three great metropolises. Naoya was born in Tokyo, and it's always suited him just the way it is, fast and busy and full of new ideas and new people. He's a people person in that human nature interests him, human interaction, and one of the bright, noisy coffee shops sandwiched in between the department stores and boutiques every few hundred metres, where you can sit late into the evening talking in English and not be stared at, are good places for observing it. There's flirting going on, but it's subtler than in the bars, and usually more intriguing to watch. They're a couple, in the sense that they know exactly what they're getting from each other without having to mention it. She wants considerably more than she's letting on yet. He's just killing time until a better prospect appears on the horizon. He recognizes all of it. Turn, step, step: the dance keeps flowing, as fast as the eye can follow.

Shinjiro's lived in Tokyo for six years, but Naoya still thinks of him as a new person. Maybe it's the naivete that never seems to leave him, his capacity for seeking out experiences and absorbing them, one after the other, like a sponge. Shinjiro and his blunt edge, about what he thinks and what he wants, have never felt irascible to Naoya like they do to some people; rather, he finds his directness amusing, refreshing. He's bright and unpolished and unpredictable, and, oddly, when it comes to relationships, guarded. Mostly, Naoya likes how Shinjiro keeps him guessing.

Naoya prefers the methodical approach to English, figuring out the patterns and why what he's saying means what it does: it's what makes it enjoyable. Shinjiro laughs at that. "Don't think about it so much, say it!" he says, dismissively, and away he goes, rolling out one sentence and colloquialism after another. Some of the words seem vaguely misplaced to Naoya, and he stumbles over his pronunciation here and there, but he plows on happily, and after a while, he stops, and says, "I want to travel! I want to learn English by speakin' to Americans!"

"How about speaking to the English?"

"London?" Shinjiro pauses, his fork raised halfway. Western-style food is big with him at the moment as well. When he finds something, he wants to go all the way, try everything about it that there is to try.

"Like to take a holiday next summer?"

"Are you serious?"

"Hmmm... I think I can stand you for a few weeks, if you can stand me."

"I can stand you." Shinjiro's answer is a bit too quick, his grin a bit too bright, and Naoya feels his own mouth twitch. The pinkness that the younger boy's face has taken on is something else new, and he finds himself wondering, almost mischievously, what other ways he might be able to come up with to provoke it. He's giving him all kinds of ideas these days. Out of all the things that Shinjiro has sat up half the night talking about over a beer, the possibility that the only one that his bandmate's never mentioned is that he's got the tiniest bit of a crush on him doesn't disturb Naoya anywhere near as much as he'd have thought it would. Quite the opposite, really.

Shinjiro suddenly fishes a small notepad out of the pocket of his jacket and tries to turn the pages with the same hand. "Listen," he says, between mouthfuls. "I found this. In an English book. A friend is someone who knows everything about you and still likes you."

Naoya considers that one, then shakes his head. "You've gone beyond me with the grammar."

Shinjiro translates. "I think that's cool," he finishes.

"It's pretty cool," Naoya agrees. The dancing is still going on around him, but he's aware of a shift, of moving from being an observer to a participant, and it's fun. He's a born flirt, but sometimes he means what he says, and he gets the feeling that, despite the jokes, despite the easiness that they've slowly fallen into, Shinjiro wants him to mean it. He leans his chin on his fist. "But I don't know everything about you yet."

Shinjiro makes a small noise of response. "I've told you plenty," he says, but his flush deepens a little.

"Well, I know that you read your sister's shoujo manga... and about what happened that time with the girl in the swimming pool when you were fifteen -" Naoya breaks off and ducks, as Shinjiro takes a swipe at him with the notepad. "Make you a bet I can tell you something new about me," he says.

The fork points at him. "In English!"

Naoya formulates his sentence. Shinjiro stares at him, in that almost-disconcerting way that he has, then gives a snort of laughter that somehow doesn't alter the expression on his face. "You just said that you think I'm cute!"

Naoya reaches for his cup, still grinning. "I know."