It was going to be one of those days, Reo could feel it. No hot water at home, his usual coffee shop unexpectedly closed, and now he was running late, so of course there was a long line at the small Starbucks just a couple blocks from the station.
« Running late, don't let anyone escape, ne?
» No problem, Boss. I'll sit on Yu-chan or something.
« Just don't squish him, okay? Still need him
» I would never squish him, Boss. His soulmate would pout at me too much.
Reo was halfway through typing his reply to Asanao when a loud crash, followed by some rather violent swearing, caught his attention. Someone was yelling in English, he thought, but he was really only catching the fairly prolific “fuck”s out of it. The source stormed his way out of the back, balling up a dark green apron and turning back to throw it at someone else yelling in definitely not Japanese and possibly not English either.
Green apron, blond wood counter, a virtual riot of bright colors on his fellow customers, as if in direct opposition to the grey and dreary weather of the day. Feeling suddenly grateful for the problems of the morning, Reo stepped into his angry soulmate's path, reaching out but stopping short of actually touching him. When the younger man's head jerked up, he could see that anger dying, dark eyes going wide at the realization of what was happening.
“Fuck,” his soulmate mumbled, the energy going out of him like air from a popped balloon. Not exactly the sort of reaction Reo had been expecting, though maybe not all that surprising either. After all, weren't they all told that soulmates were supposed to be boy-girl and around the same age? Reo didn't have a problem with finding out his own soulmate was both noticeably younger than him and a male (a very cute male, at that), but he could understand if perhaps said soulmate wasn't feeling the same.
“Problem?” he asked.
“I would be the guy whose soulmate shows up on the worst day of his life,” the younger man muttered, tugging the elastic out of black hair that was suddenly falling down around his shoulders. “No offense, but can we get out of here? Like, now?”
Reo was about to ask why when a tiny Filipino woman came stomping out of the back, shaking a dark green apron and screaming what was probably rather a lot of Tagalog profanity. Reo could only watch in stunned silence as his soulmate turned on her and snapped something apparently quite scandalous from the way her face twisted with outrage. His young soulmate then grabbed Reo's arm and started tugging him away. Curious beyond words, Reo let himself be dragged along for a bit, though he freed his arm after a few shops.
“I'm actually headed in the other direction,” Reo said, “but if you want to talk about how it could possibly be the worst day of your life at not even 8:30am, I've got ears. Ah, Koga Reo, by the way.”
“Nishida Akinori and uh, I guess that's the least I can do. Owe you coffee now anyway, ne? Oh, um, I wouldn't go back to that Starbucks ... ever, if I were you. The boss's wife is a certifiable lunatic, if you hadn't noticed, and she holds a mean grudge forever.”
“I'll keep that in mind,” Reo said with a small smile. His soulmate walked along with him readily enough, he was a little surprised it was going so easily. And grateful for the chance to surreptitiously study his soul's primary match. Long-sleeved white shirt with plain black slacks, standard restaurant uniform, though the long hair was a surprise. Reo's best guess put Akinori in his early to mid-20s, possibly still in school or else pursuing something that made him a perfect candidate for low level shift work. Artist, maybe? As an musician himself, Reo hoped this meant his soulmate would be someone who could understand his perspective better than any of his attempted girlfriends ever had.
But for all that Akinori had joined him easily, the younger man hesitated when they made it back to the train station. Well, perhaps that wasn't so unreasonable.
“If you know a place around here where we can talk, we can do that, if that would be better?” Reo asked with genuine openness.
“Heading to work, right?” Akinori said, rubbing the back of his neck. “My shit day shouldn't make yours a mess, too, though.”
“Yeah, but I'm already behind and anyway, I'm the boss,” Reo replied, offering his soulmate what he hoped was a reassuring smile. It didn't work.
“Sure you don't want to cut and run while you can?” Akinori asked, dropping his hands to his sides. “I mean, you've got your life together, obviously, and I ... really don't.”
“I can think of several people who would be more than happy to tell you that's not true. About my life, I mean,” Reo said, chuckling a little. “That I'm living in a fantasy world, that I need to grow up and be a man, that music is no kind of 'real' career.”
“Sounds like my mom,” Akinori said with a shy smile. “Says I'm too old to still be hoping for some miracle, but I don't want to live a life without music. If I couldn't play my bass anymore, then ... then I don't even want to think about it, you know?”
“Are you in a band, then?” Reo asked, not sure which way he wanted his soulmate to answer that question.
“Not ... not exactly?” Akinori confessed with a little huff, tugging on the elastic he had slipped around his wrist. “Some guys and I get together now and then, but I wouldn't call it a real band, no.”
“... want to be?”
Akinori stood blinking at him for several stunned seconds before he finally managed to make his mouth form proper words again.
“You don't even know anything about me!”
“I know you brought color into my life, a whole rainbow. Come on, at least let me introduce you to the rest of lynch, yeah?”
“Wait, wait, wait, you're ... oh god, you are,” his soulmate sputtered, eyes going wide a second. “Wait, are you ... what are you suggesting?” he asked, wariness swiftly cropping up in his eyes and posture both.
“I'm saying, as my soulmate, you should meet the guys, since they're my family. Although ... if you think you can play well enough to impress, Hazu-kun, we are in the market for a support bassist. What do you think?”
“Uh, pinch me cuz I'm pretty sure this isn't really happening. I mean, I just walked off a job that accused me of being a thief, and now my soulmate is famous and, uh, yeah, pinch me.”
Laughing, Reo reached out to pinch Akinori's arm, well-muscled under his thin shirt, but then what else could be expected from a working bassist? Warmth settled in Reo's chest at the way his soulmate yelped and shot him an almost betrayed look.
“Okay, well, if I am dreaming, I'm gonna be really pissed when I wake up. Please take best care of me, senpai,” Akinori said, bowing low.
“Oh Jesus, don't do that,” Reo said, shaking his head. “Especially not in front of Hazu-kun, I'll never hear the end of it. We're soulmates, Akkun, so please, call me Reo.”
“... but we just met?” Akinori countered with a puzzled frown.
“Still soulmates,” Reo said with a casual shrug.
“Okay, but also still my senpai. I mean unless you want the whole world knowing your soulmate is some brat kid you picked up off the street....”
“I wouldn't care if I'd found you in a box under a bridge,” Reo said with another short chuckle. “But I suppose you have a point. Just ... not in front of the band, okay?”
Akinori went quiet as he nodded, but Reo couldn't help noticing the nervous way his soulmate couldn't hold still as they waited for the next train. Well, they weren't going to get to know each other any better if they didn't talk to each other, right?
“So ... you still haven't said what made today the worst day of your life,” he drawled casually, amused at the sharp blush that tinted his soulmate's cheeks. Yeah, he could get to liking that.
“Well, maybe not quite the worst day,” Akinori conceded, scooting a little closer as he started to explain how everything had gone wrong. And the more Reo saw and heard, the more he was convinced the universe had done right, putting them together.
Once his soulmate got started talking, Akinori didn't really stop, much to Reo's amusement. It was fine, he liked hearing about Akinori's life, the things he had done while struggling to reach his dreams. Some of it was familiar, even the moments of despair, even if Reo's own path had stabilized some years ago now. Hearing it all, he wasn't as surprised when, as soon as they reached the studio, Akinori fell quiet. Reo saw no point in drawing attention to it, his soulmate was already nervous enough.
“Well it's about time, Boss,” Asanao teased, smirking. “So who's this then?”
“Ah, well, I have a bit of an announcement,” Reo said, grinning so much his face was starting to hurt. “Guys, this is Nishida Akinori, my soulmate. Akkun, these are my bandmates, whom you probably already recognize, but ... our drummer, Asanao, guitarist Yusuke, and of course vocalist Hazuki.”
“Please treat me well, senpai,” Akinori said as he bowed.
“Soulmate, eh? Oh is this why you're running so late?” Asanao asked, his smirk turning decidedly suggestive. Reo had to bite back a laugh at the way his soulmate squeaked and blushed hotly.
“No, I was already running late when he and I met, it's why we met, actually,” he explained, one hand brushing against the small of Akinori's back to keep him from further trying to escape.
“Guess it was Fate,” Akinori murmured, some of the tension easing under Reo's touch. “I just happened to get fed up with the bullshit at that job at exactly the right time.”
“Definitely Fate,” Reo agreed. “Hazu-kun, can he borrow one of your basses for a bit?”
“No,” Hazuki answered entirely too quickly, a hard frown on his face. “Why, you even play, kid?”
“I do my best,” Akinori replied, shrinking in on himself at the other man's coldness. And then Yusuke punched Hazuki's shoulder.
“Ignore him, Nishida-kun, he's just cranky cuz his soulmate's been on tour for the last three months straight, traveling all over Europe,” the guitarist explained.
“I don't let just anyone borrow my things!” Hazuki protested, huffing and brushing fringe away from his eyes. “Last time I did that, Yukke-kun lost my iPod in Germany!”
“It's not like he's going to take it anywhere, Hazu-kun,” Reo said, rolling his eyes. “Look, Akkun plays, I want him to audition, so unless you're telling me you only have J-senpai's signature bass here....”
“I really don't –,” Akinori started, but Reo quickly turned and pressed a silencing kiss to his lips before the younger man could back out completely. He was not letting his soulmate get bullied out of the room just because one of his best friends was in the mood to be unreasonable.
“Your soulmate is not getting special consideration just so you can get laid, Reo-nii,” Hazuki grumbled, though he did at least set down his coffee to walk over to the instrument rack. A few moments in which Reo could almost feel his soulmate vibrating with nerves and Hazuki was back, handing him a plain black electric bass.
“Okay, impress me.”
Akinori stammered and babbled nonsense before Reo could intervene, giving his soulmate's shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
“Okay, Hazu-kun, you've made your point, you're a pissy bitch when Tatsu-kun isn't around to give you regular orgasms. Go take a shit or something, give him ten minutes to get settled at least. Before I just hire him on anyway.”
“He still doesn't get special treatment!” Hazuki insisted.
“Lynch is still my band, ya grouch!” Reo shouted at the other man's back. He ... probably wouldn't actually do it, he hadn't once pulled rank on Hazuki in the six years they had been working together now, but that almost wasn't the point.
“Don't mind him, Nishida-kun,” Yusuke said with a gentle smile. “Here, let me help you get set up, ne? And then take as long as you need to get comfortable. It's not special treatment, by the way, anyone auditioning to work with us would get the same consideration.”
“Th-thank you,” Akinori stammered, hesitant and yet letting himself be pulled away. Reo flashed him a supportive smile, grateful for Yusuke's even temperament just then. He then turned to go after Hazuki, to make sure his friend understood how he felt, when he realized Asanao had already gone after their frontman himself. That ... was probably the better way of handling him just then. Reo would just sit down with his laptop and work on e-mail until things calmed down again.
Akinori knew he should be going home already. Despite the disastrous start to his day, between meeting his soulmate and then auditioning for lynch, then spending the rest of the work day hanging out with the band, trying not to completely fuck things up by letting out the squealing inner fanboy that still couldn't entirely believe this was his life now.... It was like something out of some shoujo manga, too impossible to be real. And yet he could feel Reo's hand in his, so solid and warm. And the colors, so many vibrant colors where before everything had been shades of grey, he was feeling distinctly overwhelmed.
“You must be tired to be so quiet,” Reo said, smiling that little special smile Akinori had already noticed he only used with him. “It's been a big day, if I need to let you go....”
“No!” Akinori said too quickly, heat racing into his cheeks. “I ... I mean I'm fine. Just hungry, I guess.”
“Fair enough, been awhile since lunch. What sounds good to you?”
“Don't know, don't know how much it really matters as long as I can have you for dessert.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Akinori felt the strongest urge to just die, to have the earth swallow him whole on the spot. Reo had been taking the whole thing about having a younger, male soulmate pretty well so far, probably helped by the fact that, of lynch's four members, only Asanao had a female soulmate, from what he had been told this afternoon. But that was still no excuse for saying something so completely outrageous less than a day after their first meeting. Akinori certainly wasn't prepared for the way Reo looked at him like he had grown a second head.
“I'm sorry, oh gods, I'm so sorry, I don't even –,” he babbled, until Reo pressed a finger to his lips.
“It's fine, Akkun, really, I'm just ... not used to having someone say things like that to me,” Reo explained, a certain sadness in his face that made Akinori's chest hurt.
“But don't rock starts get a lot of ... I mean, with all the fangirls and everything....”
“Some do,” Reo conceded. “According to the internet, I'm too old and scary for that. And I haven't been doing a lot of dating lately, so....”
“Too old? But you're only thirty-three, right? I mean, what kind of bullshit calls that old??”
“I imagine, when you're only sixteen or seventeen, thirty-three seems ancient, entirely too close to the age of one's own parents,” Reo replied with a self-deprecating smile. “Not that I care if fangirls are talking like that, as long as we're still making music people want to support.”
“Well it's still stupid and they better not say anything like that around me or I'll ... I'll do something,” Akinori grumbled. “The only one allowed to call my soulmate old is me!”
Reo laughed again and it made something warm wiggle around in Akinori's chest. If someone had asked him yesterday about fate and soulmates, the bassist would have laughed and flat out said he didn't believe in such childish things. Hell, yesterday he hadn't even been sure he believed colors were a real thing. And now ... everything was different.
“Okay, so ... food, yeah? You still haven't said what sounds good to you. Or are you saying I need to just pick something?”
“I, really, I'm not fussy,” he said, flustered. This was ridiculous! He was twenty-four! Reo wasn't even suggesting anything scandalous, that had all been him, so why was he this nervous?
“Okay, well, restaurant then, or have you had enough of being around other people for awhile?”
“I don't want to be any trouble,” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck again, his nerves driving him to pull his hair back up for what felt like the tenth time today. He really needed to stop fussing with it, but ... he couldn't help it.
“Soulmates, Akkun,” Reo murmured, brushing a kiss to Akinori's cheek. “I'll cook, it's not really any more trouble to cook for two than it is to cook for one. You could even stay the night if you want? Or is that too fast?”
“I mean, if you were some cute girl, I wouldn't even think twice about that,” Akinori admitted with a nervous chuckle. “Are you really sure you're okay with this, though?”
“You keep asking me that,” Reo said, smiling sweetly. “Believe it or not, yes, I'm completely fine with this. I've always been open to the idea that my soulmate might not be a woman. Working in visual kei ... I know the scene sometimes get a bad rep for playing at being open while secretly punishing those who won't conform, but it's more complicated than that. Besides, that really would make me the worst sort of hypocrite, supporting Hazu-kun and Tatsu-kun, Yu-kun and Ryo-chan, but then rejecting my own soulmate? Really, Akkun....”
“Ah, well, when you put it that way,” Akinori mumbled, feeling himself blushing again. Reo's arm looped around him in a friendly gesture that felt like something more than casual contact. Already, he could tell that it was going to be especially difficult to leave Reo's side.
Even though it wasn't the most impressive flat, Akinori couldn't contain a low whistle as he walked into the lounge of Reo's apartment. Between the view, the balcony, and the real kitchen, this was the sort of flat he had only dreamed of being able to call his own. The sort of place he could definitely see himself spending a lot of time, when he wasn't working or dealing with things at home.
“Just you?” he asked, even though he already knew the answer.
“Just me. Make yourself at home, yeah? I'll get dinner started,” Reo said, brushing a kiss to Akinori's cheek as he walked past him. It was such a casual gesture, the bassist was stunned stupid for a second. And then he was trailing behind his soulmate not unlike a lost puppy. This was so different from his usual dating routine. Despite what he had said at the train station, sex on a first date had never been his style. He had never gone home with someone on a first date, either, he wasn't entirely sure what to do with himself. So he picked a spot out of the way and just started talking, about everything. It was like ... for the first time in his life, there was someone in front of him with whom he actually wanted to share his whole life story. It came out of him so easily, little things he had never told another soul, from the bullying and his less than stellar relationship with his military father to the quiet conviction that he was never going to find The One. And Reo was so good at listening that Akinori genuinely felt heard for the first time in his life.
How that had lead to making out on Reo's couch after dinner, he wasn't entirely sure, but oh sweet merciful heavens was Reo an amazing kisser.
“How the fuck are you still single?” he mumbled as he pressed closer. “You cook, you clean, you're amazing with your hands, oh yeah, and you're hot as fuck and totally ripped. How am I not fighting off the competition with a stick? How?”
“I couldn't see color,” Reo replied with a shrug, as if it was obvious.
“Well that's bullshit,” Akinori insisted, kissing him again. “Who cares about colors? You're the perfect total package! What the hell!”
“Such flattery,” Reo murmured and was his soulmate actually getting shy on him? “I'm not really that perfect, I've got plenty of flaws. Without color, no one wanted to deal with my shit for long.”
“Well that's some ridiculously shallow bullshit.”
“Not that I'm at all sorry to have you all to myself right from the start,” he continued without hardly a pause, helping himself to Reo's lap. “But I still call bullshit. I'm not stupid, I know you're not actually, objectively perfect, but shit, who would even want that? But you are perfect for me.”
“You say that now, but you haven't even known me a whole day yet. Might change your mind, especially once you start working for me.”
“Why, have you been faking for me or something?” he asked, fingers toying with the short strands at the back of Reo's neck.
“No, of course not,” and Akinori had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at how offended Reo looked just then. “A relationship, any relationship, won't work if it isn't built on truth and trust.”
“Exactly,” Akinori agreed, leaning in to press a slow kiss to his soulmate's lips. Warm hands slid up the back of his shirt and he scooted even closer. Not like this was an argument, if you wanted to call it that, that he expected to win so easily anyway.
“... does this mean you're staying the night?” Reo asked when their lips broke apart.
“Only if you want me to,” Akinori mumbled.
“If you wanted, I'd let you stay forever,” Reo replied, tilting his chin up to brush lips against Akinori's forehead. “Not that I expect you to, of course. Forever's an awfully long time, I'm sure you'd get bored with me before that.”
Reo was smiling as he said it, like he was making a joke, but somehow those words felt too sad for Akinori to bear, tears prickling at the corners of his eyes. As if Reo didn't think even his own soulmate would want him for the long term.
“Fuck, Reo, don't ... don't say that shit,” he mumbled as he leaned into him, forehead to forehead. “I'm here now, babe, and I'm never letting you go.”
“I don't even care that two days ago I thought fate was total bullshit. I was wrong. So, so wrong. If you say you need me here, I will have my shit packed and moved tomorrow.”
“You've got work tomorrow,” Reo countered with a small frown that was more heard than seen.
“So?” Akinori countered as he sat back, offering his soulmate a sly half smile. “I haven't actually got that much shit, I'd make it work.”
“Life's too short for you to have that unhappy look on your face ever again,” he murmured, cupping Reo's face in his hands. “Whatever flaw or flaws you think are the reason no one else stuck around ... I don't even care, babe, whatever it is, we'll work it out. The past is just that. I'm here now and I'm not going anywhere, not without you.”
Before Reo could argue, Akinori pressed another slow kiss to the older man's lips, trying his best to make him understand how he felt, to understand him even without words.
“I'm staying,” he whispered against Reo's lips when he finally pulled back again. “Right here. For as long as you need, in any way you need.”
“... maybe I should be the one asking you to pinch me,” Reo mumbled, but at least he was smiling. “How are you still single?”
“Oh I'm a complete mess,” Akinori replied cheerfully. “I'm a slob and a brat, I've never stayed in one place longer than eighteen months, I'm terrible about not doing what I'm told, you really got the shit end of this stick.”
“I think you mean you're warm, funny, loyal, and generous to a fault, Nori,” Reo countered, cupping his cheek before brushing another kiss to his lips. “Remind me to send thank you cards to your exes for being too stupid to keep you.”
“Better idea,” Akinori said, unable to resist kissing Reo again, albeit briefly. “I know it has to wait a couple months, but hire me for real. Full member of lynch. Let me stand on that stage with you. I can't think of a better fuck you to everyone who thought I'd never amount to anything.”
“Maybe,” Reo said, shaking his head briefly. “Give me a week to be sure you and Hazu-kun can get past this, then we'll talk.”
“I won't let you down, babe, I promise. Whatever it takes.”
This time, Reo's smile wasn't sad at all. And that made such a difference in Akinori's own chest.
“If you're staying ... come to bed? You've got an early morning tomorrow.”
“My favorite kind,” he said with a sarcastic laugh. Sliding off Reo's lap, he then pulled the older man up with him. “Gonna need to borrow a couple things, just until I can bring over all my shit tomorrow.”
“You don't –.”
“Nope, you're not wiggling out of it,” Akinori interrupted, pressing a finger to Reo's lips. “You made it clear you need me here, so now you're stuck with me.”
“All right, all right, borrow anything you want,” Reo said, pecking a quick kiss to Akinori's finger. Reo then ruffled his hair playfully before he started leading him deeper into the apartment. The gesture really should have pissed Akinori off, but when Reo did it, it was different. He felt different. He didn't care if others said they were moving too fast. This was love, he was sure of it.