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For Want of Conversation

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Ryuji’s leg is bouncing as he sits there staring into his bowl of ramen as if they have the wisdom to give him the answer. Though his heart beats loudly in his ears he simply doesn’t have the courage to speak up about it, not to the man beside him, not when his hands are shaking too much to even try to pick up his chopsticks.

 

Fuck, but he’s really hungry.

 

Yusuke glances at him, giving him a long, long , look, before taking up his own set of chopsticks in his own pretty hands and tap, tap, tapping at the bowl. The man moves with a certain grace even outside of battle, the flow to his movements obvious even to someone as oblivious as Ryuji. His lips part then close again as if in thought.

 

“This was a surprise, Ryuji,” Yusuke utters like a secret, tracing the rim of the bowl instead of digging in. Ryuji can’t help but follow the motion with his eyes, anything to not have to look at his fellow Phantom Thief and risk having him just know . Shit, what if Yusuke already has him figured out? What if he knows and it’s just disgusting to him? Suddenly, any courage he might have had seems to escape him. “I mostly assume this is something you usually do with Akira-kun.”

 

Ryuji gulps and forces his leg to stop bouncing, his fingers digging in through his shorts with a loud gulp. His cheeks burn red, “Yeah…” He mutters, smoothing back his hair, then his shirt, before finally deciding he’s better off digging nails into the fabric instead.

 

“Not that I’m not grateful…” Yusuke trails off, finally having glanced fully at Ryuji and getting a good look. He blinks, “Ryuji?”

 

Fuck it.

 

“You’re gay right?” As Ryuji speaks, it’s in that moment that everything stops. Yusuke freezes completely, eyes trained right on the blond as his grip tightens on his chopsticks, an older woman a couple of seats down from them glances at them then, pointedly away, and Ryuji feels his heart stop and start again as fear sends electricity pulsing up his spine. Yusuke is silent until he isn’t.

 

“Why do you ask?” Comes the cautious reply, but at least everything’s back to normal again; at least the sounds and sights and smells are back, yet Ryuji can’t help but feel like a million eyes are glaring holes into his back. Heart doing a leap, he gulps, shrinking away from that suddenly penetrating stare.

 

Yusuke’s hand is pressed flat against the table, chopsticks pinned underneath it as he considers whether or not it would be considered rude to just leave. Fuck, and Ryuji can’t blame him.

 

“Y’know, man,” Ryuji shrugs and looks away idly, feeling his cheeks burn with shame. “I was jus’ wonderin’.” He can’t bring himself to look at the other boy and his leg has gone back to bouncing as if that would quell his rising anxiousness. Shit, Ryuji should… leave. He should just leave, give Yusuke whatever it is he has in his wallet at that moment just to keep him quiet.

 

Clicking his tongue, slender fingers wrap themselves around Yusuke’s chopsticks, a straight back standing up even straighter as he stirs through the broth in his ramen. The steam isn’t as hot now as it rises up into the lukewarm air of the little shop, and the artist contents himself with examining the beauty of the shifting, swirling, vapour. “... And what does it matter if I am?” Yusuke says quietly, not quite having the nerve to look at his friend despite his passive expression.

 

“Nothin’!” Ryuji says too quickly, feeling his shoulders stiffen. He nibbles on his bottom lip, all chapped and sore as it is, and tries to shove some ramen into his mouth. The noodles simply slide from his grip, splashing some broth into the air before the soup settles. “I--I just…” Finally, Ryuji glances at his friend, cheeks aflame, and his tone goes quieter, softer, “I was just wonderin’ how you, I don’t know, how you knew?”

 

More silence and for a moment Ryuji is about to get up and leave again, or worries that maybe Yusuke would do it first. Honestly, he isn’t sure which is worse and--fuck--he quickly looks away, cheeks burning.

 

“Well I am, and… ” A sigh, “I suppose I just… knew,” Yusuke muses, not quite looking his way. It’s probably for the best considering the irritated frown sent his way. The young man clicks his tongue and shakes his head, that black hair falling over his eyes for just a moment before those pale fingers tuck it back perfectly in place. Not for the first time Ryuji follows the fluid motion, feeling his mouth go dry.

 

A part of him just wants to reach out and take that hand, to link their fingers together and just hold it there. He… isn’t sure what that means. “I mean…” Ryuji scrunches his face up, “You were really pervy with Ann for a while so at first I thought--”

 

“Must I explain to you the intricacies of my attractions, Ryuji?” Yusuke’s tone takes on a sharper edge, those perfect brows creased in the middle. He sighs once more and as soon as it appears the expression is gone. “I was never attracted to Ann sexually , I would never wish to sleep with her,” The artist attempts to explain, “It’s her aesthetics that I find appealing--the way she stands, her silhouette. Her grace.”

 

“Yeah but the whole nude modeling thing--”

 

“There is an entire history of artworks that involve the presence of a nude model, Sakamoto,” And Yusuke’s frowning again, “Just because I don’t wish to touch the female form doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it.” A long, pregnant pause as Yusuke collects himself. Eventually, he opens his mouth to speak again but seems to think better of it with a shake of his head.

 

They simply sit there in silence for a moment, and Yusuke takes the time to actually begin to eat. He chews on his own thoughts for a while before eventually finding himself balancing a chopstick delicately on his pointer finger.

 

“I know because I spent a long time when I was younger wondering why I was always so flustered when looking at the male form,” Their eyes met, “But that’s not your question. When I think of a woman--actually think of her--I can never imagine myself laying beside her, I would never be able to catch myself thinking impure thoughts of her because I simply wouldn’t have any.”

 

Ryuji considers his friend’s words, idly chewing on his own tongue to stop himself from blurting something stupid out. He… couldn’t say the same. The thought of sleeping with girls was definitely appealing. As for boys, however--

 

“Oh, I can appreciate the male form, most definitely--Michaelangelo’s David is… is extraordinary craftsmanship, yet at the same time…” Yusuke nibbles at his bottom lip, eyes fluttering closed. Almost sardonically, a small smile plays upon his lips as he glances at Ryuji, “The statue appeals to me in other ways, too.”

 

Ryuji swallows hard, his tongue darting out to wet his chapped lips. His eyes shift left, right, then settle squarely on Yusuke’s shoulder. They’re so thin, so small despite how tall the man is. Finally, he manages to utter out, “R-right.” Fuck, why are his eyes tracing the curve of his friend’s jugular? Why is his gaze drifting to those lips, those brows? Why does he wonder what that hair would feel like between his fingers?

 

Would… Would Ryuji find sleeping with another guy appealing?

 

“What I am wondering, Ryuji,” Yusuke interrupts his thoughts, tapping at the edge of his bowl, “Is why you thought asking me here was a wise decision.”

 

“I thought I’d butter you up a bit before asking?” Ryuji grins awkwardly only to receive an exasperated look.

 

“Who I choose to spend my time with romantically is not a source of your entertainment,”  Comes a sharp reply, and Ryuji can’t bring himself to actually look at his friend from shame alone.

 

“Nah, dude, that wasn’t why I called you here I’m just…” A sigh, “Curious, I guess.” Ryuji scratches at his cheek before his hand falls flat onto the countertop, He still can’t look at Yusuke, his cheeks burning, “Listen, I’m real sorry, I didn’t mean to let ya think that--”

 

“It’s fine. Just… there’s a time and place for everything,” The artist sucks in his bottom lip and for some reason Ryuji chooses that time to look his way. His eyes hone in on the motion, how those pale cheeks are flushed with what could be construed as irritation. Ryuji swallows. “May I ask why you’re so curious about my… proclivities?” 

 

“I dunno,” Ryuji splutters. And now he’s staring into his own reflection in the broth, lead coating his tongue as he tries to voice the reason he asked in the first place. He shifts in his seat, nails scraping at his bowl just so he can focus on an entirely different sensation than the heat burning at his ears. There is silence for a moment more. He feels like the biggest idiot on this side of the hemisphere.

 

“... I see,” Yusuke finally utters, his voice almost taking on an understanding tone. It’s gentler now, quieter, and underneath the table Ryuji feels Yusuke’s shoe tap him comfortingly on the ankle. He continues, almost as if speaking to himself, “You can like girls while also liking other boys, too, though I can’t say I know how that feels…” Briefly he glances at Ryuji, and he knows his mouth is hanging open. The blond quickly gathers himself by scarfing down his now lukewarm meal. Finally, a bit louder, Yusuke pushes his empty bowl forward. When did he finish it? “Next time just call me to your home, or maybe somewhere quieter. I… don’t want this to become common knowledge.”

 

“Right. Yeah man,” Ryuji finally gathers himself well enough to say, “I got ya.”

 

The two finish their meals in relative silence and leave that day with various thoughts on thieir mind. Ryuij, perhaps, most of all.