It takes forever to fall asleep that night and Yuuji is all but useless the next day as he struggles through four agonizing hours of final exams. During class, he alternates between staring blankly at the ceiling in a sleep-depraved trance and madly chewing his pen cap as he races through the test questions (without reading a single one) in a desperate attempt to turn in something in the last fifteen minutes.
By the time noon rolls around, he’s convinced his soul has left his body and drags the useless husk back to his apartment for a much-needed shower.
Afterwards he feels slightly more alert, though whether that can be attributed entirely to the shower or to the fact his shift at the café starts in an hour is up for debate.
He spends longer than usual getting ready. Not because he’s suddenly concerned with his looks, but because he feels himself biting at the bit wanting to leave already and he has to force himself to take his time. Common sense insists he reign in his emotions; letting himself get caught up in the idea of Gojo as much as he already has is frightening enough, he should at least try to temper it from getting worse.
Last night he told Gojo he wants to be respected, and he truly means that. He wants to take things slow because Gojo is fascinating and Yuuji is hopelessly hooked, but he also wants to see if this can last, if there is something between them that might become more meaningful.
(and hope that he is a better person than the sex-depraved creature howling constantly inside his head whenever Gojo comes to mind)
Impatience drums at his skull with all the force of an enraged bull. Groaning, he shoulders his bag and still ends up leaving his apartment twenty minutes early.
Nobara meets him at the door with a look that would send grown men running to their mothers in horror.
Yuuji freezes outside, hand resting against the push-bar for the (alarmingly fragile) plexiglass door and stares openly back at her. As she starts to throw it open, eyes ablaze with the wrath of a thousand fiery suns and looking ready to commit capital murder, Yuuji does the only sensible thing he can do to save his life.
He flings his entire body weight against the door and slams it shut again. Nobara pulls up short, momentarily stunned, only to bare her teeth in a grin-slash-snarl as she bears down and shoves from the other side again, causing Yuuji to brace and push back.
“What are you doing?” she demands, incensed as Yuuji continues trying to keep the door shut between them.
“What are you doing?” he yelps back.
“Trying to kill you!”
Yuuji gives her an incredulous look. “But why?”
With a sudden push that packs enough force to shift tectonic plates, Nobara thrusts the door open and sends Yuuji backpedaling rapidly onto the sidewalk, hands thrown up in front of himself in a final plea of defense.
“You,” she jabs an accusing finger at him, livid. “This is your fault.”
“What’s my fault?” he squeaks, frantically waving his arms as she takes a threatening step closer. “Tell me what I did first!”
“He’s been here for hours, Yuuji!” she wails. “Hours! Do you have any idea how many times he’s sent back his order with some stupid reason to have it remade?”
Yuuji shakes his head mutely.
“Dozens!” she snaps. Jabbing at the air in front of him again. “Because of you .”
“Who – ”
“Gojo! He’s been here since this morning.” She scowls so deeply it’s a wonder the look doesn’t become permanently etched onto her face. “I told him you weren’t working until the afternoon and he’s been hanging around ever since.” She seems to lose steam now that it appears there will be an end to her suffering.
“I didn’t think he’d come back this soon,” he admits finally, though he’d definitely held out hope for it.
“Well he did.” She crosses her arms over her chest, still visibly angry even as she looks him up and down with a shrewd glare. “Megumi had to leave to take exams. I’ve been dealing with him on my own since then, but now it’s your turn.”
Yuuji bites the inside of his cheek to keep the stupid grin off his face as he straightens, nodding in agreement. “Okay, let me put my stuff down and I’ll take it from here.”
Suspicious of his quick acceptance, she narrows her eyes on him further. “Why is he asking for you and hanging around here like he’s got nothing else to do?”
Yuuji shrugs as he passes her and enters the café, eyes immediately drawn to the window seat where Gojo’s familiar shock of white hair is visible.
“I have no idea,” he answers her, feeling almost giddy when he catches Gojo smirking as if he’s heard the entire exchange and finds it endlessly amusing. Which he probably did hear everything, considering Nobara was loud enough to raise the dead.
Yuuji hears her snort as she follows him, clearly not buying a word he says and unimpressed with his poor attempt at innocence. “Whatever,” she mutters, waving him off as she returns to the counter with an audible sigh of relief.
He dumps his stuff in the back and grabs an apron to tie around his waist. Armed with a notepad and pen (so it at least appears as if he’s doing his job), he quickly makes his way to Gojo’s table.
“What did you do to her,” he hisses under his breath as he draws close, though it lacks any true heat and he’s trying so hard not to let his excitement be heard.
Gojo’s eyebrows lift slightly behind his glasses. Yuuji is a little disappointed to see him wearing them now that he knows what’s hiding underneath.
“Nothing, of course,” Gojo protests, pretending to be hurt by the accusation. “I’m just an honest paying customer hoping for a decent cup of coffee. What’s wrong with that?”
Yuuji snorts and quickly covers his mouth with a fist, eyes dancing as he drinks in the sight of the playful tilt to Gojo’s lips.
“You’re terrible,” he says, shaking his head.
The playfulness quickly melts into something decidedly more sly and Yuuji sees Gojo’s fingers twitch in his direction, as if he is only just stopping himself reaching out and yanking Yuuji onto his lap. The thought makes his breath catch and his face feels a little warm.
“What are you thinking about right now, Yuuji?” Gojo asks, sounding far too pleased with himself.
At the counter, Nobara loudly stacks the porcelain pastry plates and gives Yuuji a very knowing, very pointed look when he glances over at her in question. He sighs and turns back, reminding himself to keep a level head.
“Nobara said you were waiting here a while,” he recounts, directing the conversation back into safe territory. “Why didn’t you come back later when you knew I’d be here?”
Gojo shrugs. “I wasn’t busy and I wanted to talk to you.” He reaches up to slide his glasses down his nose slightly, just enough for his striking eyes to peek out over the top and reveal the heat burning there. “It would seem I lost my head a little bit last night and forgot to ask for your number. I was hoping you’d be so kind as to give it to me now.”
Yuuji suddenly feels as if his mouth is stuffed with cotton. “S-Sure,” he agrees. Gojo pulls out a sleek smartphone from his jacket and slides it across the table. Yuuji glances over his shoulder, neck burning with the sensation of being watched, and catches Nobara quickly looking down at something on the register. Grimacing, he turns back to pick up the phone and enter his information. He hits save and slides it back, unable to resist reaching out to press his fingers against Gojo’s hand to indicate where the phone is waiting.
“Thank you,” Gojo says, flipping his hand over and briefly squeezing Yuuji’s fingers, which Yuuji returns with a soft squeeze of his own.
“You’re welcome.” He pulls his hand away as Gojo sits back casually in his chair and pockets his phone. “Was that all you needed?”
Again, that small, naughty smirk. “For now,” Gojo affirms, chuckling as if he can feel Yuuji fidgeting next to him. “Have you thought about this weekend?”
“Not yet. I haven’t had a chance today. I had finals.”
Gojo pouts impressively. “Not even a little?”
“I promise I’ll give you an answer,” he laughs. “Just let my brain decompress for a few hours first.”
Sighing, Gojo reluctantly agrees. “Then I’ll call you tonight. Is that okay?”
Yuuji makes a sound in the affirmative. “After ten. I’ll be home by then.”
“Then I suppose I will be pining all alone until then,” Gojo sighs, pushing away from the table and dropping more than enough money to cover the cost of all the ridiculous shenanigans he’d pulled that morning next to the napkin dispenser. As he starts to leave, he brushes closely against Yuuji and sweeps his fingers against the inside of his wrist teasingly, earning an excited shiver in response.
Yuuji blows out an uneven breath, eyes glued to Gojo’s retreating back even as Nobara shrieks an indignant “Oh now he’s leaving?” from across the café.
His pulse doesn’t slow until he’s over halfway through with his shift.
The apartment is dark and silent when Yuuji finally makes it back home. He dumps his stuff by the door and toes off his shoes on his way to the bedroom, too tired to bother with the lights or do more than grunt when walking in the dark nearly sends him crashing to the floor.
He’s still fully clothed when he drops heavily onto the bed, face pressed into the pillow and feet hanging off the edge. He should eat something, but he can’t seem to make his limbs work now that he’s succumbed to the embrace of the comfy blankets.
Pleasantly numb, the edge of his consciousness starts to fog with sleep. He’s floating along that blurry edge between being awake and asleep, slowly falling deeper and deeper, when the piercing tune of his phone ringing shocks him violently awake.
He wiggles around to dig it out of his front pocket, heart hammering, and bolts upright to press it against his ear.
“Gojo?” he asks, blinking owlishly into the dark of his room.
A pleased laugh tickles his ear. “What if I said no? What if this was a bill collector?”
Yuuji grins and knuckles his eyes, all feelings of exhaustion melting away in favor of a spreading warmth. “Then I’d have to change my number and leave the country.”
“We can’t have that,” Gojo objects. “Did you just get home?”
Yuuji grunts in assent and pushes up from the bed. “A few minutes ago, actually,” he confirms, flicking on the lights and padding back out into the main room toward the kitchen. “I haven’t been back long.”
“What kind of café stays open this late anyway?”
He hasn’t been grocery shopping in a while so the only things in his fridge are some condiments, an expired package of sliced cheese, and a few cans of coffee. He frowns at the meager options and sighs as he takes one of the cans.
“The college kind,” he answers, shouldering the phone so he can pop the tab. “It’s usually busy around this time with exams going on. Which reminds me,” he starts, taking a quick swallow to stave off any grumbling from his empty stomach. “Nobara is threatening bodily harm if you try loitering like that again.”
“I never loiter , Yuuji. That makes it sound as if I’m a poor, wandering vagabond,” Gojo sniffs. “I grace businesses with my presence for extended periods of time.”
“Right,” Yuuji rolls his eyes, smiling as he takes another sip. “I’ll be sure to let her know.”
“Speaking of which, when is your next shift?”
Humming, he switches to speaker and flips through the apps on his phone for his calendar. “Day after tomorrow, morning til noon,” he answers, skimming the schedule before switching back from speaker. He tries to ignore the flutter of expectancy he feels as he presses the phone back against his ear. “Why?”
Gojo is smiling, Yuuji can hear it in his voice. “Just curious,” he evades.
Yuuji bites his lip and stares at the can, debating on whether he should take the initiative and ask if Gojo would like to do something together. Maybe dinner. It’s his turn anyway, right? Gojo had teased him last night about covering their next date and, counting the weekend thing, they’re standing at two for none at this point.
Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Yuuji skirts around the opening and latches on to something a little more neutral. “A-About the park,” he begins, wincing at the nervous pitch of his own voice. “Were you serious about wanting to buy it?”
“Of course. The paperwork is already drafted.”
“That was fast.” He blinks in surprise, only to narrow them suspiciously as he’s struck by a sudden thought. “Was that your way of trying to impress me?”
There is a long pause as Gojo lets that sink in. “What makes you think that?”
“You didn’t have to tell me about it,” Yuuji reasons, taking another swallow and frowning to himself. “You could have waited until you’d taken me home before asking your driver about it.”
Gojo makes a sound to indicate he’s listening, though he doesn’t immediately agree or disagree.
Yuuji grins. “You were showing off, weren’t you,” he gloats, suddenly positive.
“…A little bit, yeah,” Gojo admits.
“I knew it.”
“Did it work?”
Grinning, he finishes the coffee and tosses it into the bin, stretching the silence between them for a moment before answering honestly, “A little bit, yeah.”
Gojo chuckles, and Yuuji can’t help feeling a little pleased by the sound of it, but he is quick to cut the moment short, needing to establish up front that gestures like that aren’t really going to work the way Gojo is seemingly intending.
“You didn’t need to buy an entire park, though,” Yuuji maintains, taking a seat on his couch. “You don’t have to throw money around to impress me. I mean, I’m already – you know. Impressed.”
Gojo grows quiet again, though this time the silence is thoughtful.
“Okay?” Yuuji continues, feeling as if this should be cleared up now before it has the chance to become a bigger issue later. “I don’t expect that kind of stuff. I don’t need it. You’re impressive enough on your own without doing that kind of thing.”
Gojo hums, and Yuuji presses his lips together to keep from babbling on and embarrassing himself even further.
“What’s so impressive?” Gojo finally muses, sounding detached in a way that makes Yuuji feel instantly wary.
He presses a little harder, and this time Yuuji hears a hint of bitterness. “What’s so impressive about a blind man?”
The intent behind the question isn’t lost on Yuuji and it hurts, really hurts, to think that Gojo believes he is nothing, less than nothing, if he isn’t associated with money.
“Everything,” Yuuji breathes, surprising even himself as the words seem to tumble out before he can reign them back in. “Everything about you. You’re – the way you talk. How you hold yourself. Like no one can touch you.” He swallows thickly, brow furrowed as he tries to put into words what he feels when he looks at Gojo and hoping he can at least start to chip away at that false perception that self-worth can only be measured by how much money you have. “You’re thoughtful and sarcastic and interesting without even trying to be. You – you make people feel like they’re important when they’re with you. Like the rest of the world is just background noise –”
“Have dinner with me,” he asks in a rush, taking advantage when Gojo seems thrown by the sudden request. “Tomorrow night, have dinner with me.”
“I’ll set something up and give you the details tomorrow.”
“Yuuji – “
“Just say yes,” he wheezes, feeling his courage washing away as fast as it had appeared. “Please, Gojo.”
The man sighs, defeated, and Yuuji nearly goes weak with relief. “…All right. Yes.”
“Okay,” he agrees weakly. “Good. Great. Thank you.”
Gojo snorts, soft and amused.
“I’ll, um. Call you tomorrow with a time and place. Okay?”
“Okay,” Gojo confirms.
Yuuji nods to himself, chewing his lip. “Then. It’s late, we should both go to bed, right? I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
“Okay” Gojo says again, and Yuuji wishes so badly that he could see his face right now and know what he’s thinking. “Good night, Yuuji.”
“Good night,” he murmurs.
Long after they’ve hung up, Yuuji stays sitting on the couch looking down at his phone with his heart pounding in his ears.
“I still don’t get why you’re asking me,” Megumi frowns, wiping down the counter and display case with a damp rag. It’s still early, the café isn’t set to open for another hour or two, and other than Megumi no one else has made it in yet.
For the second night in a row, Yuuji didn’t get much sleep. Instead, he had spent the entire night replaying the phone conversation in his head over and over again and fretting about what to do the following evening, managing to get only snatches of rest between the bouts of ever-increasing anxiety.
By the time he could see the sky lightening a dusty blue from his bedroom window, he knew it was a lost cause and threw in the towel. A quick shower and change of clothes later, and he was making his way from his apartment to the café with the beginnings of a loose idea forming for the coming evening. But he needed help.
“Because you’ve dealt with him the most,” Yuuji explains again for what feels like the hundredth time. “Nobara said you’re the only one who could really put up with his pranks. So technically you know him the best.”
Megumi quirks an eyebrow at him. “Apparently not anymore.”
“I just need ideas,” Yuuji deflects, knowing his strange behavior is giving him away. It’s not that he is embarrassed or anything about admitting he’s attracted to Gojo, he’d gladly say as much to any stranger off the street – hell, he’d do it with a megaphone. It’s just that right now he’s not entirely sure how to define what they are (or will be), and he doesn’t want to assume anything before he has that conversation with Gojo first.
Dropping the rag in the sink, Megumi crosses his arms and considers Yuuji quietly for a moment. “He likes sweet things,” he says, shrugging. “Likes to order desserts when he comes in. That’s all I know.”
“Like sweet breads or cupcakes?”
“Both. All of it. As long as it’s sweet, he doesn’t seem to care what it is.”
Yuuji nods seriously as he rolls this around for a moment. “I can work with that.”
“All right, then. Can you leave now so I finish opening up?”
Yuuji flashes a quick grin and takes out his wallet. “One more thing,” he says, and Megumi rolls his eyes.