"It's starting to get colder, isn't it?"
Atsushi scrunches his shoulders, stuffs his hands further into his jacket pockets. It is getting colder as the days go on. Windier, too. Maybe he'll look for his winter coat when he gets home. "It sure is, En-chan."
En pouts. "I hate the cold."
"I know." Atsushi figures he's not the only one who knows; En's like an old cat that sits by the heater in winter, and in the sunbeams from the window in spring. He imagines En in the morning, stretching lazily, light streaming through the curtains and reflecting off the flat slope of his chest, then quickly squashes the thought. "Because it's a crime to be cold right after the bath, right?"
"That's part of it." En wraps his own jacket tighter around him. "Warm things are more forgiving." As if to prove his point, a loud gust of wind rushes past them, throwing hair in their faces and leaves on their backs.
Atsushi pushes the strands off his forehead and cheeks; they fall back over his eyes. He huffs out a breath. "I see your point."
En doesn't bother fixing his hair. There's a leaf stuck in it, and Atsushi almost reaches up to grab it, but stops himself at the last moment. En looks at him weirdly, but doesn't comment. The leaf stays in his hair. "Is it me," En muses, looking forward again, "Or has it gotten colder earlier this year?"
"Maybe." Atsushi doesn't offer any clarification, and En doesn't ask for it. Another gust of wind rushes past. Atsushi shivers.
"Oh," En says, and suddenly there's a hand in his hair, fingers gracing the side of his head. "There was a leaf in your hair."
En holds the leaf like a prize, the stem held deftly between his fingers, a proud smile on his face. Yet his expression remains soft, eyes brimming with something that Atsushi can't name. Atsushi pauses. "There's one in yours, too."
"Oh," En repeats, then brings his other hand up to search for it. His expression becomes increasingly frustrated at each failed attempt. Atsushi laughs and takes pity on him.
"Here," he says, "let me." Atsushi stands on his toes and brings En's head down, even though En isn't much taller, and pulls the leaf out with a lot less ease than he was going for. It gets tangled within the strands, and En grimaces a bit as he pulls, but right after the leaf is out Atsushi does what he's wanted to do for a while, and pushes En's bangs out of his face and off his forehead. They both smile.
En straightens, and his hair falls back into place. There's a small tuft that sticks out where the leaf once was. "Is that what you were trying to do?" En teases, and it takes Atsushi a moment to process. Then he blushes. He pretends it's windburn.
"Maybe," he says again, and lets En laugh at him. He may or may not like the sound.
The hot chocolate at Cocokara Curry is surprisingly sweet.
Atsushi isn't a fan of sweet things, and neither is En, really, but En was very insistent on buying hot chocolate, so Atsushi just holds his mug for warmth, and takes periodic sips once it's cooled off.
En's telling him something about the history of hot chocolate – how the first chocolate drink was served cold, and was actually quite bitter – but Atsushi's paying more attention to his arms and his hands, and how they dance in the air like leaves, or like snowflakes. En doesn't gesture often, if at all, so watching his hands fly around is almost surreal.
Atsushi doesn't realize En is addressing him, until the movements stop, and he's left staring at the question in En's expression, with no answer to show for it.
"Um," Atsushi says, so-very intelligently, "What was the question?"
En chuckles. "I asked," he says, resting his elbow on the table, "What you wanted for Christmas."
"Oh." Atsushi lifts his mug, takes another sip. "Isn't it a bit too early to be thinking about that?"
En briefly considers it. "But there's always something you want, regardless."
"I guess." Atsushi does, in fact, know what he wants, but he also knows it's not something he can just ask for.
En pauses. "So?" he says, and Atsushi must look confused, or lost, because he immediately clarifies, "What do you want for Christmas?"
The bell above the door chimes as another customer walks in. They go up to the counter to order, a few feet away from En, and Atsushi looks down into his mug. It's barely lukewarm. "A book. Or a puzzle." This isn't a lie. It just isn't the truth, either.
"You're boring," En grouses, without any real heat.
Atsushi pretends to be offended. "Well, then what do you want, Mr. Cool Guy?"
"Huh." En folds his arms across the table and lays his head on his hands. "I never thought I'd hear you call me a cool guy. Can that be my present?"
"What? No." Atsushi knows he sounds rude. He rolls with it. "Why would you want that to be your present?"
"Why not?" En counters, and Atsushi could probably think of a lot of reasons, if En stopped smiling at him like he was, with his lips quirked up a bit sideways, sliding across his face like they existed solely to turn Atsushi's brain to mush. "See? No reasons not to."
"I'm still going to get you an actual present," Atsushi stammers out.
En's lips quirk up higher, and crinkle the edges of his eyes. It probably shouldn't be as distracting as it is. "I know," he says, and continues to smile.
Atsushi sits on the floor and leans against the side of En's bed, schoolwork piled somewhere on En's messy desk, while En washes up in the bathroom. He doesn't get why En needs to wash up, considering they were just in the bath, but when En returns in his pajamas and socks, Atsushi kind of understands.
En kneels in front of Atsushi, and crawls closer, then practically flops onto Atsushi's chest. His arms lift in surprise, but he eventually rests his hands on En's shoulders, touch feather-light and tentative.
En momentarily backs away, just far enough to see Atsushi's face. "Can we stay like this?"
Atsushi smiles, and hums his assent, then watches as En presses his face against his collarbone and wraps his arms around his waist. His skin is warm. "Did something happen?" Atsushi asks, a few moments later, sliding his arms down and across until they fit along the lines of En's back.
En nuzzles further under his chin. "Not really," he mumbles, but Atsushi isn't inclined to believe him. He waits.
For a while, they both stay quiet; the only sound is the rustle of fabric as En adjusts his position, and Atsushi runs a hand over his back. Atsushi's about to ask again when En opens his mouth to comment, "Not something I care about, anyways, since I don't actually care about anything."
So that's what happened.
"You care about a lot of things, En-chan."
En curls up tighter. "Apparently not."
The thing is, En does care about a lot of things, and while he may care too much about some things and too little about others, he always, always, cares. It's just.
Not everyone sees that.
They see apathy and laziness, and slow movements lain in disregard. And then they completely miss the underlying practicality and concern, and relaxed movements weighed by appreciation, which are so close to the surface they're not really underlying at all. And when Atsushi feels particularly selfish, he'll think, let them be blind. Let them be blind, and let Atsushi keep En for himself.
Then he'll find En curled up like he is now, offhand words stabbing his thoughts like knives, and wish everyone could see what he sees, just so En will stop feeling sad.
"You do," Atsushi insists, voice louder than he was expecting.
En doesn't nod, or agree, but he does breathe out a laugh, and that's good enough for now. Then he says, "The floor's uncomfortable. Let's lie on the bed."
It's Atsushi's turn to laugh. "I can't exactly get up while you're on top of me."
"Oh, right." En moves, and Atsushi shivers at the rush of cold. He didn't realize how much body heat they were sharing.
When Atsushi stands up, En is already face down in the middle of the bed, but he politely scoots over so Atsushi can lie down next to him. He proceeds to flop onto Atsushi's chest once more. Atsushi exhales quickly at the sudden weight, then wraps his arms around En's shoulders, as En wraps his back around Atsushi's waist.
His skin is still warm.
"Whoa, Atsushi," En says, and grabs onto his wrist, "Careful."
En pulls him back up to a stand, and Atsushi takes a moment to breathe. His hand is warm on Atsushi's wrist, and instead of pulling away, like Atsushi expects him to, En slides his hand down until their palms fit together, and laces his fingers between Atsushi's own. Atsushi's fingers unconsciously curl into the hold.
"Guess it's still kind of icy," Atsushi comments, and brushes imaginary dirt from his pants. He tells himself he's watching his step, when they start to walk again, and not just bashfully staring at the ground.
En smiles, a bit sideways, and says, "Or maybe you're just clumsy." It takes a moment for Atsushi to process.
"Hey!" he protests, inadvertently tugging En closer to his side. En's smile widens. He doesn't move away. "When did you get so rude?"
"Since I've been hanging out with you." Atsushi huffs, then attempts to swat at En, which proves to be hard when their hands are linked. He gives up, and En moves even closer.
"I'm offended," he says, but he can feel the way his lips pull up at the corners, and the effect is lost.
En stays pressed close to him, bumping shoulders and elbows and hips. Atsushi is practically in the flap of En's jacket – no wonder En complains about the cold, with his jacket unbuttoned like that – and En's head is tipped toward him, blond strands brushing Atsushi's forehead.
It's surprisingly comfortable, like this; Atsushi figures he should feel stuffy or crowded or awkward, but all he feels is warm and content, as they share space like it's scarce; like there isn't half a sidewalk between him and the street; as if two inches, let alone any distance, is already too much to leave between him and En.
And for a moment, he's scared En doesn't feel the same; that En is just being En and fitting wherever he's placed, like water, or the wind. Then En looks down at him, and the moment passes. En is once again En, who fits wherever he's been placed, but only stays where he cares to stay, and smiles when he wants to smile.
He's smiling at Atsushi, now, and Atsushi isn't sure when they stopped walking, but it was probably around the time his feet were glued to the ground, the soles of his shoes melted and sticking to the pavement.
En's gaze is smoldering. His eyes flash, emotions flickering like a flame – maybe fondness, or desire, if Atsushi dares to dream – and then it's gone, and En's back at his side, walking forward, hands still linked.
And Atsushi has no choice but to follow.
A week later, under the warmth of skin and blankets, En leans over and kisses him.
"I wanted to do that on New Year's," he whispers, impossibly close.
Atsushi reaches out and tugs him closer.