Food of Love
When Shuuji agreed to share an apartment with Akira, he was expecting a roommate...albeit one who frequently resembled a five year old in his interests and emotional responses. What he wasn't expecting was a wife.
"You know that you don't have to cook for me," he said when he came home for the fourth day in a row, convenience store meal in hand, only to find that Akira had made dinner for both of them.
"You work all day," Akira pointed out reasonably. "I don't. Of course I should cook for you."
Shuuji frowned at him over his bowl of kitsune udon. "Doesn't it feel a little...weird? Cooking for another guy, like you're..." He trailed off, unable to actually say the words, and willed Akira to understand him anyway.
Akira cocked his head to one side. "Like I'm what, Shuuji?"
"Nothing." Shuuji sighed. "You should get a job. Then we'd both be working all day, and neither of us would have to cook for the other."
"But I like cooking for you," Akira said. "And I don't like to work."
"You've never even tried it. How can you know you don't like it if you've never held a job in your life?"
"I see how Shuuji looks at the end of his workday, and I know I never want to look like that."
Shuuji looked sharply at him, but Akira was obliviously humming to himself as he slurped up a long noodle. Obviously, the words were meant as an observation rather than an insult, so Shuuji just shrugged and let the issue drop. It wasn't as though Akira weren't contributing his fair share, after all; his father had taken back his credit card when Akira graduated from college, but by then Akira had gained access to a trust fund large enough that his share of their rent barely made a dent in the interest. In the end, all Shuuji could really fault him for was being a good friend and roommate, and that sounded ridiculous even in his own head.
"Shuuji," Akira said, poking his head into Shuuji's bedroom and only then knocking on the previously closed door.
"What?" Shuuji asked absently, eyes still on his book.
"I need your help."
Two rapid footfalls and a blur of motion in the corner of his eye were all the warning Shuuji had before Akira landed heavily onto his mattress.
"Look," Akira said, raising one hand. Shuuji followed the line of his arm to the ceiling, but couldn't see anything wrong. "No, here," Akira said, and took hold of Shuuji's chin with his other hand so that he could tilt Shuuji's gaze downwards. "See?"
There was a largish hole at the armpit of his nightshirt, and Shuuji reached out to finger it carefully. "Why are you still wearing this shirt? You're just going to make the hole bigger."
"Can you fix it?"
"Not with you still wearing it," Shuuji said dryly. Akira whipped the shirt off almost before he'd finished speaking and dropped it in Shuuji's lap. "Hand me my sewing kit, would you? It's right there on my desk."
Akira leaned over to grab the sewing kit, couldn't reach, and got out of bed to retrieve it, clambering back in beside Shuuji afterwards.
"I can't promise that this'll look perfect," Shuuji warned him. "You really should have brought it to me earlier. It's a lot easier to mend clothes on the seam, and this hole's already started to tear the fabric."
Akira laughed. "I don't even know what that means, Shuuji. And I don't need it to look perfect, I just want it to not have a hole anymore."
"Well, that I can definitely manage," Shuuji said. He threaded a needle and lined up the fabric as evenly as possible so that he could sew the hole up with quick stitches. Akira's breathing was noisy in Shuuji's ear as he leaned over his shoulder to watch. "There," Shuuji said at last, tying off the end and snipping the thread, then turning the shirt right-side out once again. It looked better than he'd expected, and he smiled as he handed the shirt back to Akira.
"Thanks, Shuuji," Akira said, clutching the shirt to his chest. He kissed Shuuji's cheek with a loud, wet smack, and Shuuji was too taken aback to do anything but stare as Akira darted away, barking his shin against Shuuji's dresser on his way out the door.
A loud "ouch" floated into his room from the hallway, followed by a breathless giggle that cut off with the sound of Akira's bedroom door closing. Several minutes later, Shuuji got out of bed so that he could close his own door again. He paused at the doorway a moment, wondering if he ought to go talk to Akira, and finally dismissed the idea. As long as Akira confined his weirdness to their apartment, there couldn't be anything too objectionable in it.
The very next day, Shuuji opened his lunchbox and felt his eyes widen in horror. The lunch he'd prepared for himself the night before had vanished, replaced by apple slice rabbits and sushi in the shape of hearts and little pigs, all of them--even the hearts--smiling up at him.
"Oooh, it's so cute! Kiritani-kun, is that from your girlfriend?" Yamada asked, much too loudly for his comfort, leaning over his shoulder.
Shuuji made a non-committal noise, which Yamada's friend Shimura apparently took as invitation to say, "She looks so talented! I bet it tastes as good as it looks, doesn't it?"
For a split second, Shuuji contemplated just giving the damned lunchbox to the two of them, since they seemed so enamored with it; anything to stop their overblown praise of Shuuji's "girlfriend" and to take the eyes of an entire cafeteria full of curious coworkers off of him and the interesting scene he'd unwillingly been made a part of. But then they'd think him ungrateful, and it wouldn't be fair to Akira, who really must have put a lot of time and effort into making Shuuji a beautiful lunch.
"Yeah, it's...it's really delicious," he managed. "I'm. Really lucky."
Yamada and Shimura exchanged a half-enchanted, half-triumphant look over his head, as though Shuuji were the hero of a shoujo manga and had just confessed to the heroine in a dramatic final scene. "That's so sweet," and "You must be so happy," they gushed, almost talking on top of each other in their excitement.
Shuuji cringed inwardly, especially when he saw two of his male coworkers whispering about him. Somehow, he hadn't expected adulthood to be quite so much like high school.
Yamada took Shimura by the elbow and smiled brightly at him. "Well, we'd better let you enjoy it then, shouldn't we? It wouldn't do for your girlfriend to find out you were talking to other women instead of eating her hand-made lunch!" They both giggled, and Shuuji gave them a weak smile in response. "See you later, Kiritani-kun."
"See you later," he said to their retreating backs. The rest of the cafeteria was still watching him with interest, and Shuuji stiffened his spine against the desire to slide under his table in mortification.
"Shuuji!" Akira said later that day, before he'd even finished removing his shoes. "Did you like your lunch?"
Shuuji nodded, grimacing slightly at a scuffmark on his left shoe. "Thanks. It was really good. I didn't think you even knew how to prepare a lunchbox."
Akira's meals, while admittedly tasty, tended to be haphazard in terms of their visual appeal.
Akira grinned. "I'm taking a class."
"For cooking. This week we're going to learn how to make daifuku."
"And that's what you do while I'm at work?"
Akira shrugged. "Well, not all day. And the cooking class only meets on Wednesday afternoons. Then there's art class on Mondays and calligraphy class on Thursdays and my book club on Fridays. And cleaning the apartment and playing in the park and writing letters to Nobuta and cooking for Shuuji, and that's what I do while you're at work."
"That's...a lot," Shuuji said, impressed in spite of himself. He hadn't really thought that Akira was lying around the apartment playing video games all day, but he also never would have expected that Akira would go to class voluntarily after graduating college. And calligraphy class? "You should show me your work. For art and calligraphy, I mean."
He had a brief moment to wonder if his request would be unwelcome; Akira wasn't especially shy, after all, so if he hadn't already shown his artwork to Shuuji, that might mean that he didn't want Shuuji to see it. But then Akira beamed at him, and Shuuji figured it wasn't a problem. "There isn't much yet, but I'll show you what I've done so far," Akira warned. "Wait here. I'll be right back!"
After two months of living together, Shuuji thought maybe he'd finally grown accustomed to Akira's strangeness. He wasn't predictable, but neither was he startling. And then he came home early one night to find Akira whispering to the soup.
"What are you doing?" Shuuji asked.
"Telling the soup to be delicious for you," Akira answered promptly.
"Because no one wants to eat soup that isn't delicious."
"No, I meant, why are you talking to the soup at all? It can't hear you."
"Shuuji," Akira said in a reproachful tone. "I always talk to the soup, and it's always delicious. That can't be a coincidence."
"I wouldn't call it a coincidence, exactly," Shuuji hedged, not really in the mood to argue logic with Akira of all people.
"That's what I thought," Akira said happily.
Shuuji opened his mouth to continue the discussion, and Akira popped a spoonful of soup into it. "Well?" he asked.
"Delicious," Shuuji admitted.
Akira grinned into his pot of soup, and Shuuji leaned forward on impulse and brushed a kiss against his cheek. Which would have been strange enough, since he didn't really do that sort of thing, but then Akira turned to stare at him with wide eyes and kiss him on the mouth.
Shuuji stiffened, torn between the desire to leave and pretend this whole thing had never happened and to stay right where he was, and Akira murmured, "Mmm?" into the kiss.
"Yeah, sure, whatever," Shuuji sighed--as much as was possible with his lips pressed to Akira's; he suspected that Akira hadn't caught a word of that--and put his arms around Akira and kissed him back.