Fandom: Natsume Yuujinchou
Pairing: Natori x Natsume
Summary: Natori takes Natsume on a trip, but it's not something Natsume has expected
Prompt: courtship: It took him a while to realise what was happening
Warnings: meagre attempts at humour, cliché overload
A/N: written for springkink
I was half-dead when I posted it yesterday, so I haven't even added proper A/N. Oops? ^^"
I really want to thank my beta for doing such a good job on such a short notice. This fic wouldn't have been even worth reading without her input.
It took him a while to realise what was happening. At first he was just annoyed at the actor who kept appearing out of thin air, dazzling roses, sparkles and all. He dragged Natsume wherever Natori wanted -- tea houses mostly, or an occasional walk. It wasn't that Natsume didn't understand the need to have someone to talk to, someone who could see the same things he could, but still... Natori Shuuichi was hard to get along with.
"What are you thinking about?" Natori smiled, cocking his head slightly, and Natsume could swear he saw flowers all around him. If that wasn't something to grate on a person's nerves, Natsume didn't know what was.
"I'm sorry, my mind wandered for a moment," he answered, embarrassed. It wasn't that Natori was a bad person, he was just hard to understand at times.
Natori laughed and ruffled Natsume's hair, leaning in.
"Don't worry, you probably have a lot on your mind," he said in a low tone, his hand still on Natsume's head. "But you can share your thoughts with me if you want to," he added with another smile.
Natsume leaned away, his cheeks heating.
"Are you sure you should do something like that in public?" he asked, sneaking a look around. They were seated in the same tea house where Natori had once invited Natsume to the hot springs. They were even at the same table. Not that Natsume tried to consciously remember these things....
"Would you prefer I do it in private?" Natori replied in what seemed like an affectionate manner. There was something about it though that made Natsume uncomfortable.
"I'd prefer if you didn't do it at all," he mumbled. This moment for instance. Didn't Natori have a girl, or a dozen, to use this tone on? What was the point of getting this close to a high school boy?
"Now I'm wounded," Natori said with an exaggeratedly sad expression, and Natsume sighed inwardly. It was moments like this when he was sure Natori was making fun of him, if only Natsume could understand why.
"And here I was thinking of inviting you on a trip," Natori continued.
"Natsume! Don't even think of agreeing!" Natsume turned toward the voice, and jumped at the sight of Nyanko-sensei plastered against the window. "This kid is probably planning something again!" The cat scratched at the window, and the sound made both humans cringe.
"Please, sir! Take your cat off the window!" A waitress was at their table in less than a moment, and Natsume could only apologise and retreat.
"You couldn't not get me in trouble, could you?" he scolded as soon as he was outside, but Nyanko-sensei only huffed in answer.
"That kid is taking advantage of you, and I don't like it when my food is played with," the cat said.
"He just wants a friend, as do I," Natsume replied. "He can be weird about it, and I don't agree with everything he does, but he doesn't mean anything bad by it." If only he could figure out where the words were coming from. Natsume believed what he was saying, but what was this urge to defend the person he'd been annoyed with only moments ago?
"Do what you want, but remember that I warned you," the cat sniffed and sauntered away, head held high.
Natsume sighed, looking at the retreating youkai's back, then jumped when a hand landed on his shoulder.
"Did you miss me?" a voice said into his ear, and Natsume felt the corner of his eye twitching. What had he been thinking, defending this irritating, unpredictable...?
"Natori-san, would you, please, stop it?" he asked, turning his head to look at the older man's smiling face.
Natori didn't even blink, continuing on as if Natsume hadn't said anything. "I'm glad I caught you before you could run away," he said, still too close for Natsume's comfort. "It certainly took more time than usual."
Natsume blinked, thinking. What could...? But there could be only one thing that could keep Natori inside the tea house. Natsume hadn't even taken notice of the fact that Natori had been paying for him all this time. What could the older man think of him after this?
"I'm sorry, I haven't even thanked you," Natsume said, embarrassed, and reached into his bag, if only to hide his eyes, but Natori's hand stopped his.
"It's alright, it's alright! I don't mind at all." He beamed, and there was that damn sparkling aura again. And for once Natsume couldn't bring himself to blame Natori for his behaviour. "Anyway," Natori continued, "I hope you wouldn't mind spending a weekend in Tokyo. What do you say?"
Natsume narrowed his eyes. He did have some reservations about this offer, considering their previous history, but he guessed it wouldn't be fair to deny Natori the benefit of the doubt.
"Is it another job?" he said.
"No, no, nothing like that!" Natori waved his hands, releasing Natsume from his clutches in the process. "It wasn't nice of me to deceive you like that, so I wanted to apologise. And you won't have to worry about youkai this time, because my home is well warded against them."
"Your home?" Natsume asked, surprised. Why would Natori want to bring him home? He could understand if Natori wanted to take a break -- a real one that is. He would even understand if Natori didn't mind his company, but what could be the purpose of bringing Natsume to his house?
"Well, it would be a waste for you to stay in a hotel when I have so many empty rooms. So, then it's settled." Natori clapped his hands together with that infuriatingly cheerful smile, and Natsume couldn't do anything but sigh in defeat. If there was something to worry about, and he was almost sure there was, he'd just have to wait and find it out later.
Natsume looked at his watch as he neared the train station. He was a little late, but this time it didn't have anything to do with youkai, as unlikely as it was. Or rather not in the usual way. It seemed that Nyanko-sensei had raided the kitchen during the night, so Touko had to remake the bentos she insisted Natsume take for himself and Natori. No matter how many times he told her it wasn't necessary, she didn't have the slightest intention of listening, completely smitten with the actor's gentlemanly antics. And it wasn't only her. Even Nyanko-sensei finally agreed to let Natsume go, bribed by the promise of good plum wine, and now was a dead weight in Natsume's bag, napping happily after his 'frugal' meal.
Hurrying along, Natsume spotted Natori at the platform, looking around, Hiiragi at his side. It was she who noticed Natsume and pointed it out to her master. Natori beamed and waved as soon as their eyes met, and Natsume felt his face getting even hotter. He added speed to his steps, almost crashing into an elderly lady with a large suitcase and mumbling a hurried apology as he ran off.
As he approached, Natsume had to take a moment to catch his breath, his hands on his knees, his bag almost slipping from his shoulder.
"Sorry, I'm late," he said finally, still panting.
"Don't worry, we still have twenty minutes before the train leaves." Natori smiled at him, and for a moment sun caught on his glasses.
It was true that they'd agreed to meet half an hour before the departure time, which was a good idea now that Natsume was thinking about it. He took his time getting his breathing under control and drank the juice Natori bought for him, too used to such gestures to really take notice of it anymore.
Most of the trip was peaceful. Nyanko-sensei napped on Natsume's shoulders or tried to fish the food out of Natsume's bag, and Natsume looked out of the window, watching the scenery running by, and talked to Natori about nothing in particular. It was nice talking to him -- even if Natsume had Tanuma and the others now, he still appreciated normal human conversation, especially if his counterpart understood what he was talking about when ordinary people would be confused or call him a liar. It gave him a feeling that he belonged here. It was something he hadn't really known before coming to live with the Fujiwaras and meeting his friends, both human and youkai.
Hiiragi had been strangely quiet since his arrival to the train station. She wasn't a talkative youkai to begin with, but for some reason it seemed like she was trying to stay out of the way, which was confusing. Had anything happened between her and Natori? It didn't seem like they had had a fight -- for one thing, Natori was in a particularly good mood, and Hiiragi herself didn't look discontent (not that it was easy to tell with her mask). She was just... distant. Or considerate, even if Natsume couldn't think of a reason for her to be. When he asked her, subtly, so that the other passengers wouldn't notice anything strange, she told him that she was enjoying the scenery and turned towards a window, leaving no room for further discussion. Still, as confusing as her behaviour was, Natsume decided to leave her alone for the moment. Partly because she didn't sound worried or angry, so it shouldn't be something really bad, and partly because of Nyanko-sensei's irritated mutters and glaring. Natsume couldn't make out what exactly the cat was saying, except for something about 'match', which should have explained it, he thought. Still, the situation overall was nice and calming, at least until the bento incident.
Natori made a happy sound as he took the first bite of his food, and Natsume couldn't help the small smile appearing on his face. He had been sure that the actor was used to more refined dishes, but it seemed like he was an ordinary human after all, not to mention Natsume felt a certain sense of pride that Touko-san's cooking was appreciated. She did put a lot of work into their lunches.
Noticing Natsume peaking at him, Natori changed gears in less than a second.
"Do you want to try it?" he asked, holding his chopsticks with a cutely sliced piece of sausage in front of Natsume's face.
"I have the same bento as you," Natsume answered, turning away, slightly embarrassed at being caught, and more so at the fact that Natori was treating him as a child again. What was with that indulging smile anyway?
"Oh, come on!" Natori pouted at him. "Say 'aah'!"
The sausage drew dangerously close to Natsume's nose, and he pushed the chopsticks away, a vein throbbing on his forehead. The offending piece of food flew away and landed on the floor, followed by Nyanko-sensei who leaped across the aisle with surprising dexterity to catch his 'prey'.
"What a waste..." Natori looked at the scene with a sad expression, a moment before Nyanko-sensei's irritated "what are you doing, idiots!" Though the cat was thoroughly ignored.
"Please, stop it, Natori-san!" Natsume burst out and turned towards the window, deciding to ignore Natori for the rest of the trip.
The man was just grating on his nerves. He wasn't that much older than Natsume, so what was with that attitude? Natsume wasn't his younger relative, so Natori's actions were really out of place. Weren't they?
Natori threw several weird glances his way, but thankfully didn't try anything else.
When they were finally off the train, Natsume stretched blissfully. Even he didn't like sitting for so long, especially with a particularly chubby cat curled around his shoulders, so he could imagine what it was like for older people. He sneaked a glance at Natori. If the older man insisted on treating him like a child, Natsume could pay him back in a way. It wasn't very mature of him, but, well... he deserved to have some fun at Natori's expense, too.
"Aren't you stiff? Your back should be killing you after such a long ride. Want me to carry your bags?" he asked innocently, and smiled inwardly at the surprised look Natori gave him in response. But a moment later his face was split by a dangerously sparkly grin.
"Now that you mention it," Natori said in fake thoughtfulness, "I wouldn't mind you giving me a rub when we get home." He beamed, and Natsume felt his cheeks heating. What kind of response was that? Wasn't Natori supposed to protest that he wasn't old? But, thinking back, Natsume realised that his his phrasing could be interpreted in... several ways. Still, it didn't mean Natori should have played along, he wasn't interested in Natsume that way -- he couldn't have been -- and how did he end up on this train of thought anyway? Appalled by his own brain, Natsume trailed after Natori, missing a lamppost only because Hiiragi jerked him aside at the last moment. And Natori's snicker didn't help at all.
A few minutes later they were in a car park, and Natori looked around, humming.
"It should be... Ah, here it is!" And with that they made their way to an expensive looking car.
Honestly, Natsume shouldn't have been surprised, considering Natori's day job, but still it was something he wasn't used to. Still deep in thought, he didn't notice a door being opened for him, and jerked at Natori's voice over his ear.
"Please, My Lady," Natori said, and it was impossible to miss the smirk in his voice.
"You should talk that way to a girl," Natsume mumbled as he got into the car, his face heating all over again. Was it revenge for his earlier fail of a jibe?
Nyanko-sensei climbed in after him, awkwardly trying to fit in Natsume's lap before Natsume helped him get to the back seat.
Natsume thought that Natori wasn't going to answer when he merely closed the passenger side door and went around the car to take the driver's seat, but as soon as he was settled, he said lightly:
"My manager wouldn't let me. And besides, I don't want to." He smiled at Natsume before adjusting the rear view mirror and starting the engine.
Natsume honestly didn't know what to make of it. It looked like Natori was... flirting with him? But surely it couldn't be. The man joked a lot, so maybe his teasing had just progressed to the new level. Because, what reason should he have to flirt with Natsume? The thought should have been more disturbing than it was, but stealing a peek at Natori's face, who was preoccupied with the road, Natsume wondered what he would do if Natori did look at him like that. It wasn't likely, but.... All of the small things Natori had been doing -- treating him to meals, taking him out, even the mere fact that he chose to spend his days off with Natsume, in the middle of nowhere, instead of having fun in the city. He was probably thinking too much, Natsume decided. There was no reason for Natori to think of him as more than a boy with abilities similar to Natori's own. And why was Natsume disappointed by this thought? Was there a chance that he wanted Natori to see him as...?
Deciding that he was probably more tired than he thought if he could even think something like that, Natsume looked out of the window. The immediate surroundings of the station gave way to busy streets, setting sun reflecting off the windows of tall office buildings, like crudely shaped jewels, and Natsume wondered idly what it would be like to work in one of these boxes. Probably somewhat similar to an ant farm he decided.
He didn't notice when he fell asleep, but he woke with the sensation of someone’s breath tickling his ear.
"Wake up, Natsume-kun," Natori murmured. "Or should I kiss you?"
His mind took a moment to comprehend the words, but when he did, he jerked up, face burning, and something collided with the side of his head.
"I should have predicted that." Natori sounded strange, and Natsume apologised when he saw the man rubbing a red spot on his face.
As soon as they were in, Nyanko-sensei wandered off to explore, and a few minutes later the sounds of his squabble with Urihime could be heard all over the house, making Natsume thoroughly ashamed for his companion's behaviour. Still, Natori only smiled and showed Natsume to his room, promising to pacify the cat with alcohol.
Natsume sighed, looking himself over in a mirror. For some reason he felt self-conscious in this setting, maybe because the Natori family house was much more impressive than he had expected -- it was hard to believe that something this big could fit in a busy city like Tokyo -- the traditional house with a garden large enough to be considered an estate, and the front gates almost completely covered by charms, spells and protective wards. He didn't want to think that the reason was his host. Just thinking about it made him blush. He'd always thought Natori treated him like a child, but with the latest 'development' in the older man's antics, Natsume wasn't so sure anymore. Still, what reason would Natori have to tease Natsume like that? He groaned, frustrated.
"Please, don't be too harsh with Master," a voice said right behind him, and Natsume jumped and spun around to find Hiiragi standing calmly in his appointed room.
"Don't scare me like that!" Natsume said, startled.
"You're too oblivious," the youkai said.
"Still, it's not a reason to sneak up on me," he complained.
Hiiragi just stared at him for a whole minute, and when Natsume was ready to turn away, unnerved, she finally continued.
"Natori-san doesn't mean anything bad, so don't be angry with him. He's just not used to expressing himself honestly."
Which was true for Natsume himself, too, he guessed. He'd spent so much time hiding his abilities that he didn't know how to talk to someone anymore. Still, it didn't explain the way Natori had chosen to express his... affection? It wasn't like Natsume was a girl, so there was no reason for Natori to be interested in him. Natsume shook his head when he felt his cheeks burning.
Or was Natsume really hoping that Natori would look at him as a prospective love interest? It wasn't something Natsume had ever seriously thought about, but why was his stomach doing this flip?
Still thinking what all of it could mean, he walked into the dining room and nearly collided with Natori who was on the other side of the door and obviously going to walk out.
"Ah, here you are," Natori said. "I thought you got lost and was going to look for you. Your face is all red. Are you alright, Natsume-kun? Do you have a fever?" Natori's forehead touched his, and Natsume held his breath, waiting for... something. Which was ridiculous.
"I'm alright," he mumbled, berating himself mentally, and pushed past Natori into the room, settling at the table.
"If you're sure." Natori didn't sound very convinced as he settled opposite Natsume, looking him over carefully. "I could always call a doctor. Or..." There was that annoying grin again, and Natori put his elbows on the table to lean closer to Natsume. "I could always nurse you myself. Keep you company at night--"
"Would you, please, stop it, Natori-san!" Natsume didn't even fully understand why he burst out like that, but the teasing was simply too much. "Why do you keep making fun of me?"
Natori stopped dead, his mouth open, but after a moment he started laughing. Natsume was ready to bolt.
"No, no, please, wait," Natori managed, struggling to rein in his mirth. "So that's what you thought." He sighed, swallowing the last chuckles. "I'm sorry, I should have made myself clear."
Natsume blinked at him, confused.
"And here I thought you were just being cold on purpose," Natori continued, and Natsume's brain short-circuited.
"I... What?" he managed intelligently.
Natori snickered at his dumbfounded expression before reaching across the table to take Natsume's hand. He caressed the knuckles with his thumb.
"I really like you, Natsume-kun," Natori said with a smile a lot gentler than his usual grin. "And I'm really sorry for being so tactless before and making you misunderstand." He tugged at the hand in his, bringing it closer to his face, and planted a kiss on Natsume's fingers, making his intentions clear. "So, what's your answer?"
Natsume couldn't think of a word to say. If before he had nothing but vague suspicions, now there was no doubt what Natori had in mind, and as strange as it was, the idea wasn't unpleasant. He'd never been interested in a man before -- or a girl for that matter. But Natori's hand didn't feel wrong around his own, and there were butterflies fluttering in his stomach. So, maybe, it wasn't a bad thing?
His throat still refused to work properly, so Natsume just nodded with a small smile and squeezed Natori's hand, and at the look of Natori's answering smile the feeling in his stomach spread out, warming him.
It was much later, and the table was already cleared when Natsume was walking back to his room, Natori right behind him. Natsume yawned, covering his mouth with a hand.
"Are you tired?" Natori asked, stepping beside him.
"I'm sorry," Natsume answered with a small smile. He was sure he'd fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, but he wanted to spend more time with Natori, as irrational as it was -- they still had a whole day before they had to go back.
"It's okay. Rest well." Natori took Natsume's hand and gave it a light squeeze. "I have a lot plans for tomorrow, so you'll need your energy." His smile was as suggestive as ever, but now it wasn't as irritating as before.
They stopped at Natsume's door.
"Then I'm going to rest," Natsume said, looking up at Natori's face, waiting. He wasn't even sure for what.
"You do that," the older man answered, then his eyes twinkled alarmingly. "As for my earlier offer..." he said, making a nod at the door.
Natsume frowned, trying to remember what Natori was talking about, then turned bright red.
"Are you... do you... w-want to..." he stammered.
"I wouldn't try anything on the first date," he said, and if possible, it made Natsume even more embarrassed. "I just want to spend some time with you." He opened his mouth as if to say something more, but then obviously swallowed the words. Though he didn't have to say anything with that sly expression on his face.
"Natori-san..." Natsume muttered, looking at his feet.
"Sorry, sorry." Though Natori sounded anything but. "So then." He put a finger under Natsume's chin to lift his face. "Good night, Natsume-kun," he murmured and leaned in to touch his lips to Natsume's.
Natsume didn't know how to respond or where to put his hands, so he just stood there, letting Natori kiss him, his lips moving against Natsume's, soft and warm, and natural. Natsume sighed and finally let himself relax, leaning into Natori, his body heat comforting even through layers of clothing.
Natori's put his hand on Natsume's head, raking through his hair, and it felt nice, warm, human. Pressing against it, Natsume heard a purring sound, and was horrified when he realised that it he had been the one who’d made it. His eyes snapped open (when did he close them?), and he pulled away, searching Natori's face warily. Which looked nothing but amused.
"Sleep well, Natsume-kun," he said and, after ruffling Natsume's hair, walked away, humming happily.
Natsume stood where he was for a couple more minutes, trying to get his breathing under control and sure that he could light a fire with his face. He didn't regret his decision, but it wasn't going to be easy.