Title: Plus One

Pairing: Yamamoto/Gokudera (8059)

Genre: Romance/Humor

Disclaimer: I do not own the copyrights to these characters.

Summary: Behind the wheel and wide awake.


Plus One

Hey, this is the future, and we don't grow up like that.

-x-

When Yamamoto had walked into the base and politely asked Gokudera if he could spare the afternoon to accompany him on some very important personal business, Gokudera had taken one look at his expression of grim resignation, the unforgiving set of his broad shoulders, and felt cold dread settle into the seat of his stomach. He'd set aside the unfinished formulas for sistema C.A.I. v2.0, and started slotting heavy-duty dynamites into his weapon holster, slipping a Beretta into his jacket just in case.

Not a single word was uttered in the car. Yamamoto seemed calm if strangely tight-lipped the entire ride, and as Gokudera stared at the way his long brown fingers gripped the steering wheel, serene but intent, he couldn't help wondering what sort of trouble the idiot could possibly have gotten himself in this time—whether it would end up inconveniencing the Family in any way.

Then he followed Yamamoto into the banquet room of the largest hotel in town, and found himself face to face with an honest-to-God champagne fountain.

All around him, people of various ages were chattering pleasantly, wearing their Sunday best and holding identical flute glasses of aforementioned bubbly liquid. This atmosphere of unified self-congratulatory smugness could only mean one thing.

"What the hell?" he said, grabbing Yamamoto's arm to get his attention. "We're at a wedding reception."

He glanced around incredulously, half-expecting to see a hired Yakuza gunman popping out of the elaborate five-layer cake with a blaring Uzi, and was invariably disappointed.

Yamamoto nodded calmly. Too calmly. "You're my plus one," he said, as if that explained everything.

"Have you finally sustained permanent brain damage from all those injuries to the head?" Gokudera demanded. He gestured at the room at large. "We're not dressed for the occasion!"

Yamamoto just stared at him. Raising an eyebrow, he gave their appearances a quick once-over. Black suits, black ties, black leather shoes—and diamante skull cufflinks from Vivienne Westwood, in Gokudera's case. He bit back a curse. There were a very limited number of occupations where the day-to-day attire could also pass for formal wear; professional mafioso just had to happen to be one of them.

Curiously, he'd never once regretted his career choice until this very moment.

"Why didn't you tell me this is where we were heading?" Gokudera asked, never one to give up without a fight.

Yamamoto shrugged. "You wouldn't have come if I had," he said simply.

This was not only true, but also distressingly telling of Yamamoto's hitherto undiscovered capacity for underhanded trickery. Gokudera felt flabbergasted—it might take an extensive period spent in recuperation before he could reconcile his beliefs in the world with this new unsettling discovery. Yes, a very long, very therapeutic recuperation in a remote location far from civilization and dirty lying baseball fanatics who lied. He should probably see to those arrangements immediately.

Unfortunately, Gokudera had no time to make his intention known, as it was at this moment that a hulking snow beast in a lacy white veil came barreling into his field of view, dragging Yamamoto into an enthusiastic, satin-filled embrace, shouting, "Takeshi-kun, you made it," loud enough to perforate eardrums.

-x-

The introduction was short, and disproportionally painful.

Admittedly, it would have gone exponentially worse had Yamamoto not disentangled himself in time to slide his body in front of Gokudera, shielding from view his alarmed expression and the hand grenade he had gone for on instinct, finger looped hastily into the ring. Mathematical calculations of social awkwardness mattered little in light of what followed, however:

Yamamoto said, "Congratulations, Midori-san!" and allowed himself to be reeled back into a hug, and Gokudera shelved his incredulity long enough to shove the grenade back into its rightful place inside his jacket. Then Yamamoto was saying things like, "Nice reception," and, "One of my oldest friends," while the snow beast said, "RSVP date!" and Gokudera could no longer lie to himself that he was being tailed by an assassin with a laser-scope semiautomatic and would at any moment now be put out of his misery.

The snow beast, whose human alias was Nakamura Midori, was giggly and handsy and not at all bride-like and bashful—possibly because she had no idea how close she'd come to getting turned into pink mist just now. Her dress matched her cake, and her huge smile matched her feverish, upbeat tone when she shook his hand vigorously and said, "Oh wow, it's so great to finally meet you, mythical person. Nobody even believed you were real."

Which… meant what, exactly?

He turned to Yamamoto in hopes of an answer, only to find that he had disappeared. There was nothing for it but to ask Snow Beast to clarify herself, but that course of action was somewhat impaired by the fact that in the moment his gaze had been averted, she too had vanished. This seemed like a blessing for the five seconds it took Gokudera to realize that he was now alone in the reception hall of the Hilton-Marriott-Whatever, surrounded by strangers, and that whoever had planned this wedding had apparently booked the worst DJ in the world, because most of the adults in the room were currently doing the fucking Macarena.

A passing caterer handed him a flute of champagne.

-x-

On an intellectual level, Gokudera knew that herd mentality was the cornerstone of civilized society, but when it came down to it, he still could not figure out why human beings, who unlike species of mollusks and tree shrews probably possessed the capacity for reasoning and abstract thought, would willingly submit themselves to such a gross display of pretension, exhibitionism, and bad taste.

The pretension was really the worst part, and it wasn't just that divorce rate in Japan was at an all-time high. Gokudera distinctly remembered being six years old and some manner of Catholic, and he knew for a fact that even when people didn't physically separate, there was nothing stopping them from growing bitter and hateful and waging wars of mutual attrition within the loving boundaries of marriage instead. He knew this with the same certainty that he knew singing in Latin couldn't save your soul, and every lavish party he had ever been coerced into attending as a kid had only served to further compound this fact. What rendered this celebration of commitment an outright joke wasn't the byproducts, but the bad faith people insisted on perpetuating as they dove headlong into the venture.

Granted, his upbringing had been completely fucked up, and the only real father figure he had ever sort of acknowledged regularly eschewed monogamy in the pursuit of the next top venereal disease, so it was possible he was biased about these things.

He managed to stagger out from the center of a circle made up of chubby children dressed to the gills in fashion in the categories of Bad, Worse, Other, and what could be charitably described as seizure-inducing. They were drinking a bright green liquid that promised sticky hands and hyperactivity. Some had tried going for his pockets—if any sugary thumbprint had ended up on the Beretta he would have had to do the right thing and avenge her honor, and then use the last bullet on himself before any of it could come back to the Family.

There was a lull in the (terrible) music, and the path to the exit was suddenly, blessedly clear before him.

"Where are you going?"

It was obviously too much to ask that just for once life be on his side, he thought, as Yamamoto reappeared at his elbow with a smile on his face. As enraging as the situation was, it would probably have seemed cowardly to sneak out as he had planned, and this realization blindsided him with enough self-loathing that he failed to notice the accruing crowd around Yamamoto—and incidentally, himself.

What kind of unrefined swine asked questions like, "Is that your natural hair color?" anyway?

It was unsurprising that the situation continued to deteriorate rapidly from there. He was getting a little tired of being glared at by every single person present ages five and up, and a lot tired of Yamamoto making up increasingly nonsensical excuses for his various antisocial behaviors—"It's a rare medical condition: his body processes nicotine instead of oxygen!"—while all the other guests stared in horror and gave the both of them a berth the size of the Taiwan Strait.

"Who the hell are these people anyway?" he hissed at Yamamoto in a moment of brief respite. "Why do they all seem to know you?"

"They do know me," Yamamoto said, and if he didn't stop smiling soon Gokudera was going to throw the champagne glass at his head. "Most of them are people from our neighborhood—didn't I tell you that Midori-san lives next door from us? We've known each other forever."

So that was how it stood, Gokudera seethed. He did some quick calculation in his head, and realized that simply to leave constituted a form of defeat. No, what he had to do was take Yamamoto on his own turf, turn the table on him. Luckily, certain recent events provided him with just the method to do this.

-x-

The men's room in the hotel was the size of his first apartment, and had fucking Vivaldi piped in via the sound system, which just made Gokudera hate Japan a little bit. He was however thankful that the room was completely empty at that moment, as it meant that there was no one to witness him push Yamamoto into a stall and barrel in after him, locking the door behind them with a click.

"Hey, what--" Yamamoto said, but that was as far as he managed to get before Gokudera kissed him, working his tie loose with one hand. He started out fast, then pulled back and went at it more slowly, tongue teasing, avoiding the scrape of teeth. The stall was narrow and extremely cramped, but he had managed to back Yamamoto into the far wall and squeezed himself in after as well. The side of his knee banged against the toilet, and this was all kinds of ridiculous, illegal and desperate, and God, the noise.

Anyone could walk in, anyone could hear them in here, could catch them in the act, and that thought aroused him way more than it should.

He could tell that Yamamoto was surprised, after the initial wide-eyed reaction he just went along with it, fingers clamping onto Gokudera's shoulder, a rough palm at the small of his back. He was so predictable, starting with the first argument they'd had that had somehow ended in anal sex instead of the usual accusatory silence, ending with right now. Gokudera was certain that he hadn't been the one to initiate that first encounter, but of the other five that had come after it, he couldn't be so sure. It wasn't an affair, or a relationship, it wasn't much of anything, so naturally there couldn't be any rules.

None of which explained why they were currently jammed into a corner of the men's room, gasping and slamming into each other, now and again pressed chest to chest, one misplaced foot away from falling into the goddamn toilet. He couldn't possibly hate weddings this much—this must be some kind of psychological complex. They'd made him attend too many ceremonies as a kid and now he was broken, like anyone gave a damn about churches and commitment at the age of six anyway.

At six he'd just discovered Martin Scorsese and wanted to shave his hair into a Mohawk and run away to New York to become a cab driver, at six he'd had his first brush with that distinctly male pipe dream of freedom that'd never really gone away: that with four wheels, an engine, and the road before you, there would be nothing to hold you back, you could be a risk-taker, a bone-breaker.

He'd worked his way up to Raging Bull, and next on the list had been Goodfellas, but by then he had started living with Shamal, who didn't own anything except a worryingly accomplished collection of French snuff films, so that had been that for any Holly Golightly-esque aspirations.

And why the fuck was he thinking about something like that at a time like this?

Presently, Yamamoto gave a sort-of growl, a throaty sound pressed into the side of Gokudera neck, vibrating deep. He was moving—Gokudera suddenly found himself slammed back first into the metal partition, and immediately those bruising lips were back on his skin, slick with saliva, greedily kissing the sensitive juncture of neck and shoulder. Hints of teeth and the nascent possibility of bruises, and Gokudera felt his fingers scrabbling desperately at Yamamoto's back, grabbing a fistful of his cheap jacket, dragging him in closer. He smelled different, somehow, like something Gokudera was familiar with but unaccustomed to finding on Yamamoto—but he was a little too occupied at the moment to figure out what it might be.

He ground their hips together, once, twice, and smirked when he felt the clear outline of Yamamoto's erection against him. It was time.

He craned his neck, pressed his mouth to Yamamoto's ear, said in a low whisper, "Do you want to get out of here?"

Sure, a part of him died a little inside at that—Marty would be so, so disappointed—but clichés worked and it had to be done.

For a moment, Yamamoto didn't reply—he seemed to have stopped moving entirely, wrapped around Gokudera in a frozen embrace. Then he let go, and took a step backward, and Gokudera's triumphant smirk had barely crawled onto his face when Yamamoto said, "Not right now. Maybe another time?"

What?

His face was still only ten inches away from Gokudera's, so it wasn't possible that he'd misheard, but the next thing he knew, Yamamoto was redoing Gokudera's tie and rearranging his collars, patting his hair back into place. He cocked his head, gave Gokudera an appraising look, and said, "Looks about right." His face was unreadable. "I don't think anyone's out there right now, so let me go out first, and after a couple of minutes, you follow, okay?"

And without a further word, he unlocked the door, stepped out, and was gone.

Still slumped against the stall's partition, with the rousing phrases of Spring's Allegro sloshing around in his head, Gokudera decided he was having an out-of-body experience. He regained consciousness in time to realize that, not only had he just been turned down for—there was no other word for it—a booty call, but that his hard-on apparently didn't get the message.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," he muttered, and resisted the urge to punch the wall.

-x-

It was only with the help of his standard prayer—"The Tenth, who art in headquarters, hallowed be thy name..."— that Gokudera made himself stumble back out into the reception hall, where the obnoxious party was still in full swing. He cautiously searched for Yamamoto in the crowd, and insultingly, found him almost right away: on the dance floor, arm in arm with the snow beast. They were fumbling their way through a clumsy quickstep, laughing in synchronization, and any moment now Yamamoto was going to break her toes, a tragedy Gokudera decided he didn't have to stick around to witness.

There was a tug at the edge of his jacket. He turned to find a young pudgy girl in black Mary-Janes and a pink pinafore-style party dress staring up at him intently through round spectacles. "Dance," she demanded, patting his leg. Her hand, he noticed belatedly, was green and decidedly sticky.

"Uh, sorry," he said, horrified. "Can't. I have—a medical condition."

The five-year-old continued to stare at him, apparently unmoved. "Dance," she insisted, but was momentarily distracted by a passing pastry cart. Gokudera fled.

He made a beeline for the open bar, hoping to augment his testicular fortitude with some numbing alcoholic substance.

There, he encountered a very familiar face.

For reasons Gokudera had long given up understanding, adults still managed to trigger his latent inferiority complex, even though he too had welcomed his coming of age nearly two years ago.

"Oyaji," he began contritely. "Did the baseball nu—did Yamamoto bring you along as his plus one?"

"As if he'd dare," snorted Yamamoto Tsuyoshi, tugging at the heavily starched collar of his dress shirt like it was rapidly obstructing his airway. He shrugged uncomfortably in his old, ill-fitted suit, and something about that mannerism told Gokudera the man was not his usual easy-going self. "Midori's old man blindsided me with an invitation when I was down at the corner store buying sugar the other day."

He flicked a withering glare in the direction of the snow beast, who was now spinning around on the dance floor on the arm of her presumable father, the Lawson ambusher. They were fox-trotting out of step, Gokudera noted with disdain. Didn't she have a husband to dance with—hadn't they just married?

"That smug bastard Nakamura," Tsuyoshi went on, making a sour face. "He knows perfectly well it hurts my business to close up shop on a Saturday afternoon. Not as if he cares that salmon's out of season and I already had an extra large order put in for this week. Inconsiderate jerks, do they think other people have nothing better to do on their Saturday than watching them carry on?"

Gokudera couldn't have agreed more with this sentiment. Snow Beast and her tacky, tacky father were certainly to blame for his ruined Saturday. Yamamoto's father gazed back at him with approval.

Somehow, this ended with the two of them making off with a considerable amount of alcohol from the open bar and hiding in a nearby broom closet to consume said liquor.

-x-

Tsuyoshi lost no time in losing his necktie and unbuttoning his shirt. He sat splay-legged with his back comfortably to a wall, knocking back sake like the jaded, often suicidal salary men typically stereotyped in western depictions of contemporary Japanese society. Gokudera went for the Campari.

There was a long silence, interrupted only by the clicks of their throats in swallow. Then, Tsuyoshi suddenly looked up and gave Gokudera a red-eyed stare over the rim of his bottle. "It's not that I can blame Nakamura or anything. He's only got the one girl, and she's always been, I don't know, like his sun and moon. Any parent would be proud on their kid's big day, if they should be so lucky."

"Sure," Gokudera replied, but inside, he was disquieted, for no reason he could discern.

Tsuyoshi 's gaze hadn't left his face, and now he was narrowing his eyes, seemingly in scrutiny. "You're a good-looking kid," he said strangely. "Got any siblings?"

"Just a sister," Gokudera said warily, and—seeing the man's tentatively hopeful gaze—quickly added, "She's engaged." And criminally insane, but there was no point in alarming the old man any more than was necessary.

"Oh well," Tsuyoshi returned, shrugging in—disappointment? "It was worth a shot. And you know, Midori and Takeshi were always good friends. That girl was such a tomboy growing up. I remember they were skipping chores to go off and play catch together. Time was, I would have thought… well, it doesn't matter now."

It was probably a good thing the closet was so dimly lit, Gokudera would reflect morosely later, because it prevented Yamamoto's father from catching the unattractive shade of dark red that had taken over his complexion—he wasn't Asian enough to flush that quickly. He tried to distract himself with the bottle, but wasn't surprised to find that the bitter cordial didn't chase away his feeling of utter shittiness.

At times like this, Gokudera couldn't help wondering how Yamamoto did it, and kept on doing it, keeping up appearances through all these years. Yamamoto and his father were a puzzle, but the thing was that Gokudera had seen the future, or at least one possibility of it, and he couldn't figure out how Yamamoto could stand to go on with it at all, knowing the risks, knowing all along what was truly at stake. It was different with Tsuna, and even with Gokudera, to whom family was a non-issue. For him, there was no family, but only Family, and sure, there was Bianchi, but she was Bianchi and he had a medically valid reason to keep her at a distance, so.

He'd long given up trying to survive as a unit of one, but once upon a time, that was all he had known. Long before learning his limits brutally in the woods of a Namimori that may never exist, long before Japan, he had been a thirteen-year-old, rawboned and sullen-eyed, living everyday to the urgings of a heart that rang in ship's bell time. As hard as it'd been, there was at least one thing he appreciated about that time: the simplicity.

So what he really wanted to do in this moment, what he wanted was to lay it out bare, to warn Yamamoto Tsuyoshi that he didn't want to have anything to do with Gokudera or any members of his family, really. If he knew what was actually going on he wouldn't be here drinking with Gokudera at all—no, if he wanted that big day, a wedding reception in the biggest hotel in town, if he wanted that he'd be grabbing his precious son, the sun and the moon in his sky, and dragging him as far from Gokudera as possible while the dragging was still good, and who knew, maybe it was already too late.

Because even though it had started out as an experiment—something without rules—the terms were still being redefined every day, and Gokudera realized that he had no guarantees to make. He was, as always, empty handed.

"He's my son, you know," Tsuyoshi said wanderingly. He was straying dangerously close to drunken rambling territory, as all proud Asian fathers tended to do after consuming roughly their weight in alcohol. "My son does whatever he wants. I did everything I could for that boy—if he still can't manage to make himself happy, what the hell am I supposed to do about it?"

"What if he never marries?" Gokudera said in panic, more than a little inebriated himself and made stupid as a result. "What if all he wants out of life is—I don't know—to drive a cab and make awful fashion choices? What if he ends up disappointing you in every way?"

Tsuyoshi stared at him, and then roared with laughter. "I really doubt that," he said. For a moment, all the feet of crow seemed to blend together, and in that brief instance, Gokudera could see the son in the father's red, mirthful face.

"Takeshi can take care of himself just fine," Tsuyoshi continued, giving Gokudera a wry smile. His dark eyes twinkled with a vaguely familiar glint, quietly self-assured. "After all, it's not like he's going to die alone. He's got his plus one, hasn't he?"

Gokudera slid his eyes away quickly, and made a point of handing Tsuyoshi a fresh bottle of sake.

-x-

Some two hours later, the dusty floor was covered inch to inch with empty glass bottles. The only thing left unopened was a bottle of Midori, which Gokudera was ignoring on principle.

At this point, the closet door swung open abruptly, and Yamamoto's lanky frame appeared in the rectangular patch of light.

Yamamoto blinked. He stared at Gokudera, whose tie was a wreck somewhere around his navel, then at his father, who had removed both of his shoes and was now tugging halfheartedly at the heel of his left sock, apparently under the impression he needed to breathe through the soles of his feet. At once, they both blinked up at Yamamoto blearily, rendered temporarily blind by the sudden shock of light.

"You two look like you've had enough for one afternoon," Yamamoto observed, looking like he was fighting a losing battle with the urge to join them on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. Instinctively, Gokudera scowled at him.

"I'm fine," he insisted, and jumped immediately to his feet. He pointedly did not sway, but somehow found that he had spontaneously developed a great fondness for staggering heavily against vertical surfaces and scrabbling at sundry objects for support with his mysteriously shaking hands.

From the floor, Tsuyoshi gave Gokudera a widely pitying look. "Well, I'm ready to go if he's not," he announced tartly, pulling himself up gingerly, dragging his shoes by the laces. His mood appeared to have performed a total 180. "Come here and give your poor old pop a hand, Takeshi."

Yamamoto quietly complied, grinning in that vaguely obnoxious Son of the Year way of his.

"Don't try to walk," Yamamoto said, glancing at Gokudera over his shoulder with a deeply concerned expression, which Gokudera chose to interpret as a sign that his newfound disorientation was playing tricks on him. "Just stay right there for a minute, I'll be back as soon as I can."

It took a few minutes staring indistinctly at the Yamamotos' retreating backs before Gokudera realized that the ravening idiot was clearly conflating Gokudera with his drunken father. And that. That was totally unacceptable. Yamamoto's old man might have been a virile swordsman or whatever in his prime, but he was getting rather long in the tooth these days. Suddenly, those parting words didn't seem like good advice after all—and more like commentary on his ability to hold liquor.

This motivated him enough to overcome gravity and pull himself to his feet for a second time. He walked out into the banquet hall with as much dignity as he could manage, and though the reception seemed to have winded down in the last two hours, the noise level still bore a hole into his skull.

"Just got to make it to the door," he encouraged himself, soldiering forth, but had only gone four steps when he was jerked back rudely by the arm. "Gokudera-kun!" someone shouted.

A humongous white blob was upon him—it was the snow beast, peering at him closely with an expression slung halfway between concerned and amused. "You look like you had a good time," she said, smiling. "My dad would be pleased to know."

"I was just leaving," he said, and almost managed not to bite out the words resentfully. It seemed wrong, considering the bill he was going to rack up for her in wedding alcohol.

"I know," she replied pleasantly. She had a good-natured face, plumpish and apple-cheeked under light make-up. "I saw Takeshi and his dad heading out a minute ago. Tsu-san looked like he had a good time too." She winked at him. "I'm really glad you were able to come."

Without warning, she flung out her arm, and fished a man seemingly out of thin air. "Gokudera-kun, this is my husband, Kento. Come say goodbye, dear."

The man in the crumpled white suit smiled nervously and gave him a little wave, already henpecked. Gokudera would feel sorry for him, if Kento hadn't seemed so obviously happy, and indeed, it was a happy, absolutely normal picture that they cut together, Kento and Midori, linking arms. One plus one.

"Gokudera-kun is Takeshi-kun's special friend," Midori said importantly, and smiled at her husband in a knowing way. "You remember Takeshi-kun, don't you, dear?"

"Sure," Kento said vaguely, and turned to Gokudera. "You like baseball too?"

"No," Gokudera said immediately, offended. "We—work together."

"That's nice," Kento rejoined. They were nice people, a nice couple. He could see them growing old together, he thought with wonder. It occurred to him maybe he should try saying something nice in return.

"Your reception was not at all churchy. I like that. And I just thought you should know that if any Yakuza gunman had popped out of the wedding cake, I would have been totally prepared to take him."

He flashed them his Beretta, bowed, and headed for the exit. As he reached it, there was a dull thud behind him, which he did not stop to investigate.

-x-

He made it out into the hotel parking lot just in time to see Yamamoto helping his partially incapacitated father into the backseat of a taxi. He bent down to the front window and gave the driver some brief instructions, then stood back with his hands in his pockets to watch as the cab pulled away into the wavering dusk, merging with the glittering stream of taillights swarming the road.

Gokudera attempted to walk up straight to him, but for some reason crashed sideway into a Fiat instead.

Yamamoto swung around at the noise. "Hey," he greeted in surprise, shooting out a hand to steady him. Irately, Gokudera batted it away. "You shouldn't have come out here by yourself, I was just coming in to get you."

"Do I look like I'm in need of your assistance?" Gokudera snapped.

Yamamoto grinned, eyes lowered and hooded. "Car," he said quietly, "Come on, this way," and flattened his palm between Gokudera's shoulders as they began to walk, not exerting any pressure, neither urging nor comforting. Just a simple touch, without any underlying motive; perhaps he knew it was all that would be allowed.

Gokudera scowled at this thought, and at that moment, felt a breeze shiver across his face. He caught a hint of that scent he had detected earlier in the men's room. A sharper scent than Yamamoto's usual cheap aftershave, undercutting the familiar salty smell of his skin and, in some bizarre way, accentuating it . With not a little horror, Gokudera realized why it had seemed so familiar—it might be eau de cologne.

"You really had this planned out all along," he muttered, somewhere between awestruck and resentful. He'd really meant to say, So this meant that much to you. "Well, I hope Snow Beas—I hope the bride appreciated it."

"Midori-san is very nice," Yamamoto said mildly. "She taught me how to use a slingshot to take down the neighborhood cats when I was six."

"Six," Gokudera repeated to himself, sliding into the passenger's seat the moment the door was unlocked. "Wonder what you were like back then. You know, as a kid."

Yamamoto seemed taken aback, eyes wide and darkly opaque. "I was—well, I was like any other kid, I guess," he said slowly, closing the car door behind him. "Nothing special. Hey, you were even there for a little bit of it toward the end, remember?"

Gokudera did remember, so he knew that Yamamoto was wrong, dead wrong about that nothing special part, and okay, he was going to stop himself right there. Even in drunk logic, that was a terrifying thought. Not that he was drunk or anything, not enough to forget that Yamamoto was, in many ways, just like Japan itself, self-possessed and unperturbed on the surface, but mind-bogglingly complex underneath, with Shinto New Year rituals and Buddhist funerals and western-style wedding receptions.

So he said, "I wanted to be a taxi driver when I was a kid," for no apparent reason other than that his obvious sobriety had decided that this detail was suddenly unbearably significant. "I was going to drive cabs in New York and shave my head into a mohawk, and I really, really hated weddings."

"So basically nothing's changed?" said Yamamoto, smiling a little ruefully, and Gokudera wanted to inform him that not only did he sound like a movie cliché, he was also wrong, utterly so and on every single account, and that things always changed.

Wanted to. Didn't.

Perhaps there was an error somewhere in his own theory, then, something he had overlooked. He leaned back against his seat—the passenger's seat—and closed his eyes.

"I'm sure you would have made an awesome taxi driver," Yamamoto said. "But I'm glad you didn't decide to go to New York."

"Who the hell wants to spend their time driving annoying people around all day?" Gokudera scoffed, eyes snapping open. "Taxi drivers don't get a plus one."

It was possible he made no sense, but somehow the words felt true.

Yamamoto broke the silence with his sudden laughter, the sound husky and warm in the early evening chill. Then, just as abruptly, he fell silent, and turning his head, buried his face quietly into Gokudera's shoulder. Just one fluid motion, like a felled tree collapsing in a forest, but without the impact. He stayed there for a minute, which stretched into five, then ten. Gokudera didn't look at him, stared at the dashboard, but the smell of skin and cologne was everywhere and he couldn't escape. Couldn't escape, even when nothing held him back.

It was only natural that he would fight progress tooth and nail, he supposed. He just hadn't expected for it to fight back.

Eventually, Yamamoto sat up straight again, and snapped the seatbelt around himself without a word. He started the engine, eyes strained on the flaring headlights before them, and wrapped his hands around the steering wheel. Ten o'clock, two o'clock—like he'd probably been taught.

"Can't fucking believe it," Gokudera muttered, eyes fluttering shut again. The darkness behind his eyelids was drowsing, familiar and reassuring. "All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go."

"What?"

"Nothing. Just drive."

-x-

end