Grave Mistakes in Etiquette: A Comedy of Customs
Looking back on his first few days as Maou, Yuuri had to laugh. It was such a strange new world that he had been thrust into – flushed into, more like – that Yuuri hadn't known what to do in anything. He wasn't familiar with the clothing, the speech, the political tensions… It was all so different from Earth. He hadn't even known how to eat properly.
The strange jumble of customs that resulted in the misuse of a spork and a knife, and subsequently The Slap, as he had come to call the incident, was really quite a series of unfortunate misunderstandings. Now, however, as he looked at his friend, Wolfram, he was actually just that littlest bit glad it all happened. After all, he might never have gained such a loyal friend if not for The Slap.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Wolf?"
"Of course! And you're not backing out, wimp!"
Wolfram was nothing if not stubborn. And fierce, and very fond of insults, and a bit bratty, too, though he was getting much better these days. All in all, Yuuri thought he was a good person. Really.
When the headstrong boy heard Conrad teasing Yuuri about Valentine's Day and White Day, and all manner of foreign Earth-style courtship rituals, he had immediately demanded to participate. He had then bullied his way into a date. For some odd reason, no one seemed to be against the idea except Yuuri, and maybe Shori, who had given Wolfram a creepy you'd-better-take-good-care-of-my-little-brother glare.
Yuuri, for all his protesting, had blushed through the whole affair, and was still blushing even now as they stepped into one of Saitama City's finest restaurants and waited to be seated.
"Do you want to sit at the sushi bar?"
"The what? What strange manner of bar is that?"
"The sushi bar…um, it's where you can sit and see the chef preparing your sushi. Ah, sushi is a popular food. A ball of rice with fish on top, or the pretty rolls with fish inside," he struggled to explain, "that is…raw. Raw fish."
Wolfram didn't say anything at that, though his face paled. He looked like he was going to be seasick, and they weren't even out on the ocean this time!
"We should have just gone to the ramen shack," Yuuri sighed as he tugged uncomfortably at his suit and tie. "I hate formal wear."
"Absolutely not." Wolfram shook himself of the awful images of sushi Yuuri had put in his brain. "We're not sitting at the sushi bar, but this is still going to be a nice, romantic evening."
"But it's itchy! How can you stand wearing those lacy tie things every day?"
"For your information, plebian, I usually wear a jabot, not a tie, and a rather subdued one at that."
"Okay, one, I resent that plebian comment. The working class is the backbone of the nation! And two, ja-what?" Wasn't it just a frilly gay tie-thing? They actually had a name for those? Subdued? If that poofy white thing was subdued, then what did a gaudy ja-whatever look like?
Wolfram sent a withering glare in the direction of the fashion-challenged Maou. It was to be expected that Yuuri, who tended to wear the disgustingly common-looking rags the people on Earth liked to call "t-shirts", wouldn't know how to appreciate true beauty. True beauty such as abstract art, jabots, and, dare he think it, Wolfram himself.
Yuuri pouted. He could guess what Wolfram was thinking, and he really didn't have anything to say to defend himself. He was only a simple baseball boy who liked simple things, including comfort food such as fast-food gyudon and his mother's curry. He did not like floundering out of his element in a fancy place such as this, where they probably put a single pea on a plate and charged 2000 yen. He thought that Wolfram, on the other hand, was used to high-class establishments and fit right in. This was just another one of the many situations that highlighted their differences – differences which Yuuri wasn't sure his little crush on the other boy would survive.
And that was why he couldn't tell his dinner companion that the only way he could afford to pay for this was by using Conrad's credit card, the one the soldier had surreptitiously slipped into Yuuri's wallet with an infuriating you'd-better-take-good-care-of-my-little-brother smile.
"Welcome, sirs. How may I help you this evening?"
"Ah! Two, please." He was broken out of his reverie by the waiter.
They were led to a table which, unfortunately, was in the center of the dining area. No matter where they went on Earth, someone with an appearance like Wolfram's was bound to get attention, but now it was worse.
Wolfram, for his part, was looking completely dumbfounded at the lack of chairs.
"Psst! On the floor!"
"What?" Wolfram whispered back, scandalized.
"We sit on the floor."
As they were seated, Yuuri suddenly noticed that there were only chopsticks available at the table. At the Shibuya residence, his mother had always had silverware on hand for the visitors from Shin Makoku. "Ah, Wolf… Would you like a fork? I can ask the waiter."
"Hmm? Oh, no, no… This is fine." Wolfram had been looking at the strange wooden sticks next to his plate. Although he had seen them once or twice on his rare trips to Earth, he had never used them. However, Wolfram had his pride, and would not run away from a challenge. He would most definitely not be defeated by little wooden sticks.
For anyone who was looking, it appeared that the beautiful blond foreigner was completely engrossed in examining the chopsticks while his nervous companion ordered their food. The atmosphere was tense between them as they waited. Yuuri had the sudden urge to ask for a knife so that he could try to cut the tension in the air, like they did in those old cartoons. Then he figured that was a Bad Idea, since he seemed to have a bad track record with knives. He sweated and fidgeted in the stuffy suit while Wolfram struggled with the chopsticks. Finally, Yuuri couldn't stand it anymore.
"Here. This is how you hold them." Yuuri, being a 'learn by action' sort of guy, held Wolfram's hand to adjust the grip. Reaching across the table, he maneuvered the deceptively delicate-looking hands into the proper position. If his touches lingered too long, neither of them brought it up.
Hands finally parted, they descended into an uncomfortable silence as the food arrived, and they ate in silence as well. Or at least Yuuri ate. Wolfram was still struggling with how to pick up his food, resorting to running things through quite a few times. Each time he speared a piece, Yuuri would wince. And while Wolfram may have been quick to anger and quick to judge, he was not the type to let his impulsive nature let him miss the details, especially when those details pertained to his fiancé.
The date was a disaster, Wolfram thought. Neither of them was having a good time. Yuuri was far too nervous, and Wolfram was making a fool out of himself in front of the person he most wanted to impress. And now Yuuri was giving him those pitying little glances. "Now what, Yuuri?"
"N-nothing! Nothing!" Yuuri flailed, shaking his head vigorously. He tried to deny how he had been staring at Wolfram's terrible lack of skill with chopsticks, but Wolfram was not so easy to fool, especially when Yuuri was the worst liar the blond had ever met. Chagrined, Yuuri continued, "Well, actually… It's considered bad manners to stab things like that."
"Why don't you explain the proper etiquette before I make a mistake?"
"Because! It's just natural for me! I don't know how to explain what the proper etiquette is until you break it!"
"Yuuri, you are absolutely no help at all."
"Well, I'm sorry, but it's not as if I had any lessons about table manners in Shin Makoku before…that." The Slap! Dun dun dun~ his mind helpfully supplied.
"…Yuuri…" Wolfram glowered darkly, "If you are insinuating that 'that' was an accident you wish had never happened, then I'll have to remind you that you've made your bed and now you must lie in it!"
"Yeah, but you don't have to lie in it with me!"
"Oh, that is it! I've had it with you!" Green eyes flashing with sharp anger, he gripped the chopsticks until they were about to snap, then stabbed them into his bowl of rice, sticking straight upwards. If he hadn't already been on the floor, Yuuri would have fallen over.
"Gaaah! Are you trying to curse me to death?"
"You-! You don't-! Don't put your chopsticks up like that unless you want me to die!"
With their outburst, they had attracted quite a lot of attention. Wolfram saw the wide-eyed stares and gave him a look that was guilty apology and horrified understanding all in one. He quickly plucked the chopsticks out of the rice and, following Yuuri's example, placed them on the table, resting on the small ceramic rectangle that he hadn't noticed before.
Yuuri sighed in relief, feeling rather bad about his own reaction. He smiled as gently as he could to reassure his friend. "It's okay, Wolf. We all make mistakes. Besides, you definitely don't look like a native, so most people will excuse you for not knowing about our customs."
Blushing lightly with shame, Wolfram lowered his head with a soft exhale. "You're a better man than me, Yuuri," he muttered.
This was the 'make it or break it' moment, Yuuri thought. He gulped, nervousness returning as he thought of what would happen if he messed up, or was rejected, or made Wolfram feel like he was being pitied, or they fought again, or…
Yuuri quickly leaned over and snatched Wolfram's lips in a chaste kiss before just as quickly retreating, twiddling his thumbs and trying his best to act like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He concentrated his stare on a napkin as a furious swath of red crept up through his entire face. It probably looked like he was going to blush to death, and then Wolfram's bad-omen-chopsticks would have done their job, but it was all completely normal! Yes! Nothing unusual at all!
He twiddled his thumbs some more.
With a shocked gasp, Wolfram had looked up just as Yuuri's head went down. The aim had been a little off, and Yuuri's kiss had landed only on his bottom lip. He was about to tease the Maou for finally becoming slightly less wimpy, but seeing how obviously uncomfortable Yuuri was, he glanced around the room. Then, another shameful realization hit him as the proud prince noticed the dirty looks they were receiving. It couldn't be from his earlier mistakes with those peculiar Earth eating utensils. As Yuuri had said, he looked like a foreigner and would be easily forgiven for making a small mistake.
From the disapproval and the barely concealed disgust on some of their faces, Wolfram knew it had to be something that Yuuri, a native, had done. It had to have been the kiss. They were condemning Yuuri for breaking a taboo, and their faces said it all. You're not an outsider; you should have known better, they accused.
"You knew, didn't you? About the looks. And you still did that…for me."
Yuuri glanced up shyly, voice trembling under the intense pressure of the cold atmosphere. "It was- no, you were worth it. I'm sorry for making you wait, but I wasn't ready to face them yet, and now I am. Probably. Actually maybe not, but I'll deal with it. I'm still not ready for the…other stuff, but I thought we could start with a few more dates?"
Wolfram's expression softened as he took in Yuuri's words and hopeful puppy eyes. He finally allowed himself to admit that, despite the fact that the Maou's appearance was that of a Mazoku in his 80s, Yuuri was more than 60 years younger than he, 67 years, to be exact. Brushing aside the implications of future heartbreak born from their age difference, Wolfram decided to live in the moment, though he finally found it in his heart to forgive Yuuri his naïveté.
And Wolfram whispered again, this time with a rueful smile, "A much better man…" Wolfram didn't lean in for another kiss. He didn't reach over to hold his fiancé's hand. Instead, he decided to hold off for now and, with a fluttering in his stomach, made up his mind to drag Yuuri back to their room in Blood Pledge Castle and make the idiotic not-wimp confess everything. He wanted Yuuri to be clear with him about the customs on Earth, or at least clearer than "it's weird for two men to be together".
They were gazing lovestruck into each others eyes when Yuuri suddenly spoke. "Since we're following Earth customs for our courtship ritual, I don't suppose we could…y'know, cancel the whole engagement thing until we've been going steady for a couple of years, could we?"
"Wimp! Cheater! Cheating wimp! How could you ruin our moment like that?"
But then Yuuri gave him another brave peck on the cheek, and there was really only one thought in his mind after that. How did I get so lucky?
A/N: Well, I hope you guys enjoyed the fic. There's a horrible pun in the title - I'm so sorry… Yes, so the chopstick users know exactly what he did wrong. For everyone else, I hope you can sympathize with Wolfram committing a faux pas and wondering what the heck just happened.
Just to clear things up, sticking chopsticks straight up is a Bad Thing because it looks like incense sticks. Incense is burned, often along with an offering of food, to pay respects to the dead. So if you stick your chopsticks up like that, you're essentially praying at the grave of whoever's in front of you.
P.S. Don't expect more Yuuram out of me anytime soon. ConYuu is my OTP ;D