Cheers for the awesome response to part one, guys. Hope you enjoy part two. Once again, not possible without the awesomeness that is Eike.

Catch 22
A Junjou Egoist fic by Avarice

Work was agonising torture.

After three classes, in which Hiroki stooped to feats of dastardly mercilessness that would have his students cowering under their desks for weeks, his bad mood still hadn't ebbed.

Grading papers for the afternoon in his shared office held little comfort. His left leg jiggled restlessly under his desk, pen tapping an annoying staccato rhythm on the piles of term papers in front of him. Even the books surrounding him like a miniature mountain range (and separating him from Professor Miyagi) held little comfort; they loomed, threatening to fall and bury him in his self-imposed misery.

He heard the wheels of Miyagi's chair roll, but ignored it until the man himself leaned back far enough in his chair to be seen around the books.

"Kamijou..." he drawled, cigarette bobbing between his lips, "is there something you want to talk about?"

Hiroki sighed exasperatedly. "I'm very busy, Professor."

"So am I," he countered. "But I can't seem to get any work done with that--" he pointed to Hiroki's jiggling leg, "and that--" he pointed to Hiroki's pen, "making annoying noises."

"Want to talk annoying noises, do you?" Hiroki swivelled on his chair viciously to face Miyagi. "Ever heard of putting your phone on 'silent', or 'vibrate' while at work? Hearing the Doraemon theme song every time you get a text message isn't exactly a pleasant experience."

Miyagi paused for a long moment; mouth ajar enough to make his cigarette dangle rather precariously. "Do you need a hug?" he asked.

"No," Hiroki answered vehemently. The angry outburst temporarily exhausted him and his shoulders slumped. Pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes, Hiroki didn't see Miyagi approach his desk to lean against it, arms and ankles crossed casually.

"Something happen at breakfast this morning?"

"How did you know about breakfast?" Hiroki's reply was muffled.

"You told me about it yesterday."

"No I didn't."

"Okay," Miyagi conceded, "I read it on your day planner. But--" he continued before Hiroki could muster up too much outrage, "that's the source of the problem, right?"

Hiroki's silence apparently spoke volumes.

"So what happened? Did he not show up? No, that's not Doctor Love's style..." Miyagi looked thoughtful, before snapping his fingers. "Ah, he did show up, but he chewed with his mouth open and you were so disgusted you couldn't finish your breakfast."

Hiroki rolled his eyes. "That's what you came up with?"

Miyagi shrugged. "I get cranky when I'm hungry."

The man had a point, even if it was somewhat bizarre. "As it happens, I didn't finish breakfast. But not for the reason you think."

When he didn't elaborate any further, Miyagi prompted him. "So what did happen, then?"

Hiroki stayed silent for a long moment, staring at their office door. He willed a student to come in, or the Dean's sullen-looking son who always distracted the Professor to enter. (He was undoubtedly the cause of Hiroki's overdose of the Doraemon theme song).

No one entered to distract either of them, and Miyagi wasn't budging, so Hiroki had no choice but to face his problems.

"We were having breakfast when--"

"Wait," Miyagi interjected. "Set the scene. Where were you having breakfast?"

"At a café around the corner from the hospital," Hiroki answered with a glare, irritated at being interrupted. "Anyway... some nurse he knows--"

"What did you order?"

"Do you want me to tell you or not?" Hiroki hissed.

"Fine, fine," Miyagi shrugged. "Just thought it would add perspective."

Hiroki cleared his throat and gave Miyagi a lingering glare, daring him to butt in again. Miyagi just made a 'continue' wave with his hand. With a wary look, Hiroki continued.

"A nurse from the hospital joined us for breakfast. Uninvited. And Nowaki got hit on," he added, when he saw Miyagi open his mouth to question.

"Huh," Miyagi grunted. "Male or female?"

"Does it matter?" Hiroki replied with a dejected sigh.

"Suppose not," Miyagi mused. "But if you don't tell me, I'll mess up my pronouns."

"Fine. Female."

"So what's the problem?" Miyagi got up and disappeared behind the mountain of books that separated their desks, before reappearing with an ashtray. He dragged another chair over from the other side of the room to sit on.

Raising his eyebrows, Hiroki looked baffled. "Isn't it obvious?"

"Well, she hits on him, he tells her he's involved, that's the end, right?"

"As it happens, it's not the end. She didn't let up and only tried harder."

"That wouldn't have phased Tall, Dark and Scary, though, would it? He lives to defend your honour." Miyagi rubbed his chin wryly.

Hiroki didn't seem to notice. "He smiled at her," he said in a soft voice, almost too soft for Miyagi to hear. With a brief shake of the head, however, he raised his voice again; the moment gone. "And he let her eat from his plate!"

"I'm confused; he offered her some of his food?"

"No, he-- she took it on her own."

Miyagi flicked ash from his cigarette into the tray. "So that wasn't really his fault."

"I-- I suppose not."

"What else happened?"

Hiroki thought back to his morning; to the gentle smiles and funny banter, and how the warm feelings had disappeared the moment Tomoyo had shown up.

"He talked so much about me at his work the nurse figured out I teach at the University. That is his fault." Hiroki crossed his arms, chin stuck out defiantly.

"A shrewd bit of sleuthing." Miyagi rubbed his chin. "But she didn't figure out it was you, specifically."

"No-- well, she thinks he's going out with some 'super perfect girl'."

"Now that really is misguided," Miyagi smirked.

"And ignoring your insulting remarks for a moment--" Hiroki made brief, glaring eye contact with him, "--what about privacy? I don't want him telling strangers about me."

"So you'd prefer him to lie."

"Yes! No! I don't know." Hiroki rubbed his right temple with his index and middle finger, squeezing his eyes shut.

Miyagi leaned back in the chair casually. "I'm confused again. Do you want him to say he's single, then?"

"No," Hiroki replied vehemently, eyes snapping open. "Then anyone would think they can have him."

"So... you don't want him to talk about you, but you don't want him to say he's single, and you're not keen about him lying." Miyagi blew a pretentious smoke ring. "Does that about sum it up?"

"Yes! How is that so hard to understand?"

Miyagi laughed a deep, throaty chuckle and stubbed out his cigarette. "In classical terms, you have just described a logical incompatibility between two propositions."

Hiroki mulled over Miyagi's words for a few moments, brows drawn together in thoughtful concentration. "A contradiction?" he murmured.

"Precisely. You don't want him to say he's single, but you don't want him to admit to being involved and say anything about you. So what is he supposed to say?"

He swivelled in his chair, turning away from Miyagi's satisfied gaze, eyes falling upon a lone chopstick sitting on the pile of exams he'd yet to mark.

Hiroki had experienced epiphanies before -- he'd had five so far in his life -- so he recognised the tell-tale tingling at the base of his neck.

Getting up so abruptly his chair shot back across the room, Hiroki began hastily piling papers (and the chopstick) into his briefcase. "I have to go."

Miyagi merely raised an eyebrow, saying nothing.

"I've done half of the marking and am a day ahead of schedule. There are no more classes for the afternoon, so I'll take the rest home to finish."

"Kamijou--"

"Do you have a problem with that?" Hiroki half-asked, half-dared.

Miyagi reached for his pack of smokes and put a fresh one between his lips. "No problem," he said, voice muffled by cupped hands to shield the tiny flame from his lighter.

"Good." Hiroki strode to the door. With a hand on the doorknob ready to turn, he suddenly stopped.

"Thanks," he said stiffly, either unwilling or unable to turn around and face Miyagi.

"Remember; if you ever need a hug, or a shoulder to cry on, don't hesit--"

Miyagi's too-cheerful response was cut short by Hiroki slamming the door shut behind him, walking as quickly as possible in the direction of the train station.

He thought he heard a yelled 'You're welcome' behind him, but it was muffled. No-one else around him noticed, but then again, most tended to try and ignore any shrieking that happened behind the closed office doors of Literature Professors Miyagi and Kamijou.

***

Hiroki couldn't throw the door of his apartment open fast enough. Quickly divesting himself of his jacket and shoes and loosening his tie, Hiroki looked around. There was no Nowaki in the living room or the kitchen, but that wasn't necessarily unusual; he was probably asleep after his shift.

Words -- some of them actually apologetic -- swirled through Hiroki's mind as he tip-toed into their bedroom. He considered sliding into bed next to Nowaki and somehow finding a way to not lose his dignity when he pulled the other man's arm around his body.

The private smile that had begun to curl his lips at the thought quickly melted away when he entered the bedroom.

It was empty.

"Nowaki?" Hiroki called softly. No answer.

Hiroki looked in the closet. The black bag that Nowaki usually took to the hospital with a change of clothes in it -- the one Nowaki had been carrying at breakfast -- was gone.

A sliver of worry wormed its way into Hiroki's mind. What if Nowaki hadn't come home?

A quick trip to the laundry hamper confirmed Nowaki had indeed been back to their apartment; the clothes he'd been wearing in the morning were there. Hiroki scratched his head, well and truly puzzled.

It wasn't until he reached the kitchen that Nowaki's absence was explained. On the counter was a hastily-scribbled note in Nowaki's careless hand.

Hiro-san,

There was an emergency at the hospital and am starting my shift early. I'll see you tomorrow evening when you finish work.

Love, Nowaki.

Hiroki took the note over to their couch and slumped in it dejectedly. He read it over a few more times and contemplated how he was going to make things up to Nowaki.

***

The next morning found Hiroki sitting in the same booth of the same café around the corner from Nowaki's hospital, leg jiggling under the table in anticipation. He'd sent a text message that had told Nowaki to meet him for breakfast again.

This time, instead of facing the stainless steel wall, he'd chosen to sit with his back to it, facing the door. That way he'd see Nowaki as soon he entered.

Hiroki surreptitiously looked at his watch. It was already a few minutes after the time Nowaki had met him yesterday. He exhaled slowly, twirling a single chopstick in his fingers. No cause for alarm, he could have been held up by anything. It didn't mean he wasn't going to turn up.

As if on cue, Nowaki's tall frame filled the doorway. His eyes searched for Hiroki, finding him quickly. However, instead of the large, stupid grin he was used to, Nowaki gave him an uneasy half-smile.

Hiroki swallowed nervously as Nowaki slung the black bag off his shoulder and placed it on the seat before he sat down himself.

"Good morning, Hiro-san," he greeted.

"'Morning," Hiroki replied.

"How did you sleep?"

"Not the best," Hiroki admitted. He expected Nowaki would give a soft smile; the clandestine brush of his hand would make everything alright.

"I'm sorry," Nowaki offered, keeping his fingers tightly laced on the table in front of him.

Hiroki sighed. It looked like he was going to have to cover more ground than initially thought.

Well, there was no time like the present. "Listen, Nowaki--," he began.

"Hiro-san, I know what happened yesterday upset you."

"Yes. I actually want to talk about th--"

"What Hirano-san said yesterday isn't exactly the truth; I don't talk about you all the time, but I do get asked if I am seeing someone, and I say 'yes'."

"I understa--"

Nowaki continued unabated. "And when I do, I get asked more questions. Most I don't answer, but some I do. I guess some of the people I work with think I'm being intentionally mysterious. The more I don't answer, the more they pester me."

"Nowaki--"

"And I can hardly hide that I'm happy," he shrugged helplessly, "which leads to more pestering and more questions and--"

"Oh for god's sake, Nowaki, would you shut up when I'm trying to apologise?" Hiroki snapped.

Nowaki's eyes widened, like a deer caught in headlights. "Hiro-san?"

Hiroki gave an exasperated sigh, fingers clutching nervously at his chopstick. It was hard to look at Nowaki's searching eyes, so he opted to stare directly at his chin.

"I've come to realise that--" He paused for a moment, the words sticking to the inside of his mouth like molasses. "--that I wasn't being fair. I shouldn't be mad that you tell people you're seeing someone. I-- er, prefer that to the alternative."

Nowaki was silent, and Hiroki took the opportunity to continue: "And that should be enough to deter most people, right? But she kept... with you even after she knew. Especially after. And I got mad."

Hiroki paused and waited for a comment from Nowaki, who seemed determined to stare at him, mouth open slightly in bewilderment. "Great... now he shuts up," he muttered to himself. "You can speak now, if you want."

It took a few moments, but Nowaki finally chose to speak. "Hiro-san, how would you like to be introduced?"

"I-- what?" Hiroki was thoroughly confused.

"When Hirano-san first arrived, I was going to introduce you as my friend, but you looked so angry that I hesitated, and you took over." At this, Hiroki had the good manners to look at least a little chagrined. "So, for future reference, if you don't want that, what would yo--"

"Friend is fine," Hiroki interrupted, and he was rewarded with a small smile from Nowaki. It began to grow larger as he continued talking. "I mean, we are friends, right? Friends go out to breakfast together, and restaurants, and movies, and go shopping. It's not uncommon to see good friends out together in public a lot, actually. Right?"

"Right," Nowaki returned, the corners of his eyes crinkling as his face split into a beaming smile.

The tension in the air evaporated, making Hiroki feel light-headed. It was physically impossible for him not to reflect back some of Nowaki's happiness, though it was mostly communicated by moving his knees under the table until they brushed Nowaki's.

There was another pause, but this one was much more comfortable than the last. Nowaki looked around for a waitress. "Do we need menus?"

Hiroki briefly had a sense of déjà vu, and gave a superior smile. "No need, I've already ordered."

Nowaki's eyes sparkled. "But how do you know what I want to eat?" he asked once again.

He meant to reply just as he had yesterday morning, but at the last minute, Hiroki changed his mind. "I'm your friend; I know these things."

The corner of Nowaki's mouth curled up. "We'll see if you're right."

While they waited, the two men chatted about their previous workdays respectively. Hiroki managed to get out a two minute diatribe on how vehemently he hated the Doraemon theme song before Nowaki got to speak.

"I was called in early because Yuusuke -- that's that little boy who had the lumbar puncture -- was having complications and nearly arrested." Nowaki twirled his chopstick deftly between his fingers. "There was a problem with the trains and his parents still hadn't arrived. He was scared and called for me."

Hiroki was, once again, impressed with Nowaki's capacity to effortlessly care. "Is he alright?"

"Oh, yes. We were up most of the night playing checkers, until his parents arrived this morning just before my shift ended."

"That's great." He paused a moment, unsure of how to word what he wanted to say with the least amount of over-the-top emotion. "I'm proud of you. You're going to be a good doctor."

Hiroki winced, wondering if he'd opened up the floodgates of outrageously sappy sentiment. However, Nowaki just stared mutely at Hiroki, shock and unexpected pleasure flushing his cheeks.

"Thank you," he said simply, handing Hiroki his chopstick.

"You're welcome," Hiroki mumbled as their breakfast arrived.

The waitress arrived with two sets of silverware and one large plate, upon which was a stack of fluffy golden brown pancakes with a side of butter and syrup.

The waitress left, and Nowaki stared at their breakfast with a curious expression. "Why only one plate?"

Hiroki unrolled the knife and fork out of the napkin. "I figured if you were going to share breakfast with anyone, it should at least be the person who paid for it."

Nowaki chuckled and began cutting into the pancakes. Hiroki screwed up his nose. The comment had made him think of other unpleasantness from yesterday, and he couldn't unthink it.

"How is Hirano-san, anyway?" he was proud that the sarcastic comment didn't contain nearly as much sarcasm as it probably should have. He hoped Nowaki appreciated it.

Nowaki swallowed his mouthful hastily. "She's fine. Oh, and about that yesterday--"

"I don't think I want to go into it, Nowaki," Hiroki stated. "I don't want to lose my appetite again."

"I talked to her," Nowaki continued, stubbornly. "I told her that although I liked her, her behaviour yesterday was improper. I said I loved my partner, and had no intentions of even entertaining the notion of looking for someone else."

Hiroki's hands froze, mid-cut. "Really?"

"Really," Nowaki confirmed. "I also said that, knowing my partner as you do--" he smiled a little then, "--you didn't appreciate her actions, either."

Hiroki was at a loss for words. "Well, I-- yes. Uh," he dropped his voice to a furtive whisper, "you really said all of this to her?"

"Yes."

"What did she say back?"

"She apologised for being so forward. She said it was obvious I was serious, and happy, and had no real wish to spoil that."

Hiroki grunted in response. While he wasn't one hundred percent sure about the sincerity, it was certainly a surprising turn of events. Even more surprising was the fact that Nowaki had done all of this on his own. Hiroki realised he'd sorely underestimated Nowaki, and was happy to be on the receiving end of his particular brand of comfort. So much so that he nearly missed the next thing Nowaki said.

"--and wants me to pass those same apologies onto you."

"Wait, apologise to me? Why?"

"It was your first meeting and she didn't wish to seem inappropriate in front of you. Also--" Nowaki's lip twitched here, "--she found you quite interesting, and said that should you wish to have her cell phone number, I should pass it on."

Hiroki accidentally dropped his fork. It connected with the plate to make a large noise. "You're saying... after all that... she's interested in me?"

Nowaki had trouble keeping the quaver of laughter out of his voice. "She said you were 'cute'."

Hiroki groaned and slumped forward in the booth's seat, head nearly touching the table. Just what he needed.

He felt a familiar hand rest on his head and tousle his hair. Hiroki looked up to see Nowaki's smiling face. "But my Hiro-san is cute," he said in a low voice.

"Shut up," Hiroki responded, without much heat.

Nowaki did just that, and they continued to eat their pancakes. At length, Hiroki spoke.

"Do me a favour; tell her... I'm already in a relationship." Nowaki looked up, a hopeful smile on his face. With that as encouragement, Hiroki pushed on. "And tell her..." Oh, this was going to be difficult, "I'm as happy in mine as you are in yours."

This time, Nowaki dropped his fork.

~end

Thanks for reading and favouriting this story, and especially if you took the time to comment.

I've noticed in the past people not realising the listing says 'complete' and they continue to ask for parts/updates. This story is now completely finished, and there will be no more parts to it. I'm just stating this now so it will hopefully curb people asking for more, because it tends to annoy me.

Once again, thanks for reading!