A Certain Way
A/N: Yay for repeats of last year! Merry Christmas tsuki, and hope you like it!
Akari considered herself to have a finely tuned gay-dar.
After all, she'd lived in a big city most of her life, where it was not uncommon to see same-sex couples just walking down the street. She'd even had a gay friend in high school; a handsome fellow by the name of Nate. Nate was about as gay as could be; lisping, high voice, tight clothing, countless boyfriends. He was great to hang out with, and taught Akari how to pick out the off limits, non-hetro guys. So When Waffle Island's newest member arrived, she thought she had him all figured out.
Boy, was she wrong.
Akari didn't normally enjoy mining. Spending hours underground was just generally not her cup of tea. But when the young farmer did venture down the shaft, hammer in tow, she went all out. On this particular winter day of hard labour, she returned from the mine with a rucksack full of sparkling gems.
"Could you refine these, please?" she asked Mira politely. Mira nodded with a smile and started to examine the jewels. This process usually took some time, so Akari started scanning the shop for some form of entertainment. Ramsey was at his counter, looking at a scuffed and bent piece of metal. He didn't look like he was in the mood for conversation, so Akari dismissed him. Her eyes found Owen, hammering away on some tool in the back room, his enormous muscles glistening with sweat. Akari took a moment to appreciate this sight before making her way over to him.
"Hey, what's up?"
For a moment, she thought that Owen hadn't heard her. Just as she was about to open her mouth to greet him again, he turned around, gave her a curt nod and brought his hammer back down upon the tool with excessive force. A loud clang could be heard throughout the shop.
Akari blinked. Well someone's in a bad mood.
But she wasn't giving up that easy. "Whatcha workin' on?"
"Axe." was his grunted reply.
"Is it hard?"
"Do you even want to attempt to make conversation with me?"
Akari frowned. Owen was always friendly to her. Sure, he could be quite intimidating sometimes, with his hulking form and towering height, but he was actually a really kind person. The moody, rude behaviour was out of character for him. "Okay. Mind telling me what's wrong, Mr. Grumpy Pants?"
"I don't-" Clang. "Like-" Clang. "That guy." CLANG.
The large man jerked his head in the direction of the front of the shop and went back to hammering. Akari turned around, confused. The only other 'guy' in the shop was Ramsey, and surely Owen couldn't be talking about him. He was his boss, after all. But then something caught her eye.
"Who is that?"
There was a new individual in the shop, someone who had most definitely not been present when Akari entered. He was no way she could have overlooked them. "New guy." grunted Owen.
"That's a guy?"
"Yeah, I know. He creeps me out." Owen had set down his hammer and was finally having a proper conversation with the farmer. "He came this morning. Just seeing him had me weirded out, but then he came up to me and started criticising my clothes."
Beep. Beep. Beep.
"Yeah, he said I needed to wear something that," Owen paused awkwardly to clear his throat, "Flattered my figure." It came out uncomfortably, as if he could not believe that he, the manliest of men, had been given this piece of advice. "That guys a freak."
"I wanna talk to him." said Akari, her eyes fixed in interest on this so called, 'freak.'
"Are you crazy?" Owen questioned, but she had already started in the direction of the newcomer.
His back was now to her, so Akari cleared her throat to get his attention. When this received no response, she spoke with a loud, "Hello!" The man turned, and the farmer was able to take in his entire appearance.
He was tall. Not exceedingly tall, but enough that he had to look down on the petite Akari. His slim body was dressed in a long coat with fur on the sleeves and ends, with a frilly white dress shirt. His face was striking, with sharp features and brown, almost red eyes. And as if his outfit was not flamboyant enough, his head was topped with shoulder length purple hair.
The gay-dar has spoken.
It took a few seconds for Akari to get over the full blast of this man's outrageous appearance. When she snapped out of it a few seconds later, she realized that he was staring down at her a small smirk on his handsome face. Feeling embarrassed, she quickly pulled herself together and said, as friendly and chirpy as possible, "Hi, I'm Akari. Welcome to Waffle Island."
What happened next didn't make any sense at all.
The man she had classified as homosexual just seconds before checked her out.
It was equal to one of an experienced player; his eyes lingered on her face just long enough to make her flush, then raked her body up and down. When they had reached her face again, he spoke. "Nice to meet you, Akari. My name is Julius." His voice was smooth, on the deep side, no trace of a lisp. What he did next was the most surprising of all he grabbed Akari's hand, and brushed his lips against it.
Does not compute.
This sudden contradiction in her assessment left Akari speechless. This doesn't make any sense. The smirk had returned to Julius' face, as if he knew exactly what was going on in her head and found it amusing. Thankfully, she was saved from having to respond by Mira. "I'm finished, Akari. You've got quite a nice haul here."
Feeling humiliated by Julius' gaze, Akari hurried over to the counter. Mira had labelled each of the gems with notes saying what they were. She surprised but pleased too see, as she placed them back in her rucksack, the names of many semi-precious gems and one gorgeous, sparkling ruby.
"That would look beautiful as a necklace, you know."
She jumped. Julius had followed her to the counter and was peering over her shoulder at the ruby in her hand. "Yes, yes. Absolutely stunning. I could make it for you, if you like."
Akari blinked. "You could?"
"But of course. I design jewellery along with fashion, you know. Did I not mention that?"
She shook her head. "Oh well, silly me." said Julius with a laugh and flip of his extravagant hair. "That's why I'm at the blacksmiths, you see."
"Oh. That's nice." was all Akari could manage. This guy was confusing her more and more by the second.
"And what you do you do?"
"I'm a farmer."
"Oh, how charming." He said, like she was a child with her first job.
"Yeah...well, it was nice meeting you." Akari had finished packing up her treasures and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. She picked up her rucksack and threw it over her shoulder.
"Yes, very nice to meet you." Julius said, flashing her a dazzling white smile. His teeth were flawlessly straight. "Hope to see you again soon, darling." And as she headed for the door, he gave her a flirtatious wink.
Who is this guy?
"I don't know. I mean, he acts completely gay almost all the time. Everyone in the town thinks so. He wears earrings, for Christ's sake. But then he'll start talking to me a certain way and he won't seem gay at all. So it's like...his actions are gay, but he himself is not. Know what I mean?"
"I'm just totally confused. What do you think of him, Kath?"
Kathy removed the lollipop she was sucking on from her mouth. "All I know is that whenever I see that guy I'm expecting him to break out into 'I'm a Sweet Transvestite.'"
Akari sighed. So far, Kathy had been little help in her dilemma. In fact, pretty much all she had been doing was criticising her for being so obsessive. "I just don't get it."
Julius had been on Waffle Island for just over a week, and Akari couldn't stop thinking about him. She had never, ever met a guy whose sexual orientation she was unsure about. It was either gay or not gay, plain and simple. But everything Julius did seemed to make her that much more unsure.
He's a fashion designer. He wears makeup. He calls people 'darling.' He's been mistaken for a tranny. So why is it that everytime I talk to him he seems to contradict all this evidence?
"Maybe he's straight but really, really girly." suggested Kathy. "Or a transvestite lesbian?"
"... A what?"
"I have no idea. It made sense in my head."
Akari sighed again. "I wish Nate were here."
"Nate. He was this gay friend I used to have. He would definitely know what's up with Julius."
"Why do you care so much anyway." asked Kathy, leaning her elbows on the table they were sitting at. The pair were at the Sundae Inn, where the waitress was on her break. "I mean, what. Are you attracted to him or something?"
"What? No!" said Akari, a little too defensively. "Of course not."
"Uh huh. Sure."
As much as she hated to admit it, that was a lie. Something about Julius absolutely fascinated her. And, in turn, it did lead to some attraction. Maybe it was the fact that she couldn't seem to figure him out, or maybe it was just because he was quite good looking. (In the face, at least. The flamboyant clothing and hair she could do without.) And for some reason, whenever she was talking to him, Akari would always get tongue tied.
"Here's an idea," said Kathy, trying to take a bite out of her lollipop. "Why don't you ask him straight up?"
"What, just go up to him and say 'Hey Julius, are you gay?' Right."
"What's wrong with that?"
"Uh, everything? People just don't do that." Akari was stunned that Kathy would think to do something so...bold." "It's not polite."
Kathy snorted. "How is it not 'polite?'" she said, complete with air quotes. "Its just a question. Its nmot like he's hiding in the closet. Besides, people have the right to know what someone's sexual orientation is if they're interested in them."
"If you're talking about me, you're wrong."
"Uh huh. Sure."
"Tell you what. How about next time we see him, I'll ask him."
Akari stared at her blonde friend, mouth agape. "You're not serious."
"Oh, I'm dead serious."
"You're on crack."
"Hey, just because you're too scared to ask him doesn't mean I can't." Kathy said with a smirk. "With all this whining you're doing, you're making me wonder too. Next time, I'll just march right up to him and say-"
At that moment, two things happened simultaneously. One was that Kathy stopped talking abruptly, and her eyes fixed on something over Akari's shoulder. Two was that Akari felt some touching her head, in her hair. Or someone.
"You know, darling, if you grew your hair out and ran a brush through it once in a while, you could have a gorgeous style." said a familiar voice from behind her. "Especially if you got it layered. Oh, the untapped potential."
Akari's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates; Kathy merely gave Julius a small smirk. "Hello to you to, Julius. Why, may I ask, are you hair-raping poor Akari?"
Akari could feel his finger tips against her scalp, and they moved down until they brushed the skin of her ears. She nearly jumped out of her seat. She started desperately mouthing things to Kathy; if Julius had not been directly behind her, her arms would have been flailing in panic. Kathy was trying hard not to laugh, pulling her lollipop in and out of mouth rapidly. "And why, if I may ask." responded Julius with a smirk that rivalled the waitress'. "Are you giving that lollipop a blow job?"
It was Akari's turn to contain her laughter. Kathy stopped abruptly, her eyes narrowing. She could tell her friend was not impressed. "Shouldn't you be off designing women's panties or something?" she said coldly, leaning back in her chair.
"No, I happen to be treating myself to one of the Inn's finest dinners." Julius had removed his hands from Akari's hair and moved to side of the table so he could address both girls. Akari didn't want to look at him; she was sure her face must have turned red when he touched her. "Don't you work here, Kathy? Maybe you could recommend something."
The waitress merely snorted and stuck the lollipop back in her mouth.
Julius seemed unfazed. "You won't be nearly as rude as your friend here, now will you Akari?" he asked with a smile. When she looked at him, she noticed that his outfit was slightly toned down that night. He was wearing one of those open collared, pirate style shirts with black pants. It still screamed 'gay', but maybe not so much 'tranny.'
"No, definitely not." she responded with a nervous giggle. "So, uh...how are you?"
"Oh, absolutely fabulous." Julius said with a flick of his bright hair. "I just finished off the new designs for a line of bracelets today. I just need to ship them off. I'm positive they will be a huge hit."
"From transsexual, Transylvaniaaaa..." sang Kathy softly.
Though Julius seemed undeterred, Akari attempted to save the conversation from heading south. "Oh, that's awesome! What do they look like?" she said loudly.
She was unsuccessful. Looking at Kathy, Julius leaned over the table with a smile and said, "You know, darling, I think that top shows a little too much skin." He said, eyeing her bare stomach. "It's tacky. You look like you could be waitressing at a strip club instead of a classy place like this."
Kathy's head snapped up, a look of pure rage upon her pretty face. Julius seemed satisfied with this reaction. "Well, it's been nice chatting with you ladies, but I'm afraid I have to go. Ciao!" He turned to leave a spluttering Kathy and confused Akari, giving the farmer his usual suggestive wink. Before she realized what she was saying, Akari called out, "Wait!"
He paused. Akari opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Her common sense was simply not allowing her to ask the question she desperately wanted the answer to. Julius was looking at her expectantly. "I...uh..."
"Are you gay?"
The question had not come from Akari's lips, but Kathy's. The waitress had seemed to compose herself and was now glaring at the purple haired man, her look challenging. Akari, though horrified, admired her bluntness.
Julius raised his eyebrows. "Well, Kathy. If by gay you mean happy, then yes, I am very gay. I am very gay to be eating my supper, which I will have once I finish answering this question. Good day."
And with that, he walked away.
"What the hell?" said Akari once he was out of earshot, staring at his retreating back.
"I know!" said Kathy furiously. She was practically fuming. "What an asshole!"
"Oh, he's not that bad..."
"Did you not just hear him? He called me a stripper!"
"Well, you did call him a tranny."
"That's because he is! Man, did you hear just completely dismiss the question? 'Oh, I'm gay as in happy' Bullshit." she spat. "That guy must be a full on flamer, a straight guy would have denied it right away. Fucking asshole..."
Akari sighed. Kathy's newfound hate for Julius wasn't helping her situation. "Maybe he's just pulling an Adam Lambert."
"A what now?"
"An Adam Lambert?" Akari repeated, but all she got was a blank stare. I guess nobody out here watches American Idol... "He was this guy who kept people guessing about his sexuality. Whenever someone asked straight up, he would completely avoid the question."
"Oh." said Kathy, frowning. "Did he ever say what he was?"
"Well, that doesn't look too good for your Julius now, does it?" said Kathy, the slightest trace of smugness in her tone.
Akari pushed her plate of food to the side to rest her head on the wooden table top. "He's not, 'my Julius' and no, I guess it doesn't." She stared down at the floor. There was a scuff on one of her shoes, and it looked like someone had spilled spaghetti sauce at one point in time, for there was some caked on the table leg.
"You're gonna ask him." Kathy said. He tone wasn't bossy or commanding; she said it like it was a cold hard fact. Akari lifted her head to give her a confused look. "How do you know?"
The waitress started examining her nails. "You're just gonna. I can tell. You wanna know too bad not to ask."
"There's no way I'm asking him if he's gay." Even if I want to...
"Yeah you will. It's gonna drive you crazy." Kathy sounded like she almost felt sorry for Akari. "He'll probably answer you too, he likes you. He hates me, that why he dodged the question." She finished off her now small lollipop in one final bite. "You're gonna do it. Trust me."
"Oh, we'll see about that..."
Kathy had been right about one thing.
It was driving Akari crazy.
Every time she saw the purple haired man, it sent a zillion questions spinning through her head. And anytime he would stop and talk to her, the one in particular fought to asked. But Akari couldn't bring herself to do it. No, she didn't want to humiliate herself. She wanted to prove Kathy wrong.
But one day, that was completely thrown out the window.
It was quite a normal day, in fact. Akari hadn't even come across Julius (though she had to admit, she had been thinking about him) The farmer was just walking down the path of Maple Lake District, off to go shopping in town; when she just snapped, stopping right in her tracks. That's it. she thought. I have to know. Akari herself wasn't even sure what the reasoning behind this sudden epiphany was; it just came to her. So, throwing all caution to the winds, she marched up to the quaint house she knew belonged to Julius.
I must have finally lost it. Akari thought as she reached his door. This is a very bad idea.
And with that cheerful thought, she lifted her hand and rapped her knuckles against the door.
If Julius hadn't yelled, "I'll be there in a moment!" almost immediately, Akari would have bolted. But she wasn't there to play nicky nicky nine doors. So instead, she swelled up her pride, and waited for Julius to answer the door, contemplating how the hell she was going to phrase her question. After a little more than 'a moment', the door opened.
Oh my god...he's wearing jeans.
For once, Julius was dressed almost completely normal. He was, indeed, wearing a pair of dark wash jeans. His top was a long sleeved white button up, the kind you could find in almost any guy's closet. His hair was as extravagant as ever, though, along with his thick black eyeliner. "Akari, what a surprise! Come in, come in. We can have tea, yes?"
"Uh, sure." As Akari was ushered into the house, Julius disappeared into the kitchen, leaving her standing awkwardly in the hallway. She took the time to take in her surroundings. The interior was quite boring, compared to Julius himself; a few bright rugs and one abstract painting on the wall were the only standouts. "You're house is...nice." Akari commented lamely.
"Hm? Oh, thank you. I would do more with it, but interior decorating is not my strong point." came his voice from the other room. "Sit down, if you haven't already. So, to what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Oh, uh, well," answered Akari, unsure of where she was supposed to sit. She settled for one of the wooden chairs at the dining table, a little nervous about the couch. "Just saying hi, I guess." Lies. That is such a lie. "You weren't busy or anything, were you?'
"Oh no, don't worry." She heard over the clinking of china. "You like tea, yes?"
"Oh. Yeah." Akari actually hated the stuff, but didn't want to seem rude. Julius came into the room holding two steaming mugs of tea. "I put milk in it. If you want sugar, there's a bowl in the kitchen."
"Thank you." Akari picked up her mug and drank some of its contents, trying to hide the look of disgust the beverage brought. She swallowed down as much as she could before placing it back upon the table. "So, what were you planning on doing today?"
"Not much." said Julius, sipping his tea. "I was actually hoping for a visitor today and lucky me, here you are." He flashed her his ever-charming wink.
See. There. He's doing it again. "Actually, I was hoping to ask you something." said Akari, daring to take another sip of tea out of nerves. It tasted as disgusting as ever. "It's a bit...personal."
To Akari's horror, Julius set down his mug and gave her an extremely knowing look. "Oh, I see what this is about." he said with his trademark smirk.
She gulped. "You do?"
His smirk grew. "Of course. Why, I knew from the moment I met you that you would be asking me this question."
Oh dear god.
"You," said Julius happily, clapping his hands together. "Want me to give you a makeover!"
Akari blinked. Once. Twice.
Julius' smile didn't waver. "Ah, you may think that you don't need one. Of course, you are a beautiful girl already, don't get me wrong, but with a few of my best products we could get you looking like a supermodel."
"Trust me, you are going to look absolutely fabulous!"
"Julius." Akari said, firmer this time. "I appreciate the offer, but I don't want a makeover. But thanks anyway." She had to admit, she was a little relieved that she wasn't as obvious as she believed she was a few seconds prior. "See, the question I wanted to ask has a little more to do with...you. Specifically."
"Are you sure, darling?" asked Julius, frowning. "I could work wonders with that pretty face of yours."
Akari felt herself blush at the compliment. "I'm sure."
"Oh well." Julius said, a touch of disappointment in his tone. "What a shame...oh dear!" He exclaimed, looking around as if he has just realized where they were situated. "Why are we sitting at this uncomfortable table? Come, we shall go to the sitting room. That's what it's for, isn't it?"
Akari was pulled out of her chair with a surprising amount of strength as directed to the couch. Julius sat them both down, him being quite close to her. A little too close...His strong cologne was filling her nostrils; it was a scent she couldn't place, but it was rather musky. "Now, what was it you wanted to ask me, darling?"
The proximity momentarily caused Akari to forget her question. "Huh?"
"Your important, 'personal' question?"
"Oh. Right. Uh..." What was it about this guy that caused her to get so tongue tied? Akari searched her brain for the right wording, but to no avail. Before she knew what she was saying, she blurted out, "I used to have this friend named Nate."
...Where the hell did that come from?
"Back in high school, Nate taught me how to tell if a guy is...a certain way. And since then, I've always been really good at it. Like, I would always know if I guy was, uh, that certain way. Always." Please, someone stop me. "And then you came along, and I just couldn't tell if you were like that. I mean, Kathy thinks you are, and I'm pretty sure everybody else does to, but for some reason I just can't tell if you are. That...certain way, I mean."
Akari finished this confusing spiel, letting out a huge breath. She wanted to go bang her head against the wall. Julius was not displaying any particular emotion through his face at all; she couldn't tell if he was angry, amused, confused, insulted. He was just staring at her. After a few painful, silent seconds, he said. "A certain way?"
Akari had not felt this stupid and embarrassed in a long time. "...Yeah."
"Hm." Was all he said. His face was still not betraying any emotion. Akari noticed that somehow, he seemed to have gotten closer to her. The red tint in his dark brown eyes was quite prominent. "You see, I think I may know what you're getting at." He said finally, gazing right into her face. "But if you really wanna know if I'm 'a certain way', then you're gonna have to ask me properly."
Akari didn't know what to say at first. It felt like he was only trying to humiliate her more. Then, gathering up the little confidence she had left, she allowed her question finally leave her lips. "Are you-"
But she didn't get to finish. Because Julius' mouth was suddenly on hers.
All confusion left Akari's mind. She didn't know why she had any in the first place. For someone kissing her that fiercely, with that much intensity, surely couldn't be gay. His hands found her waist, her arms encircled his neck...
And then, as suddenly as it had started, it was over. She opened her eyes to Julius' smirking face. "I'm sorry, what was your question?" He asked cheekily, his warm breath washing over her.
"I... I think I have my answer." Akari said, still dazed from the kiss.
Julius pulled away and leaned back on the couch, picking up his tea once more to take a sip. He was still smirking. "Or do you?"
Akari opened her mouth, but like it had been doing lately, no sound came out. With a wink, Julius picked up her barely touched mug and took it into the kitchen, leaving her to contemplate in confusion once more.
A/N: Ah, that was fun to write. Incredibly stressful, but fun. Hope you like it tsuki.=D Oh, and I realized about halfway through typing this that I was being a little...stereotypical. So, if this offends anyone, I am truly sorry.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!