Title: Seeing The Forest For The Trees
Pairing: Hattori/Mashiro
Rating: PG-13
Warning: boy-kissing? Um…
Summary: Meeting Hattori by chance at a diner, Mashiro seized the opportunity to ask what had been plaguing his mind and even though he didn't plan to go further than a few questions, it's not like he regret it.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making money. Don't sue.
A/N: Spoilers up to chapter 71 with vague references to a few things from chapter 73

It had been two month since Tanto started running in Jump, and Mashiro had to secretly admit that he was getting tired of drawing the boy hero. Lately, it had been the same old gags repeating over and over, and Miura-san wasn't helping any except to keep repeating that they needed to put in more humor. The more he dwelled on it; the more aggravated he got.

It's getting colder the closer it was to Christmas. Mashiro grunted as he stomped his way down to the convenience store near his studio; it's just his luck that his bicycle had to get flat tires when he had just lent Takagi his only air pump. It was rather relaxing though, to be walking under the night sky on the empty streets with only the sound of his footsteps and the image of Azuki in his head as companions. Grinning a bit to himself, Mashiro made mental list of groceries he needed for the week. He wondered if he could convince Miyoshi to cook up something when she visited them tomorrow. Something easy that even Miyoshi could do well, like omu-rice or curry.

Both hands securely tucked inside the warm pockets of his jeans, Mashiro pondered the merits of another night with convenience store food versus the leftover hamburger Takagi brought with him this afternoon. It couldn't have gone bad yet, right?

Normally, his so called shopping only needed about an hour at most to finish with half an hour spent on travelling, but since the bike was unusable, Mashiro groaned and bore with the long and tiring walk to the store. Just when he was about to head for the shortcut he normally took, he heard a soft ringing of small bells and a chorus of 'thank you, please come again!' from somewhere just a few meters down the street and with it the delicious smell of coffee and pastries.

Noticing for the first time a small diner nestled in between a bookstore and a flower shop, Mashiro decided that convenience store could wait, and headed to its welcoming warmth. Only after seeing the diner and smelling freshly cooked food that he realized how he longed for a good meal and a place to rest his abused feet. There was a coffee station just right inside the diner, and the barista greeted him with a perky welcome and a sincere smile which Mashiro mildly returned. He was led by a waitress in subdued blue plaid dress to a booth near the back of the diner when he expressed his wish for a quiet corner.

Stomach grumbling, Mashiro ordered a cup of coffee and a plate of steak, his mind wandered while waiting for his food to arrive. It was not, after all, like he had anything better to be concentrating on while Takagi racked his brain trying to come up with a new gag for their next chapter. He was, however, rather grateful that this diner was a lot more secluded than the fast-food places he used to frequent - he could use the quietude to reminisce about Ashirogi's past success and perhaps the future of their manga.

It didn't take long for his coffee to arrive with a gentle clink of china on the glass table. Mashiro absently reached for sugar and cream as he let himself doubted, yet again, of their trust on Miura-san's judgment. He, after all, had been proven to be too optimistic many times in the past.

He found with irritation that it started snowing after he had taken only a few sips of his coffee. Judging from the rapidly growing pile of snow on the window frame, he was stuck here until the snow let up which might be a few hours later.

/Well, at least we might have white Christmas…/

Startled out of his musing by the chime signaling a new visitor to the diner, Mashiro glanced at the door to find that a man in brown coat and rumpled hat was stepping inside the small diner, specks of snow clinging to his clothes. The man was slow to take off his thick coat – most likely hesitant to part with its warmth, his distinctive thick lips slightly blued from the cold air, and his hands visibly shook while he took off his hat. Seeing his profile clearly, the man was unmistakably Mashiro's former editor, Hattori Akira.

Mashiro, curious of when Hattori would notice him but at the same time wished that he would not, watched on as the man was lead to a table near the counter. Hattori was sitting with his back turned to him, his wrinkled blue shirt and his obvious stoop told Mashiro that he had probably stayed up late at the office again. Mashiro wondered if it had something to do with another serialization decision, but then again, it's not time for that just yet. Hattori-san had always been serious about his job though, so this was possibly just another night that he had lost track of time editing some random mangas. Speaking of serialization, Mashiro spent a few moments entertaining thoughts about the hard decisions the editors had to go through, and if his own manga would be brought up to discussion in the next meeting.

A soft sigh emitted from the tired man's direction roused him from his thoughts. With all the troubles Hattori-san had to go through when the truth came out that 'Moneys' was actually Niizuma Eiji, Mashiro had to wonder if he had been taking enough rest lately. It was unintentionally relayed to them by Miura-san the reasons behind Hattori's backing up Iwase, and Mashiro felt unexplainably giddy just thinking about it.

He knew perfectly how the Ashirogi pair operated. In order for them to bounce back from their failure at getting their second serialization, Hattori had gone around behind everyone's back to bring out a worthy rival for them. This proved just how much Hattori cared about them. After that truth came out, Mashiro couldn't help himself but keep obsessing over it. He thought about how Hattori had always tried his hardest to help them grow, how he guided them until they could get 'Trap' serialized, how sincerely glad he had been when they made it again with 'Tanto'.

'Will there ever be time that Hattori-san would be their editor again?' Mashiro asked himself, choking up slightly with emotions. He only realized that his cheeks had turned bright red when a waitress asked with concern if he was having a fever. Realizing how weird it was to be staring at his former editor so intently, Mashiro tore his eyes away from Hattori's back and tried to cease thinking altogether.

He did notice that the waitress voice rang quite loud in the quiet diner, and her question brought Hattori's attention. Suppressing his unfounded panic, Mashiro met eyes with Hattori, who seemed to be surprised, but pleasantly so.

"What a coincidence to find you here, Mashiro-kun!" Hattori said, smiling as he practically skipped to where Mashiro was sitting. "Here, we can sit together and talk of old times a bit, hahaha."

The sudden quickened of his heartbeats at Hattori's obvious delight in meeting him greatly shocked Mashiro. Strangely demure, he kept his eyes down while Hattori slipped inside the booth, the older man's attention still with the waitress who was taking his order.

"You don't mind me sitting here, do you?" Hattori asked, rather belatedly. Seeing Mashiro shook his head, Hattori grinned in relief.

"Since it's such an opportune meeting, this dinner will be on me," Hattori was saying.

"I couldn't impose," Mashiro muttered automatically.

Hattori raised an eyebrow, seemed to be surprised at Mashiro's sudden shyness. "Oh, but I insist!"

"Very well then," Mashiro mumbled, suddenly having an urge to shred the napkin he's clutching on.

Why was he being so self-conscious in front of Hattori-san? This certainly had never happened before!

Curious about Hattori's quietness, Mashiro tried to observe the other through his lashes only to find that Hattori was looking at him with concerns.

"You seemed to have something on your mind," Hattori declared.

Mashiro thought to deny the claim, but then changed his mind.

"…Was it about 'Tanto'?" Hattori ventured.

"I—" Mashiro began, "I can't help but keep thinking that Ashirogi could do something better."

Hattori didn't say anything for a while. "I think you should talk with Miura if you're unsatisfied. He is, after all, your editor. You should be able to confide with him on anything job related."

Suddenly feeling unbearably frustrated, Mashiro burst out; "but Miura-san wouldn't listen! I kept telling him; Ashirogi isn't suit for gag mangas, but he won't stop insisting on it!"

Not meeting Mashiro's eyes, Hattori muttered something about valuing an editor's advices.

"Truthfully, I-," Mashiro hesitated, blushing quite a bit for unknown reasons. "I value Hattori-san's opinions a lot more. Please tell me honestly, how do you feel about 'Tanto'?"

Seemingly flustered himself, Hattori lowered his eyes to stare at Mashiro's half-empty coffee cup. Mashiro was well aware that it was not in Hattori's place to decide if Ashirogi's manga was good enough or not, he lost that right when his responsibility as their editor was transferred to Miura. He was also aware that asking Hattori this would end up with evasive answers.

"Regardless of my opinions on 'Tanto', I have told you before and I will tell you again, that you have got talents," Hattori said after a short deliberation. Mashiro clenched his teeth, unsatisfied even though he had expected such answer.

/Just as I thought/

"When I first knew that 'Trap' was gonna be cancelled, I thought of you," Mashiro confided. "I thought of how Miura-san was so useless, of how if it's you we might- we *could* revive the series somehow."

Seeing Hattori was at a loss for words, Mashiro pressed on. "I really think, even now, that if it was you who's our editor, we could be a hit. Shujin hadn't said anything, but I know he sometimes thinks the same. It's *you* we trust to take care of Ashirogi's mangas, Hattori-san."

"I don't know what to say," Hattori whispered after a long pause. "I'm flattered that you think so highly of me. I do wish to see you grow as mangakas. I wish I could personally observe raw diamonds like you two turned into jewels, but nevertheless I'm sure even if it's not me as editor Ashirogi can still grow splendidly."

Mashiro scowled, leaning in close to Hattori. "You still don't understand, Hattori-san. If it's not you, then it's meaningless! When we fought with Miura-san over our new serialization, it's not only about our pride as mangakas, but also our beliefs in your judgment. You've said before that we will do well with serious stories, and we tried so hard to prove your words true.

You have no idea how crushed we were, when we heard the news of you becoming editor to Iwase-san. To think, that you've found someone else you deemed talented… I… It hurt that you practically ignored us in favor of Iwase at the New Year party. I couldn't get over it."

Startled out of his monologue by an uncomfortable waitress who was placing their orders on the table, Mashiro let the silent lulled on for a while. At this reprieve, Hattori started eating. He seemed to be both relieved by the interruption, and intrigued by Mashiro's confession. Contrary to him, Mashiro now lost interests in his food.

Without thinking, Mashiro reached out and held tight on to Hattori's arm, eyes poring onto the older man's with emotions he couldn't explain.

Hattori seemed tired when he glanced down to look at Mashiro's hand. "Please understand that I can't be your editor, or even your confidant anymore..."

Taking several deep breaths, Mashiro finally let go of Hattori's arm but refused to back away from the man's personal space. It seemed to discomfit Hattori, but at that moment Mashiro decided sadistically that he didn't care.

Forcefully removing Mashiro from his personal space, Hattori stood up and tossed a few bills on the table to cover their tabs.

"We should take this outside," Hattori muttered and hurried out, a confused Mashiro not far behind.

They walked together in silent for ten minutes or so when Hattori abruptly stopped and turned to face Mashiro. He didn't prompt or asked, just wait patiently for Mashiro to gather his thoughts and continue. The streets were quiet, and Mashiro was grateful for that fact.

"I just want your opinion as someone who knows us best, someone who understands Ashirogi's manga. I don't care about being professional, or even if I'm gonna be called childish or selfish. I- I just can't..."

Stepping closer than appropriate and heart thundered painfully in his chest, Mashiro let his hand fell on Hattori's arm once again.

Hattori sighed, his breaths warm against Mashiro's cold cheek. Suppressing his shudder at the sudden change of temperature, Mashiro inched even closer to the man, making him jerked and backed away hurriedly. Trying not to frown, Mashiro stubbornly stepped forward and leaned into Hattori, now so close that their faces almost touching.

Hattori was babbling, but the only things Mashiro acknowledged were that Hattori smelled of coffee and cigarette, and that his chin was sporting a hint of beard. Absently, Mashiro thought that he might actually be too close to Hattori to even his own comfort, but he couldn't back out now. It seemed important that he got his points across.

What he didn't plan to happen was that he would lean even further in and desperately tried to force his lips on the man's. What they just did; it couldn't be classified as a kiss, it's not even a peck. Mashiro was half exasperated with himself for even failing at such simple thing.

"What you meant to do just now, Mashiro-kun?" Hattori whispered, eyes bright as he stared at Mashiro's glistened lips.

Swallowed down his embarrassment, Mashiro replied truthfully, "I think I just tried to kiss you..."

"Oh..." Hattori muttered weakly, eyes turned curiously dark.

Licking his lips, Mashiro leaned in for another try at kissing. It's not gentle, electric, or anything worth writing a lengthy description on, but Mashiro's cheeks burned bright red, his heart beat faster than ever, and he thought he might faint if this continued for another second.

"Mashiro-kun..." Hattori half growled, half whimpered, but the sound only encouraged Mashiro to press on. Their tongues battled sweetly for dominant, their hands seek burning skins under the confining cloths, breathless and quiet except for the agonized panting and arousing growls. Somehow Hattori ended up cornering Mashiro into the wall, arms caging on both sides as he ground his hip onto Mashiro's who tried desperately to keep up with him thrust by thrust. At a particularly vicious thrust, Mashiro mewled and came hard enough to see stars.

At that sound, Hattori jerked away from the whimpering Mashiro, his face full of horror when he realized what he had just done. Mashiro was rightly a mess; his hair in wild disarray, cheeks bright red, mouth panting deliriously, and he was shaking like a newborn lamb. Somehow during the incoherent span of their rutting, Mashiro's jeans were undone and his white cotton brief showing itself proudly to the world. Dark patch of come already started to seep through his briefs, daring Hattori to look away from its enticing state.

Hattori staggered and turned away from the sight, his shoulders shook with each exhalation as if it took effort to breath. Mashiro looked at him with blurry eyes, mind still not quite back from the euphoria of orgasm.

"You are too young, so very young," Hattori was murmuring. This woke Mashiro from his state quite effectively.

"I'm old enough to use you as my jerk off fantasy!" Mashiro scoffed, earning a choked up sound from the man.

"This won't do," Hattori croaked out after a while, his voice barely showed any sign of resoluteness.

"No, it won't," Mashiro agreed, calmly zipping up his jeans and walked to stand in front of Hattori. He refused to let the other get away so simply.

"I want this again," Mashiro confessed, doubting if one could die from embarrassment but stubbornly continued. "Come back with me to the studio. You can say that again to my face after we're done with the second round. That is; if you still think it won't work."

Hattori looked dumbfounded, out of his wits because of Mashiro's boldness. He didn't think to protest as he was dragged on to Mashiro's studio, stumbling along as he concentrated on Mashiro's hand. It was slightly damp from nervousness, and it should have been unattractive, but Hattori didn't seem to mind.

- end (or continue?)

Win7 decided that my thumbdrive in wihch I stored the new chapter of "Every Season" and the whole plot should be formatted. In my sleepy stupidity, I clicked "Yes"...


In other news, I have some new ideas for HikaGo fics so there should be some updates on that front soonish! Cya!