Who: Lin and Louis What: A meetup to give up the gun, pre-plot. Where: A local Japanese place. When: Pre-plot. Warnings/Rating: None!
Lin prayed. He really did, I swear to God. In the car, with an almost suspiciously nondescript black bag someone had gotten a little carried away attaching zippers to, a bag he'd affixed a coin-sized D.A.R.E. pin circa 1992 to, in hopes that that would make it seem less like he'd only just bought it to give someone a gun in, he prayed. He pressed his palms flat in a comical, blasphemous mimicry, as he had inferred this was the correct position to communicate with the Great Beyond in, and he closed his eyes, and he said, aloud, to the steering wheel and the dangly bits on his rearview mirror: "Please, you motherfucker, please, don't let the gun explode in my fucking face. Amen."
Unfortunately, even after he'd opened his eyes again to the sandy brightness of Vegas in November, he didn't feel much better. The gun sat heavily on his thighs like an especially scary, deadly little kid made out of metal, just waiting to be shifted the wrong way. Lin wanted to be rid of it as soon as possible. It made him uneasy, because he didn't understand how it worked.—Sure, he probably could've just looked up a manual online, but, you know the fuck what, he didn't want to. He wanted to know as little as possible about the shit and to just keep it the fuck away from him. He'd only removed the shit from Louis' apartment out of necessity. And then, when he'd gotten it home to Daniel's, he'd tucked it away and pretended it didn't exist, until he remembered that it did and that he needed to give it back.
If he was nervous too about seeing Louis, he could thank the torrent of sour fear in his stomach for ruthlessly killing off whatever butterflies had roosted there. (Thanks, torrent of sour fear!)—Lin ran the threads of conversation through his head again and wondered if he had had some buried, ulterior motive for not mentioning Daniel. But he'd been here before. He cut the thread as it was, a modern day Atropos dressed in skinny maroon cords, a short sleeve button-up in light blue with vintage postcard drawings of huts and palm trees. (That's right. He wasn't wearing a t-shirt. Someone was fancy today and that someone was nearly Lin. His hair kind of ruined it by bossing everything about in black, but it was the thought that sort of counted.)
Brown oxfords met the crack of dry cement and, with the bag so very, very carefully over his shoulder, the boy buttoned the big wooden buttons on his chunky blue cardigan and strolled on in through the glass doors of the restaurant Louis had picked out.
It was a Japanese restaurant with a more traditional streak. Inside it was dark and quiet and Lin approached the host with exaggerated silence, just in case noise might scare the gun into discharging. It was unloaded. But, sound was a powerful thing.
"I'm meeting someone," he whispered. The host gave him a worried look, but seemed somewhat soothed by Lin's smile. The boy came closer, placing his palms on the wood of the stand, careful not to brush anything. "He's hella tall. White. Blond. Scottish. Pretty. Louis? Donovan?"
The restaurant was normal in most respects aside from the rooms around the edge. There were traditionally American tables in the center for those so inclined, but at the walls there was a line of booths with closing rice paper screens. The tables were low to the ground, and one could kneel, or sit crosslegged, or dangle their feet into the low space below the table. It encouraged intimate conversation, and, perhaps more importantly in this case, privacy.
After Lin's highly accurate description, the host led him back toward one of the booths at the back of the room. She opened the screen to reveal Louis, already sitting at the table with a warm sake sitting in front of him, perusing the menu, nervous. He'd been nervous since he agreed to meet Lin, and heartsick alongside it. As much as he tried to pretend that all he was experiencing was another fit of insecurity, it went deeper than that. Finding out that Lin was having sex with someone else, even though they'd only dated the once, had stung. It made him feel ridiculous at best, and insane at worst. But he liked Lin, truth be told, even if he was starting to realize he likely wasn't the right person for him. If they could at least be friends out of this, Louis would be grateful. And if it had affirmed earlier suspicions that people tended to pick him last for any team, he wasn't going to say so.
It was proof of Lin's kindness that he'd brought the gun back to him in public, which eliminated the awkwardness of them being trapped at either of their respective apartments. His obvious tension, however, was a bit of a surprise. The hostess ushered Lin into the booth, then shut the doors again to give them some time with the menus. Louis' eyes fell on the bag, and he arched a brow, looking back to Lin. "Hello," he said, with awkward good will. "Are you alright? You look pale."
Lin could not and did not understand the fuss about Daniel. Though he was highly prone to empathy, this business was simply out of his realm of experience. He knew jealousy and he knew hurt feelings, and he'd been rejected, shunned, forgotten, he'd loved and gotten nothing back, but he couldn't quite fathom, in completeness, why someone would need to know the people he was sleeping with, if a) he wasn't sleeping with them, and b) the expectation of exclusivity hadn't been instituted in mutual agreement. He liked Louis a lot, but to him, it in no way may the man ridiculous for him to not have known the people Lin was fucking in the moment. It tended toward a lengthy, varied list, in any case. Daniel was hardly the only name there.
He knew it was different because he lived with Daniel, he could understand the implied permanence. But since it wasn't actually there, what did it matter? It left him scratching his head.
But he wasn't thinking about that now. The screen opened on a low table and a man seated at it, long legs crossed. The boy's face split into an automatic grin as he came in a few steps so the rice paper could meet behind him. The little table was thrown into privacy and that made him feel better about the gun. With a sigh, and so much caution, he planted himself directly next to Louis, because if there was someone around, he would go to them, and cozy up as much as was possible. It made him feel better.
And as he was feeling particularly freaked about the gun, he needed the closeness more now, as something as simple as emotional necessity, rather than enacting his own skewed preference. His shoulder butted Louis' and his knees were pressed between thin chest and the tabletop. Gingerly, he lifted the bag over the peaks of his legs and sat it with utmost care to the side of Louis' tableware.
"I'm cool," he squeaked, obviously very much not cool. He pushed the bag with a palm and turned his face away, just a little bit, so he could speak into Louis' ear. "It just scares me."
Louis' background in dating was traditional, really. He'd had a few bad relationships, one of which had been short and intense and perhaps the most damaging. But his expectations in love were quite mainstream, in their way. Perhaps he had merely thought that, as a friend, Lin would tell him if he was having sex with someone, and had been since before they had their movie date. In the early stages of dating, of course, lots of people dated multiple prospects at once without explicitly outlining the existence of one to another, but in this case, things with Daniel seemed on the serious side. They did live together, after all. That did make Louis feel as if he was being brought in second string. If he'd known when he asked Lin out in the first place - but that was neither here nor there. He was trying to be very adult and very open minded. It was so much easier to do, though, when the situation didn't involve him. There was nothing wrong with openness in relationships, that went without saying. He only would have liked to know that he was being incorporated into one on the side.
Seeing Lin again brought back the feeling he'd had when Sam told him, that disappointment, mostly in himself. He'd been an absolute lunatic the past few months. Had he really expected Lin to wait around, or divulge every aspect of his love life? It made him feel silly, and more than a little stupid, the last one to catch up to what was going on, every time.
Lin sitting down right next to him surprised Louis completely, and he blinked rapidly enough that his attempt to play that off was a little transparent. He picked the bag up from the table to tuck it underneath, where it would be a bit less conspicuous when the waitress popped her head in again. Lin's voice in his ear, close enough that he could feel his breath, brought him pause. "I was afraid of them too, once," he said, and realized he'd been smiling a little since Lin sat down beside him. "But one has to get over it eventually when pursuing the goal of vigilante justice." He was wry, but his voice still carried how raw it had been, enough that even glossing over it still stuck a little.
Lin tried not to think about people as orchestral metaphors. There was no string section and there was no side to incorporate someone into. Daniel was different from Louis, an apple to an orange (Lin had no problem with fruit metaphors), and they were in no way comparable, the boy didn’t think. He was here now, anyway, settled next to the Scotsman, with dark eyes on the black bag as it was placed under the table, before they canted sideways to watch Louis speak.
“I don’t know. A katana would work well enough. Or little adapted shuriken, cut in the shape of your head. Some people swear by those,” replied Lin, feeling some of the constriction in his chest give when the bag disappeared. He was still careful, curling closer, so as not to accidentally kick anything that might kill him (like, the gun for example or Louis). He let his shoulders slump and leaned on the man next to him. The boy’s fingers nervously clutched at his sleeves, bringing the blue throats in on themselves as his hands receded into the familiar warmth of his own body.
Lin wiped his nose with the sleeve, unthinkingly, then looked back to Louis again. He tipped his head to the side. They were close enough, that he had to be conscious of where he laid his eyes, not allowing them to drop with obviousness.
The boy poked Louis’ cheek and smiled.
“Are you nervous?”
"I don't think I've got the reflexes for a katana," Louis confided, quick as you please. He noted Lin's hands drawing in close to himself in a dart of eyes. It seemed dangerous to let them settle anywhere for too long. As he watched Lin wipe his nose on his sleeve, he was given the strong impression of Lin as not much more than a big, whip smart kid, and that was a bit fond, that thought. He smiled a little, even as Lin poked him in the cheek. "When have you ever known me to be nervous?" he asked, precisely as the waitress appeared to find Lin leaning on Louis, so close he was practically in his lap. Louis looked up sharply, slightly deer-in-headlights. "Ah - what did you want to drink?" he asked Lin, turning back to look at him for input in a way that was not the least bit a cry for help.
Lin was close to making a very childish sound of incredulity, one that employed pursed lips and a good amount of air and spit, something someone online would spell out 'pffft' or 'pssh,' but he stopped short of the act when the little screen was reeled back to reveal the waitress. Louis' head whipped up with enough force Lin was surprised it didn't fly off and hit the ceiling. He was glad though, because not only would he be forced to investigate the incident for science, but it would put him in an awkward position with the waitress, because, you know, what would they talk about? Honestly, he didn't think the way he was currently seated, one shoulder completely weighted against Louis, his nose almost to the man's cheek, was risque or awkward. But he saw, in the blue irises, that Louis felt differently.
The boy pushed himself off the man and put his elbows on the table. He smiled winningly at the waitress.
"Coke, please. And some sake. For two." Lin's fingers V'd and waggled. The epitome of a polite, precocious child with wild black hair, he nodded his head at the woman. "Thank you."
When she left, Lin looked at the man next to him.
"Wow, that was really close," he teased, pretending to button up his shirt (which meant first unbuttoning the first couple buttons, but whatever).
It wasn't that Louis was embarrassed of Lin, it was only that he wasn't sure what to do around him yet, who he should be to Lin. There were also the heavily stacked layers of worry wrapped around the core of his intimate imagination. He was a private person to begin with, and then there were the moments where making himself vulnerable with a public display of affection had earned him broken bones or cutting words, sharp glances and disgusted looks. Once, such things had merely embarrassed him. Now he prepared himself reflexively to be angry if he met with judgement, even as it flustered him completely.
Then Lin got up, and the waitress seemed to recover herself. Maybe it had nothing to do with the fact that she'd opened the door on two men so close together, and more to do with a general distaste for what some people got up to in these closed booths. Either way, she was utterly professional, which was all he could really ask, and she left with Lin's order as quickly as he gave it. The door shut with a quiet snik, and they were alone again.
Louis sighed, unthinking, and looked back at Lin. His smile was lopsided, sheepish and unsure. "I'm sorry," he tried. He knew how it must seem. Or did he? Did Lin even care? It made him dizzy trying to figure out what Lin thought, so perhaps it was best to simply move past it. He cleared his throat. "I don't like being startled by anyone, especially waitresses. A personal pet peeve."
Fortunately for Lin, the looks of disgust and the rolling of eyes had never been limited to displays of his sexuality in public (though when that happened, he usually got a little aggressive). His sense of humor had garnered them like attendance awards, from elementary school onward, and he was good at shrugging the shit off. The lingering look, whenever it washed away into professional neutrality from the waitress' face, the boy didn't care. She left. The reedy door closed.
The sigh, issuing from Louis, was a little worrisome. After all, maybe for Lin the shit, the third party desire to express unwanted opinions physically and/or verbally, was just a normal burden for an annoying person, but maybe it wasn't so for Louis. Maybe it meant more to him that strangers not think he was something he wasn't, whether that was "loose" or that was "unclassy" or something else. The man held himself so close and uncertain, the pages of his text were wrinkled, harder to read, even from less than a foot away, but he wasn't illegible. Lin dropped his hand from the throat of his shirt and stretched his legs out under the table, still so very, very cautious of the gun.
"Pet peeves are personal by definition," he informed the Scotsman in his most irritating, chipper fashion, the kind that would make Daniel throttle him, before smiling. He was turned toward the man enough that his knee met upper thigh without much help from him. "But that's legit. Is it the same for waiters? Or do you like being startled by them?"
The innuendo was emphasized by a playful flick of black eyebrows, and Lin let it hang there for half a second, before the slate of his face wiped clean. It didn't take on concern, but the teasing tone left the corners of brown eyes and the pinch of pink lips.
"No, but really, tell me to step off, if you want. I don't want to be all up in your grill when you're like, done barbecuing for the summer. And I hope you like sake."
"True," Louis said, amiably enough. When Lin's thigh touched his he leaned a little closer without thinking, head still bowed. He was looking at the space between the two of them. "I'm much worse with waiters," Louis said, the edge of his mouth quirking up a tic. He was thinking of all the times he'd been flustered by a flirty member of the service industry. The women didn't know what they were getting into, and the men caught him utterly off guard, without fail. He really was terrible at figuring out the etiquette of that sort of thing. "But I like it better, yes."
Louis shook his head, looking up at last. "No, Lin, you're fine. Really. Don't mind me." He tried not to let sadness creep back in. Lin was so kind to him, and utterly patient. Why did he have to repay him with nervousness and heartbreak over something he so obviously didn't care about? It made him wish he was wired differently, that he was built to be cavalier and easy about the people he liked. He was going to have to get over that one of these days, or it would just drive him mad. Again. "I do like sake," he added. "And my grill is perfectly alright."
Lin grinned, eyes cinching and teeth flashing with rarely-seen charm, something true and bright and not at all hampered by the presence of a gun or a gun-shy man. It didn't jitter with nervousness or overplay its wattage with coaxing, it just burst on lips unable to keep the appreciate of humor to themselves. He laughed too.
"Yeah? Your grill's doing okay?" Lin scrunched his nose playfully, coming closer once again. He twisted over the man next to him, his back to the door and balanced on his knees. His nimble little fingers felt at the down of Louis' lips, uncaring now that he'd been approved in the touching. He lightly drew Louis' lips back from his teeth, as if inspecting for the truth of the statement. His grill did look pretty good. The boy wiped his fingers on the front of his own shirt, and that was the moment to pull back. But he didn't. He stayed where he was, close enough for chests to touch, though he didn't straight up straddle Louis.
There came an almost imperceptible nod, and riding on it, every insinuation imaginable, reflected in the deep browns of eyes that offered nothing more but long lashes.