Summary: Five universes where Miyadate has to chase down Watanabe, and one where he had him the entire time.
A/N: Bonus wakamono fic ( ^_^)b Everybody
In All the Gin Joints in All the World
"What do you mean, it isn't here?" Miyadate demanded. The student librarian did not seem moved by his plight. "My paper is due in fourteen hours! It's a reserve book, it has to be here!"
"Not for another hour and forty-two minutes, it doesn't." The student shrugged at him, and Miyadate hoped that one of his five entirely superfluous piercings got infected.
"Aw, don't be a jerk, Hikaru," the other guy working the reserves desk leaned over to say. He gave Miyadate a hopeful smile, making the beauty marks across his cheeks scrunch. "I think he went towards the reading rooms, over there? Maybe if you find him, he'll share."
"Thanks," Miyadate said. It wasn't much, but he couldn't work on his paper without the book anyway, so there was nothing to lose. He'd already asked for one extension, and if he came back to Professor Takizawa with no paper and more excuses, there was no telling what would happen to him.
The reading rooms contained nothing but half a dozen stressed out students and one couple making out.
"Oops," Miyadate said, not really feeling that bad. The guy on top hadn't even seemed to care, but the tall one on his back on the table had seemed mortified. Served them right, getting to make out while Miyadate spent his night on a wild goose chase for a stupid economics book.
He tried some of the tables in the back, then the group of chairs near the back entrance, then the study carrels over by the windows. Miyadate had no success, got shushed a lot, and in general was reasonably cranky as he trudged up the stairs to try the second floor.
Tucked away behind the periodicals section, Miyadate stumbled over a table of guys studying, two of whom were the maker-outers from before.
"Fukka," the tall one hissed, nudging his apparently boyfriend. "It's him!"
"Oh, it's you," Miyadate grunted, making the tall one flush pink and whine. "What's the matter, no more anatomy to study?"
"Now there's a mid-term I could actually pass," the other one snorted. "Abe-chan, calm down, geez. What do you care what this guy thinks anyway?"
Miyadate ignored both of them, because to their right was exactly the book that he needed, held up in front of the face of the third guy at their table.
"Thank goodness," Miyadate said with relief. "Hey, I've got a paper I have to finish, so do you think we could share that—"
The current possessor of the book laid it down flat to see who was talking to him, and Miyadate forgot how to do words as a pair of dark brown eyes blinked up him.
"He's cute, what's he doing here?" the guy turned to ask his friends.
"Um," Miyadate tried. He was definitely here for something, he almost had it, but then the guy reached up to brush his messy hair out of his eyes and Miyadate lost it again.
"You know," Fukka commented, "there's an empty reading room downstairs nobody's making out in, in case you two needed a room."
Miyadate did not, did not want to go to a strip club after work. He liked the guys in his office plenty, and going out for drinks with them was fine and all once in a while, but somehow things had taken an ugly turn and there had been no way to extricate himself from the situation politely.
"It'll be good for you to relax for a change!" Fukazawa had exclaimed, clapping Miyadate on the shoulder. "You too, Abe-chan!"
Abe, their new intern, looked more terrified than relaxed. Miyadate swallowed a sigh and figured at least he wasn't the only person not excited by the thought of ladies shimmying in thigh-high boots and scraps of spandex. Although Miyadate figured it was probably Fukazawa Abe found terrifying and not so much the ladies. Either way, Miyadate had worked hard to fit in at his office, and he wasn't going to blow it now by admitting that he actually had no interest in ladies basically at all.
Somewhat hilariously, apparently Miyadate would have fit right in with the people at the strip club.
"I am SURE this was a girl strip club last time I was here!" Fukazawa announced, looking around like if he squinted hard enough, the dancers would change gender to better fit his expectations. Abe was glancing around like he wasn't sure where he could safely look, while Iwamoto and Sakuma were laughing so hard they were leaning on each other.
"Hey, should we try it?" Sakuma said suddenly, making everyone blink at him. He shrugged. "Some of them are really cute. We're already here, after all."
That's how they ended up sitting along one side of the stage on the tiny plastic stools, Abe still not sure where to look, Fukazawa looking interested against his will, and Sakuma and Iwamoto debating with some energy the costuming and staging of the guys as they came and went from the stage.
"You sure know a lot about this," Fukazawa finally said, eyeing Sakuma suspiciously.
Sakuma laughed and gave a little wriggle on his stool. "How do you think I afforded my fancy college degree, idiot?" he asked, making Abe and Iwamoto's eyes both go wide.
Miyadate was having a hard time enjoying himself, spending all his energy trying to figure out exactly how much it was okay to seem like he was enjoying himself. He nearly jumped out of his skin when a hand touched his shoulder.
"Don't look so nervous," a voice said near his ear. Miyadate turned to find one of the club's dancers looking down at him, wearing a sweet smile and a sequined bowtie, and hardly anything else. "You're too cute to frown like that."
"I'm not…" Miyadate felt himself frowning harder and tried to take a deep breath. "Sorry."
"It's fine. I'm Shota." Shota's eyes were dark brown, even reflecting the garish neon lights of the club, and Miyadate's heart skipped a couple beats when they were focused directly on him. "First time here?"
"Or anywhere," Miyadate admitted, knowing he was starting to blush and helpless to stop it.
"Then I better show you a good time or you'll never come back," Shota said, and with that he settled right in Miyadate's lap, making himself comfortable. "First one's on the house since you're so cute and tense. Do you know the rules?"
Miyadate shook his head weakly, all of his powers of reason focused on Shota's warm weight in his lap.
"No touching, so keep your hands down. It's over when I say. And you have to enjoy yourself." Shota smiled again, putting his hands on Miyadate's shoulders for balance, and everything that happened after that was a long, bright blur.
It took a week for Miyadate to get up the courage to go back to the club. He talked himself in and out of it fifteen times a day, unable to think about anything besides Shota's hands on his shoulders, warm through his shirt, unable to even daydream pleasantly without reminding himself that Shota did that same thing for strangers two dozen times a night and could not give less of a damn about one lovesick salaryman.
It was Sakuma who finally put him out of his misery.
"Come on, coat on," Sakuma said, standing beside Miyadate with his arms crossed. Miyadate asked what for. "To go find him, stupid. You've been useless all week, let's go."
"I don't—" Miyadate protested weakly, but Sakuma interrupted.
"We know, okay? Nobody cares." Sakuma rolled his eyes. "I guess you thought you were subtle or whatever, but even Abe-chan could tell the only lady you ever notice is the bakery lady downstairs. Even then, you only ever want her baguette."
Sakuma's bluntness made Miyadate laugh so hard he had to lean his head between his knees for a minute. It was relief at his co-workers' acceptance more than anything that made it possible for Miyadate to follow Sakuma outside and back to the club.
They didn't see Shota when they came into the club. Sakuma handled it, heading over to the bar to ask someone, while Miyadate fretted uselessly that it was Shota's day off, Shota had quit, Shota had moved to Osaka, Shota…
"Hi again," the same soft voice says in Miyadate's ear, and he turned to find Shota. This time Shota was wearing a hot pink T-shirt, not quite staying on one of his shoulders, and Miyadate found it a hundred times more appealing than the bow tie. "I'm on my break, but do you maybe want to have a drink with me?"
"He definitely does," Sakuma said when Miyadate failed to make any words come out of his mouth. He gave Miyadate a push towards Shota before being distracted by the stage. "Ooh, it's Hasshi-chan's turn! I really liked him last week. Did you see when he—"
Miyadate didn't hear what Hasshi-chan's great trick was, because Shota was grabbing his hand to pull him over towards the bar, and everything else was a blur.
"Of course they're real!" Miyadate snapped, scandalized. His ears twitched in irritation. He'd barely been at his new high school for five minutes and already these weirdos were asking about his sex life.
"Sorry, sorry!" the classmate held up his hands in surrender. "No offense."
"Ignore Hashimoto," said the kid at the next desk, Iwamoto-kun, earning himself a pout from Hashimoto. "He barely kept his ears until middle school."
"Older boyfriend," added the boy leaning against Iwamoto's desk, his own ears practically buried in his perm so that Miyadate would have thought he'd lost his too, except for the bushy tail swishing happily behind him.
"Mmm, yup." Hashimoto grinned, as if thinking about a particularly pleasant memory. "Don't be jealous~."
It wasn't Hashimoto's lack of ears that made Miyadate jealous, so much as the thread of light wrapped snug around Hashimoto's wrist, leading away and right towards the older boyfriend, Miyadate was sure. It seemed like everybody he met in this school had figured out who they were connected to. Sakuma and Iwamoto's string was bunched short and tight since they were standing so close, and Abe in the front row had his string trailing along the floor right past Miyadate's desk to Fukazawa in the back row, napping in the sun by the windows.
Even out in the hallway, their homeroom teacher, Kitayama-sensei had been tied to another teacher with poofy hair and a pink leo-print phone. Kitayama-sensei had kind of looked like he wanted to strangle the other guy with their string, given the way they were arguing, but a bond was a bond.
Miyadate had a string too, tied just as tight around his wrist, light and fine like a spiderweb, trailing off to somewhere. When he'd been younger, he'd tried to follow it sometimes, but he never got anywhere besides lost. Anyway, they moved around so much for his father's job that eventually he realized that even if he found the person on the other end, inevitably they'd be separated. Maybe it was better not to know what he was missing. Who he was missing.
Eventually Kitayama-sensei came in and took attendance, Sakuma and Hashimoto shooed back to their own desks, Iwamoto reaching behind to nudge Fukazawa awake. "Where's Watanabe-kun?"
"Out sick still," Hashimoto called out. "It's the flu so he won't be back the rest of the week."
"Then I'm sure you'll take him all his work properly, Hashimoto-kun," Kitayama-sensei said, ignoring Hashimoto's whine about the chore. "And we have a new student, Miyadate Ryota. Come up here and introduce yourself, please."
Miyadate was a pro at new schools, but this one seemed easier than most. The guys in his class didn't seem to have any problem letting him sit with them at lunch or asking him to join in after school when they went to the arcade or karaoke. Miyadate should have probably been spending the time studying, since it was already apparent that he was behind from his last school, but it was novel to feel like he could have friends, for once, and Miyadate wanted to hold on to that fleeting feeling for as long as he could.
The next Monday, the elusive Watanabe-kun returned, staring down at Miyadate in confusion.
"Who are you? Why are you in my chair?" Watanabe turned to the others, all of whom were laughing, and whined, "You let the new guy sit in my seat all week? You guys are assholes!"
Feeling like the butt of the whole joke, Miyadate started to stand up, hoping to just slink quietly to the back of the classroom.
"Aw, just stay there, it's no big—" Watanabe cut off when his hand touched Miyadate's shoulder, apparently feeling the same zap of electricity that Miyadate had felt. That wasn't what made Miyadate drop back into his chair in surprise, though.
His string wasn't trailing off into nowhere anymore; it was hooked firmly around Watanabe's wrist, glowing brightly.
"Oh," Watanabe said in surprise, looking Miyadate over more carefully. He smiled shyly, hair flopping into his eyes a little, and Miyadate couldn't have looked away if Kitayama-sensei had come into the room with his hair on fire. "Oh, it's you. Hi."
"H-hi," Miyadate echoed, then just stared, tongue-tied.
"I give those ears a week, max," Hashimoto whispered loudly, and Iwamoto shushed him by whacking him over the back of the head.
"I can't dooooo iiiiiiiiiit," Sakuma whined, because he was the worst earth bender in all of the four nations. He was water, all squirmy and getting all over and clinging to your skin, and fire hadn't been too hard because Sakuma was passionate and determined to prove how strong he was for his small size. But earth-bending was all patience and constancy, and Sakuma was neither of those things in any measure. Sakuma's natural tendency when faced with a rock was to flow around it.
Miyadate had no idea how Abe could keep so patient with their acrobatic little avatar, as he explained over and over that Sakuma had to know the rock would move because he told it to, and to quit neglecting his stance. Even listening was working Miyadate's last nerve, and he tried to just ignore it as he cleaned and checked his weapons. At least all he had to do was keep that guy alive and make sure he knew not to hold a sword by the pointy end.
"Listening to that is driving me crazy," Fukazawa complained, flopping down next to Miyadate in a heap of water tribe robes. Being a waterbender himself, he was almost as impatient as Sakuma. Sometimes Miyadate wondered how the two of them had managed to learn to bend anything between them.
"Horse stance!" Abe reminded for the hundredth time. "Horse!"
"That IS my horse stance!" Sakuma retorted.
"It looks suspiciously like frog. Properly."
"Plus I think I'm seasick," Fukazawa added. He flopped against Miyadate's shoulder, apparently unconcerned with the unsheathed steel in Miyadate's lap. What was it with waterbenders and their lack of concern with getting run through?
"Waterbenders do not get seasick," Miyadate informed him, putting his sword safely aside. "And they definitely don't do it on my boots, so back off."
"But we've been on this boat for days and days!" Fukazawa grumbled. "Can't the stupid airbenders live in civilization like the decent people?"
"Won't matter if he can't earthbend by the time we find him an air master," Iwamoto commented on the way by, the boots of his Fire Nation uniform clicking sharply on the deck of the boat.
"Three elements is plenty!" Sakuma hollered, at the end of his rope for the afternoon. "That's three times as much bending as any of you jackasses can do!"
"Ah, the bring of peace and moderation, proud avatar," Miyadate said with a roll of his eyes.
"Be honest, have you ever even seen a horse?" Abe asked critically.
It was a relief to finally get to their destination and on to solid land, no offense to Iwamoto's perfectly respectable boat. The relief lasted exactly until Iwamoto asked Sakuma where they were supposed to go next.
"How should I know?" Sakuma shrugged. "They're called air nomads for a reason."
"Let's murder him," Fukasawa said to Abe. "Maybe the next one will be less annoying. Plus it's earth next! Think how much better that will be!"
"Stop plotting to murder the avatar," Miyadate scolded them. "I'm sure if we give him a minute, he can come up with a plan other than wandering around aimlessly until we're very lost in the woods."
"Ooh, a flying squirrel!" Sakuma exclaimed, dashing off into the brush after it without a look backwards.
"I think if I punch him hard enough I can send him to the spirit realm," Iwamoto announced. "I'm just saying it's worth a try."
"Excuse me!" a voice called brightly right behind Miyadate's head, making him jump and whirl, sword out. There was nobody there, because now the voice was on his other side. "Has anybody seen a flying squirrel? I've lost mine."
Two more turns later, Miyadate comes face to face with an airbender who's even worse at staying still than Sakuma, all mussed curls and pink cheeks like the wind had just blown him into their midst.
"Our avatar did, but then we lost him too," Fukazawa reported, pointing in the general direction Sakuma had taken off. "Sakuma, would you get back here! If you get lost, we're leaving you here!"
"I've been calling for that thing for hours!" the airbender said in exasperation. "Monk Tama's training needs some work, I think."
"Do flying squirrels come when you call?"Abe asked politely.
"Sakumaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" Fukazawa hollered.
"Maybe they don't!" The airbender laughed. "I'm Watanabe Shota, at your service. You can put your sword away, you know," he said to Miyadate. "Unless you're afraid the squirrel might come back."
Cheeks turning pink as he tucked his sword away, Miyadate grumbled that this was just what they needed, another wise guy.
"Did you say you guys were with the avatar?" Watanabe asked. "Neat!"
"You'd think that, but…" Iwamoto's explanation cut off when Sakuma popped back into the clearing, a tiny flying squirrel nesting quite happily in the curls on top of his head.
"I think it likes me!" Sakuma beamed. "Hey, you guys found an airbender! See, I told you my plan would work just fine."
"Think how nice and calm an earthbender would be," Fukazawa said to Abe.
"You guys seem like fun!" Watanabe announced. "Come have dinner with me and the other monks, okay? Especially you," Watanabe added with a grin, poking Miyadate in the cheek. "The avatar can keep the squirrel if I get to bring you home instead."
Watanabe hooked an arm through Miyadate's and dragged him along at a pace bordering on alarming, chattering his ear off the entire trip back to the temple. They were barely halfway there before Miyadate found himself hoping Watanabe wasn't the kind of monk who believed in celibacy.
Miyadate woke up suddenly, feeling exhausted and unsettled. It was pitch dark still, and he fumbled the light on, only to blind himself with it.
"Wha?" Watanabe asked, squinting up at Miyadate, hair sticking out in all directions. Miyadate reached over to pat it down, the simple touch soothing all the uncomfortable feelings in his chest.
"You're here," he said with relief.
"A'course?" Watanabe looked Miyadate over more closely, if still somewhat blearily. "Something wrong?"
"No, sorry." Miyadate flipped the light back off and settled down against his pillows, pulling Watanabe close against his chest. Watanabe hummed happily as Miyadate made them fit together perfectly, like always. "I had this dream…a bunch of dreams. I kept having to find you, over and over. Ugh, I feel like I didn't sleep at all."
"I'm right here. And Ryota would always find me," Watanabe said with confidence, if already half back to sleep.
"Right," Miyadate agreed. He pressed lips to Watanabe's forehead to seal his promise with a kiss. "In every universe."
There was a minute of silence as Miyadate tried to relax back to sleep, enjoying the warmth of Watanabe curled up against him.
"Could I fly in any of them?" Watanabe asked at random. "I like dreams where I fly."
"Finally!" Miyadate called without turning around when he heard the hatch to the cockpit creak open. He could hardly fly the whole damn spaceship himself after all, so he hoped his new co-pilot was worth more than his last one. Where did Admiral Takizawa even find some of these guys?
"Sorry I'm late," the new guy said, and Miyadate turned to snap at him over his shoulder, then all the words stuck in his throat as he was blinded by a bright grin and laughing brown eyes. "I'm Watanabe Shota. Take care of me from now on, okay?"
"Definitely," Miyadate said, and the electric shock when they shook hands was almost certainly just static from Watanabe's new uniform. "Please take care of me, too."