Chapter 3: Attraction (The Past).
Kaito felt somewhat bitter.
I’ve wasted my entire weekend in accord to this man’s wishes, he thought sourly while prepping some blueberry cake mixture in a glass bowl.
He should have suspected something like this would happen. No wonder Daichi had been so secretive when he made the request the day before. It was likely because he knew Kaito would have refused if he knew that he was going to be used as a personal pastry-chef for the day!
I should have known something was up the minute that cake enthusiast mentioned needing me. How is he not diabetic with all the sugar he eats?
But more importantly...
“Ahem, you uh... you’re not tired or anything?” Kaito was trying hard not feel self-conscious of the person leaning against the counter who was practically glued beside him, watching his every action.
“No,” Daichi’s focus didn’t shift from Kaito’s working hands. He was even holding a small diary jotting some notes on measurements and the like with a pen.
I see. He has no sense of personal space, Kaito thought. “Could you... maybe shift a little to the side?”
The man took two steps away from him and didn’t look like he’d move another inch. Kaito gave up and decided to distract himself by examining his surroundings.
Daichi’s house was large, neat and spacious. His kitchen had everything one could ever ask for. Kaito didn’t know anything about the other rooms since he’d been dragged directly to this one as soon as he’d walked through the front door, but seeing the household’s exterior had been enough for him to make a rough judgement of how huge the place was.
His fancy kitchen alone was larger than Kaito’s bedroom!
“If there’s anything else you need, just tell me,” Daichi suddenly said, having noticed how the other person’s gaze was ever-roaming.
“No, this is definitely more than enough,” Kaito glanced at all the baking ingredients that’d been displayed. There’re a lot of things I can’t afford too, like this brand of almond oil or this type of fresh cream... “Did you buy all these recently?”
“Yes,” Daichi straightened to a proper stand and raised a brow. “Are they no good? I just followed some instructions on what to buy online.”
You could have also followed online instructions and baked for yourself, sir. But of course the younger man knew he’d probably never be able to say such words directly at this man given his intimidating aura.
Now that they actually stood side by side, Kaito realized a startling fact: He was taller than Daichi. And by almost half a head even.
He’d never paid attention to the difference in their heights before. After all, he’d just recently started having face to face interactions with the other man, and most of the time the guy would be seated.
I always assumed we were the same height, his eyes sneakily scanned the other person from head to toe. Come to think of it, this is also the first time I’m seeing him out of his suit. It’s kind of refreshing...
Daichi wore a light gray long-sleeved V-neck t-shirt and matching cuffed cashmere sweatpants, with black mule slippers on his feet. His thick raven mid-length hair which was usually jelled up and combed through neatly backwards had been left with its natural soft cute little waves for once.
Maybe it was only Kaito’s imagination, but Daichi’s lashes seemed a bit too long from this angle...
“What is it?” Daichi felt that the young chef had been gawking at him for a suspiciously long time.
Kaito’s eyes shifted evasively, “Nothing. I’ve just been curious to know how old senior is.”
Raising a brow, the older man crossed his arms over his chest, “Shouldn’t you tell me your age first before asking for mine?”
“I’m twenty-five,” Kaito shrugged. It didn’t matter to him who confessed first either way .
He’d been so confident about his age that it was no wonder Daichi’s next words baffled him.
“Young???” Kaito couldn’t stop himself from blurting out. Did this man not hear me?
Daichi tapped the surface of the counter using the tip of pen, “I’m thirty-three.”
Wait, his age starts with ‘thirty’????
Sure the guy had mature looks, but not mature enough to have crossed the threshold of thirty!
Kaito smiled incredulously, “You’re kidding.”
Daichi wasn’t kidding. He even went as far as showing Kaito his driver’s license just to make him believe.
There’s a eight-year gap between our ages. But why does he look like that? At most, I thought he’d be twenty-nine. I didn’t even dare assume he’d reached his thirties.
Kaito had met a lot of people who were above thirty years old and, damn, most of those guys had not aged well. Now he knew for certain that they’d simply let themselves go. Or was it because Daichi was wealthy?
He wondered if he’d still look that fresh after hitting thirty. Now he had to know how Daichi kept himself so fit despite eating so much sugar!
“Here,” Kaito suddenly snapped out of it when a plate of food was placed in front of him.
“I forgot to purchase some real food when I went out today,” Daichi explained as he took a seat across the other person. “These were the only ingredients I had on hand. Hope you don’t mind.”
“No, it’s alright. Thank you for the food,” Kaito said his grace and started to dig in.
He hadn’t expected it to taste so good. Western cuisines weren’t his favorite, but Daichi had really made the spaghetti work with the stir-fried mixed vegies and the spicy chicken pieces.
“It’s delicious!” he beamed.
Daichi chuckled, “Flattery.”
“No, I’m serious, you’re a surprisingly good cook,” Kaito said earnestly with his mouth full.
Daichi was at a loss for a second. He ended up telling him, “I may not be a very good baker, but I know my way around the kitchen when it comes to using the stove. When you come by next time, I’ll be more prepared.”
Next time huh... Kaito couldn’t help feeling a certainway. But of course, he played it cool by scoffing, “That doesn’t sound bad at all. I’ll make you a dessert and you cook me a meal, a fair exchange.”
“As long as this kitchen is finally being used for something,” Daichi commented off-handedly. Seeing the younger male’s questioning gaze, he went on, “I’m too lazy to stand around in it all day, so I hardly use it. I mostly just order take-out or grab something from work.”
Again, how is this man’s health not in jeopardy yet? “Senior, how frequently do you exercise?”
“I frequently hit the gym in the basement and go out for a jog every morning. Why?”
“Just curious,” Kaito continued to eat. He’d already gotten his answer.
After spending almost the entire day at Daichi’s place (though it’d been against his will at first), Kaito later found out that the two of them had a lot in common.
He hadn’t taken Daichi’s words seriously when he said ‘next time’ but after being requested another favor the following weekend, Kaito came to realize that this was probably his life now. Each time he was ‘kidnapped’ every other Sunday and ‘forced’ to make desserts, he discovered how similar the likes and hobbies he shared with the older man were.
He was also baffled to know that Daichi was also a low-key fan of some nonsensical tv series that he was also into, and that apparently they’d both voluntarily served some time in the military and had a lot to share about both their different experiences.
It was a soothing change of pace that Kaito had never known he needed, and he started to cherish those moments the more he spent his time with Daichi.
He knew that it was probably dangerous getting too close, but he really couldn’t help it. Thus Kaito chose to ignore the alarm bells blaring in his head.
“Our Kaito’s really gotten buddy buddy with Mr. Businessman,” Kasumi commented gleefully as soon as their head-chef had finally gotten his eyes off his phone screen. “Should we be prepping for a wedding?”
The man tactically chose not to answer her remark while replacing his cellphone in his pocket. “Are you so free? Get to work.”
“Acting all serious now?” Kasumi gave him a playful nudge. “C’mon, we all know you’ve been hanging out and chatting 24/7 for more than two months now. You two lovebirds didn’t even invite us to hiking last weekend. When’s the confession happening?”
Kaito sighed, “You’ve got it all wrong. I don’t see Daichi that way.”
“Oooh~ you’ve moved on to calling him on a first-name basis. It sounds much better this way, don’t you agree?” the woman grinned.
Well, Kaito hadn’t had much of a choice on the matter. A few days ago, Daichi had expressed his dislike for the term ‘senior’, claiming that it made him feel old.
But the man looked anything but old.
Kaito’s expression didn’t change, “That still doesn’t change anything. And I’m pretty sure he’s straight.”
“Did you ask him?” Kasumi arched a judgmental brow.
“I don’t have to ask to know the obvious,” Kaito spoke while busying his hands with a rolling pin.
“You know,” the lady leaned against a counter with crossed arms, “I also thought you were straight when I first met you.”
At that, Kaito’s movements paused. That was a point he’d never considered before. It was true people always assumed he was straight before they got to know him. Maybe Daichi might also...
Shaking away the thought, he told the woman, “I only adore him as a senior and a friend. Nothing more.”
Kasumi snorted, “Whatever you say.”
It was then that Misa called out for the other woman and said something about an emergency, thus Kasumi left the studio soon afterwards.
The room fell into silence. Only the sounds of the rolling pin flattening dough and Jiro’s working knife could be heard.
“You’ve been strangely quiet,” Kaito started without pausing his work. “If I hadn’t known any better, I’d have thought you were sick.”
“Just thought it’d be best to mind my own business,” Jiro said simply. “You wouldn’t like what I have to say.”
“I already know what you’re thinking.”
“Be honest, have you fallen for the guy?”
With a sigh, Jiro finally stopped what he was doing and turned to face his friend. “You haven’tforgotten about what happened during your third year in college, right? I thought you said you were never going to fall for a straight dude again.”
Having to recall the events that year, Kaito’s chest stung a little. He’d never forget a certain straight man’s betrayal. The guy he’d dated for over six months back then had only used him as a rebound since his girlfriend had dumped him. But Kaito had ended up discovering that he was being cheated on after a while.
“In the end, girls are still better,” the bastard had told him on the fateful day of their breakup. “We had a good run, but I don’t see myself doing it with another man and seriously falling in love.”
Kaito had sworn to never think of a straight man in that way ever since, and Jiro had been there to support him all the way.
“I haven’t fallen for Daichi, I just admire him as a senior,” he didn’t look up as he said these words.
“So you’d be totally fine if he has a girlfriend?” Jiro wanted to be certain he could trust his friend from making impulsive decisions.
“... Whether he has one or not doesn’t concern me,” Kaito finally looked up at his friend placidly. “So you don’t need to worry.”
Jiro nodded and turned back to where he was working, “But just in case, if you know you’re gonna get hurt in the future then don’t get too close. I’m saying this for your sake.”
“Right...” But if Daichi did have a girlfriend, he’d have at least told me or vaguely mentioned it, he thought.
You’d be totally fine if he has a girlfriend?
Kaito chose not to think a about that.
“You guys!” Kasumi’s loud voice as she burst into the room startled the two, “Mr. Businessman just totally walked in with a beautiful lady on his arm just now. They were chatting and laughing and everything!”
Jiro stole a quick glance at Kaito’s unchanging expression before telling the woman, “Don’t overreact. She’s probably just another work colleague of his.”
“You’d think I’d be overreacting if she was?” the woman gave him an incredulous look. “I’ve never seen her before and she’s not even dressed formally. Of course they’re not colleagues!”
“His sister perhaps?”
“I wouldn’t easily forget his sister’s face!”
“All right, all right, no need to yell,” Jiro raised his hands. “I still don’t understand what’s got you so worked up. So the guy has a few female friends, big deal...”
“Tsk, of course I’d be on guard against potential wreckers of my ship,” Kasumi winked at Kaito who’d gone to the sink to rinse his hands.
Sensing her stare, the man burst her bubble yet again: “Please leave me out of this.”
“Wah– at least humor me every now and then, Kaito,” she grumbled in a sulk and got to work. “Once. I only ask once that you pretend you’re an item with Daichi.”
“To satiate your fujo fantasies?” he chuckled but the woman continued to pout. In the end, he decided to humor her, “Alright, I’m sure it’s nothing, Tachibana. Daichi wouldn’t cheat on me.”
He could almost see her invisible bunny ears shoot up when she heard these words, her entire face beaming. “Yasss, it’s a confession! A confession, woo-hoo...”
This is why I don’t participate in her shenanigans. I’m gonna be reminded about this moment for months, he powerlessly thought just before his cellphone buzzed. Speak of the devil; Daichi had just texted him.
[Let’sgrab a drink after work.]
Subconsciously smiling to himself, Kaito sent him a quick response and got back to work.
That’s right, it’s probably nothing.
Or so he’d thought.
“This is a an old friend of mine, Aoi Nishiyama,” Daichi had introduced the twenty-eight year old woman to Kaito later that day after Kaito had just closed up the bakery. “She’ll be joining us. I hope you don’t mind.”
Yes, he did mind!
He’d have preferred it if Daichi had told him sooner that the ‘mystery lady’ would be tagging along. At least that way he’d have come up with some excuse to bail.
But it was too late for that now.
Offering his friendliest smile, Kaito politely greeted the woman after Daichi had introduced him to her as his ‘little junior companion’.
Little junior companion...
Heh, as if Kaito’s mood wasn’t sour already.
Having arrived at a familiar restaurant, the three picked a window booth and ordered their meals while chatting.
Miss Nishiyama had just returned to Japan from the States recently and had thought to pay her ‘friend’ a visit on a day that Daichi would be visiting the bakery, and everything had led to the current situation. As a working individual who was also in the business sector she had plenty of common things to discuss with Daichi, especially with all the new ideas she’s gotten from overseas.
Kaito would pitch in a few comments every now and then for the sake of not coming off as rude or antisocial, but truthfully he just wanted to disappear from that place.
If he wasn’t talking, his mouth was occupied with food or beer.
“So you’re a pastry-chef,” Aoi’s voice suddenly snapped him back to reality.
He hadn’t noticed that at some point and time Daichi had excused himself to use the restrooms, so it was just him and the woman right now.
“That sounds fun. Did you choose the line of work because you love sweets?” she inquired.
Pouring himself the nth glass of beer, Kaito didn’t even look up at her as he explained. “No, I chose the career since I was good at it.”
“Is that so,” she gave a small laugh and sighed. “It’s kind of strange. You don’t like sweets but you’re a pastry chef, meanwhile Daichi’s obsessed with them but can’t even make the simplest biscuit. I can’t help but think your roles were reversed.”
“You must have known each other for a long time,” Kaito commented. “You two had so much to talk about.”
“Well that,” Aoi shyly tucked a strand of her long brunette waves behind her ear. “Daichi didn’t mention it, but we were actually engaged a few years back.”
Kaito’s tipsy mind instantly sobered, and the glass he’d brought to his lips paused in mid-air.
Daichi had been engaged to this woman once?
Placing the glass back onto the table, Kaito wanted to know what had happened for the two to suddenly separate.
“We’d been dating for almost two years and had just gotten engaged when it happened. After I got promoted, my work was transferred to Washington,” Aoi explained with a small melancholic smile. “Daichi didn’t like idea of long-distance romance and said it’d be suffocating, so we broke off the whole thing. Back then I often wondered how he could easily make that decision, and even thought he’d been seeing someone else behind my back. But he wasn’t...”
Having to make that kind of decision so suddenly, was Daichi that scared of handling the distance? Two years together must have meant that he at least loved her, right? Kaito thought.
... Did he still love her?
“I’m surprised he hasn’t dated anyone since then,” Aoi went on. “Or maybe he is but just doesn’t feel comfortable telling me. Since you’ve known him, has there been any woman who usually hangs around him? Or does he have a crush on someone?”
“He never even mentioned he was engaged before,” Kaito lifted the glass to his lips again. “I doubt he’d tell me if he was seeing someone.”
“But if he isn’t, do you plan on winning him back?” he suddenly asked, startling the woman. “Now that you’re back and all.”
Aoi really was pretty; with a full figure, big eyes and fair skin. The hint of blush and red lipstick made her features all the more beautiful that it’d be no surprise if Daichi never got over her.
I’ve always wondered which type he was into, Kaito scanned the woman from top to bottom. So it’s the mature-looking ones, huh?
Aoi didn’t even have to respond since her burning face said it all. She was clearly still in love with the man.
Daichi returned soon afterwards and didn’t notice the strange air around the table (or maybe he did, but just didn’t point it out), especially since the two he’d left didn’t act out of the ordinary.
Kaito continued drinking himself into oblivion, that by the time Aoi decided it was time for her to take her leave, his entire face was red and his gaze half-lidded.
He watched through the window as Daichi accompanied the lady to the taxi by the roadside and wondered what they were still chatting about, considering how reluctant to get in the vehicle Aoi seemed. After a few minutes though she relented, embraced Daichi, and finally got inside before the car drove off.
“That was nerve-wracking,” Daichi breathed as soon as he’d slumped back onto his seat across Kaito and reached out for a beer bottle, only to discover it was empty. “You finished this one too?”
“You guys didn’t seem too interested in drinking,” the guy shrugged lazily.
With a sigh, Daichi called a waiter and ordered another bottle. When he noticed Kaito about to make a move on it, he quickly stopped him.
“Have you forgotten you have work tomorrow?”
“I can handle a little sake...”
“I’d rather not have you wake up hungover,” the older man pushed the bottle further away so that Kaito wouldn’t reach it.
“Tsk, treating me like a kid,” Kaito muttered resentfully.
Daichi puffed a snicker while pouring himself a glass, “How can I not when you’re acting like one.”
Kaito found no way to retort and simply leaned back in his seat, his gaze focused on the dark street and passers-by outside. After a while, he piped up again, “How come you never told me you were engaged before?”
“You never asked.”
“It happened years ago, so why would I suddenly mention something like that?” Daichi raised a brow. “And it didn’t seem like you were interested in those kinds of topics either.”
He was right of course. Kaito had never shown a hint of enthusiasm for talking about romance. Sure he liked talking about his family and friends, but there was never a time he’d mentioned anything about his love-life or dating.
So Daichi had assumed the guy just wasn’t interested in the topic. It was a great thing, since he too wasn’t keen about discussing love and relationships. It wasn’t that he hated these topics; he just didn’t have much to say about them. His younger sister always made fun of him saying he was so bad at romance, and that if he loved someone the way he loved desserts he’d probably be happily married and have three kids by now.
“Besides, the engagement was just a formality to get our folks off our backs,” he concluded.
Kaito snorted, “Just a formality, he says. Two years is a pretty long time. You must have cared about her a lot.”
Daichi seriously pondered, “Yeah, I guess you could say that. There was a time I could see a married future with her and it didn’t look so bad...”
The twenty-five year old abruptly shot to his feet, startling Daichi. Turning to leave, he said, “I’m going to the restroom.”
Daichi watched him leave in somewhat unsteady steps and shook his head slowly.
What’s gotten him all pissed this time?