Author: Vesper (Regina)
Warnings: adult themes, drinking
Category: Humor, romance
Characters: Utsumi Kaoru/Yukawa Manabu
Summary: Five games Yukawa and Utsumi have played.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
Notes: "We are playful when we engage others at the level of choice, when there is no telling in advance where our relationship with them will come out -- when, in fact, no one has an outcome to be imposed on the relationship, apart from the decision to continue it."
-- James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games
The elevator floor under their feet lurches, up and down, and then stops. The lights above them go out, leaving them in darkness, and then flicker back on, and Utsumi squeals in response, throwing her hand out without thinking to grab Yukawa's sleeve. Yukawa looks up, and then down at Utsumi, who hasn't let go.
He says, "We're between floors."
Utsumi takes in a deep breath through her nose and then another, with very little pause in-between to breathe out. Yukawa covers her hand with his. She shakes her head and says, "I'm fine," but she doesn't let go. She closes her eyes.
Yukawa takes a step to the elevator's controls and Utsumi follows, breathing with more measured breaths. Yukawa goes still, turning to look down at her, his face tense around his mouth and eyes.
He says, "I'll call."
She says, "Okay. I'm going to sit down." She slips her hand out from his, and flops down on the floor, pulling her legs up to her chin, and burying her head on them.
Yukawa speaks to someone, telling them the elevator has stopped. He sits down beside Utsumi, who says, into the fabric of her pants, "I'm sorry. I don't know, I, just -- give me a minute."
Yukawa looks down, beside him, where her hand is clenched into a tight fist. He covers it with his own, and just holds on. He looks straight ahead, while listening to Utsumi try to slow her breathing down.
He says, "Have you always..."
"No. I... I had a flash. Of Kijima and waking up in the bomb." She turns her hand over underneath his, and laces her fingers into his, clinging.
Yukawa shifts, until he's facing her, sitting on his heels, and he uses his other hand to remove her hand from his, with great care. She looks up and he holds his hand out to her, hand palm down. He says, "You need something else to focus on."
She stares at him. There's slight tremble in her chin. She says, "What do you mean?"
"Let's play a game."
"Put your hand under mine. You've played this before, right?"
"I don't... "
He hangs his head and then scoots forward a little, reaching for her hand. She allows him to turn it over, palm up, and then he places his hand over it, like before, a little space between, not touching. Her hand is shaking, not much, but it's enough to gravitate toward his, attempting to close the distance. He moves his enough to prevent that from happening.
She says, "Oh. How do you know about this?"
"My students. They get bored. I'm ready," Yukawa says, and sits back.
Utsumi moves her hand over, trying to hit the back of Yukawa's hand, and misses, as he pulls it away. He puts his hand over hers, and says, "Again."
She takes a breath, and brings her knees down, putting her legs to the side. She feints with her hand, but Yukawa doesn't move his hand away. She tries to slap his hand, and misses again.
"You're too quick," she says.
"Try again," he says.
She doesn't try anything, just looks at him. They stare at each other until Yukawa raises his eyebrow and says, "Are you --" and then she moves and manages to slap the back of his hand, before he can pull it away.
"So now it's my turn."
They switch hand positions, and even though Utsumi does her best, Yukawa slaps her hand before she can move it away, a quick strike and she winces, but turns her hand over to try to hit his.
"You're good," she says.
She stares at his face, hand hovering beneath his, reluctant to attempt a hit. He stares back, unperturbed.
She tries to slap him, but he moves his hand away, and now there's a definite gleam in his eye. She tries again, and misses again. She stops looking at him, and only focuses on his hand, but he's still too fast. He doesn't fall for her faking at all. So she stop trying to bluff, and waits, and waits more. It worked once before, after all, and she counts on it working again, and it does. She slaps his hand.
"Ow," he says, under his breath. She looks up. "Too hard?"
"It's okay." They switch positions. He feints a few times before slapping her hand, but she doesn't even try moving away.
"You're not trying," he accuses.
"I don't want to."
"You're more competitive than this."
He tries again, and she moves her hand away completely, but he still slaps it. Utsumi says, "Hey! Unfair!"
Yukawa nods, and the side of his mouth goes up. "My apologies; you're correct."
He offers his hand to her, switched position, and she slaps it, the penalty for slapping hers out of turn. He keeps his hand offered, but when she tries to slap it, she keeps missing, and at some point, she sits back to find that she's mirrored his position, sitting on her haunches, and her hand isn't shaking anymore.
"I think you've won," she says.
"Do you want to keep playing?"
He sits back down, moving to where he was before, back against the wall, and his knees up. He places his arms on top and lets his hands hang, putting his head back against the wall. He says, "I don't like being stuck here either."
Utsumi settles next to him, again with her legs out to the side, and puts her head on his shoulder.
"When I was little I was scared of the dark."
"A common fear. Panic isn't rational."
"I know that. What about you?"
"I was never a child."
"Hah," she says, and her tone is so bitter it could clean glass. But, she starts to smile, and then a giggle escapes, followed by another, until it turns into full-blown laughter.
She says, gasping, "Maybe that's the real reason you're afraid of them." She looks up at him, sees how he looks away, and snorts.
"If you're done," he says.
"That was a child's game, you know. Are you sure it was your students you learned it from?"
"Yes. It was." He makes it a firm statement.
"Okay. You're still a strange one, but I love you anyway."
Yukawa takes a breath, and lets his legs unfurl, putting them out straight and crossing them at the ankle. He leans forward a little and brings his arm, closest to Utsumi, up to her shoulders, to gather her closer.
"Was that a firework I just heard?" Yukawa doesn't answer. Utsumi tries to get his attention again, more curious because he doesn't respond immediately. "Yukawa?" She moves off her seat, going over to look over at his computer.
"What is that?" She crouches down to get a better look at his screen and the black and white icons at the center of the browser he's looking at. Each has a line of outlined stars underneath it, like a rating system.
He clicks one of the boxes, and up comes a loading screen. "'Star Probe'? Is this a game?"
"Yes," he answers, and the loading screen changes to show a night scene, electric towers on a hill against the horizon. Streaks of light show up against the grey sky, and Utsumi squints, and crouches down beside Yukawa's chair, too interested to get her own seat.
"I didn't know you played games."
"These are relaxing and easy to play. One of my students sent me a link. This is the second series of puzzles."
She watches as he clicks on the screen, and it appears to take a picture. "Oh!" she exclaims, "you're supposed to take a picture, but..."
"The object is to capture the star."
"Ahhhh!" She smiles and says, "That does look like fun."
"There's a pattern, but the timing is difficult."
"Can I try?"
He pushes the computer over to her and she tries to capture one of the shooting points of light in the frame of the camera, but with no success. "I give up," she says. "That's too hard for me."
He takes the computer back. "You just have to keep trying."
He positions the cursor in the middle of the night scene, and waits. Utsumi alternates between watching him and the screen. He says, "That's one," and streaks of light pass through the frame, "two, three," and he clicks, taking a picture of the falling star.
Utsumi says, "You did it."
"Rather a simple puzzle."
Something about the way he says it sounds smug, like he's more familiar with it than he's let on. She asks, "Have you played this before?"
"It's the first time in a long time."
"You don't seem the type to play these kinds of games once you've conquered them." She narrows her eyes. "Aren't sports more your thing?"
"Those are more open-ended, yes. With these, while the answers are logical, frequently they are only achievable through trial and error. It amuses me. The added benefit to them is that I can relieve stress without leaving."
"Just a break."
"Just a break," he agrees and smiles.
She holds her hand out. "I want to try again."
She spends the next hour trying to solve the puzzles, muttering to herself when she fails, and punctuating those mutters with rare cries of success. Yukawa smiles to himself; as background noise, it's rather soothing.
Egyptian Rat Screw
Utsumi sets two bottles of wine and a corkscrew on the coffee table, which stands between her and the couch. Yukawa leans forward, with his hands loosely clasped between his legs. Utsumi sits down on the couch beside Yukawa and leans over, to set the two empty wine glasses she was carrying in her other hand on the coffee table, turning them over from her upside-down hold. They clink together as she moves them.
She sits back against the couch cushions across from him, and gathers her legs together on the seat, legs crossed. From under her arm she takes a pack of cards.
She says, "You and I are going to get drunk, until one or both of us can't walk straight. Shuffle, please. Take out the jokers."
"I'd ask why," Yukawa says, and takes the cards from her, "but I suspect you're testing something."
"Oh, I wouldn't say testing. I just want to teach you this game."
Yukawa takes the cards out, and places them on the coffee table, sorting the jokers out. Utsumi reaches for one of the wine bottles and the corkscrew and sets to work opening it.
Yukawa says, "You're up to something."
"No, I'm not. What's more fun that getting drunk and playing a game, huh?"
"Dating." He gives her a side-long look.
"This is a date." The look she gives him makes it clear she thought the joke was dumb, but then her lips curve as she looks away, pleased anyway.
"What are we playing?" he asks, as he begins to shuffle the cards. Utsumi has worked the cork out of the wine bottle and starts to pour a glass, and the musty aroma of the wine suffuses the air around them. She pushes the glass toward him.
"Egyptian Rat Screw." The syllables are carefully enunciated, Utsumi plainly taking care with the English words. "The object is to take all the cards, but only under certain conditions."
"I'll show you as we play. We don't look at the cards and you deal all of them out. Then one of us starts a discard pile. There's a special rule, though, and that's the slap rule."
"Hmm, I think we'll play doubles and marriages for that. Keep it simple. If we lay down a double in number, or a king and queen together, then whoever slaps the pile first keeps all the cards from the center pile."
He takes a breath and starts dealing out the cards. "So we collect on those, but I still don't understand how play continues."
"I'll tell you as we go, don't worry." She finishes pouring her own glass and raises it. "You'll get it. You're smart that way."
"I fail to see how getting drunk is going to aid play."
"It's not. Drink up." Yukawa lifts his glass, pausing to give Utsumi a look over the top, at which she rolls her eyes. He takes a sip, but Utsumi frowns. "Not that way."
She takes her own glass and proceeds to chug her wine down. She coughs when it's all down and touches the back of her hand to her mouth, breathing out a dismayed "Owww."
Yukawa is conscious of staring as she does it, a bemused expression on his face. "This is serious business to you."
"Of course. Can't get drunk gracefully anyway, so might as well just do it all at once."
It is much, much later when Yukawa opens his eyes, feeling a heavy weight on his chest and a tickle right under his nose.
"Kaoru," he says, testing to see if she'll wake.
She doesn't answer, and he can't see her face from this angle, pressed as they are into the corner of the couch and together, her arms around his middle, the top of her head below his chin. He tries to use the leverage of his leg that's over the side of the couch to get up -- what woke him will become a pressing matter soon -- but when he tries to move Utsumi, she hums low in her throat and nuzzles closer.
He lets his head fall back and stares at the ceiling, feels how the room seems to shift a little on its side and the faint feeling of pins and needles, buzzing through his blood and head. He brings his hand up to push the strand of Utsumi's hair that had been tickling his nose away, and then rests his hand on her head. He doesn't notice when he starts brushing his hand over her hair.
He'd said, "I abhor being drunk."
"Really?" Utsumi's eyelids drooped for a second and her head listed to the side.
"It feels like being outside of yourself."
"You..." She blinked, in a rapid burst of flutters. "You must be drunk. You're using words like, like... um. Are we still playing?"
Yukawa looked at the spread of cards on the table, haphazard in arrangement, with most face up and some face down, and he answered, "No. I don't remember whose turn it is."
"Definitely drunk. You're not much..." she cleared her throat, and then giggled, "different." She leaned forward and tapped him on the chest. "What's it like in your head, huh?"
"I assure you, things are quite distorted right now."
"Stand up. Let's see you walk a straight line. Go!" She pointed to the middle of the room, but the effect was ruined by her closing her eyes, and the way her arm wavered off-point.
"Is this a demand from the police?"
"Yes, move it!"
He shook his head -- a bad move, shouldn't have been done -- and stood. Utsumi leaned forward, opening her eyes wide. It took great effort to keep his steps straight, but when he returned to the couch, the pout on Utsumi's lips told him that he managed to do it. "Your turn," he said, as he sat back down, and covered his face with his hand. There was the most awful sensation of spinning and he just wanted it to stop.
Utsumi said, "I'm not going to be able to," but she got up anyway. She over-balanced on just one step, leaning forward, and Yukawa held his hand out to her. She waved him back, and tried to take a few steps, only to go off-course. She threw a hand out for balance, over-corrected, feet uncooperative, and went down.
"I'm done," she said. "That's it for me!" She started to laugh, and waved her hand at Yukawa, trying to say something, but unable to stop long enough to get it out. Eventually, her laughter died down into a hiccuping gasp, and she said, "Yukawa. Help. I need to go to the bathroom."
He swallowed hard, before he moved, and helped her up. He said, "Can you make it on your own?"
She smiled up at him, and said, "I'm fine. Really, really." She swayed, and he put his arms around her. She rested her head on his chest for a moment.
He said, "This was a bad idea."
"No, it was a good idea. Bad results, good idea."
"I just wanted to know."
"What I was like drunk?"
"No, I agreed to it."
"Mmm, thank you. Let me go. I can go."
She pushed off and headed away, still swerving, but placing her feet in front of her carefully, hands out for balance. Yukawa went back to the couch, and laid back.
Utsumi's head moves under Yukawa's hand. She lifts it off his chest and and blinks bleary eyes at him. "I don't remember," she says, "who won?"
"Nobody. Both of us." Both are true. "You took several hands."
She makes a low noise and stretches against him, arching into the frame of his body and Yukawa catches his breath, holding it as Utsumi raises her arms, reaching straight, framing his head. She settles back against him, and for a moment, it's stifling, enough that he taps her shoulder and says, "Get up."
"Oh, sorry," she mumbles, and sits up, her hair falling into her face. He stands, and she falls back down onto the couch, curling her legs sideways, her cheek pressed into the edge of the couch and one arm hanging down off the side. Yukawa looks down at her, then reaches down to move her hair away from her face. She stirs a little, but not much. He goes to take care of business and when he comes back she's still curled up, cat-like.
"Kaoru, time to go to bed."
Silence for a few seconds, and then she mumbles, "Okay," and slips her legs down on to the floor. She tries to stand, but is still off-kilter, so he steadies her. It's just a short trip to the bedroom, but he keeps hold of her.
She says, "You hate being drunk? What exactly does it feel like again?"
"I'll tell you later."
"No, tell me now."
He settles her into bed, and she pulls on his arm, and scoots over, so he can climb in, too. "Tell me," she repeats.
He takes a moment to find words, sort them out in his head, and then says, "It's the loss of control that I dislike."
"Hmm." She throws a hand over his middle, and puts her head against his back, but there's still space between them.
"I can perform basic functions, can read, can write, but everything is separate, distinct. Apart from me."
"Yes, it is. I don't think anybody likes that."
"It makes no sense to get drunk."
"No. But it's interesting to do once in awhile. Stop being yourself, stop being all tied up."
"I'd prefer not to."
"Hey, do you remember calling me beautiful?"
He blinks; the instinctive answer is no, he cannot remember. He flips over, and looks at her face; her eyes are closed. "I did?"
She opens her eyes. "Yes. You said, oh, I can't remember exactly. I think you were asleep. You were asleep when I came back from the bathroom."
"I know, but thanks." She yawns. "I had fun. Thank you for humoring me. Even if you don't do it again, it was nice for me. I'm going to sleep now."
"Maybe next time we just play the game," he answers.
"Okay. Let me sleep in the morning or I'm going to be grumpy."
"I'll deal with it," he says, but Utsumi's breath has already gone shallow, and he can only look at her for a few seconds, before even his eyes start closing. It seems that sleep is inevitable.
Yukawa's glasses are missing. This isn't really a problem, as the prescription is so weak that he can easily do without them. It's the lack of them that's troublesome -- reaching for them when they are not there, trying to adjust them when they aren't on his face, and worst of all, the slight fuzz of his vision, uncorrected.
"Kuribayashi," he says, and then remembers, Kuribayashi isn't in with him today. His assistant had cried off duty, "Just for one day, sensei, please," and then had looked as guilty as a dog that's chewed on slippers, for some untold reason. Yukawa had dismissed; Kuribayashi frequently wore that expression.
Yukawa sighs, and pushes his chair away from the desk, so he can reach a bottom drawer, where he keeps a replacement pair, but even after rummaging, they also prove missing.
He spends the next twenty minutes looking for them, each minute passing with an ever-growing suspicion that he's not going to find them, because they have clearly been stolen and not misplaced. He turns over everything that could possibly hide them, as the first rule of finding something that's been lost is to look under things. When he's exhausted that avenue of searching, he spends some time on his knees, peering under the larger things that could hide something small. When that proves fruitless, there's nothing for it but to take a break and get some coffee.
He's exhausted every other avenue, which is how he explains turning over the cups beside the range idly, as he waits for water to warm. The note under the brown cup is therefore a surprise, and he unfolds it carefully, as he leans back against the edge of the counter. It's in Utsumi's handwriting and it turns out to be a riddle...a rather simple one.
"Now, mugs are not glasses, are they? But both glasses and mugs hold water. Your glasses are missing, but they're not holding water. How can they? That's not logical, huh, sensei? :) Where have your glasses gone where they could hold water, if they were those kinds of glasses?"
It's the smiley face that makes him bring the paper down in exasperation, but after a moment he smiles and brings the paper back up. A hunt for clues, is it?
It's not very evident, when he arrives at the pond, exactly what he's supposed to be looking for, but this is Utsumi who's leading him on. He walks the length of the pond, before he starts looking under the benches in earnest. He finds the case to his replacement pair, tucked behind the far right leg of one bench, but it isn't until he straightens up that he sees it should have been the one he looked behind first. The others shouldn't even have fallen under his consideration. He opens the case to find another piece of paper.
"Oh, so you found something, at least. You had to eliminate everything else before looking here, didn't you? The last riddle may have been simple -- I know I'm not as clever as you -- but you do like to narrow down your options. Let's go back to the first question. If your glasses were glasses, a familiar pair of them, where else would they be?"
Yukawa sits down on the bench, crossing his legs, and turns the paper over. There's nothing on the backside. The case he puts beside him, and he turns it upside down, and then right side up, as he considers the note. The first logical answer to that would be the cafeteria, of course, but surely it's not that simple -- he flicks the paper. Of course it is.
The table where they usually sit is empty, except for a rolled letter page of paper, on which is written his name, with the ends tucked in. Inside are his replacement pair and the inner surface bears the message, "By now you know I'm not very good at making these riddles, but that's not the point of this. You're not bored, are you? You're having fun, right? Play is work, and work is play. It was a good game, so come finish it."
He returns to the lab, and finds Utsumi perched on top of his desk, wearing his glasses. Her mouth turns up, mischievous quirk to the edges, and she crows, "I found your glasses!"
He says, "No, I found them," and takes them from her face. She closes her eyes and tips her head back a little, so he presses a kiss to her mouth, which she smiles through, and chases when he backs away.
He puts the glasses on, just because he can, and she says, "I brought you something for your hard work."
The box she hands him is small, with a confectioner's sticker on top, and inside are dango, small round sweets covered with sticky sauce and skewered on four sticks, four sweets to each stick. He goes around his desk to sit down, saying, "You stole my glasses." She shifts her position, turning and leaning on one arm, so she can see him.
"No, Kuribayashi stole your glasses, and then kept an eye on what he stole so they wouldn't get damaged."
"Were you waiting here the whole time?"
"Yes. Come on, take a bite. I want some, but not before you've had a taste."
He blesses the food and then takes a bite. Utsumi watches, smiling. "Give me," she says.
He holds a skewer out to her and she slips one off with her fingers, blessing it too, and pops it in her mouth. "Yummy," she says, with her mouth full.
"Why send me alone on a clue hunt?"
"Because you were going to spend your entire birthday, by yourself, in your lab, working on something that you said you were going to hate doing. Got it?" She puts her fingertips in her mouth to suck the sauce off.
"Not everyone wants their birthday to be celebrated."
"Oh, just tell me if it kept you from being bored, because that's all I wanted it to do." She hops down from the desk, and pulls another chair around the desk, so she can sit close to him. He turns to her, and they face each other, knees almost touching.
He nods. "It was fun, yes."
"Was it a good birthday present?"
"What? The dango or the hunt for my glasses?"
"Both!" she says, exasperated.
"Why not have a party for me? That seems like it would be more--"
"Like something I would do? I know. That's why it's just you and me, because what I like doesn't necessarily mean you would. Maybe next time, if you want." She reaches over to pick up the dango stick and holds it out to him. "Happy birthday, sensei. Quit complaining and analyzing everything, would you?"
"You're cheating." It's his turn when Yukawa says this, and he has his hand on his chin, surveying the board on the little table between he and Utsumi.
Utsumi instantly says, "I am not."
He raises his eyes, but not his head. "I saw you move your pawn, two moves back."
"Well, if you saw me move it, why didn't you say it earlier? Are you going easy on me?"
He drops his gaze back to the board. A few seconds tick by. "No."
Utsumi throws herself back into the support of her chair. "You are!"
"All right, I am."
"What's the point of playing this if neither of us are playing correctly?"
Yukawa lowers his hand and looks up, straightening his back. "The pleasure of your company?"
Utsumi tips her head to the side, a lock of her bangs going across her forehead. She frowns. "Oh, don't think you're going to get on my good side like that. Let's start over." She starts rearranging the pieces on the board, putting them back to starting positions. Yukawa makes a movement to stop her, but pulls his hand back, asking, "Why?"
"So we can play this a different way. You go straight for the throat. I can't win, because you know all the tricks, so let's start over. This time, we play fast, and obliterate each other. The first one with no pieces remaining on the board wins."
"You and Kusanagi have some interesting ideas about playing this game. That's not how you're supposed to play chess. It's a game of strategy with only one goal --"
"I know all that. The way you play chess is unnatural."
"Logical, you mean."
"You go with your first instinct. If you make a mistake, you can't take it back. Ready?"
"Is this just so you can win?"
"Of course it is." She shrugs. "I might not even win, but I really don't care." She grins. "This," she points down at the board, "will be more fun this way, don't you think?"
End notes: For Ahria, who asked for pranks and established relationship. I went with games, and atypical pranks, as I really have a problem with the humiliating aspects of typical pranks, and don't view Utsumi and Yukawa being particularly pleased with them either. As these are snapshots along the timeline of their relationship, it almost, but doesn't quite match with established relationship, but at least they are involved throughout. These are not in chronological order. For the 'in a good mood' 30Kisses prompt.
Nekogames.jp is a real site. Hoshi Saga is the best series of games, with puzzles ranging from very easy to very difficult. These are the rules for Egyptian Rat Screw.
This is not the drunk!fic I wanted to write, darn it. Close enough.
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