You, a cadet in aerospace engineering, sitting at the table of other cadets that had nothing in common with you. They had schooling in communications, flying, robotics, etc. The list went on and you didn’t have anything in common with either them. They all talked to each other, a fast-paced conversation that you couldn’t keep up with. The topic changed from one thing to the next at the blink of an eye.
In the end, it was better for you to stare at your tray of food, feigning intent interest in it. Bits and pieces of the conversation were interesting, but the topic disappeared before you could talk about it. This was fine. The food was delicious, at the very least.
“What about you?”
An elbow dug into your side. You jolted out of your thoughts and looked around at the table. All eyes were on you, smiles and expectant looks on their faces. “I’m sorry. What were we talking about?”
The table broke into laughter, making you feel foolish. “We were just making a few jokes,” a cadet answered. His name was Matt, if you recalled correctly. “A little something to get us all acquainted with each other. So, tell us your best joke!”
Uh oh. You weren’t the best at jokes. Actually, you were bad at them. Your friends back home would always groan whenever you attempted to make one. Either the joke was said wrong or it wasn’t funny to begin with. Regardless, it was always best for you to stay away from jokes in general and let everyone else around you be funny.
But they were all looking at you with such interested looks. Their attention was on you and they wanted to hear what you had to say. This is something that you weren’t use to having.
“Um, okay,” you started, “I have one, but it’s not very good.” You cleared your throat. “Where would an astronaut park his space ship?” A voice told you to hold for suspense, and you did, feeling more foolish the longer you did it. “A parking meter!”
Wait. That’s not how it goes. Crap. You couldn’t just say the joke correctly now. It would ruin it. They smiled at you, warm and caring even though you just ruined the joke and therefore their good time.
But laughter burst out across the table, drawing all their attention to the source.
The man who laughed sat hunched over his tray, covering his face with his hand. When he looked up, you were startled by the tears at the corner of his dark grey eyes. “I-I get it!” He snickered. “A parking meteor!”
His genuine laughter made you smile and then laugh. Around the two of you, the table groaned and Matt slammed his forehead down onto the table, muttering something about there being “two of him.”
That was the beginning.
“I told the joke wrong. It wasn’t that funny.”
Shiro smiled at you. There was a thirty-minute break after lunch that everyone took the time to relax. Typically, you could be found be found elsewhere, working on your latest project to earn extra credit. Since Shiro asked if he could keep you company, you wandered the halls beside him. Younger cadets admired him from afar and he was kind enough to wave at them if they said hello. It felt like you were walking with a celebrity.
Which, in a way, you were. Takashi Shirogane was Galaxy Garrison’s best exploration and fighter pilot of his age group. Rumors and news spread like wildfire in the Garrison and it was said that he’d be the one to go up to Kerberos next year. His life was all set up for him, and yet he didn’t hesitate to spend time with you. It almost felt like a trick.
“It was, though,” Shiro answered. “You may have said the joke wrong, but everyone understood the context. They just didn’t think that it was all that funny. You saw how Matt reacted to it.”
“He said something about there being ‘two of you’.”
“He’s talking about me.” He placed a hand to his chest. “I’m a sucker for bad puns and jokes, in general. I’ve said many things during my time growing up with him that’s had him contemplate why we were friends. Like…” Shiro searched his pockets, dropping some of his papers as he did so. Pulling out a small yellow packet, he held it out to you. “You are the Swedish Fish.”
And sure enough, a packet of Swedish Fish candy was in his hand.
It was such an innocent joke that it pulled a chuckle out from you. You took the package, digging in to pull out two pieces of the sweet treat. “Well, I happen to think that joke is a lot worse than mine.”
Shiro feigned hurt, touching a hand to his chest. “And here I thought we could be friends. It looks like I’m going to have to take my jokes elsewhere.”
You laughed and bumped your shoulders together. “I think you’ll have a hard time finding someone else to enjoy those horrible jokes of yours. I’ll see you around.” You left Shiro in the mess of his papers, walking down the hall while still holding his confiscated bag of candy.
Looking back at him, he still wore his smile, his hands hovering over his papers as he bent to pick them up. There’s something about that smile that made you hope he was right. “We’ll see.”
And he did see you again.
Every day around lunch time, Shiro would find you and bring you to the table he was occupying. At times, there would be someone else with you. Matt or a younger cadet by the name of Keith. Most of the time, it was just the two of you, sitting alone in the back of the cafeteria. The conversations were either filled with jokes or about what the two of you did. What plans were happening for today or what was going to happen tomorrow.
It was nice to have someone to talk to, much better than sitting around alone until your lunch break was over. Shiro had a charm that made him easy to talk to. It wasn’t a wonder (anymore) why so many cadets and fellow instructors wanted to speak with him. He was more than just an exploration pilot. You learned that he enjoyed reading various genres, enjoyed cheesy romantic clichés, and then some.
You couldn’t comprehend why Shiro took such an interest in you. Both of your areas of study were similar in a way, but you two never worked with each other. That changed a week after meeting Shiro when you were assigned to check on his space craft.
“I crashed into something while I was out there doing a test flight.”
“You? Crashing? I don’t believe it.”
“It happened. Ask Matt. He’ll tell you the truth.”
“Really? Because I know that Matt Holt was in his communications class when you were out there.”
“You caught me. I didn’t crash. I just wanted to see how well you work.”
It must have impressed him, because you received a lot more work like it from other instructors. Shiro had put your name out there and you were given the attention he believed you deserved. After that, you thought he would disappear and rarely speak to you again.
But Shiro persisted. In the end, he spent an equal amount of time with you as he did with the Holt’s or Keith.
It was nice.
Just as nice as the kiss he gave you only after knowing you for two months.
You didn’t feel like a cornered animal, standing in the back of the library where no one could see you two. Shiro had his hand placed over your shoulder and he looked at you with a smoldering gaze. Briefly, you wondered how many others wanted to be in your position right now. Who else wanted to have Takashi Shirogane this close to them, nerves on fire as they thought about what he would do to them.
He stepped closer to you and cupped your chin in his hand. Shiro’s thumb ran along your lips and you gasped. The more important question was how long you’ve wanted to be in this position.
Shiro turned his head and leaned in, swallowing the second gasp you let out. You closed your eyes and lost yourself to the way it felt. How his lips felt against yours, his hand still warm on your chin, how strong he felt beneath your hand as you reached for his bicep.
He pulled away and you felt like he took all your breath with him. You stared at one another, eyes glazed over. Licking your lips, you could still taste him on them and Shiro’s eyes followed the small movement.
Shiro stepped away from you, running a hand through his hair. He cleared his throat. “I should… I should probably go. Sorry about that.”
You couldn’t get a word out before Shiro turned on his heel and left the library. He nearly crashed into a book cart, toppling only one of the books onto the floor. Without bothering to pick it up, he continued walking until he was gone. Shiro leaving left you feeling empty and wanting for more of his touch on you.
Unfortunately, Shiro avoided you after that.
The attempts you made to see him again were thwarted. Shiro either ducked into someone’s office or engaged in conversation with a cadet about flight that would last for hours. You tried asking both Matt and Keith if you’ve done something wrong, but they couldn’t give you a valid answer. Either they didn’t know the reason or they were lying for Shiro. Both seemed like viable options.
What Shiro didn’t know was that you were a determined person. It’s what got you into the Garrison in the first place.
You set your plan into motion during lunch where he couldn’t escape you. So long as he didn’t notice you coming.
The cafeteria was bustling with life, the typical thing that occurred every day. Instructors, commanders, and cadets were all engrossed in their own topic of conversation. They paid no mind to you as your strolled through the room, aiming for the table in the back. Why would they look at you? They didn’t know what you had planned to draw Shiro’s attention back to you.
Shiro sat with his back to you. Keith and Matt made no hint that you were coming closer and closer. You made a note to thank them further down the line. He was so close now, that spicy smell of his body wash filling your lungs. You loved that scent and you had since the first kiss.
Grabbing his shoulder, you turned him to face you. Whatever sound he was going to make vanished when you pulled him into a kiss. The cafeteria erupted into a chorus of shouts and cheers. There were a few rude comments, but all the noise didn’t matter anymore.
The focus was Shiro’s lips against yours, his hand coming up to grip the back of your head. There was a wet pop when the two of you separated. His cheeks were tinted pink. It was a good look on him.
“Meet me in the library after lunch,” you said.
Shiro smiled at you, the corners of his mouth sliding up. You always liked it when he smiled. “I’ll see you there, then.”