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Suga’s eyes widened ever so slightly, and his already thin lips pursed tighter together until they were as pale as his face. Shiori couldn’t be sure, but she thought he looked somewhat… disappointed? Even so, she didn’t get a chance to ask as he turned his face away from her view to stare up at the blinking neon sign. It looked like the “B” was about to fade out soon.
Shiori bobbed her head, though Suga wasn’t looking to see it.
“Yes. If you plan on speaking to an entire counsel of strangers, you’re going to have to get used to speaking to at least one stranger, right? What better way than a date?”
Shiori could barely make out the shift in his gaze from the sign to her as his dark eyes lost the reflecting green shimmer.
“I won’t be… dating the counsel… though.”
“Oh, I don’t know. The mayor seemed pretty intent on seeing you this morning.”
Suga let out a terrified gasp before turning away completely. Shiori laughed louder then and poked his shoulder.
“Hey, you know I was just kidding. It’s just a joke.”
He turned his head to peer at her over his shoulder.
“Is… the date a joke?”
Her hand fell away from his back, and she stared into his eyes. They were dimly illuminated from the word “Mountain,” but that only intensified the shadows lurking at their edges. She couldn’t tell if he was being serious or naïve again. She hesitantly took in a breath.
He stared at her a few seconds longer, all in silence except for the occasional laughter escaping the tavern. Finally, he sighed, and turned back to fully face the entrance. She eyed his chest as he took in a long breath.
“Well… let’s get this over with.”
He sounded pained, and she couldn’t help the sudden stinging in her chest.
Upon entering the bar, Suga and Shiori were immediately enveloped by a cloud of smoke. At least five smokers sat at the main bar, taking long drags, as if in long conversation with one another. Shiori fanned her hands and wrinkled her nose in distaste while Suga hacked and turned his face away. One of the smokers, a man with burly arms and a beard eyed the pair from across the room. He stared for a few seconds, then took another long drag.
Shiori swallowed, now suddenly regretting the idea. Then, she looked at Suga, saw the horror in his face, the uncomfortable squirming in his hands and body, and immediately took his hand. Shocked, he jumped, then eyed their clasped hands.
“Dance with me.”
Suga’s eyes widened.
But she didn’t give him a chance to finish.
Already, she was dragging him to the dance floor… if you could call it that. It wasn’t a very large tavern. It had actually once been used for town meetings. Then, the museum was built up, and with it came the tourists. With tourists came money, and with money came a need for more entertainment. So, the town hall was retired, and the tavern was born. The dance floor had once been the waiting area. They knocked the wall down to put in a bar and open up the meeting area for the drinks and the coolers.
There was no place left for a stage, so they simply marked off the performance area with police tape. It gave the entire bar a grungy feel that turned most of the older, more proper folks away. It drew in the young people and the grunge like flies, though. The stage brought in all the dreamers in the town. Of course, most of the dreamers were just kids who brought their guitar to class and liked to tell their friends they would be leaving for the city once they heard back from their “record label.”
Then, there were the real ones. The ones that you’d see once on stage, then gone the next. Little blips of talent that sparked in the small town, only to be swept away by life and responsibility the next. It was just another sad fact of the small town life.
Unfortunately, there would be no dreamers at all tonight. In their place, the tavern owner had set up a stool with a static-y boom box resting on top. It was currently playing an ad for car insurance.
Shiori swallowed as she stood awkwardly holding hands with Suga at the center of an empty dance floor. No one was looking at them. Sure, there was the occasional glance from a questionably young youth at the bar, but it was only with minor curiosity. It wasn’t long before he turned back around to nurse his questionably dark drink.
She looked up to stare at Suga. He was mindlessly tapping his foot, and she wanted nothing more than to drag him off the dance floor. Then, she saw his smile.
He was looking around the bar just smiling. He was just happy to be there, and she barely took note of him squeezing her hand.
Her face was burning. She had never been so happy to be in the dim lighting of a bar. Soon, a song began. The static was too much to make out the words, but there was plenty of beat. She swept in front of Suga, led his held hand to her hip, then wrapped her arms around his neck. His other hand easily found its way to her other hip.
Even with such a natural move, his eyes were so wide they were bugging out of his head. Shiori couldn’t help laughing.
“Calm down. We just have to get the ball rolling. It’s science. Start the pack behavior. We dance, others will come out and dance, and you’ll be dancing with a fine lady in no time.”
She could see his throat working as he swallowed.
“You’re… a pretty fine lady.”
Shiori frowned, but didn’t respond. Instead, she got them moving. With a gradual step forward, their bodies were pressed together. He still stood, lost and frozen. She growled and trailed a hand up his neck, into his hair, and pulled his face down to hers. They weren’t kissing. They wouldn’t be kissing, but you wouldn’t know any better looking on from the outside. Their breath was hot, steaming, and it wasn’t long before Shiori had him moving back and forth along the floor. His steps weren’t fluid, but he was at least moving in step with her.
He didn’t have a choice, Shiori was running the show. They took a few more steps before Shiori whispered,
“Now, dip me… but don’t get too far from me.”
He went to ask her,
But he never got an answer as she jerked back away from him, but kept her hand dug into his hair. They leaned together, his face leaving hers, but his lips and breath trailed down her neck until it heated her collarbone.
There was a low gasp in the crowd, and now Shiori could see a few of the patrons had found their way to the floor and were dancing around them, including the questionably young drinker who was thrashing around in his own corner. Shiori smiled, then Suga pulled her back up so they were face-to-face again.
“W-what… is this?”
His voice was throaty and rough, more of a growl, but still labored by his stutter. She smiled against his mouth,
She could feel him smile back.
They danced around a while longer before they were both sweating due to the sheer amount of body heat surrounding them. Suga begged her to go back to the bar, and she eventually relented. The people around them were absolutely suffocating. She aimlessly wiped at her forehead, trying to keep the sweat from stinging her eyes. Suga held her hand, and they waded through the ocean of bodies to the less inhabited bar.
There, Suga ordered two waters, which earned him a long stare from the bartender. He didn’t notice, and when the bartender met Shiori’s glaring gaze, he apologetically ducked behind the bar to fix their glasses. Suga met her gaze, and she smiled at him. He smiled back and greedily sucked on his water.
Shiori was just beginning to nurse her own drink when a bright voice piped over the crowd.
“Hey! Those were some sexy moves!”
Shiori spluttered when she caught sight of the busty blonde sauntering up to them. She didn’t look to be from the village, much less anywhere in the country. She was a foreign sight to behold, and her accent was strange and only made her that much more alluring.
She smiled brightly at both of them, though when she spoke, she solely focused on Suga.
“What a show, and what a lovely couple. How long have you been dancing together?”
Suga went to speak, but Shiori slammed down her glass, catching both of their attention.
“Not long. We’re not together, actually.”
The woman perked up.
“Oh? I wouldn’t have known. Name’s Charlie- well, Charlotte, but that sounds old, ya know? I prefer Charlie. I’m from the states. No dance partner to speak of… here or there, ya know?”
Shiori smiled while listening, but when she turned away to get a sip of her drink, she couldn’t help rolling her eyes. Suga, on the other hand, seemed intrigued.
“Hello… I’m Suga. This… this is Shiori. Do you… like to dance?”
Charlie released a burst of laughter, which had Shiori spluttering her drink again.
“Do I? I’m no good alone, but I can still cut a rug.”
Suga’s eyes widened.
“You… cut… rugs?”
Shiori reached out to take his attention and explain the expression, but Charlie leaned in and took hold of his shoulder.
“Not literally, duh. It just means I just… ya know, dance pretty well, I guess. If that makes sense?”
Suga’s face was blank, but he nodded anyway. Shiori knew better, but she didn’t say anything and continued to slurp down her water. She bitterly stared at the clear liquid, wishing she had ordered the drinks.
“So, I was wondering… I know you just cut the rug up yourself, already, but I don’t have a dance partner myself, and I’d really like a dance. So, mind if I steal your partner?”
Shiori looked up, shocked to find the pair of them staring at her. Had she just asked Shiori for permission? To dance with Suga? What did it matter what she thought? She met Suga’s eyes, but he was somewhere else. He was there, but it was like he was looking through her, rather than at her. She didn’t know what to say.
So, she nodded.
Charlie squealed and grabbed Suga’s hands, knocking the glass of water to the ground without so much as a thought.
“Come on! I love this song!”
Suga looked back at Shiori to say something, but she couldn’t hear his soft voice over the crowd swallowing them on the dance floor. She tried to catch sight of them and sat for just a few seconds longer at the bar, idly sipping away at her drink.
But eventually, she grew tired over the stale smell and the creeping sense of dread weighing down her chest. She wanted to tell Suga goodbye, but she would never find him in the crowd.
So, alone, she walked in the darkness. The air smelled of rain, and Shiori couldn’t help missing Suga.
To be continued…
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