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Four Seasons, Four Years

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First Year ~ Spring

Suga finally has his new Tokyo apartment setup just how he wanted. It’s small, insanely small, but it’s his. His university owns the block of buildings, so each student lucky enough to get a spot has subsidized rent. So even though he can see the whole place from the door, his appliances are from another era, and the walls are so thin he can hear everything his neighbor’s do in their bathrooms, he’s content.

At one end of his kitchen-bed-living room, Suga sits at his small, university-provided desk reading for his educational psychology course. His desk lamp is on even though he swears he could do all his work just from the lights from the pachinko parlor across the street. His fingers draw across the page, line after line, slowing as he feels the desire to sleep creeping up on him.

He startles when his phone vibrates loudly on the desk. He picks up right away, “Daiiiii~chiii, hello, hello! How was your day?”

“I talked to you two hours ago.” Daichi laughs on the other end, “so, pretty good, since nothing has changed since then. Oh, but I did run into Asahi. We had dinner together.”

“See! Now that’s something. How is he?”

“He’s doing well. They’re moving him from part-time to full-time soon at the store.”

“That’s great. I mean, if that’s what he’s hoping for.”

“I think so. He says he wants to take some time to think about his next step, that he doesn’t want to just jump into things because there’s some magical ‘next step’ he’s supposed to take right after high school.”

“That’s deep for our unsure little ace.” Suga makes a mental note to talk to Asahi tomorrow. He hasn’t talked to him once since starting university, aside from a few impersonal hellos and emoji in texts.

“Still waters run deep?”

“Still, anxious waters run deep. Where’d you go get dinner?”

“Just that cheap little ramen place down the street from Karasuno. Nothing special.”

“No way. What I wouldn’t give for some greasy, sub-par ramen with you guys right now.” Suga means it. During the day he loves everything about this new chapter in his life. From new classes to new friends, the challenges and the changes make him feel like he can take on anything. At night, though, it’s a bit tougher.

“We can all go next time you’re home.”

Being homesick makes Suga feel like a child. It makes him feel frustrated with himself, especially when Daichi just saying “home” is enough to make his chest feel a bit tighter. “I’d like that.” Suga takes a beat, then adds, “Are there any cherry blossoms left? The last few pretty ones here turned green a week or so ago.”

“Same here, but the park is covered with all the sad, little, wet petals. A rainstorm a couple days ago beat down the rest.” Daichi doesn’t have to say which park, Suga knows. It’s the one right near Suga’s neighborhood.

“Did you go for a walk there?”

Suga can hear Daichi’s smile in his voice. “I did. All alone. I’ve actually been a few times these past few weeks.”

“That makes me very happy and also pretty sad.”

“Good. That’s how I feel when I go.” Daichi snorts. Suga laughs softly, the kind of laugh that ends with a hum.

They’re both quiet for a moment and Suga just listens to Daichi breathe. They talk as much as they can throughout the day, but already it’s gotten a bit more challenging with their mismatched schedules. Daichi has classes, a part-time job, and he helps his parents care for his grandfather, especially in the evenings when he needs help being fed and getting to bed.

Suga feels lazy in comparison. He only has classes for now. The stipend from his scholarship is helping him take his time settling in before getting a job, too. They only text when they must, instead focusing on how to make time for phone calls, however short, as much as they can.

The conversation rolls on easily as Suga shares every mundane detail of his day that he can remember and Daichi fills him in on his grandfather’s doctor visit and more bits from his dinner with Asahi. Before long, Suga has switched off his lamp and rolled out his futon. He shuts his curtains as tight as possible.

“You in bed?” Suga yawns.

“Been here for a while.” Suga notes how exhausted Daichi sounds.

They wrap up their conversation as they dip in and out of alertness.

“On 3?” Suga asks.

“On 3.” Daichi promises. Their nightly ritual.

“One, two, three - good night, I love you.” They chime in unison and end the call.

Suga never wants to hang up, but that’s the promise. The morning will be better. He knows it. But right now, this room is noisy, this futon is worn out, and this room is cold and more than a little lonely.

***
First Year ~ Summer

With all the windows open to invite in the summer evening breeze, Suga can hear the wind rushing through the rice fields outside his parents’ house. It’s not a sound he can describe, not even in colorful language choices like Hinata uses, but his heart aches for it when he’s in the city and all he can hear is trains and a steady stream of ambulances from the hospital nearby.

A burst of laughter makes him open his eyes and he sees Daichi across the table leaning in towards his mom, probably sharing some ridiculous pun that only the two of them find hilarious. Suga adds another point to his mental list of reasons he loves Daichi: he loves my mom and my mom loves him back.

“And then she was like, ‘chicken? I didn’t say chicken!’” The two of laugh again and Suga’s dad jolts awake from his accidental after dinner nap. He moves to start collecting the plates now that everyone’s done.

His mother tsks him. “You were just half-asleep. Leave them. I’ll get them in a second.”

“Oh come on, I’ll get them mom.” Suga says.

“No way! You were busy today, too.”

“Doing what?” He laughs back.

“Doing anything your mother wanted to do with you two boys. You’ve humored me enough today, with all the eating and the shopping and the doting, but, “ she leans in, raising an eyebrow, “you two could wash them all after I do the very arduous job of carrying them in.”

“Deal.” Daichi agrees.

The evening passes as it usually does on nights like this. The four of them talk in the living room until his parents decide to go to bed. Suga’s mother kisses both of “her boys” on their foreheads as she says good night. Then Suga and Daichi spend the rest of their time talking easily, cuddling even though it’s far too warm, and dozing off as eyelids grow heavier from the passing hours.

“I don’t want you to go back home.” Suga pouts once they’re outside. “Saying goodnight is terrible.” He runs his thumb along Daichi’s hand.

They’re standing outside Suga’s neighborhood on the thin strip of road running between two rice fields. The night is the kind of dark you can only get in the countryside, where it’s so dark you can hardly see your feet but somehow skin and eyes glow in the moonlight.

“Yea but, this is the country. We can’t live how you city boys do in Tokyo, playing fast and loose with your innocent boyfriend’s morals.” Daichi laughs.

“Hmm… true. Sharing a house is awkward because the walls just aren’t sound-proof enough. And on the other side of that paper-thin wall? Parents! It’s mortifying.”

Daichi laughs again and sighs. “I really like being at your house.”

“I know. I like you being there, too.” Suga moves to stand closer together. His free hand moves to gently clasp Daichi’s arm. Suga can tell Daichi’s mind is working through something. He gives him time, watching the short bits of hair that stick up from Daichi’s head move in the breeze.

“When you’re miles away, it’s hard, but it’s easier somehow, too.” Daichi pauses. “When you’re right down the street but I can’t stay where you are it’s somehow so much harder than knowing you’re unreachably far away, you know?”

Suga replies with a soft “hmm.”

“Then when we’re apart I settle back in to what I have here. Even though there’s a huge part of my life that isn’t here, it’s my normal.” Daichi groans, “I don’t know what I’m trying to say.”

“Take your time. I’m in no rush to let you go back to your house.” Suga tugs Daichi a little closer.

When Daichi speaks again, Suga can feel the breath from his words on his cheek. “When you’re here, when you visit, I remember how not normal my ‘normal’ is. Like, at your house with your family, I feel more at home than I do in my own house. At your house, we can be-” his voice trails off.

“I know.” Suga pulls him into an embrace. “I know.”

Daichi’s head is resting on his shoulder. Just barely above a whisper, Daichi adds, “there are pieces of me that I worry will never have a home at my house.”

Suga doesn’t answer right away. They’ve had this conversation so many times with different words. He wants to say, “you don’t know that! Your family loves you.” or “It’s so hard, but maybe we can try to give them a chance” or “these things take time.” But after a while all he says is, “You’ll always have a home with me.”

***
First Year ~ Fall

“I can’t open it now. You’re mad at me.” Suga half-whines, half-whispers into his phone from his spot on the floor. It’s well past midnight and he’s staring at a package on his bed. The small, taped box had been waiting outside on his doorstep when he stumbled in from the train station.

“I’m not mad, just… I wish you had texted or called. You know I worry.”

Suga can tell from his voice that he’s lying down. Daichi’s voice always has a different cadence when he’s not up and moving. It’s slower and usually softer, but right now it has an exhausted tone that Suga knows, laden with guilt, doesn’t come just from the late hour. “I know. It’s sweet that you worry. I was out with the other people from the education program and --”

“I just missed our phone time.” Daichi interrupts.

Suga stares at the box in front of him. It was small, but he knew it meant a lot. “Really, though, can I open it tomorrow? I’ll feel less… guilty tomorrow. I’m really sorry I missed our time.”

“It’s okay, you’re making it now --”

“Yes, but it’s the middle of the night and--”

“Lucky for you, I’m still wide awake.” Daichi still sounds frustrated, but it’s waning. He sounds more tired than anything.

“Are you sure?” Suga holds the small box in his lap. His head is still swimming from the shots he had taken earlier, well beyond his limit, but he takes several deep breaths and focuses all he has on the box in his hands. This is from Daichi. His Daichi. Only two hours away by train, but he had sent a random care package anyway.

“Can you switch to video chat? I’m ready. I want to see you open it.”

Suga nods, aware somewhere in his mind that Daichi couldn’t see his silent agreement, but he loads up the app on his phone and connects.

Daichi’s face on the other end is poorly lit by a reading lamp beside his bed. Suga is reminded of the vast difference in their living situation. If Suga wanted to have all the lights on at 2am, he could. Daichi hai to be aware of what other people want -- both in light and sound. Suga turni on his desk lamp and stares into the eyes in his phone.

“I’m sorry again. I didn’t mean to stay out so late. Time got the better of me.” The apologies keep tumbling out, even though the tiniest bit of him is envious of his friends, the ones that get to come home and crash and not say sorry over and over and sober up because they felt bad. The frustration fills him up, a good cover for guilt.

Daichi laughs. It starts soft and cascades into something warm. “You make me feel so old.”

The anger leaves. Some of his friends didn’t have to carry the burden of someone else’s feelings all the time, but they also don’t get this.

“It’s Saturday and I watched TV with my parents and then read a bunch for class.”

“Oh god, that’s so upsetting.” Suga laughs.

“I know! That wasn’t the plan. Half the team is out of town for the long weekend and outside of sports I cannot make friends. You know that.” He pauses. “Plus, with the team, I’m still The Dad. I don’t even know how. I’m not the captain.”

By now Suga is shaking with laughter. “Oh, Dad-chi. It’s meant to be.”

“No one wants to party with their dad.”

“If only they knew the things you could get up to.” Suga hums into the phone as he holds the box up for Daichi to see, too.

“Open it”! Daichi pouts.

“You don’t have a face to pout. Too stern.” The box is light as he sets it on his lap. Suga turns around and props the phone up on the pillows. “What is this for, anyway?”

“I don’t have to have a reason to mail you something.” Daichi sits up, too, eagerly inching closer to the screen.

Prying off the tape, Suga opens the box to find a tremendous amount of teal tissue paper. It’s been shoved inside in clumps and it puffs out as the pressure inside the box is released. He pulls out small pieces over and over, worried that he’ll miss what’s inside.

“Careful! It’s small.”

The gift rolls out of the tissue paper and onto his lap. A small, glass crow. Suga holds it up and turns the crow’s beady little eyes towards Daichi. “He’s very cute.”

“I have one, too!” Daichi leans over to his bedside table and holds up an identical crow. “I got it when I was out on an old man excursion with my parents. We went to a glass shop. I watched a man make tiny glass animals for at least thirty minutes. This is my life now.”

“I love it. And I love that they match.” Suga places the crow gently in the center of his palm. “Where should I put mine?”

“Well mine stays on my table so it’s right next to my phone and I see it first thing.”

“I like that.”

“Suga?”

“Hm?” Suga still has the little crow in his hand, cradling it in the nook of his palm.

“I wish we’d been able to work out a visit this weekend.” Daichi’s voice is heavy and low.

“Then maybe I could have come and been and old person with you guys!” Suga tries to brighten the mood. “I know,” he gives up after seeing no change in Daichi’s expression, “it makes me so sad. I wish the shinkansen wasn’t so expensive.”

Daichi waits a moment before responding. “Can we fall asleep like this?”

Suga knows he means leaving the phones on even when they’re not talking. They’ve done it a lot recently. “Yes.” He smiles, “but I need to change out of my gross clothes, brush my teeth, and generally be a less disgusting version of myself first.”

“That’s fine. Bring me with you the whole time.” Daichi grins wide.

***
First year ~ Winter

Leaving the party had been tough. For one thing, it was freezing outside, but also Suga had just spent an evening calling Daichi his boyfriend in front of other people and it wasn’t a big deal at all. I mean, for some of his newer friends, they were ecstatic to finally meet The Daichi, but other than that, the information didn’t warrant any furtive glances or comments quickly made to change the subject. They got to be just another couple at a New Year’s Eve party.

But the trek would be worth it. Suga knew the trains would run all night to accommodate everyone leaping at the chance to start their year right with their first shrine visit of the new year. Though, as Daichi had immediately pointed out, they were actually going to a temple at midnight.

“We’ll get to a shrine in the morning. Plus,” Suga had added, bundling up at the doorway, “we were invited and I want to ring the big bell at midnight.”

Suga sits on the well-worn tatami mat next to Daichi. There’s very few people in the room, a small place for gathering next to the main hall. Across from them, sipping the thicker, unfiltered sake used for new year celebrations, is the woman who invited him and Daichi. While Maruoka-san’s technically just his advisor in the education department, over the past few weeks she’d become a bit more like a borrowed mother for college life. He’s ended up in her office a few times already with some stress-induced tears.

This is another place where someone knows about who Daichi is to him and Suga relishes the feeling of warmth as he drinks his tea and watches her smile dance between the two of them. He’s not sure if she’s told her husband, the priest, but it doesn’t matter. Suga’s content to be building places for himself where pieces of him don’t have to be so carefully guarded.

It’s exceptionally quiet. Aside from some gentle, idle chit chat between the older, regular service attenders, there’s nothing. He thanks whoever is listening for a respite from the non-stop audio onslaught that waits for him back at his apartment. The quiet reminds him of home.

Daichi has already captured the attention of a parishioner, an older woman who smiles with her eyes. She’s wondering out loud why two handsome young men have wandered out of the city to find themselves stuck here with “a bunch of grandmothers” - her words.

As Daichi charms his way through a response, Maruoka-san cuts in. “Sugawara-kun is a student at the university. He’s going to be a teacher.”

The grandmother beams. “A teacher? I might have bothered to study more if I had someone with kind eyes like that as my teacher.” She speaks more quickly than someone would expect by the way she looks. She’s stooped over a little with a few sweaters keeping her warm.

Suga feels his grin stretch across his face, despite his desire to brush off the compliment.

“And Sawamura-san is his friend visiting from Miyagi.”

“And what do you study, Sawamura-kun from Miyagi?”

“Business, just business.” He adds quicky, “And history.”

“Fine pursuits, the both of you. Are you also from Miyagi, then, Sugawara-kun?”

Suga nods. “Yes, we went to high school together.”

The woman hums happily in response. “It makes my heart glad to see bonds unbothered by distance. You know, my best friend, from elementary school, she got married and moved to Hokkaido of all places! Can you believe that? But we wrote letters to each other every week. And now, now our grandchildren have set up a way for us to talk to each other on video. I see her everyday now. Distance didn’t change anything.” She places her hand on Daichi’s forearm. “Stay special to each other.”

Daichi’s other hand finds Suga’s under the table and Suga feels like this is going to be one of those evenings he remembers for a long time.

When midnight strikes, the priest guides each of the visitors, one-by-one, through ringing the temple bell. When it’s Suga’s turn he has his wish ready, his intention for the new year and all the ones to follow.

“What did you wish for?” Daichi asks, teeth chattering slightly. He did not bring the right kind of jacket.

“I can’t tell you!” Suga fusses. “That ruins it.”

“Was it about me? Mine’s about you.”

“All my wishes are about you.” Suga clasps Daichi’s arm, cuddling closer in the night air. “Happy now, you big sap?”

“Very.” He grins and rests a gloved hand on top of Suga’s mitten.

Chapter Text

Second year ~ Spring

“This is my friend, Sugawara.”

Suga is trying to enjoy himself, but he’s picking at his food and withdrawing from the conversation. Around him are a bunch of Daichi’s college friends, all teammates. They’ve just finished a scrimmage match that Suga was overjoyed to get to watch. So rarely now does he get the chance to watch his boyfriend play. He looks up from his still fairly full plate and watches the way Daichi interacts with his teammates, many of them brand new first years. His smile is genuine and warm. He goes out of his way to include others in the conversation and make them feel comfortable. He’s even sure to pull Suga into the conversation when he can.

“This is my friend, Sugawara.”

He knows that their weekend visits are short and only happen once or twice a month, and knows that there’s not enough time to waste on feeling upset. This time Suga’s made the trip up to Miyagi so he could also be here for his dad’s birthday party with his side of the family, so their time alone together is even shorter. Daichi is usually the one travelling. In Tokyo, Suga has his own place and they can stay out as late as they want or stay inside, wrapped up in each other, and pretend that nothing outside the apartment exists. There, they see his friends and they know who Daichi is to him.

“This is my friend, Sugawara.”

Visiting Miyagi feels like visiting the past in more ways than one. The one ATM near his house closes at 9pm. The news shares concerns about the rising boar population on the nearby mountain. Suga sleeps in his old room and has zero privacy. He goes out with Daichi and is just his friend again.

After lunch, Suga paints on a happy face. He waves goodbye to Daichi’s teammates and beams about how great they all are. Daichi buys in long enough for them to walk out of earshot from everyone else. Suga tries to keep a quick pace to the train station, but Daichi drags behind him, and Suga finds himself slowing down to match his pace.

“What’s wrong?” Daichi asks. His eyes are locked on Suga’s face, but he turns back to the road ahead.

He sighs. “I won’t say nothing, but I will say it’s nothing I want to talk about now.” They’ve all but stopped and Suga is grateful the sidewalk isn’t busy. Up ahead is a busier shopping street, but where they are now is tucked between quieter shops and nearly empty restaurants. He picks the toe of his shoe at an uneven pavestone. “I have fewer than forty eight hours to see you. I care, but I don’t care right now.” He adds, “Plus you already know what it is.”

Daichi makes a responsive noise, but says nothing. Suga knows he’s already figured it out. They’ve had this argument before, several times lately. Suga can understand his precarious family situation, but friends? High school was one thing. They were teammates and were barely able to admit to themselves for the longest time that their relationship was anything beyond friendship, but things were supposed to change. They were supposed to grow.

Suga watches as Daichi’s mood deflates, his shoulders slumping, and he’s sorry he couldn’t hide his feelings better, a line of thinking he instantly regrets. He shouldn’t have to hide anything, especially something that’s so important to him, but he also just wants to shut his mouth and enjoy Daichi being here with him.

Impossibly slowly, they’ve reached the busier road. People are rushing past and Suga briefly wonders if passerby can read the tension on their faces. He chews his lip, forming an idea and scanning the shop signs down the sidewalk.
He takes Daichi’s hand and pulls him forward as he walks briskly, determined.

Daichi takes his hand back, forever uncomfortable with holding hands in public, but Suga was ready for that and when he glances back over his shoulder, there’s a crack of a smile on Daichi’s face.

Suga comes to an abrupt stop in front of a desert shop. In the window there are rows of rainbow-colored macaroons, stacks of fudge, and jars filled with multi-colored hand-made sweets.

“We’ve been figh-picking at each other so much lately. Can we just -- macaroons.”

“What?”

“Macaroons! It’s a weird word and fun to say. You can’t say the word ‘macaroons’ with an angry tone.” Suga tilts his head gently to the side and smiles softly, reading Daichi’s face. “Try it.”

“Suga…”

“Please?”

Daichi pursues his lips, then lets go. “Macaroons.”

Suga repeats it and Daichi mirrors his tone until they’ve both managed more sincere smiles.

“There. We’ve pressed the reset button, everything else is fine.”

“But I know this is something that makes you upset-”

“And it’s not for now.” The lighthearted tone leaves for a moment. “It’s important, yes, but not now. Not now.”

This time it’s Daichi who reaches for Suga’s hand. “Right now you want to go in that shop and pick out an ungodly amount of sweets and eat them until we’re humming with sugar.”

Suga nods quickly and the sticky sweet smell rushes over them as they open the door.

Soon, they’ll have to talk again about Daichi’s boundaries and why they’re not budging. Daichi will say he’s proud of Suga, but will continue assert with a cracking voice that his journey is no one’s but his own. Suga will beg for him to understand that he can’t keep existing in the shadows of Daichi’s life. That’s how it will go until they figure it out, but not now. Now it’s time for macaroons.

***
Second Year ~ Summer

On a deep exhale in Dolphin Pose, Suga hears choked laughter behind him. He opens his eyes and peers through his legs to see a newly-awoken Daichi, bed-headed and covered in crumpled sheets, staring at him.

“I like this new yoga practice of yours.” His voice is still thick with sleep. It’s nearing 11am, but classes are out for the summer, finally, so neither of them saw the point in getting up early.

“Good view?” Suga sways his hips gently.

“Liked the one last night better. This is similar, but that one’s better.”

It’s Suga’s turn to laugh. “Please. We don’t do anything like this.” On another exhale, he rolls out of the pose, coming back up to place his palms on his mat. “We don’t have the coordination.”

“You might.” Daichi has a tone in his voice that makes Suga grin.

“Yea, I might.” He lowers his voice. “I could teach you.” He glides into another pose, closing his eyes again.

Daichi chuckles softly and Suga can hear him throwing off the sheets. “You’d break me.”

The second ambulance of the morning rushes past. “Good thing there’s a really busy hospital nearby. Help! I broke my boyfriend because we were being adventurous on my twin bed!” He snorts. “Look how distracting you are! I need to finish!”

He feels a tickle in his side and jerks away. “Funny, that sounds similar to something you demanded last night, too.” Suga lifts up a leg to kick him but he’s already on his way to the bathroom. His apartment is small, but not small enough that he can kick Daichi whenever he needs to from where he is.

Suga hears the bathroom door slide closed and he smiles. During a normal weekend, they’d have a lazy morning together, then Daichi would be on the train after an early lunch, but today he’s not going anywhere. They still have two more days here together.
He woke up to posts from his friends from their last-minute trip to Fukuoka. They took the night bus on Friday, something Suga definitely wasn’t jealous of, then spent Saturday posting pictures of every cool shop or amazing restaurant they visited, which was tougher not to feel some kind of way about. He knows from several blurry instagram pictures that they went clubbing last night, too. And today they’ll be at the beach with what looks like amazing weather. They’ll come back with stories and inside jokes that he isn’t a part of. It’s happened before. He’ll spend a few days feeling like a tag-along in his own friend group, but then things will settle again.

In a perfect world, he could have gone and brought Daichi with him. The fact is, though, twice a month, three times if they’re lucky, their spending money goes to splitting the cost of train tickets between Miyagi and Tokyo. There’s not much left for spontaneous out of town trips.

The loop is the same. See a photo. Feel jealous. Look at Daichi. Feel guilty about feeling jealous. Daichi smiles. Feel incredibly lucky.

In two weeks, Suga will be back in Miyagi for an extended visit, so they could have waited and saved the money, but neither of them wanted to. Irrationality always wins. Especially when they both realize what an absolute heaven Suga having his own place is.
Suga can’t wait to see his family, but his visits to see Daichi’s family have been weird lately. Daichi’s mother is shorter with him, less warm and welcoming than he remembers. He only stays for a short while now, mostly to purposefully maintain some connection with Daichi’s family, but they spend most of their time together at Suga’s house or trying desperately to find someplace, any place, where they can be alone together.

When Daichi pads his way back from the bathroom, Suga is lying down on his mat, head resting lazily on its side.

“What do you want for breakfast?” Daichi is snooping through his one kitchen cabinet for, well, anything.

“Eggs. Fried eggs on rice.”

Daichi opens the mini-fridge and sighs. “You don’t have eggs, Suga.”

“You asked me what I wanted, not what I had!” He teases. “Plus it’s basically lunch time already.”

“So, it’ll be brunch, then.”

In the end, Daichi ends up scraping together a pretty decent meal from some leftover rice, a block of tofu, and some vegetables on the sadder end of ripe and ready to eat. Suga was a good helper, but that’s where he stays. He’s not the chef, but he’ll unevenly chop anything and clean up pots and bowls as Daichi cooks on one of the two burners in his tiny kitchen.

When he’s alone, Suga eats at the dining hall or eats piles of sodium-filled goodness from the convenient stories. He could cook, but it feels pointless when it’s just for himself. With Daichi here, though, his whole apartment hums like it's filled with purpose and possibility.

“What do you want to do today?” Suga leans over from his spot on the floor at his low table and burrows into Daichi shoulder. The room is warm from cooking and the heat from outside is already starting to creep in even with two fans running, but he curls in happily.

He feels Daichi’s head rest on the top of his. “Nothing.”

“We should leave at some point.”

“Why?”

“Good point, but you know I have nothing to eat for dinner.” He pouts. “We have to go outside or we’ll starve.”

“So, we’ll leave later. Much later.” Daichi moves one of his hands to Suga’s side and draws small circles with his thumb under the hem of his shirt. “There’s a lot of wonderful nothing we can do between now and then.”

***
Second Year ~ Fall

Suga thinks this argument started because of a movie choice. He’s not even sure. At this point, it could have been anything. One minute they’re picking trying to pick a movie to watch and the next it’s not about the movie, it’s about growing apart, or not respecting each other’s choices, or any other collection of absolute nonsense that feels really important in the moment but give them a few hours or a good night’s sleep and its fine. Or fine enough.

Daichi’s silent on the other end of the couch, his head resting on his elbow on the armrest. The sun is going down in the window across from them. They have a few more minutes of beauty before it disappears behind the monstrosity of a pachinko parlor across the street. There’s dishes from dinner on the coffee table. With a pang, Suga remembers how quiet dinner was, how everything took a turn after.

And even though they’ve just been fighting, the person he wants to comfort him is the person who made him angry.

“It’s just the stress.” He says, turning to face Daichi on the couch and curling his legs up so his chin can rest on his knees. “It’s stress. We’re not mad at each other.” He pauses. “At least I don’t think so.” His voice is small and quiet. Both of their course loads have picked up. It’s been tougher to balance their time together and the time they need to put in to do well at university.

Daichi’s reply is, too. “I worry it’s both.” His words escape into the room, giving a terrible voice to the thoughts he’s been having, too. “I might be -- It’s just --” He cuts himself off.

“We’ve been walking on eggshells around each other for weeks.” Suga starts. “Don’t cut yourself off. We’re so worried to mess up what little time we have that we don’t talk about anything and, I don’t know, I think that makes it so that when we are around each other we’re either forcing something or we’re taking out some weird,” Suga groans, unable to find the right words, “frustrations or something on each other.”

Daichi turns his body on the couch so he’s facing Suga, too, but drops his head onto the back of it. “Just all of it? You want me to dump all of it?” He looks exhausted.

Suga swallows hard, but nods.

“I have nothing without you.” Daichi starts suddenly. “And that scares me because you have so much without me.I love myself around you, but I hate myself when I’m not here visiting. I’m attached to my phone every single day waiting for a message from you, waiting for our times to talk. I fill my days with classes, work, volleyball, and helping my family and I like some of that, but I feel pathetic.” He grimaces. “I just want to leave. My friends are fine, but they don’t know me. I haven’t given them much of a chance. I love being there for my grandfather, but my parents don’t know everything about me. I’m just waiting, Suga. I spend the whole day waiting around for you to have a break in this new life you’ve made and I feel pathetic and small.”

In one moment, Suga wants to hug him, yell at him, and cry with him. Instead he sits, stunned. “You’re not pathetic at all.” He says, already disappointed that’s what came out.

Daichi makes a frustrated growl. “See! I can’t explain it! I have all these things in my head that I want to say, but I don’t know what to call them. I’m pathetic… and jealous… and I don’t know why you get to have this life and I get mine.”

The only time Suga has seen Daichi like this before was right before graduation, when all of these choices that led them to their current situations were taking shape. It was unnerving then and it still is now. Daichi is the one you tell your stupid, immature feelings to and he points you in the right direction with a hug and a smile. But this is the other side of Daichi, the one that breaks after shouldering everyone else’s burden.

Suga bites his lip. One part of him wants to yell that he worked for the life he has here, while the other half wants to swoop in with advice. Both are wrong. “I’m glad you’re telling me this.”

Daichi sits up from where his head was resting on the back of the couch. “You have to dump all of your garbage, too.”

He shakes his head. “Not when you feel like this.”

“I feel like this almost all the time lately. You have to. I want to listen, too.” There’s a small, sad smile.

Suga really can’t voice the thoughts he’s had recently. How can he tell Daichi that when he texts too often, it feels like an interruption? Or how much he’s upset about missing out on things his friends are doing because he’s video chatting or visiting Daichi? “What you just told me makes my stuff not matter.” Suga manages a small smile, too.

But Daichi’s temperament darkens again. “Everything about you matters, but now I’m so pathetic that you can’t even tell me anything.”

Suga sighs. He crawls out of his position on the couch and pushes his arms behind where Daichi is leaning against the back of the couch. Confused, but pliant, Daichi moves forward. Suga lies down, puts his feet up and presses his back hard into the couch, opening one arm after motioning for Daichi to do the same in the space he made in front of him.

Once he’s the big spoon and breathing softly onto the back of Daichi’s neck, digging his nose into short stubbly hair, Suga replies. “You’re the least pathetic person I know. When the rest of us are off being idiots, you’re finding ways to be the best person. You help your grandfather, you work extra hours so you can help pay his hospital fees, you listen to me whine about classes, you work so hard to ace your own, and no matter what’s going on, you always, always make me feel like I matter to you.” He pulls Daichi closer with his free arm. “Take care of yourself, too, because you matter to me.”

He feels a shudder run up Daichi’s back and a choked sound come from his throat. Suga doesn’t say anything. He buries his face into the crook of his boyfriend’s neck and holds him close.

The next thing Suga realizes is that it’s pitch black in the apartment. His hip and knees ache from digging into the harder parts of his cheap couch. He wiggles free the arm that was trapped under Daichi and winces at the feeling of the dead limb coming back to life. He shifts into a new position so his cheek is pressed against the top of Daichi’s back. He can’t see a thing, but Daichi is soft and warm against his front and he falls back asleep listening to his gentle breaths.

***
Second Year ~ Winter

In a week, Suga will be travelling home for the New Year, but he was not about to let another chance to have Daichi all to himself slip away. They scrounged up enough money for one extra visit, and they get Christmas Eve together! He’s never decorated before, not to this extent, but Suga filled up on trinkets and decor from the 100 yen store and stuck them throughout every inch of his apartment. He’s ready to welcome Daichi into his Christmas paradise tomorrow.

He scrolling through a listing of different Christmas cakes his nearby bakery offers when his phone vibrates.

Daichi>> okay if I come tonight?

Suga looks at the time. It’s just before 9pm. If Daichi comes tonight he won’t be here until after 11.

Suga>> of course! YAY!
Suga>> you mean I get to have you ONE MORE NIGHT? Yes plz

Daichi>> great, on my way

Suga presses the call button, but it goes to voicemail.

Daichi>> sorry, already on the train. Can’t talk.

So he was already on a train when he asked if it was okay to come?

Suga>> do you have an ETA?

Daichi>> 11:32 at your station, my app says

Suga>> and to what do I owe this wonderful surprise?
Suga>> everything alright?

Daichi>> yea got off work earlier
Daichi>> couldn’t wait to see you
Daichi>> also no…

Suga>> no?

Daichi>> I wanted to wait to talk in person but
Daichi>> I need to talk to you now, even if it’s a text
Daichi>> is that fine?

Suga>> of course, all the time

Several minutes pass before Daichi replies. Suga stares at his phone, keeping it from falling asleep by swiping his finger over the screen anxiously.

Daichi>> my mom asked me
Daichi>> about why I visit so much. why I spend so much money to see you
Daichi>> about why I spend every minute with you and your family when you’re here
Daichi>> she’s been weird about it for months, but yelled at me about it
Daichi>> she asked me
Daichi>> demanded an answer from me
Daichi>> and I told her
Daichi>> I told her everything

Suga’s hands feel cold and they tremble with a reply. Of course it didn’t go well.

Suga>> I’m sorry it happened that way

Daichi>> I had to get out of there
Daichi>> she cried a lot and it was terrible
Daichi>> I felt guilty! Why?
Daichi>> I was angry at her then I felt bad that I did it this way
Daichi>> but it’s not on me
Daichi>> I didn’t
Daichi>> I didn’t do it this way on purpose
Daichi>> she made it this way
Daichi>> right?

Suga feels a few hot tears escape his eyes. They fall onto his hands and phone screen. He wants so badly to have Daichi with him right now. He’s on the way but it’s not soon enough.

Daichi had grown so much more confident again lately. He’d opened up to his friends and been happier everyday as a result. But Suga knew this day would happen at some point. He just thought the woman that cared for the two of them throughout high school, who cared for her aging father, would be different.

Suga>> nothing is your fault
Suga>> you were brave
Suga>> you didn’t lie
Suga>> and you were brave
Suga>> and I am waiting for you here

Daichi>> she wasn’t angry, just
Daichi>> sad

He has no idea what to say. His own family had shed tears, but he was so lucky. Most of those tears came from his parents’ sense of relief that he had stopped hiding something from them that they had figured out some time ago. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t this.

Suga>> you did the right thing

Daichi>> I know
Daichi>> when I get back I’m going to stay with a friend
Daichi>> I was texting him before you
Daichi>> it’s going to be fine
Daichi>> I know but
Daichi>> I need some time

Suga continues to stare at the screen. There’s nothing to say that feels right.

Suga>> Daichi
Suga>> I love you
Suga>> and I’m here
Suga>> I’m here
Suga>> I’m here
Suga>> I’m always here for you

They talk the whole two and a half hour ride, through every long stretch on the bullet train and every wait at a cold train station for a local connection. At first Daichi talks in circles and Suga lets him repeat everything, knowing that he’s processing. Everytime he just reminds him that he’s here.

Then Daichi texts him about an old man going through cheap convenient store sake in the seat across from him like it’s the end of the world. Suga knows he reaching for anything else to talk about, but he gladly chimes in, hoping some of his comments bring him something good. After that opening, Suga fills the conversation with happy memories they share. It’s something Daichi does for him whenever he feels down and can’t climb out on his own.

That time we missed last train and had to walk back home…

That time we woke up super early to go to the lake and see the sun come up…

That time I lost my wallet and you bought me lunch and that was definitely, probably, maybe our first date...

Chapter Text

Third Year ~ Spring

“What point is exactly halfway?” Daichi asks from his spot on the couch, his feet on Suga’s lap, sharing the heat from Suga’s small space heater. For April, the night is far too cold, even for two men from Miyagi. Yesterday morning there were even a few unseasonal flurries.

“Oh my god, it’s in Tochigi prefecture!” Suga laughs peering over the top of his phone. “There’s nothing there.”

“Not true! They have Nikko, that’s a world heritage site. That’s not nothing.”

Suga chuckles. “Yea, well, the halfway point for us is way north of Nikko. The closest city is some place called Nasu.”

“Hang on, I’m looking it up.” Daichi lazily scrolls his phone screen. “There’s a mountain, two popular ones it looks like, and there’s some kind of theme park and-”

“Dai, they have a monkey park.”

“And a safari park. With capybara!”

“Oh, the rent is cheap there.” Suga interjects.

“Rent?”

“These apartments are, like, half of what I pay and way bigger.” Suga flips his phone around to show Daichi rental listings.

Daichi gives him an incredulous look. “Good, that’ll help make up for the daily shinkansen tickets we’ll pay for.”

Suga laughs and casts him a glance. “Let me have this. Just for now.”

Daichi looks a little downcast but quickly replaces it with a soft smile. He closes his eyes and leans back on the armrest. “What would you put in our place, Suga?”

He sits up straight from his reclined position and drops his phone on the empty space beside him. “First thing, a nicer couch. This one is hard foam with scratchy fabric crudely stretched over top. I want it to be grey. A nice, warm grey.” He gestures as he talks and Daichi peeks open his eyes to watch him. “Then a bigger bed. We’re not giant, but that twin is unacceptable.”

Daichi laughs. “You’re not wrong. You’re lucky I love you because the number of elbows and knees I take to the back every night is criminal.”

“Alright, hot breather. Leaning in every night, breathing open-mouthed right on my face.”

“It’s because I want to be close to you.” Daichi croons.

Suga pursues his lips and shoots him a look. “Be close with some fresh air between us. Anyway, new couch, new bed, I want a bigger kitchen. Four whole burners! Ooh, and a fridge that’s big enough for me to put more than five things into at a time.”

“I like it. Sounds perfect already. Very practical.”

“What will you add?”

“I want a whole wall of just pictures of us.”

Suga clicks his tongue, “That is so cheesy. Stop it.” He leans over so his head is resting on Daichi’s stomach. The position is awkward with his legs still pinned under Daichi’s, but he settles in.

Daichi traces gentle circles in the top of his hair. “And a nice TV.”

“That’s more like it. A nice TV so we can watch movies together on the weekends and dumb shows when we get home.”

“Home from our two hour train ride.”

“I know, I know. It can’t happen, but I really want it to.” Suga pouts, bringing up a hand to twist into Daichi’s shirt.

Daichi smooths down the soft hair on Suga’s head. “It’s not too much longer.”

Suga swings his feet up onto the couch and pushes his body so his head rests on the nook between his boyfriend’s arm and his chest. “Two years. We still have two years.” His tone is somber and sad. “And I’m going abroad in the fall.”

For a while they say nothing. Suga breathes heavily, slow breaths in and out, and Daichi keeps running his fingers through his hair. They’re only halfway through their time in separate cities. Over half of their relationship, the real one they formed once they both recognized how they felt about each other, has been spent apart.

More than once, Daichi has seriously talked to Suga about transferring, but his grandfather’s health is growing worse and even though things are still strange with his parents, he doesn’t want to leave Miyagi, even if he is still living with a friend and not at home. He tells Suga again and again that he’s rebuilding his ties to his family and that he can’t leave now. They were always close, but him keeping secrets drove them apart, he thinks, and now they’re building things back up.

Suga knows, though, that it’s Daichi doing most of the work. He’s aware of his bias, his notion that Daichi is never at fault, but this time he really wasn’t. Sometimes he wants to scream at him, “be selfish for once! Just try it!” But the Daichi who never gives up, who sees the positive in everything, who can break down from the pressure but put the pieces back together with Suga and his friends is the Daichi he loves.

In two more years, Suga sighs out loud as the thoughts pass because he can see the end of it, almost touch it, in two more years, I won’t have to say goodbye and watch his train pull away anymore.

“So what are you going to do right now, mopey?” Daichi taps him on the head with one finger, breaking the silence. “You still have me for a few more hours.”

“I’m going to mope.” Suga replies, but he’s already grinning. “Want to put on a movie?” He flips over onto his stomach, chin resting on Daichi’s chest.

“And then not watch it?”

Suga laughs. “Exactly. We have much better things to do than actually watch those movies.”

***
Third Year ~ Summer

Suga’s apartment has exploded. There are sweaters draped over the back of the couch. There are piles of shirts at different spots around the apartment that Suga swears are sorted. His bed is covered in pants. A stack of jackets sits by the door.

And there is one large, empty suitcase in the middle of it all. As a future English teacher, his required semester abroad was looming ahead of him.

“How on earth am I supposed to pack for four and a half months?” Suga slumps onto the floor with a thud. “It’s still summer there, then I’ll need clothes for fall, and it’ll be winter before I come back.”

Daichi kneels behind him and wraps him in a hug, nuzzling his cheek against Suga’s. “We’ll figure it out.”

Suga whines and leans back into the touch, turning his head for a quick kiss. “Thank you for helping.”

He can’t imagine how everything will get done before he leaves for the US in three days. Daichi has been there for over a week already. After an extended stay in Miyagi to spend time with his family before he left, Daichi made the journey back to Tokyo with him.

If their time together could feel clingy and desperate at times before, then this visit was all of that on overdrive. For Suga, every interaction screamed, “you’re not going to get this again until the end of December” He stopped voicing the thoughts every time they intruded, instead settling on making needy whiny sounds or brooding. On the other hand, Daichi took the “pretend it isn’t happening” approach. The end result was a moody Suga, with very high highs and very low lows, and a laughing and overy cuddly Daichi.

Suga groans and abruptly stands up, going over to his bed to sort, for the third or fourth time, his pants into those he’s taking and those he’s leaving behind. Daichi watches as he picks up the same pair a few times, moving them from pile to pile over and over again.

Then Suga feels the pants being gently pulled from his hands as his body is turned around to face Daichi. His boyfriend leans in to place a kiss on his forehead and Suga makes a shuddering sigh before the gross, wracking tears come.

Daichi pulls him in close and rubs his back, swaying them both in smooth motions from side to side. “Let’s take a break.”

“I can’t!” Suga chokes out between sobs. “I have to get the apartment ready for my friend coming to sublet. I have to pack everything. There’s bills to take care of, emails to send to the university… There’s not enough time left. And what if I get lost in the airport because can’t read something right? Or I can’t figure out where to go? Or I lose my bag --”

His words are cut off by a pair of strong hands cupping the sides of his face, thumbs softly brushing tears from cheeks, and Daichi kissing him in a way that makes him feel lightheaded.

“I don’t know how I’m going to go that long without seeing you.” Suga admits after allowing himself to enjoy a few softer moments. Instantly he knows, of course, that’s the thought that keeps making him erupt with emotions at the weirdest times. He knew that days ago, but he didn’t want to own the thought, let alone say it.

Daichi kisses him again, with more insistence this time, a stronger reminder that he’s still there.

When Daichi pulls back, Suga looks at him and feels his selfishness coursing through his veins. He’s the one choosing to go. It’s required, but he would have done it anyway. He’s the one who moved away in the first place. He’s the one seeking comfort for decisions he’s made.

And Daichi is there.

Just like he’s there for every single person in his life.

It must be exhausting.

Suga wraps one hand tight into Daichi’s shirt and the other swifty wipes across his eyes, a graceless snort escaping as he ends the tears. Daichi chuckles and he does, too.

“Can we get out of here?” Suga sniffles again.

“Please.” Daichi runs a thumb under his left eye.

On their way out, Suga catches a glimpse of himself in his small bathroom mirror. His pale skin is blotchy and his eyes are red. Daichi catches him and says, “Yea, you look like someone having a rough afternoon.”

Suga pushes him a little, but a grin cracks through.

“Don’t worry,” Daichi continues, “I’m going to look disgusting at the airport. People will wonder who let the sad, diseased man wander in.”

Suga makes Daichi pick where they will go on their impromptu “let’s flee that apartment” date, and after some coercing, he picks a coffee place nearby. Outside, the humidity is oppressive. The way Daichi’s shirt instantly clings to his body reminds Suga of hot summer practices. He loses himself in the memory.

“You’re staring.” Daichi says in a low voice.

“I was reminiscing.” Suga says dreamily. “And wondering.”

“About what?”

“Wondering when was the last time you asked me for something.”

Daichi looks puzzled. “I think I ask you for things all the time.” He asserts suggestively. “Just yesterday you told me you liked how bossy I was in bed.”

Suga scrunches up his face. “Not like that! I mean, for real. Needing something from me.”

“You get me water. And popcorn. And blankets…”

Suga stops walking, plants his feet. He lifts and eyebrows and fights the urge to put his hands on his hips to play up his frustration.

“Fine, I know what you mean.” Daichi sighs. “It’s just not something I’m comfortable doing.”

“Can you try?”

Daichi shifts his weight from foot to foot. “Like how?”

“Just try, for me?” Suga starts walking again and Daichi follows in step.

He chuckles. “You want me to think about what I need more… for you.”

Suga nods. “If that’s what it takes.” Before they cross into a busier street, he leans over to kiss his cheek.

Fifteen minutes and two filled ice coffee orders later, they’re nestled into a quiet corner of a busy coffee shop. A part of Suga’s brain is constantly calculating how many hours he has left until his departure, but he does his best to shut it down as he comments on Daichi’s ridiculous choice in coffee. Suga has just coffee and ice, a little syrup in there for sweetness. Daichi’s is nearly white with the amount of cream and sugar in it and, naturally, he got whipped cream on top.

They laugh about nothing. They go back to the counter to get a piece of cake to split. They people watch together, making up stories about those who pass.

“I need you to keep throwing me in the deep end.” Daichi says suddenly, interrupting Suga’s in-depth tale of how the group of three high school students sitting across the shop are definitely embroiled in some kind of love triangle.

“What?” Suga stutters.

“Just… I used to think I was jealous of everything you go to do, that you worked hard to get to do,” he adds quickly, “but that wasn’t it, because I would never actually do any of those things. I had never even considered going abroad, and then here you are, on your way. You go to Tokyo, you go off on your own… I’m not jealous, I’m amazed. Just, keep pushing me into the deep end, too.” He smiles. “I’ll learn faster that way.”

Suga blinks hard and swallows. “I can do that.” He traces his finger along the table top. “Do you really want to do things like that, too?”

Daichi nods. “I do. Not now, really, but I do.” He laughs. “You really have a knack for saying things that jolt me into some, let’s face it, uncomfortable levels of introspection.” His foot playfully knocks into Suga’s under the table. “It’s unnerving, your talent for that. Because, god, you’re right. I don’t talk about what I want.” Suga opens his mouth to respond, but Daichi rolls on. “But right now, what I’m asking for, is to talk about literally anything else.”

“Because there’s time for this later?”

“There’s always time later.”

Suga launches into his theories about the high school love triangle again, embellishing the little details. Physically, there’s no time later. He’s going to be thousands of miles away and no one’s kidding themselves thinking that’s going to be easy. But with them, there’s going to be time later. Sometimes Suga wonders who he’d be without Daichi, if he was missing out on getting to know a piece of himself. But when he looks across the table at the man listening to every word of his inane story, the one who’s helping his moody boyfriend pack, the one who travels twice a month without complaint, the one who just asked him to keep pushing him to do more, he doesn’t want to know who he’d be without him.

***

Third Year ~ Fall

The best thing about going abroad, Suga rationalizes, is that no one knows who you are. You can be yourself or you can try on different versions. This one has different hair. This one has a different attitude. This one wears coats with patches on it and tries really hard to blend into Seattle but stands out tremendously anyway. Though slow to start, Suga rushes head first into the freedom a new environment bestows, each uncharacteristic choice adding momentum to a train already in motion.

Savoring the breakneck pace of change, Suga readies himself mentally for another night out with his new friends. He takes a moment to relish thinking in Japanese for just a few more seconds. It takes him so long to talk to anyone because he has to think in Japanese first and then switch everything over. He’s waiting for it to get easier, to sound less like a toddler, but he’s not there yet.

He’s standing outside “Spanish House,” the unofficial name for an house near the edge of campus where many of the Spanish-speaking international students and the American students studying Spanish live. They come here most weekends and when they go, Suga feels like he’s in some ridiculous college movie. It’s perfect. The last of his new friends show up and they go inside together.

There’s two Americans, both juniors in the International Studies department. He met them during orientation and they clicked about as well as he could with anyone then. They’re a couple, or something like it, Suga can’t quite figure it out, but they have a car, know where to go on the weekends, and seem to enjoy his company. There’s a sophomore from South Korea who understands his language problems, but she’s boisterous and charismatic, and Suga likes following her lead. She reminds him of a female Noya. The last is another junior from New Zealand, Suga’s roomate. He’s almost a bit mousy and unassuming at first, but no one could say anything bad about him if they tried, and Suga’s enjoyed getting to know his wicked sense of humor. He’s looking forward to when telling him a joke doesn’t require a lot of explanation to cross the language barrier.

They all call him Koushi.

It was unsettling at first, but naturally, there are “first names” and “last names” in the US. “Koushi” was the name written on all of his welcome packets and the handmade sign on his dorm room, welcoming him to the school. After a week or two, though, he dove head first into the name. The version of himself that lived in Tokyo but acted like a boy from Miyagi is Sugawara. Koushi goes to loud parties, doesn’t care if his English sounds stupid, and makes quick friends over games of flip cup and beer pong.

Spanish house is as well-kept as it can be, but the places that have carpet are wrecked from years of bad, but fun choices. There’s music blaring from portable speakers thrown on different surfaces. An end table? Put a speaker on it. The top of a lamp? Put a speaker on it. Bodies jostle together in the main hallway before people break off to different rooms. They make a beeline for the kitchen where coolers are filled with whatever anyone brought. They toss some cash into a fishbowl and pick from what’s there.

Two beers in and he’s challenging two people from Argentina with a girl from Belgium in beer pong. His setter skills transfer nicely. He prays the ball doesn’t land in any of his because there’s no way that cup of water to rinse off in is in any way filled with clean water still. He laughs as another one of his shots hits the mark and his partner cheers. He feels a vibration in his back pocket, looks at his phone, but the notification barely registers before he’s pulled back into the game.

After another beer and some swigs from whatever his friends brought over, he feels warm and comfortable and the house seems less noisy. He feels a vibration in his back pocket and again he reaches for it, breaking off in the middle of a conversation with his roomate. He stares at his screen for a moment before announcing to no one in particular, “I have to go outside!”

Suga pushes his way from the kitchen to the front door. The fresh air hits him and it feels right. It’s far from cold, but compared to the house, it’s a welcome reprieve. He unlocks his phone to see that he’s missed a video chat and one call. There are texts from Daichi, too.

Daichi>> good night/afternoon!
Daichi>> call or text if you can, I’m out of practice

“Good night/afternoon Dai.” Suga says when he hears Daichi pick up. It’s their silly thing to say and he loves it - a way to laugh about the time difference that makes talking so much more difficult. “How’s tomorrow looking?”

“Tomorrow looks good so far.” Daichi laughs. “Since our morning/afternoon call, I’ve done laundry, gone to practice, and took a nap. Just got up. How’s yesterday?”

“Fun.” Suga grins. “Victorious.”

“Drunk and crushing it?”

“Not drunk, just content.” A breeze sweeps through and Suga pulls his hoodie tighter around his body, swaying slightly as it passes. “Hey, why don’t you call me Koushi?”

Suga can hear Daichi’s grin through the call. “But I do.”

He blushes, his skin instantly heating up at the memory. “Those times don’t count!”

“Yes they do. You certainly seem to like it when I--”

“Nope!” Suga interjects. “Topic is off-limits! Can’t touch you? Can’t talk about it.”

“I don’t know,” Daichi continues, “You’ve just always been my Suga.”

A warmth spreads through his body that has nothing to do with alcohol. He feels pinpricks behind his eyes. “That’s so corny,” he pauses, “my Daichi.”

“It’s good to hear your voice, but I can let you go if you need to. We can talk when you get back.”

Suga rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet. “In a minute. I want to stay out here a little longer.”

***

Third Year ~ Winter

Being back in Miyagi is wonderful except for the fact that he doesn’t have Daichi just to himself anymore. In Tokyo, they talked, unpacked, cried, and wrapped themselves together tightly for days. They ended one calendar year together and began the next one unable to let the other go, making up for lost time.

While they talked everyday over the last few months nothing prepared Suga for seeing Daichi in person again. When had he grown so strong? When had his face changed from a teenage boy to a man with such a well-defined jawline? It had to have been years ago, Suga reasoned, but he had watched it take place slowly over time. After an absence, Daichi’s presence struck him in a way he hadn’t felt so intensely in years.

Suga laces his fingers through Daichi’s under the kotatsu at his parents’ house, secretly maintaining that physical connection, even if it’s been two days since they’ve been able to spend all day in bed. The four of them were settled in the living room, sipping tea and enjoying a few store-bought desserts his mother had laid out for them to enjoy after dinner. Daichi smiles but stays quiet, like he had been all evening.

Earlier that day, Suga had gone to Daichi’s house while his father was working. Daichi was living at home again and his mother had told Daichi to bring him by to “welcome him back home.” They stayed for less than an hour and passed the time with tea and rigid conversation. When they left, she parted by saying, “I know your family is glad you’re home” and wished him a good start to the new year.

Suga hadn’t been able to anticipate Daichi’s response to the interaction and the relative silence caught him off-guard. It hadn’t been comfortable, but it was amicable. A start.

“...and the ferry was the best part. We were on it for over an hour both ways and even though visiting the islands was great, I liked looking for animals in the water and watching the sun set behind us.” Suga swipes through photos on his tablet, showing his parents photos as he speaks.

Through countless photos his mother had been over the moon, expressing joy over each one. Even his father had asked more about several, prodding Suga for more stories.

“You’ll have to take Daichi-kun one day, too.” His mother says. “And us, too! I’ve never left the country.” She adds with a smile and a small sigh.

“When I retire, we’ll have all the time we need.” His father says.

“Yes, but no money!” His mother laughs. “Koushi-kun, make a lot of money so we can go on trips, okay?”

Suga laughs and circles his thumb over Daichi’s hand, holding it a little tighter.

“Speaking of which, Daichi-kun, what are you imagining for life after next year?” His mother asks the question so many almost college seniors dread. No matter how many times it was asked, the answer you gave was never satisfactory. Even for Suga, whose career path was clearly education, he still had to find a school that would hire him, competing with thousands of other qualified graduates.

“What do I imagine or what do I think will happen?” He grins, but rubs his free hand through the back of his hair nervously. “I imagine living in an apartment somewhere with a well-paying job. I think I will just do my best to see what I can get.”

“I know he’ll make a fine executive one day. You’re good at leading people, you know.” Suga smiles.

“Are you looking locally, like in Sendai, or…” Suga’s father asks and Suga’s stomach tightens. They’ve broached the subject a few times on their own, but they keep pushing a real talk about it further down the line. It was one thing to dream about it, to imagine their life after school. It’s another thing entirely to start to work needed to make it a reality.

Really, they can start a life anywhere they want next year, but having limitless potentials is terrifying. Suga’s school connections are all in Tokyo. Daichi’s internships have all been in Sendai. They could start over in a new city, which Suga thinks he wants and Daichi likes to imagine. Or they could come back to Miyagi, something which they both would love because of the comfort and the connections but also fear because of the stagnation and the lack of new experiences.

Daichi tenses next to him and squeezes Suga’s hand. “A little everywhere, actually.” He abruptly starts getting up from the floor. “Excuse me.” He says softly and walks in the direction of the bathroom.

Suga and his mother share a look. Her lips become a thin line for a moment, her brows furrow, then she, too, walks down the hallway.

His father clears his throat and starts asking Suga again about where he’ll student teach in the spring. They talk, but Suga’s mind pays attention to the minutes passing by.

Finally, he gets up and walks softly down the hallway, pausing outside his bedroom door which is cracked open, light leaking into the hallway.

“--stuck, and that makes me terrible!” Daichi’s voice is soft, but carries. His voice is rough and he stutters through his words.

His mother’s voice comes next, reassuring and slow. “You’re not terrible. Not at all. Daichi-kun, it’s not wrong to want to go and live your own life.”

“But my grandfather and everything with my parents and--”

“We don’t have kids so they can pay us back some sort of debt. Koushi doesn’t owe me anything for existing. I want him to make his own life.” A silence passes between them before his mother continues. “When Koushi left for Tokyo and when he was in the US, I worried constantly. I would selfishly love it if he lived in this house or next door for the rest of his life. But when I see how excited he gets to try new things, when he comes back and tells me stories with his eyes all lit up, I forget how much I missed him and I’m just so proud. I know things aren’t easy for you right now, Koushi has shared as much, and I know we’re not your parents, but --”

“You kind of are.” Daichi sighs, his breath leaving him shakily. “And I know what you’ll say, that they love me. I know that. I know they do. I’m just afraid that the moment I do anything is the moment I’ll disappoint them for good.”

“Have you shared this fear with them?”

“We’re not that kind of family.”

“If you can, try. Know that we’re here if anything goes less well than you want it to. And Daichi, I’m not taking sides, but sometimes parents are people, too, and we mess up. Really badly. Sometimes we get wrapped up in our emotions and our own problems, and we lose sight of how our choices affect the children we raised. I can talk to her, too, if you ever want me to, you know, outside of our grocery store chats.”

“Thank you.”

In the silence that follows, Suga pushes open the door slowly and peeks in. Daichi wipes his eyes and his mother sniffles. Catching his gaze, Daichi shares a small smile and his mother turns around. She takes a few steps towards the door and squeezes Suga’s arm. “Your father is probably very lonely. I’ll go keep him company.”

As she walks down the hallway, Daichi sits on the edge of Suga’s bed, his hands supporting his forehead as he rests on the tops of his thighs. Suga sits beside him, saying nothing, but raising a hand to rub comforting circles on his back.

In the six years they’ve known each other, Suga has known many different versions of Daichi. Their first year, he knew the nervous Daichi whose openness made them fast friends. In their second year, he knew the Daichi that smiled in a way that made Suga blush. By the time they reached their third year, he finally knew the Daichi that would kiss him back and run warm hands under his shirt. In college, he got to know the Daichi that he ached for, physically and emotionally. And last year, he got to see the Daichi that had lived there under the surface the whole time, the one that was so scared of letting people down that he forgot about himself.

Daichi wasn’t miserable. Worried, Suga had brought up that subject multiple times. Daichi reassured him that though things with his family were touch-and-go at times, he cherished the time he got to spend with his grandfather, knowing it wouldn’t last forever. He had come to love his friends at university and liked being able to maintain ties with their teammates that had stayed, too, like Asahi and Tanaka.

He wasn’t miserable, but he was easy to unbalance. The burdens on his shoulders, some placed there by others but most of them placed there by Daichi himself, could tip the scales whenever Daichi let his mind wander towards overthinking.

In those same years Suga had explored. He had found new sides of himself, had time to think about what he wanted. There had been many times when he asked himself why they were still together, if the pieces of himself he kept discovering were compatible with this man he met when he was a first year in high school. There were times when he thought Daichi held him back, but he knew better.

He only felt safe doing any of it because he knew Daichi was there the whole time.

Now it was his turn.

Suga stopped rubbing circles on Daichi’s back and wrapped two arms around his shoulders, pulling him close. Daichi fell into the embrace, sinking heavily into Suga’s body. Suga rested his head on Daichi’s, supporting both of them, despite the weight.