"I told you not to eat it," Yosuke said, but any satisfaction he might have felt for being right was negated by the sight of Souji reduced to a pale, shivering mess under his blanket.
Souji shifted, rubbing his face against his pillow, and gave Yosuke a sickly, unsteady smile. He was sweating and probably on the verge of barfing again. Just looking at him made Yosuke want to hurl and he checked the position of the trashcan, tugged it closer to Souji's makeshift cocoon. He'd already changed the bag once and didn't look forward to doing it again, but that's what best friends did for each other. It was bad enough Souji was laid out for the rest of the night; he couldn't let him lay there breathing in the smell of his own mess too.
"I should have listened to you." Souji's voice was small and careful, each word pronounced with care. Underneath it, though, Yosuke could hear the hint of a slur, and he remembered the last time he'd been really sick. Talking then had been a pain, each word wanting to slide out of his mouth and into the toilet even when his stomach had been empty, and he hadn't looked nearly as bad as Souji did now.
"That's right. You should also check the expiration date before you just grab stuff from the back of the fridge."
"Sorry, I'll keep that in mind next time."
"And look before you eat. Seriously, partner, I knew I saw something green on there." Mold, he was sure. At least it hadn't been black. He was pretty sure black mold was worse, but they were both pretty disgusting.
Souji apparently thought the same thing. He groaned, low and a little wet, like something was stuck or working its way up his throat, and Yosuke regretted talking about food.
"Hey, don't…" He reached for the wet cloth nearby, stopped halfway. No use with Souji all curled up like that, but he mentioned it anyway to remind Souji it was there.
"No problem. Get some rest, partner, I'll stay here in case you need something."
Souji hummed, didn't say anything. Yosuke settled down to watch him, chin on his hand. Not much to do with their night cut short. Playing a game or turning on the TV would only bother Souji and while Yosuke was used to having one-sided conversations with him, he doubted Souji wanted to hear him go on right now. Even reading was out of the question with the lights dimmed to help Souji relax. Nothing to do really but hope Souji nodded off without getting sick again, enjoy the breeze coming through the window, and relax.
"Go downstairs, Yosuke."
He started, shocked awake from the doze he'd fallen into. Souji was looking at him with one eye, his color not quite as bad as it'd been—Yosuke looked at the clock. Twenty minutes ago.
"You're bored." Souji smiled. "Sorry, thought we'd be able to do something fun tonight but instead you're playing nurse."
"It's fine, I mean it."
"Go finish watching that movie. I feel bad knowing you're just sitting here."
Yosuke hesitated. It did sound better than watching Souji sleep and he looked fine now or at least better, but that was cold, wasn't it, going and watching TV while he laid here sick?
"Go on." Souji closed his eyes. "Leader's orders."
"That's not how that works," he said, but rose and made his way out the room. He closed the door carefully and crept down the stairs. It was late enough that he was surprised to hear the TV on. Nanako was in bed, and it was Dojima that sat on the couch, a beer held loosely in one hand and the remote in another. He looked up at the sound of steps creaking, and the light from the TV let Yosuke see the surprise on his face in the otherwise dark room.
"Sorry." Yosuke wondered if he should go back upstairs and call it a night. Dojima and he had rarely spoken to each other, probably only once without Souji in the room, and things had never been exactly friendly between them. First impressions and all that, and Yosuke was sure, although Dojima never said anything, that Dojima thought he was dragging Souji into something dangerous (not entirely untrue, but not in the way Dojima thought). "Figured I'd finish watching the movie, but I didn't know you were down here."
"Not a problem." With a grunt, Dojima stood, gestured to the couch with his bottle. Empty, Yosuke saw, and a quick glance around showed no more. Either he'd put the rest away as he drank them or just had the one, and he hoped it was the latter. He didn't look forward to spending time with someone who was wasted, no matter who it was. "Sit down; I was thinking about watching it myself so you might as well join me. I'll start some popcorn, get us something to eat."
Yosuke sat on the edge of the couch gingerly and didn't speak up until Dojima had joined him, popcorn bowl set between them. "Didn't know you were home," he said so they wouldn’t be stuck in silence.
"Got in about half an hour ago." Dojima started the movie, glanced at him sideways. "Thought for sure you and Souji'd be down here or up making noise but it's been quiet since I got in. Why's that?"
"Souji got sick." Yosuke didn't really feel like eating but he grabbed a handful of popcorn anyway, threw one in his mouth. "Ate something bad from the back of the fridge."
Dojima grumbled out something that might have been "Again?" and then the opening credits started, cutting off the awkward small talk. It was a while before Yosuke was able to relax and sink back into the cushions, though; Dojima didn't look at him, barely reacted to the movie (some psychological film Souji had been looking forward to; Yosuke would have to tell him how it went), but somehow not looking at him and not saying anything made Yosuke more aware of him. Part of him expected Dojima to grow bored with the movie and start asking about what he'd been getting Souji into lately, but when it didn't come by the halfway mark (over an hour; Souji picked long films that he thought over for days), Yosuke finally stopped thinking about it and loosened up, didn't worry about staying so far away from Dojima. He even finished up the popcorn he'd been holding for the bulk of the movie and started on some more.
It wasn't a bad movie, not really. He could see why Souji had picked it and in other circumstances he might have been more interested, but he'd been ready to discuss it with Souji and it was late and the earlier panic he'd felt after Souji started throwing up was catching up with him. Now, he was just getting tired. He'd have to stick it out and see how it ended, though. Nothing worse than stopping in the middle of a movie because then you had to find your spot again and remember what had been happening, and anyway he'd stayed up later than this waiting for the Midnight Channel.
With waning interest, mind a little fuzzy from fatigue and limbs heavy, he reached for another hand of popcorn – not sure why; it'd gone cold and he was no longer even approaching hungry, especially not for stale popcorn – and touched something cool instead. Metal, a buckle maybe, and before he had time to properly think about it, Dojima shifted, and Yosuke's hand slipped lower, landed in Dojima's lap.
He was touching Dojima's lap.
He was touching Dojima's lap and something was firm under his hand, something hard, something that should not have been there.
His body reacted faster than his mind, even before he realized what his hand was on. His heart skipped and he felt a chill race over him, a sense of panic and awkwardness and what might have been fear gripping him.
Dojima moved, but he moved the wrong way, shifted again so that Yosuke's hand pressed more firmly against him, made a low noise that sounded angry and annoyed and—and something else, something that made a shiver race down Yosuke's back. Maybe he was imagining it, but he finally did something, snatched his hand away and stood. There was nothing on the floor – he thought there was nothing on the floor; it was too dark to tell and as much as he didn't want to look at Dojima, looking away from him seemed a worse option – but he stumbled back anyway, nearly fell. Dojima straightened up.
"Tired," he blurted out. "I'm—sorry, taking care of Souji wore me out worse than I thought, you should have seen how much he… I'll have to finish this up later."
"It's not what you think—"
"I don't know what you're talking about." He didn't want to talk about this. He wasn't going to talk about this, not with Souji's uncle, who was—he tried to remember what had been happening in the movie. Something hot, right, something exciting? No, not a lot of hot stuff in a movie like this, certainly nothing to make Dojima—Souji was a fade to black guy, he didn't rent movies like that. "I'm just gonna—"
"Calm down." Dojima's voice cut through his, a frustrated rumble, and he leaned forward, arms resting on his knees, and glowered. "You're overreacting. It happens, Hanamura, we're both men, we both know this. It's natural so stop acting like you've never experienced it before."
It's not when you're sitting next to me. Yosuke bit his tongue. He was too aware of his pulse in his throat, and his vision seemed to consist of nothing but Dojima on the couch, the light from the TV failing to illuminate anything else. He stared at him so hard spots starting appearing at the edge of his vision.
"Sit down." Dojima evened out his voice, and Yosuke had an image of him in a holding cell playing good cop, bad cop, only he took both roles. "Finish the movie. I'll sit farther away if you want, but there's no need to act like a child over this. Really, with all Souji talks about you, I thought you'd be more mature than this."
That stung, and Yosuke bowed his head slightly, rubbed the back of his neck. "S-sorry, guess I did freak out."
"It's fine." Dojima patted the couch and moved over. "Back down now, huh? I don't want us to part on an awkward note."
Yosuke sat down again, making sure there was a safe distance between them. He felt like a loser, getting worked up over nothing. Dojima was right; it was just natural, it happened whenever. How many times had he been doing nothing at all only for a stray thought to take him from zero to full throttle at the worst of times? No reason to think the same couldn't happen to someone like Dojima.
Plus, what the hell was he thinking, that Dojima got…that way because of him? Yeah right. The guy was like fifty and he lived with So—
A bad taste filled his mouth and despite keeping his eyes on the screen, he missed the rest of the movie.
Afterwards, while the credits rolled white on black to the sound of some low, subdued music, he chanced a glance at Dojima. The man was staring the TV, one hand rubbing the stubble on his face, but like he felt Yosuke's gaze his eyes shot over. He smiled ruefully, tired, and patted Yosuke's shoulder, gripped and shook him a little.
"Feeling better now?"
"Yeah." Yosuke's voice came out as a croak. He swallowed to correct it. "Sorry about… Sorry."
"It's nothing." Dojima waved it off with his free hand – his other stayed on Yosuke's shoulder, no longer gripping or holding but just sitting there. He could probably shrug it off but he didn't move besides tensing up. He was already getting an ache in his neck. "Misunderstandings happen."
"Yeah," Yosuke said. The house was quiet, dark. He wished Souji would suddenly wake up and start being sick again, loudly, so he could have an excuse to go upstairs.
"But, Hanamura—Yosuke," and Dojima had never said his name before, "things like that happen—"
"—even around other men. Nothing wrong with it."
Yosuke wet his lips and immediately wished he hadn't. Dojima's hand didn't move but it was close to his neck, enough that the knuckles brushed against him. "Uh, okay."
"And there's nothing wrong with what you did, either. Accident, curiosity—"
Curi—what? Dojima couldn't really think he'd—
"It's fine," Dojima continued with a shake of his head, "I'm not holding it against you. It's completely understandable to wonder about it."
About what? Yosuke felt like he was missing part of the conversation, like Dojima was talking over his head.
"So…" Dojima removed his hand, rubbed his face again, and eyed Yosuke closely. "If you're curious – really that curious – we can… Everyone's asleep. Five minutes, ten minutes, however long you want, it's fine. It's late; no one will know. I'll never mention it again if you don't want but if you do…well, better to learn from someone who knows what he's talking about, someone safe like a cop."
He looked at Yosuke's lap and Yosuke looked too but there was nothing to see. He wasn't hard – he was a lot of things, but not that, like he'd seriously be able to—actually, he was kind of numb and that bad taste was still in his mouth and—without thinking, he looked at Dojima's lap, at his spread legs (he sat like Souji, Yosuke couldn't help noticing; funny family resemblance) and the lump there, still there or maybe it'd come back while Dojima was offering…offering to—
This time, Yosuke didn't stumble standing up, but his leg hit the table in front of him and the pain was a welcome distraction from the absolute absurdity of the situation. "I've gotta sleep, I'm really tired, I don't—I mean…" He was tempted to say Thanks but no thanks but he didn't want to thank Dojima for this, for—haha, what the hell, was this for real? He was a cop, and Souji's uncle, and Yosuke was—no way, he was taking this the wrong way for sure, he had to be.
"Hanamura—" Back to his surname now. Good. Dojima reached for his arm. Yosuke snatched it away. "Hanamura, it was just an offer."
"I don’t want it." His voice was too high but he got the words out and that was all he cared about.
"Fine, but don't panic on me. It's over and done with. We'll forget it happened."
"Yeah. Yeah, okay." They stared at each other, Dojima with a small frown on his face, Yosuke on the balls of his feet.
Dojima waved him away with a quick motion of his hand. "You should head off to bed."
"Night," Yosuke muttered and fled up the stairs.
He didn't feel better – didn't feel safe – until he was in Souji's room, the door shut firmly behind him and Dojima still downstairs. Even then, his skin itched; he scrubbed a hand through his hair, rubbed his hands together, clenched his eyes shut. Just an offer. What kind of guy offered to…?
Souji's breathing filled the room, slow and even besides the occasional hitch. Yosuke's futon was set up near the couch, closer to the door, but he moved it towards Souji so he could—he didn't know. Souji sure as hell wasn't in any condition to do anything and he—what, he thought he was going to protect him if…? Yeah, because Dojima would really come in and…
He locked the door, hovered near it. Not two minutes later he heard heavy steps climbing the stairs and stop in front of the door. The knob shook.
He tried to speak, found he couldn't, and coughed instead.
"What, I can't check on my nephew? Hanamura, really…" Dojima sounded exasperated. "Forget about it, it never happened."
"Souji's fine," he said, putting more confidence into his voice than he felt. "Sleeping. I’m going to too, so we'll see you in the morning."
Silence from Dojima's side and then a sigh as he left. Yosuke stayed by the door for another few minutes, shifting from foot to foot, to make sure he was really gone. When he turned back to the futons, Souji was sitting up and frowning at him, expression clouded with sleep.
"Nothing." Yosuke came over and climbed in his futon. "Just getting in, go to sleep."
Souji lay back down. "Who was that?"
"Dojima-san." Yosuke pushed the trashcan away. It was thankfully unused, though for a second he considered leaning over and filling it up. "He—we watched the movie together."
For a long moment, Souji didn't say anything and when he spoke again it was almost to himself. "I thought he was working overnight."
"Came home early, I guess." Yosuke wished they could just drop it and made a show of getting comfortable.
"How was it?"
"The movie? It was alright, I think—"
"Dojima, I meant," Souji said. "How was Dojima?"
"Fine?" Yosuke went still, hoped Souji couldn't see his face. "Why wouldn't he be?"
"You two just don't get on very well, so I thought…" Souji smiled, stopped, let it fall. "Thought you might fight or something, I don't know. It's not important. Goodnight."
"Night." Yosuke closed his eyes but he didn't really think he'd be able to go to sleep. Every creak in the house made him hold his breath and when he started to drift he'd hear Dojima's voice in his ear or feel a hand on his shoulder, jolting him awake.
"The lock works fine."
Yosuke opened his eyes. "Partner?"
Souji's breathing didn't change and he didn't move. Tired of hearing things, Yosuke tried to calm down, but despite his best efforts he didn't get much sleep that night.
In the morning, he wondered if he'd just imagined everything. Souji was awake before him, making breakfast, and smiled when he came down the stairs. Yosuke searched his face but except for the faint shadows around his eyes, there was nothing that suggested he'd said anything strange last night. Nanako was on the couch, chatting with Souji about what she was going to do that day, and Dojima was grabbing the last few things he needed before heading off. He said goodbye to both of them, nodded at Yosuke – "Hanamura," quick and a little harsh, just like usual – and there was nothing different about his tone or his gaze.
Yosuke yawned and watched him leave in confusion. Maybe he'd just had a weird dream last night.
"Sleep well?" Souji asked.
Yosuke shrugged. "Eh, okay."
"This morning," Souji said, "your futon was…"
"Oh, that. I was in a bad spot last night, couldn't get comfortable." He knew it was an awful excuse as soon as it left his mouth – he hadn't even laid down before moving his bedding – but he counted on Souji being too out of it last night to catch the lie.
"Hmm." Souji gave Nanako her breakfast, moved around Yosuke to start on another plate. "Sorry about last night, I know it sucked."
"Don't worry about it."
"How about we do it again next week? At your house?"
"Sounds good." Yosuke hesitated and then asked, "But why my house?"
"What, you don't want me to come over?"
"It's not that—"
"Joking," Souji said, smiling and keeping his eyes on what he was doing. "But we should vary it up, go back and forth, right? Isn't that how you have sleepovers?"
"I guess, I've never really had any before."
"But if you don’t want to—"
"No, yeah, it sounds good. Let's do it."
Despite this agreement, it was several weeks before Souji invited him to stay at his house again. Yosuke didn't bring it up and Souji didn’t suggest it, and when it finally happened Yosuke saw him lock the door out of the corner of his eye. Dojima wasn't home but Yosuke acted like he hadn't seen anything.
He wasn't even sure Souji had noticed he'd done it.