Tegoshi is six-and-a-half when he first realizes that his mother is not quite normal. He’s in school when it happens, first grade, sitting quietly in a corner with a soft, fluffy teddy bear clutched tightly in his arms, avoiding the other children, too shy to try to make any friends. He’s wearing jeans, brand new and too stiff to be comfortable, and a simple dark t-shirt, his hair neatly combed without any bows or ribbons, and he feels entirely unlike himself. He dislikes these clothes, would prefer one of his comfortable cotton skirts, the ones hanging neatly in his closet that his mother likes to pull out, cooing the whole while over how pretty it looks, how happy it makes her to see him dressed up just for her. He’s not allowed to wear those to school, though; his father won’t let him, ever.
It’s not until that day that he finally understands why. He hears it from his teacher, a flustered old woman who struggles constantly to keep the peace; that only girls can wear skirts. Boys don’t; it isn’t right.
It’s only then that he realizes that the things that go on at home –the dresses and skirts and make-up and ribbons—aren’t things that other boys do. Other mothers don’t encourage their sons to play dress up while discouraging rough housing. Other boys don’t go by two names at home, one for a boy and the other a girl.
He’s thirteen when he finally comes to terms with the fact that “not normal” is a horribly strong understatement. His mother is mentally unstable, he knows. Delusional is the proper word. She’s not completely in touch with things, often lost in her own fantasies, sometimes not coming back from them for days. And it gets worse all the time. Tegoshi learns to watch her carefully, like a parent with a particularly troublesome toddler. It’s not easy on his own; his father is rarely home these days, because it’s easier for him to be in denial when he’s not there to witness it happening, and Tegoshi can only miss so many classes before the school begins to grow suspicious. He does his best, learns to lock her bedroom door when she’s having a bad week to make sure that she doesn’t wander into the kitchen and turn on the stove or microwave, learns how to lie to his teachers and forge her signature when he needs it.
It’s hard, but he loves her, and he does it because of that. For the same reason that he slips on a dark, long wig when he gets home, a neatly pressed skirt, lets her touch his face and clothes and giggle about what a good girl he is. It’s a thing of shame, embarrassment, but it makes her happy, and he bears with it for that alone.
When he’s eighteen, he makes the difficult decision to have her hospitalized. He feels horrible about it, guilty and miserable, but it’s the only option left. He can’t take care of her anymore; she needs constant attention now, from professionals; people who are trained to handle people like her. He can’t be there all the time, and he’s terrified that if he’s not, she’ll do something irreversible.
He spends weeks pouring over information; researching the best places in the area, various nursing homes designed specifically for people like his mother. Money isn’t an issue; his father sends them checks every week or so, and it’s usually far more than they really need. Eventually, he picks out a nice place with a friendly staff and good reviews.
And that’s where he is now, two years later on a Sunday afternoon for his regular weekly visit. He’s wearing one of his skirts, a pretty blue one that he knows his mother is fond of, and his hair –a wig, naturally— is pulled back into simple ponytail. The woman behind the counter in the front lobby greets him cheerfully, calls him “Yuuko” because that’s all they know him as here. He’s never seen any reason to inform them of the truth.
His mother is in her room, sitting on her bed, looking out the large window with a small smile on her face. He has to admit, she’s gotten much better since coming here. It’s a bit of a blow to his ego, knowing that they’ve done in just a scant two years what he couldn’t accomplish in eighteen, but he’s glad regardless. She’s more lucid now, on proper medication and undergoing therapy; she’s learned to deal with her problems, and Tegoshi finds that’s it nice, having her more rational, less lost in her dreamy versions of reality.
There’s one delusion that she steadfastly refuses to let go of, however, and that is Yuuko. Tegoshi has tried, so many times, to make her realize. To have her see that he’s Yuya, not Yuuko, and most of all to have her accept it. But she never does.
He doesn’t even try anymore.
She glances up at the sound of the door opening, and when she catches sight of him, her faces breaks into a bright, delighted look. “Yuuko-chan!” She coos happily, stretching her arms out for him. “My baby!”
Tegoshi smiles back, because even with all of her problems, she’s still his mother and seeing her happy makes him happy, and easily steps into her embrace; lets her hold him for a long moment before pulling away and sitting as gracefully as he can in the chair near her bed. She keeps hold of one of his hands, and although her grip is loose, Tegoshi doesn’t pull away.
The next hour is spent with quiet chatter. She tells him about her week, the therapy sessions and the new doctor (who is apparently very handsome) and the fact that their most recent adjustment of her medication seems to be working very well. In return, Tegoshi tells her about school, home, and no, mom, I haven’t found a nice boy yet. He keeps some things to himself, anything that she might feel would be inappropriate for a ‘proper young lady’, anything that might stress her in any way. It’s mostly small talk, but that’s how it usually goes. It’s hard to discuss the more detailed aspects of his life when he has to tip toe around the subject of his own gender.
Their conversation begins to wind down, after a point. They run out of simple subjects to discuss, and Tegoshi starts to steer things in such a way that he can take his leave.
He’s startled when there’s a knock on the door, twists around in his seat to look back as it creaks open. A brown-haired head pops in, and the face that’s attached to it is startlingly attractive, complete with adorably chubby cheeks and a mouth that seems like it’s made for smiling. The eyes are almond shaped, almond colored, and they dart around the room before settling on Tegoshi, blinking in apparent surprise. “Oh,” he says, and Tegoshi surprises a shiver at the sound of his voice. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had company, Tegoshi-san,”
Tegoshi’s mother smiles widely. “Don’t be silly, Taka-chan!” She waves him in rapidly, and ‘Taka-chan’ gives her a pleasant curve of the lips, stepping in properly and coming closer when urged to. Tegoshi’s mother continues smiling, although Tegoshi himself doesn’t see it; he’s too busy trying to surreptitiously get a better look at this newcomer. “Yuuko-chan, this is Takahisa. He’s one of my nurses.”
He smiles, boys politely in Tegoshi’s direction. “Masuda Takahisa,” He introduces with something of a sheepish grin. “Nice to meet you.”
Tegoshi flushes, feeling oddly exposed under that smile, those eyes. He reaches up awkwardly, unthinkingly moving to smooth down his usually tastefully messy hair, but his fingers brush over the long strands from the wig instead and he abruptly remembers what he’s wearing, what he looks like. He swallows the sudden lump in his throat and ducks his head. “T-Tegoshi.” He offers, wants to add his first name, but for a moment, he’s not sure which one to give.
But Masuda just smiles, holds his hand out for a shake, and when his fingers close over Tegoshi’s, his grip is gentle and warm.
“I… um…” Tegoshi’s not sure what he wants to say, but he’s intensely aware of the fact that he needs to leave, and quickly, or else something embarrassing is going to happen. He goes to stand, avoids meeting his mother’s knowing grin, and awkwardly motions to the door. “I should… go. I have homework.” He doesn’t, but it’s as good an excuse as any.
Masuda gives him that same smile, although this time it looks a little nervous. “If you like…” He coughs, and Tegoshi thinks he might see a blush dusting those cheeks, “I’ll walk you out.”
Tegoshi wants to decline, politely of course, because he doesn’t want to chance making a fool of himself in front of this handsome stranger, but before he can, his mother giggles from when she’s sitting. “Such a gentleman!” she coos, and Tegoshi wants to groan, because he knows exactly what she’s trying to do.
Smiling somewhat tightly, he turns to his mother, gives her a hug goodbye like he always does. Masuda waits for him patiently, shifting his weight around like he’s anxious and eager. It’s oddly endearing, really, and Tegoshi ducks his head to hide the small smile that creeps up at the sight. After he’s said his goodbyes and collected his bag (an over the shoulder type, because he draws the line at purses), they slip out of the room, Masuda holding the door open for him kindly.
The walk down the hallway is quiet, but not uncomfortably so. Masuda stands close to him, close enough that their shoulders brush every few steps, and when they reach a section where the hall has been narrowed by an unused gurney and a few other odds and ends, he gently slides a hand against the small of Tegoshi’s back and steers him around it. It’s a strangely comfortable gesture, and even though he’s blushing madly, telling himself that he should pull away now because this is very, very bad, he still finds himself leaning into the touch, not minding when Masuda doesn’t remove his hand.
He’s almost disappointed when they finally reach the front entrance. Masuda walks him to the parking lot, stopping only when they reach the curb. He hesitates, reaches up to absently rub the back of his neck, and Tegoshi takes the moment to admire the muscular structure of his upper arms, toned and surprisingly prominent. He flushes when he realizes what he’s doing and hurriedly averts his eyes. When he speaks, his throat is dry.
“I should… ah…” He swallows, clears his throat, feeling unusually timid. “I need to… go.”
“Oh,” Masuda sounds disappointed, but he smiles anyway, and Tegoshi finds himself thinking that he was right about him being made for it. “Well… it was nice meeting you,” Masuda laughs softly, grinning sheepishly, holds out a hand for Tegoshi to take.
“You too.” Their fingers curl around each other’s palms, and the spark between them is nearly palpable. Tegoshi thinks Masuda might feel it too, from the way his eyes sparkle gently as they ghost over Tegoshi’s features. It makes him feel warm inside, having those eyes on him, for a reason that he can’t really place.
“I guess… I’ll see you again?” He looks so hopeful at the very prospect that it makes Tegoshi’s lips quirk up.
“Sunday.” He offers, unable to stop himself. “I come to visit every Sunday.”
Masuda stands there on the sidewalk outside of the nursing home, hands stuffed in his pockets and feet balanced somewhat awkwardly on the curb, while Tegoshi makes his way through the parking lot on feet that feel like rubber, and when he finally finds his car, falls into the driver’s seat with a sigh of relief, Masuda hesitates, then waves in a cheerful manner. He doesn’t leave that spot until Tegoshi’s car is out of sight.
The drive home is long and tiring, and while it’s usually a source of frustration for Tegoshi, who is not particularly known for his patience, today he’s grateful for it, because it gives him the time to calm himself and gather his thoughts. (Admittedly, it’s probably bad that he’s driving while distracted, but then, he’s not really known for being particularly smart, either.)
It bothers him greatly, that he can’t get that earlier encounter out of his mind. He knows what it was, of course; attraction, desire. He’s felt it enough times to know what it’s like, and he’s certainly no stranger to lust.
But what lingers so heavily on his mind is the fact that this was so much stronger than anything he’s ever felt in the past. It was more than just the natural captivation that comes with seeing someone he wouldn’t mind commandeering for a round in the bedroom (although that particular type of want was definitely present); it felt more like… a connection. Something natural, fluid, almost familiar. That first touch, when their hands had met, and even the second and third in the hallway, had felt… oddly right.
And that’s concerning. Tegoshi is a romantic at heart, but a realist of mind; he believes in love, but not love at first sight. And this had felt uncomfortably like the latter.
In the end, he decides to push it to the back of his mind. He has a week to figure this out; to box it away so that it won’t become an issue the next time he and Masuda meet. Because it will be an issue. If they had met somewhere else, at the supermarket or the bank or, hell, even one of the nightclubs that Tegoshi is fond of visiting when he doesn’t have class, then maybe something could be made from it… but not now, not when Masuda thinks he’s Yuuko, the pretty and proper daughter that his mother always wanted but never really had.
So he’ll ignore it, he’ll move on, and maybe somewhere down the line he and Masuda can become friends… or something. But not more. Definitely not more.
When Tegoshi wakes up in the middle of the night to sticky, wet sheets and Masuda’s face in his mind, Masuda’s name on his tongue, he groans, buries his face into his hands and feels a bit like crying.