It's a Saturday night. It's a nice Saturday night. It's a perfect Saturday night to hang out with friends or go to the mall or just sit outside and watch the sky.
Daisuke is doing none of these.
He's been lying on his futon with his head under a pillow for well over an hour by now, but there's something about the thought of moving that just isn't appealing right now.
It's not because he's tired, or lazy, and he's not sulking, either—really, he's not. He's just confused. Very, very confused. The pillow is there to stop any distractions his room might have to offer, because he doesn't need them right now. He needs to think, as stupid as that might sound.
He might also be trying to suffocate himself, but that's not important.
Kou likes him. Kou likes him. Kou likes him. Kou likes him.
Kou, his best friend since they could walk and talk and not shit in diapers, likes him.
He didn't know what to expect when Kou pulled him aside after soccer practice, but "yeah, so, I like you," was not it. And it's not like it developed over night, either, because apparently Kou has liked him "for a while," and he doesn't know how to deal with that.
But, even though it's sudden and weird and a little bit frightening, Daisuke doesn't like the idea of rejecting Kou, either.
It would be different if it was a girl. Yeah, a girl with long hair and too much makeup and painted nails and a skirt that's just barely long enough for protocol. It would be easy to reject a girl.
But this is Kou, Kou most certainly is not a girl, and Kou is his best friend.
Daisuke doesn't know why, but the thought of rejecting Kou is almost as painful as being rejected himself.
Kou calls him the next day.
"Hey, man, wanna grab something to eat?" He says, in way of greeting.
"Uh..." Daisuke expertly replies. "I dunno about that..."
"It'll be on me," Kou persists.
Daisuke reddens and splutters at this. "Uh, no no, no, you don't have to. I'll, uh. I'll pay for myself."
"Oh." A pause. "Oh!" Daisuke can hear Kou's smile through the crackling of the phone. "Cool. I'll meet you at Aiya in..." another pause as Kou inevitably checks the time, just like always, "half an hour, alright?"
Daisuke checks the time, as well. 11:47.
"Sounds good, man. See ya."
Kou hums his affirmative and hangs up. Daisuke wonders how he can act so casual.
At exactly 12:23, Daisuke slides the door open and enters Chinese Diner Aiya.
Of course, Kou is already seated at the counter.
He spins his head to see the newcomer, and his lips curl up in a smile when he sees that it's Daisuke.
"You're late," he says good-naturedly, as Daisuke takes a seat beside him.
"Huh," Daisuke grunts in acknowledgement, waving over the chef. "When am I not?"
"Good question," Kou says, and laughs.
They converse as they eat, joking and laughing, just like normal, until Daisuke, spinning on his stool to emphasize just how big the fish Souji caught was, knocks into Kou with both his knees and his hand.
Kou slips backwards off his stool and grabs Daisuke's collar just a little too late in trying to regain his balance, dragging a yelping Daisuke with him to the floor of the diner.
After a moment of confusion as to why he is now horizontal, Daisuke groans and shifts to get up, then freezes.
He's suddenly (and acutely) aware of Kou's cheek pressed against his, and in this proximity Daisuke can feel the blush flaring across the other boy's face. Daisuke is also painfully aware of his hand trapped between them, dangerously close to Kou's hip. Kou's breathing against his ear is short and sharp (just like Daisuke's, but he doesn't know that because right now he's not paying attention to himself, he's paying attention to Kou), and Daisuke is finding it hard to move.
"Are...are they okay?" Someone asks to no one in particular.
Daisuke forces himself to move, pushing his body up with his left hand and sliding his right out from between their bodies. He accidentally skims the exposed skin of Kou's stomach in doing so, and Kou inhales sharply, causing his stomach to jump and twitch, and Daisuke's hand is still there and he really needs to move it. A blush of his own flares up and he tries to stutter something but he can't get anything out that doesn't sound like garbled consonances.
They stare at each other for a moment, hearts pounding, faces flushed, Daisuke unsure of what this means, until someone (perhaps the same someone who asked the question, but he can't be sure) coughs uncomfortably.
Then Daisuke realizes that he's straddling Kou.
He springs up like an origami frog, falling backwards and knocking his head on the counter. He curses, loudly, before using the stools as leverage to drag himself to his feet. Kou sits up, then stands, much more calmly than Daisuke, but Daisuke can see the way his hands are shaking as he pats the dirt off his clothes.
He realizes that maybe Kou isn't as unaffected by this as he thought. He realizes that maybe Kou has been desperately trying to act normal to keep himself calm as well.
"Well, uh," Daisuke says, not knowing how to complete that sentence.
"Y-yeah," Kou says back, equally baffled.
"I've gotta, uh, y'know..." he jerks his thumb weakly to the diner door.
Daisuke drops his money beside his half-full bowl of ramen, contemplates clapping Kou on the shoulder, thinks better of it, and flees the diner.
Daisuke spends the next week in agony. He doesn't really care that he's feeling things that definitely shouldn't be there, or that the thought of Kou makes his face flush and his heart pound. Rather, he doesn't have time to worry about those things, because Kou has been avoiding him this whole time.
What's worse, though, is that he can't get Kou out of his head, and that just makes his disappearance more painful.
He tries to clear his head by playing soccer, but by Saturday his mood has affected his playing so much that Souji gives him an understanding smile and tells him (forces him) to go home early and get some rest.
He's walking home slowly, still trying to wrap his head around why Kou would be avoiding him when he did apologize profusely the day after the Aiya Disaster (as he so aptly named it), when he sees Kou himself lying languidly on the dock overlooking the Samegawa River, shoes off, pants rolled up, dipping his feet into the water.
At first Daisuke is angry that Kou would be skipping basketball practice. Then he's concerned as to why Kou is skipping basketball practice.
As concerned as he is, though, he's still angry that Kou would skip basketball, especially after everything they had gone through to help him get back into it.
So maybe that's why Daisuke finds himself walking down the slope and towards the dock at a casual pace, drawing up beside Kou and seating himself crosslegged beside him, adjacent to the river.
"Skipping practice?" Daisuke asks.
Kou jumps at his voice, eyes snapping open, looking at Daisuke like he'd rather be anywhere else right now.
"I, I, uh..." Kou struggles to find the right words, but settles for a quiet "yeah."
"Why?" Daisuke asks, looking down at him.
Kou sits up, crossing his arms defensively. "What about you? Why're you skipping practice, huh?" He demands, refusing to meet Daisuke's gaze.
Daisuke shrugs. "I decided to go home early. Wasn't concentrating enough. Couldn't play properly."
"Oh." Kou looks down. "I...just didn't go. For the same reasons, I guess. I've been feeling out of it lately, y'know?"
"No," Daisuke says, "I don't know. I haven't seen you in a while."
Kou visibly flinches at Daisuke's words. "Oh. Yeah. Sorry, man. I haven't been sleeping too well lately either, so I guess I accidentally took a nap here." He laughs a bit, but it doesn't sound natural. "Didn't mean to stay so long." He looks off to the side, away from Daisuke.
"So why've you been, y'know, avoiding me?" Daisuke asks, watching as Kou kicks his legs back and forth in the water.
Kou looks down at the rippling waves, a frown knitting his brow. "I, well...it's..."
"I mean, I know I messed up pretty bad at Aiya, but c'mon, man, I apologized, didn't I?" Daisuke tries looking at Kou, but the other boy is insistently staring at his lap.
"Yeah, you did," Kou's voice is quiet. He uncrosses his arms and lays his hands on his lap, fidgeting with his fingers.
"Are you still mad?" Daisuke demands.
"I'm not mad," Kou says, knotting his fingers together.
"So then what's the problem?" Daisuke asks, losing patience. "If you're not fucking mad, then why the hell have you been avoiding me like the goddamn plague?"
"Daisuke." Kou's voice breaks halfway through his name. It's soft and pleading, and it cools Daisuke's temper at once, just like it always has. "Daisuke." He looks at Daisuke then, and Daisuke sees his cheeks shining with tears and his lower lip trembling just a bit, the way it used to when they were kids.
"Kou? Oh, shit, shit, you're crying. Don't cry," Daisuke says, desperate to stop the tears that are dripping from Kou's chin onto his shirt. He always hates it when Kou cries. "Shit, why're you crying?"
"I shouldn't have told you," Kou says, and his voice is holding a self-contempt that Daisuke has only ever heard once. "I ruined everything because I couldn't keep my stupid mouth shut, and things can't be like they were because I fucking ruined it!"
Things suddenly click into place. Daisuke takes a moment to appreciate how stupid they've both been.
"No," he says, and Kou looks at him sharply, "you didn't ruin anything."
"But..." Kou's eyebrows knit together in confusion. "But I..."
Daisuke looks over at Kou, still crying, and smiles a bit. He leans over a bit and uses his thumb to wipe at Kou's cheek. "Here, stop crying, stupid." Kou's confusion melts away to shock, and his breath catches in his throat.
Daisuke moves his hand to Kou's back and pulls him close, nearly dragging his feet out of the water, and brings his other hand up to secure the awkward embrace. He can feel Kou's heartbeat, fast and panicked, against his chest.
"What're you doing?" Kou asks, voice as panicked as his heartbeat.
"I'm hugging you, duh," Daisuke replies.
"Does a guy need a reason to hug his best friend?"
"Uh. Yeah." Kou's face is out of sight, but Daisuke can feel the hot flush against his neck.
"Oh." Daisuke figures that if his arms weren't occupied, he'd be scratching his nose right about now. "Well, uh, I guess, um. I guess I just missed you." He can feel his face colouring as well, and swallows thickly. "So, uh, so don't do that again."
Kou laughs quietly, and Daisuke thinks it's the best sound he's heard all week.
They sit in comfortable silence, and after a while Kou pulls his head back and hesitantly lies it on Daisuke's chest.
Daisuke doesn't mind the girly position—it actually feels kind of nice—and it doesn't surprise him when Kou's body gradually slackens and he hears a faint snore issue from the other boy's mouth.
The weird thing, though, is that as time goes on Daisuke finds it increasingly harder to even think about waking Kou up.
Things go back to normal pretty quickly—or rather, as normal as things can be when your best friend of ten-plus years has a pretty obvious crush on you. (Though before Kou confessed Daisuke had had no idea.)
There are times when Kou lets slip a comment ("Oh, hey, that looks pretty good on you,") and there are times when Daisuke catches Kou looking at him for more than a moment too long, and there's always an awkward moment after where they laugh shakily and rub their heads while looking away from each other, faces coloured brightly more often than not.
Daisuke tries not to let these moments bother him. It's not so much that they make him uncomfortable—well, okay, they kind of do—than that he likes them. He likes it when Kou loses control for just that tiny moment and says something like "wow, Daisuke, your legs are really toned!" (okay, maybe that line was part of his imagination), and he likes it when he catches Kou's eyes wandering over his back or legs or face or anywhere else, and, hell, he possibly likes it the most when Kou's face flushes in embarrassment. He likes watching the pink tinge his cheeks and nose, likes the way Kou looks to the floor when he averts his eyes, likes the way his tongue darts out to lick his lips self-consciously before he stutters out an apology.
It gets to the point that, hours after Kou accidentally slips out his latest remark ("Shit, man, I didn't know you could move like that!"), Daisuke is lying on his futon again, head under pillow, repeating the phrase over and over again in his head like a mantra, trying to memorize the tone and texture that Kou used for every word. He tries to imagine Kou's expression as well; face flushed, a slight sheen of sweat covering his forehead, lips quirked up in a challenging grin—
Daisuke's (very loose) track pants suddenly feel a little too tight for comfort.
"Well," he says to no one in particular, partly just to assure himself, "shit." And still, images of Kou, the sound of Kou's voice, the feel of Kou touching him, his heart pounding like a jackhammer against Daisuke's chest, all these and so much more, stubbornly refuse to leave his mind.
Soccer practice ends before basketball the next day, and Daisuke's not sure of what to do with himself until Kou gets out, so he settles for rehearsing lines in locker room.
"Hey, Kou, I know this is sudden and all but I realized last night that thinking about you makes me—no."
"Listen, I think you're really cute when you—wait. Cute is bad."
"I really like you, so can you please get out of my brain? Please?"
Daisuke gives up after that. "Aw, man, this is never gonna work," he mumbles to himself, running a hand through his cropped hair.
"What's not gonna work?"
Daisuke doesn't need to turn around to know who that voice belongs to. He does anyways, and there Kou is, standing in the door and looking exactly how Daisuke had imagined him the prior night.
"Egh," he eloquently says. Kou cocks an eyebrow at this but doesn't pursue the subject. Instead, he grabs a towel and heads for the showers. Daisuke turns away before he starts stripping his jersey off. "So, so where's the rest of the team?" He asks, once he finds his tongue again.
The sound of water hitting tiles meets his ears. "Eh, you know, they left early. Like always," Kou calls back to him. "Probably before you got here, if you didn't see them." Daisuke can hear the shrug in his voice.
"Oh. So, you were practicing alone again?" He asks.
"Mostly," Kou says. "I was kinda thinking, too."
"About what?" He finally asks.
"You," Kou answers simply.
"Oh," Daisuke says again, voice a little strangled, because he doesn't know what to say to that. It's hard enough that Kou is naked and that the only thing between them is a flimsy grey divider, but for Kou to be so casual about it all is almost unbearable.
Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but Daisuke's having trouble keeping his eyes away from the showers and his mind out of the gutter.
He thinks that maybe he's overreacting a bit.
"Oh, crap," Kou says, "I'm sorry, man, didn't mean to say that. It just kinda slipped out." He laughs uneasily. "If it makes you feel better, it wasn't while I was polishing balls, I promise."
"No, no, it's okay," Daisuke says, laughing uneasily with him, but for an entirely different reason.
The sound of water hitting tiles stops abruptly, and Daisuke turns away again, partly because he doesn't want Kou to see his face, mostly because he doesn't know how far his eyes will wander if given the chance.
"So, uh," he starts, once he's sure Kou is completely dressed and his face is back to its normal colouring, "there's something I, uh, think I should tell you?" It comes out as a question, and Daisuke's face reddens again.
"Hmm," Kou says, shouldering his bag. "What's that?"
Daisuke stands, but doesn't make a move to leave. "Well, uh. That is, um." He loses all train of thought as Kou approaches; he can see the water droplets still clinging to Kou's hair and the faint flush of heat on his face. Daisuke thinks that it looks very good on Kou, and kind of wishes that he hadn't looked away when Kou exited the showers.
Kou's looking at him funny, though, and he thinks that maybe it would be as good a time as any to get on with it. "You see, I, uh...kind of, well, more like really, I mean, you..." he sighs in frustration. "I'm not good at this."
A smile is blooming on Kou's face (he always thinks it's hilarious when Daisuke just can't spit it out), just a small one, but seeing the upwards tilt of Kou's lips is enough to make Daisuke blurt out the rest.
"I mean, I like you. A lot." He can feel his face reddening, but stubbornly keeps eye contact with Kou. "And I haven't been able to get out of my frikkin' head ever since I fell on you at Aiya."
Kou stays where he is, smile faltering, eyes widening to almost comical proportions. His bag slowly slips off his shoulder and lands on the floor with a dull thunk. "You can't be serious," he says, still looking straight at Daisuke. "I mean, ha ha, funny joke and all, but..."
"I am," Daisuke says fiercely, advancing on Kou even as thoughts of running away fill his head, "I've never been more serious in my life." He stops just in front of Kou, who is backed up against the wall, looking at him uncertainly.
"Oh, well..." Kou's eyes leave Daisuke's face for a moment, and then they're back on him in full force. Daisuke almost has to catch his breath, because the way Kou is looking at him (his smile is back full force and his eyes are shining a little too brightly) is enough to make him want to sing praise to the Heavens above. "Good."
Daisuke, taking the initiative for something he's not even too sure of himself (but he has a good feeling about it, and that has to count for something, right?), pulls Kou to his chest and wraps his arms around the slighter boy, digging his nose into Kou's damp hair.
Kou calls him that night.
"Hey, man," he says, but doesn't continue like he usually does.
"Hey. Something up?" Daisuke asks, because it isn't like Kou to stay silent like this.
"No..." Kou says, then, "Well, yeah, actually." He takes a deep breath that crackles over the phone line. "You're not...y'know, regretting it, are you?" He asks. His voice is uncertain and small, as if he already knows the answer, and it isn't good.
"Hell no!" Daisuke says fiercely, sitting up from his lying position. "I wouldn't do something like that to you, man." He pauses. "Why? D'you think I'd do something like that?"
"No!" Kou says, panic filling his voice. "It's just, well, I thought that maybe you would've had second thoughts or something after thinking about it for a while."
"Dude, I've spent the past three weeks thinking about this," Daisuke says, only the slightest hint of exasperation tinting his voice. "I'm pretty sure I'm not gonna turn around and say 'April fools' any time soon."
Kou sighs, and Daisuke's not sure whether it's in relief or not.
"Listen," he says, "to prove myself, I'm gonna take you out to lunch tomorrow, alright?"
"Tomorrow's Wednesday," Kou says, and there's a hint of laughter in his voice.
"Fine, then I'll take you to dinner. Don't plan anything."
"Alright, I won't," Kou says. There's a pause. "Where are we going? Aiya?"
"No, we go there all the time," Daisuke says, shaking his head. "But I think there's a new place in the shopping district that has Italian, if you want. Dunno what it's called, though."
"Hmm, sounds good," Kou agrees, and Daisuke can hear the smile in his voice.
They say their goodbyes and hang up, and it's five minutes later when Daisuke's trying to finish his English homework that he realizes he's made a date. With Kou.
Daisuke smiles and continues his homework with gusto.
At exactly 7:21 the next day, Daisuke and Kou arrive at Tengu's Spaghetti Pizza. Kou looks at the sign with an eyebrow cocked.
"'Spaghetti Pizza'?" He says, looking at Daisuke incredulously.
"Uh, yeah. Apparently," Daisuke says, looking back at Kou.
Kou shrugs and they enter the crowded restaurant.
Most of the food on the menu looks weird and they don't know what it is ("Linguini? What the hell is that?"), so they settle on pizza.
The service is kind of slow, but when the aroma of the pizza reaches his nose, Daisuke isn't complaining.
"Man, I haven't had pizza since..." Kou grabs a slice, "I dunno how long ago. Too long."
"Yeah," Daisuke agrees. "All I've had lately is ramen from Aiya."
They eat in relative silence, broken only by the odd comment and Kou's appreciative noises to the food, which Daisuke is finding harder and harder to ignore.
He can't look away when Kou starts licking the grease off his fingers, one by one.
"Oh, man," he says, reaching for the napkins. Daisuke jumps and snaps his eyes away from Kou's fingers, choosing instead to memorize the grain of the table. "That was frikkin' amazing."
"Uh, yeah, it was," Daisuke agrees, laughing a bit uneasily. He reaches into his pocket for his wallet, just to have something to do with his hands, and fiddles with the sparse amount of bills before slapping the money down on the table.
Kou eyes the bill with a small frown, worrying the napkin in his hands. "You're not planning on paying for all of it, are you?" He asks.
"Uh, yeah," Daisuke says, pocketing his wallet again. Kou reddens a bit, the tips of his ears turning pink. Daisuke thinks it's kind of cute.
"You don't have to," he says quickly. "I mean, we can split it; I don't mind."
Daisuke shakes his head. "I asked you out, so I'll pay for it," he argues.
"Yeah, but..." Kou frowns again, putting the napkin on the table. Then he sighs and shakes his head. "Okay. But next time I'll pay for it."
Next time. Daisuke likes the sound of that. He grins. "Then I'll make sure we go to the most expensive place in town, got that?"
"Hey!" Kou laughs, and Daisuke laughs with him.
The walk home is comfortable. The temperature outside is comfortable, the pace is comfortable, the air between them is comfortable.
Daisuke's insides feel like they're doing multiple back flips. Not comfortable at all.
"Um," he says, because he's not sure how to say it. Kou shoots him an inquiring look. "Can, can I, uh..." he scratches his head and looks down at Kou's hand, lying by his side. Kou seems to get what he's trying to say, and smiles knowingly.
Kou reaches out and takes Daisuke's larger hand in his own, squeezing it gently. "You don't mind?" He asks, uncertainty flitting over his features. Daisuke notices that the tips of his ears are pink again.
"Y-yeah," Daisuke says, face colouring hotly. "I—I mean, no!"
They talk idly as they walk, commenting on stupid things like the newest sale at Junes and how Yosuke seems to be deader than usual at school.
The front door of Kou's house faces them far too soon for Daisuke's liking.
"Well, I had fun," Kou says, rubbing his neck self-consciously.
"Me, too," Daisuke says, equally self-conscious.
"Um, I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then," Kou says, letting go of Daisuke's hand and turning to open the door.
"Yeah," Daisuke says. Then, "wait." Kou turns back to him, a questioning look in his eyes. "Can I kiss you?"
Kou laughs, easy and carefree, and just a bit relieved, too. "Stupid, you don't have to ask."
Then he leans up and kisses Daisuke.
It's a typical first-date kiss, soft and chaste, until Kou wraps his arms around Daisuke's neck, pulls himself closer, and begins to move.
Daisuke is a bit surprised, and it doesn't even register in his brain that he's kissing Kou until his arms are securely around Kou's waist and he's moving back. Then it does register, and he freezes for just the barest of moments, but it's enough for Kou to pull back.
"Did I do something wrong?" Kou asks, panic creeping into his voice. "Oh, crap, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—"
"No, no," Daisuke says, because it's all he can manage, and he kisses Kou again.
It's not as fast-paced as the last one; it doesn't have the desperate edge to it, and Daisuke lets himself enjoy the feel of Kou's body pressed against his, the way Kou's mouth is moving against his, and the small noises Kou makes every time Daisuke tilts his head in just the right angle.
A car door slams in the distance and they spring apart as if burned.
Kou's face is heavily flushed and he's panting as if he's just run a marathon, and Daisuke is pretty sure he's the same—if not worse—but none of that matters because it's just registered in his brain that he kissed Kou. Twice.
"Wow," he breathes, when he can breathe again. "I just—wow."
"Yeah," Kou says, short of breath though smiling brightly. "'wow.'"