The cigarette is a familiar weight between his fingers, the smoke filling his lungs a calming concoction of tar and nicotine. Taka breathes deep, blows blue smoke into the air above his head and rubs at his temples. He’s been nursing a headache for the better part of three days now. Not even the caffeine he forces down his throat in the form of nauseatingly strong coffee and bitter chocolate is able to take the edge off.
There’s still steam rising from the cup in front of him, though he ordered the black ginger tea what feels like hours ago. The cup is simple porcelain, white with little embellishment. It shouldn’t hold the heat in so well, but it has, and he’s a little grateful. Maybe by the time he’s finished talking, the tea will be cool enough to drink.
If he ever finishes talking, that is. He has a feeling he might be here awhile.
The chime above the door to the diner doesn’t startle him anymore. He doesn’t even look up to see who’s walking in like he used to when he’d first started coming around. It’s still a little early, just the right time for a few nightly shoppers to come straggling in for a cheap dessert before they head back home. It’s probably some students that go to the high school near his apartment. He likes the kids for the most part. They’re a little noisy in the mornings and sometimes they leave trash around his building, but he isn’t responsible for keeping the place clean and he doesn’t think he’ll ever be too old to appreciate rebellion where it’s deserved. Mostly, they make him wonder what he would have been like if he’d stayed in school.
And, oh, does he wonder. It’s a little ironic, the fact that he’s built a life on telling people to stop pretending to be something they’re not, when he doesn’t even know himself very well.
He figures it’s part of growing up, questioning his motives, deciding whether or not it’s worth it to regret… anything. Where it would get him if he did.
“You think too much.”
He laughs softly, though not out of any real humor. He lifts his eyes from his tea to the man standing beside the booth, neither surprised nor amazed at what he finds. Dark hair left a little too long, lips a little too full without the offset of a black ring. He smiles despite himself. It may have only been a few weeks since they’ve last gotten together, but it feels much, much longer.
“Maybe,” he says in response Yuu’s statement, “but someone has to make up for all the air in your head.”
Yuu laughs and he feels something in his stomach turn, an unpleasant reminder of why, exactly, they’re here. He swallows, his throat tight.
“This seat taken?” Yuu asks, motioning toward the other side of the booth.
He shrugs, “Is it ever?”
Yuu laughs again, and it’s too easy a sound, too effortless. Like it’s five years ago and they don’t have such a weight between them. Sometimes, he wishes he could go back. He watches Yuu slide into the booth and thinks about all the times they used to stop at cheap diners on the road, when they were just desperate to eat because they had another show to do that night, and they’d spent most of their money on equipment.
“What are you drinking?”
“Tea,” he answers, “you won’t like it.”
“They have good coffee here?” Yuu asks, like they haven’t spent a good portion of their time together here, drinking coffee and not talking about the things they probably should be talking about.
“It’s alright. A little strong.”
Yuu flags down a waitress and orders.
Taka shoves his pack of cigarettes toward the middle of the table because Yuu always smokes a shit-ton in the car and probably ran out before even making it to this part of the city. He’s right, and rewarded with a smirk that didn’t used to affect him so much.
They’re quiet for a few minutes while Yuu smokes, flicking ashes over the ones that are already gathered in the glass ashtray near the window. It’s almost painful to watch, Yuu’s lips wrapped around the cigarette, pursed to blow smoke into the air between them. It feels like some kind of shield, one he has no hope of penetrating. And anymore, he doesn’t even know if he wants to try.
“How’s Aki doing?” Yuu asks, breaking the silence.
Taka pulls a cigarette from the pack for himself and shrugs. “You’d know just as well as I would. I haven’t heard from him in a few months.”
Yuu nods and offers him a light. “I was a little worried there for a while.”
“We all were.”
Yuu nods again.
“Yutaka calls sometimes though,” Taka says, “to check in. I think they're doing alright.”
Everyone has hard times, he thinks to himself. The five of them are no exception.
“He’s been busy. Spends most of his time with Kiyoe. Their anniversary is next month.” He pulls one of his legs onto the booth, slides it under himself and shifts to a more comfortable position. If they’re going to spend a lot of time talking about unimportant things, he should at least use it to prepare himself for the inevitable.
Yuu hums and says, “Must be nice.”
They kissed offstage for the first time in November. It was before the split, and Taka was having one of the worst cases of writer’s block since he’d started keeping a book of lyrics for a living. He was frustrated and pissy and he knew the others were irritated with him, but he didn’t care.
He needed nicotine, or caffeine, anything to calm his nerves. He’d spent most of the morning in a meeting with a bunch of men that wanted to change everything about the band he’d put his life into creating. He’d known switching labels was a bad idea, could sense it the same way he was able to sense when a storm was coming. He’d felt the pressure in the air change, thin out, and he’d been blindsided by images and concepts that nearly made him gag for how far from his vision they were.
The only other person standing outside the building was Yuu, leant up against the back wall, sheltering himself from the wind. It was cold, but Yuu didn’t have a coat on. Taka thought about calling him an idiot, but he was too busy wrapping his lips around a cigarette to say anything.
They stood in relative silence for a few long moments, relative because the city was never silent. There were voices, none of which were their own. The sounds of people talking filled the air, excited, nervous. He knew those words, those tones, too well, was familiar with them in a way that only someone who’d spoken them himself could be. He’d been young and ambitious once, had been willing to do just about anything to make it in a business that had seemed the only place he fit.
He knew it wasn’t his place, but he really wanted to stop them now, while they still had a chance to dream, while those dreams were still full, intact, not crushed under the boots of a few men whose job it was to shatter them.
He hadn’t been prepared for this at their age.
“Kouyou wants to know how much longer we’re going to be here,” Yuu said suddenly, cutting through his thoughts. Yuu was good at that, breaking in, making himself comfortable.
Taka shrugged. “I’ve seen everything I need to.”
He’d been foolishly optimistic about the move, had thought things would be better, would tilt more in his favor.
He felt Yuu move closer, but didn’t look up from the ground. There was a gum wrapper next to his foot, crushed tin foil masquerading as just another rock, misshapen from being trampled, tossed away after its use had expired. He thought the world was filled with metaphors just waiting for him to discover. He felt like the opportunities to do that were over now, if they’d ever really been there in the first place.
“Hey, hey, emo kid,” Yuu said, and he felt a hand against the side of his neck. The cold leaked from Yuu’s skin, bleeding into his own. He shivered.
“I’m afraid,” he said, and it would be the first of many times he would say it in the coming years.
Yuu was silent for a moment, contemplative.
Then, “Me too.”
And he won’t remember who leaned in first, who initiated the press of his lips against Yuu’s. He will think it was his fault later, why they ended up spiraling further down, instead of climbing up. But at that moment in time, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that fact that Yuu’s mouth was warm where it connected with his, and he tasted life and destiny in the breath they shared before Kouyou walked out the door, exhausted and abrasive for the fact, and it was all over.
They didn’t start a relationship. Well, not a relationship in any certain standards, anyway. It was more of a mutual need for companionship why they continued, why short, chaste kisses behind record company buildings turned to PG-13 make-out sessions in sound-proofed booths.
The others knew. He caught the conspiratorial looks Akira would shoot him when he and Yuu would emerge together, and he felt like a teenage girl with a crush. But he wasn’t in love, and he wasn’t thinking of forever. It was just nice, a distraction of sorts from what otherwise was one of the worst times of their careers.
He didn’t write anything for almost four months. Eventually, he forced himself to dig through some of his old notebooks for material to show their managers, anything to keep them from getting kicked off the label. He pieced emotions together, pasted unrelated experiences in an email and let the executives feed off his fabricated stories. He’d never felt so ordinary.
“Someone’s bound to catch on,” Yutaka said one day at the studio. They’d gone over another song, had already finished the melody. Everyone was waiting for the words.
“It’s just not the same here,” Yuu reasoned, and he felt his stomach drop. He didn’t need anyone coming to his rescue. He didn’t need anyone making excuses for him.
“It hasn’t been the same for a while,” Akira agreed.
He walked out after that, letting the door close softly behind him, shutting out four pairs of eyes that he knew were trained on him, waiting for a response, a reason. He had none.
Yuu followed him home, didn’t even knock before coming in and sitting on the couch. They watched reruns of Initial D and drank orange juice. They smoked three packs of Lucky Strikes and didn’t dump out the ashtrays. They didn’t speak. They didn’t kiss.
Later, he let Yuu fuck his throat until it was sore.
The next day, he bought a new lyric book.
“When do you start touring?” Yuu asks, reaching for another cigarette and placing it between his lips. His skin is sallow in the fluorescent lighting of the diner. Cheap has never suited him.
“My editor is doing a final run through this week and the release will be on the 23rd,” he replies, taking another sip of tea and wincing. It’s gone cold. He’ll need some more water.
Yuu nods, his hair swinging over his shoulder. “I’ll look out for it. What’s it called?”
“Solitude,” he says, wincing. “You know how bad I am with titles.”
“When are you going to start writing harlequin romances?” Yuu asks, and the teasing is familiar, makes his skin less prickly. Yuu knows how much he doesn’t like talking about himself anymore.
“When you start surviving on something other than nicotine and coffee.”
Yuu narrows his eyes. “I don’t see how the two would correlate.”
“Only in the fact that neither is ever going to happen,” he says. He motions for the waitress, but she’s busy fighting off the advances of a man who looks twice her age and half her weight. She’s too polite about it. The man grabs her wrist in an attempt to keep her at the table, but she manages eventually to pry herself away.
“Yeah,” Yuu says, cutting into his thoughts, “Angst always has been your best disguise.”
It’s a more intimate statement than anything they’ve said to each other recently, and it makes his heart pound in his chest. He stares at Yuu for a moment, can’t help it. It’s too dangerous. Yuu’s eyes have always been a weakness of his, have always torn down his defenses one stone pillar at a time, and he feels just as helplessly exposed now as he had that first night Yuu had told him his words were powerful enough to move people.
“Don’t do this,” Taka says, pleads. He almost hopes Yuu can hear the desperation in his voice, trembling, nearly out of his control.
“Don’t do what?” Yuu asks, and were this any other time, were they any other two people, the words might actually sound innocent.
“You know what.”
Don’t make me love you, he doesn’t say, but he doesn’t have to. Yuu knows what’s in his head just as well as he does, maybe even better.
“Well, it’s a little too late for wishful thinking, isn’t it,” Yuu says, drinking the rest of his coffee in one gulp.
His hand is shaking when he sets the mug back down on the table.
He wrote RED to remember himself, to remember where he came from and where he was going. The producers at Sony loved it, said it was just what they had expected from him. He thought that was probably when he realized he couldn’t do it anymore.
He wrote PLEDGE as a last attempt. The song was cathartic in a way that LEECH and DIM SCENE hadn’t been, that Guren hadn’t been. He hadn’t thought he could ever aim so high to fall so low, but PLEDGE had been that experience.
He wouldn’t remember later how long he spent holed up in the seedy motel room down the street from his apartment, Styrofoam coffee cups and cigarette butts piling up around him like they were the source of his life and inspiration. They were probably a least a little responsible for the shaking of his hands as he pressed pen to paper and spilled his guts for the world to see.
It was nearly two in the morning when he was startled from his trance by a knock at the door. He assumed it was housekeeping, coming to make sure he hadn’t died. They’d been concerned the few times they’d come round before.
He stood on tired legs and made his way to the door. Bypassing the small peephole, he turned the knob and swung the door inward. It created an almost pleasant breeze that washed over him, and he was reminded momentarily that a world outside his own head existed. He was surprised sometimes by how easy that was to forget.
Even more surprising was the fact that outside his door was not one of the many middle-aged women that worked for the motel, but Yuu.
“How—” Taka started, but Yuu was leaning against the doorframe like he owned it, knowing smirk spread across his lips.
“For how much of a mystery you seem to be to other people,” Yuu said, his voice low, “You’re awfully predictable.”
He laughed softly and stepped out of the way. He was a little annoyed at the sudden invasion—he’d been nearly finished with the song’s bridge—but human interaction seemed as nice a distraction as any. He’d been due for a distraction of some kind, he supposed.
He found this distraction in the form of lazy sex on a worn out mattress and sucking smoke from Yuu’s lips. It was almost nice.
And when he was scribbling the last few lines to a song that would haunt him for years and years to come—nothing will ever end in a deep dream—he almost believed it was real.
Tokyo Dome came and went like the fleeting memories of the years he spent sleeping on the couch in Kouyou’s rundown apartment, the mornings he found the space beside him occupied by a sleepy-eyed Akira, and the days consumed by learning he was meant to string words together for his own voice and no one else’s.
It was new and old all at once, refreshing but heavy in a way that had him questioning his own strength. It took a lot out of him, out of everyone. He was left contented but so tired.
He never stopped being tired after that.
“God, this place always brings back memories,” Yuu says, shifting in his seat and lighting his third cigarette. He’ll probably smoke three more before he leaves.
“Like that night we got stuck on our way to the show,” Taka asks, because it’s okay to remember the good times too. It’s the only thing keeping him going anymore.
Yuu laughs and makes the air vibrate around them, makes it almost hard to breathe. Taka has to close his eyes for a moment, has to block everything else out, has to savor this for what it is. They’re just friends. They can be just friends.
“God, I thought Yutaka was going to kill us,” Yuu gasps out. “You remember the look on his face when Aki fell asleep in the van with his ice cream? Shit went everywhere. I think the backseat was still stained when we returned it.”
He does remember that. He remembers a time when Yutaka and Akira were still perfect together, when Kouyou was an irritated mess because Yuu was making more progress musically but happy despite that. He remembers a time when he and Yuu were just friends, but there had been something between them, even then. He doesn’t think there ever was a time that he hadn’t felt this unspoken, irresistible pull toward Yuu.
He wonders how many people that have ever met the man don’t feel it. Yuu gets twice as much attention for half the effort. He just has that kind of energy. It’s pointless to deny it. And even now, Taka doesn’t.
They had a good run, even during those months with Sony that made him feel like his life was never going to be his own anymore. They made music that meant something, to him, to the group as a whole, to thousands of teenagers that felt just as lost and hungry as he did. They sold out arenas in their own country, and went on to conquer others.
It was only a matter of time before something went wrong.
“He’s completely out of it,” Yutaka said over the phone one evening, his voice dropped low, panicked. “I don’t know what to do anymore.”
It was the first time Akira was admitted, but it wouldn’t be the last. Taka was just as confused and scared as Yutaka, but he didn’t want to say anything, didn’t feel it was really his right. He hadn’t exactly been innocent in the whole situation. He’d just wanted to help. Akira hadn’t been the same since his sister’s death.
“How many did he take?” he asked instead.
Yutaka sighed and he could imagine the way the drummer’s fingers were rubbing at his temples. Some habits would never be broken. “The bottle was empty when I found it. That’s a weeks worth missing. He got it refilled on the 12th.”
He called Yuu right after he hung up with Yutaka. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but Yuu wasn’t offering reassurances, and really, that was all he could ask of anyone at that point. No more lies. Just no more lies.
It didn’t feel like lying when he asked Yuu to come over, and it still didn’t feel like lying when he let Yuu pull him down on the couch and fuck him fast and hard. It felt real. It felt like healing.
When he told the others the next day that he thought it was a good idea they end it, end everything, no one argued.
“How’s Hikaru?” he asks, watching the ripples he makes in his tea as he stirs a packet of sugar into it. He doesn’t even know why he asked. He’s been telling himself for months that he doesn’t care, and that he shouldn’t make anyone else believe otherwise.
He can tell by the softness of Yuu’s voice that the other man is at ease. It strikes a nerve, makes his stomach knot in a way that it used to before he went onstage. It’s been a while since he felt it last, so long he’d almost forgotten the way the nausea would build in his throat.
“She’s alright,” Yuu says, “she’s been feeling a little sick lately, but she said her doctor wasn’t worried, so it’ll probably pass.”
“You should come by soon.” Yuu continues, and reaches for the pack of cigarettes yet again. “She misses you, you know?”
He hums again. He’d been avoiding the other man’s apartment for a few weeks now, and he isn’t convinced Yuu doesn’t see some significance to that. Yuu is silent about it though, they both are. It doesn’t need to be said to be understood, he supposes. Everything said here is just a pretense anyway, just pretty lies to mask what they refuse to accept.
“Maybe next week sometime,” he says, “Tell her I miss her too.”
He met Hikaru three months after the split. She was young and beautiful and she reminded him a lot of his mother, back when he still believed her to be perfect. Her smile was soft, and she listened to music that made his head ache for how sticky-sweet it was.
He would have been lying if he said he didn’t fall a little bit in love with her.
He did lie when he said he was happy for her when she told him she was dating Yuu.
And he kept lying, right up through the nights he told Yuu that it was still okay to come over, it was still okay to kiss him, it was still okay fuck him, even if Yuu hadn’t ever really verbalized the question.
It wasn’t a competition, not at first anyway. Everything seemed to go on as usual. There would be weeks when Yuu would call him up, would spend a few nights slumming around Taka’s apartment with his guitar and his computer and Taka would ache for how much he missed composing. Then, for no reason they ever discussed, a month would go by with no contact at all. Admittedly, his time felt a little hollow those months, just a little too thin and fragile. It was when he did most of his revising, when he felt over-critical.
In those months, he knew Yuu was with her. He knew also that Yuu had started working for PSC again, though now as a scout. And Taka tried to be happy for him, knew that he should let go and move on. Yuu had what he wanted. Taka didn’t fit into that life anymore.
And then one day, he would just show up again. He would blow into Taka’s life just like he’d left, without so much as a word of warning. He would come back and things would be good. They would fuck and eat cheap take-out and talk about music and writing and it was almost as if nothing had changed.
For too long Taka would let himself believe nothing had.
It wasn’t a competition until the night he thought he’d won.
It had been an off month for them, going on almost six weeks, and Taka was convinced that it was really, finally over. He’d been talking to Yutaka a lot, and his agent, and things were starting to look like they were coming together for his first poem collection. It was cold for mid-November, and his apartment was dark except for the small table lamp next to his couch and the light that streamed in through his open blinds. He’d been reading when the knock came.
Yuu had a duffle with him that made him slightly off balance with its weight. His hair was longer than it had been the last time they saw each other, and it looked as if it had been a few days since he’d shaved. He was wearing one of their old tour shirts and Taka’s stomach bottomed out when he saw how old and faded it had become.
Did his own look like that? Like washed-up memories, and hopes, and dreams? He remembered designing that shirt like he’d done it just yesterday, sitting in the back of a tour van with nothing but his ear buds and an old pad of paper that could have belonged to any of the five of them.
“Hey,” Yuu said, breaking into Taka’s memories like he would shatter glass. Taka didn’t say anything back, but stepped out of the way and ushered Yuu in, closing the door behind him. He didn’t watch as Yuu removed his shoes, couldn’t remember if he even cared about that. He needed to do something with his hands, needed something to take up his attention for a few moments.
He made coffee. The strong kind from Europe that made his mouth taste like unwashed vegetables and that he knew Yuu loved. He counted off the spoonfuls to himself in a whisper because he was afraid he would forget how many he put in if he didn’t. When he turned around again, Yuu was standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
“I’m sorry,” Yuu said, his voice rough and Taka wondered if that was because it was cold outside or if there had been yelling. “For coming by without calling, I mean.”
“It’s fine,” he replied without thinking. He would probably be working on autopilot for most of the night.
He wanted to know what had happened, but he didn’t dare ask. He served coffee instead and Yuu sat in the seat adjacent to him at his tiny kitchen table. It had been his grandmothers and there were tiny nicks in the wood that he fingered as they drank in silence.
“I need a shower,” Yuu said after almost twenty minutes. It was dark enough outside now that his living room was almost completely obscured by shadow. He nodded and watched the reflection of his lamp in the window as his finger caught on a particularly large gouge in the wood. Yuu got up and left the room.
“Are you staying?” he asked when Yuu emerged from the bathroom a while later. He’d moved back into his living room, to look out his window down at the street. Their coffees he’d left on the table.
“I don’t know.”
And that was the worst of it, Taka thought, that Yuu would verbalize his uncertainty.
He felt Yuu’s hands on his shoulders before he even heard the man move. They were warm, the heat of them spreading through his thin t-shirt and seeping into his skin. He let himself relax, hadn’t even realized he’d been tense, and he inhaled the scent of his own soap.
He let Yuu steer him around until they were facing each other, let Yuu’s fingers slide up into his hair and pull his head back. When they kissed, it was familiar and soothing and he breathed against Yuu’s lips. He didn’t know who needed this more, but he felt a sudden, desperate urge to claim and possess this man.
They stumbled their way to his bedroom, Yuu’s hands making quick work of his clothes. His mattress protested loudly when he was laid out across it and it was the only sound outside of them, of Taka’s whirring thoughts and Yuu’s lips on his throat. He gasped at the first scrape of Yuu’s teeth along the shell of his ear and he spread his legs to better slot their hips together.
He was hot all over, from the center of his chest to the tips of his fingers.
In the morning, the only evidence Yuu had ever been there was the cold coffee on the table.
“Yuu—” he starts, but he doesn’t get to finish before Yuu is shaking his head, setting his coffee cup back on the table with more finality than a slammed door. The conversation is over before it even starts, and that’s okay, it isn’t like they both don’t already know what he was going to say. Yuu has known since the moment he agreed to come here.
“I can’t do this right now,” Yuu says, “There’s just… there’s just too much going on right now.”
He doesn’t call bullshit, doesn’t say he knows Yuu isn’t busy. There are things going on in Yuu’s life, sure, but nothing Yuu really knows about. Nothing that isn’t a secret. And maybe that’s what Yuu is talking about, maybe he can feel the tension in the air, maybe he knows that people aren’t being completely truthful with him.
It would be kind of hard not to know, Taka supposes.
He pulls out another cigarette for himself and waves their waitress down when she passes by. He’s going to need more tea.
It was almost seven weeks until he heard from Yuu again, and it wasn’t even Yuu that contacted him.
“I want you to be there,” Hikaru said, her voice soft and coaxing. “You’re one of our best friends, Taka. If you were a woman, I’d make you my maid of honor.”
He’d received the invitation in the mail only two days before Hikaru called. He told her as politely as he could manage that he didn’t think he’d be able to make it. The date was set for the end of the summer, and it was right at the end of his book tour. He’d likely be out of town. She’d seen right through him.
“I know the two of you have been sort of… on the outs for the last couple of weeks,” she said, “but he misses you. I miss you.”
That was the only time he wanted to tell her. He wanted to just lay it out in the open, ask her how she could live with having him at her wedding. He wanted to ask what it felt like to know when she called him her friend, he was thinking about the last time her fiancé fucked him, whispered his name like a prayer and came deep inside him.
But he knew exactly what that felt like, didn’t he?
It didn’t stop after the wedding. He’d thought it would, but he had always been rather foolish when it came to Yuu. There were still weeks when Yuu would come stay at his apartment, they would still talk music, and Yuu would still fuck him nice and slow on his couch while Hikaru was busy in the States.
They did a reunion live at Yokohama that turned up more fans than he remembered having. The press had a field day, and for a few moments, under gleaming stage lights, dripping sweat and feeling more naked than he had in years, he entertained the thought of starting up again, of extending some kind of invitation to the others. He thought about writing again, thought about being in the studio, thought about producing and singing and maybe picking up his guitar for old time’s sake. He thought about it being the five of them against the world.
He never voiced these thoughts.
She brought it up on a rainy Sunday, after he’d agreed to come over and help her with the composition for a song she was working on. They did this sometimes. He connected with her on a musical level the same way he did with any of his former band members. It had been a surprise, that they should have so much in common.
She never came out and said she knew, but Taka was able to read between the lines. You get pretty good at speaking in riddles when you’ve been doing it as long as he has.
“I just hope,” she said at last, after she’d refilled his ginger tea the fourth time since they’d moved to the studio Yuu had installed in one of their spare bedrooms, “I just hope that he knows he’s needed here. I hope he knows we need him.”
With the last words her hand had absently, instinctively, slid from the table and rested for a short moment on her stomach. Taka didn’t ask her to elaborate.
His throat starts to feel a little dry after his fourth cigarette, but his hands feel steadier and his mind is that much clearer. He imagines what their little corner must look like to someone outside the diner. He can see clouds of smoke and steam, signs of a tension neither are willing to break through. He thinks he probably looks like he hasn’t slept in a few days.
Yuu’s fingers trace a streak of dried coffee down the side of his cup. His nails are painted a familiar, reassuring black. It brings to mind the shine of his guitar under stage lights, and the way his fingers felt against Taka’s skin the last time they were together, rough with calluses, but gentle, always gentle, pressure. Taka suddenly remembers a night in summer, so many years ago, when he had allowed himself to know those fingers. The tips of them had tasted like salt and sweat and he’d shivered when they’d skated across his tongue.
It’s probably what had gotten them in this mess in the first place, that he had let things go so far, get so out of his control. Taka had never been much of a planner, but he had also never been particularly reckless. There is a method to the chaos of his life. Somehow, Yuu had averted that method.
“We can’t keep doing this,” he says when Yuu reaches over for the sugar canister. He likes his coffee sweet after it cools to a certain temperature. Yuu’s hand doesn’t sway from its path, and Taka isn’t surprised. He watches Yuu dump the sugar into his cup and take a sip.
“I know. This dinner is starting to lose its touch.” Yuu says stirring his coffee and taking another, longer, drink. When he pulls the cup away from his lips, he looks satisfied.
Taka can feel his cheeks flush, his lip wants to quiver and the tears in the corners of his eyes want to fall. He’s just so frustrated, with everything. He doesn’t know why this has fallen to him, why he has to be the one to do this when it should be Yuu’s responsibility.
Suddenly, he’s glad he’s spent a lifetime suppressing his emotions. He’ll let them out later, redirect them and put them on paper and no one will ever hear them. He can hear the melody in his head already.
“Yuu, we--” He stops for a moment and breathes. To most people it would look like a dramatic pause, staged to give an audience time to process the sound of his voice, but for him, there is nothing artistic about it. It’s just a break, just enough time for him to think about what he’s about to say, really think about it. They both deserve a little sincerity right now, even if that sincerity will only serve to hurt them. “You have a life, Yuu, and it’s a lot better than cheap diners and bad movies at my apartment.”
Yuu looks into his coffee cup. He knows what Taka is saying is right, Taka can tell by the way his lips have thinned into a straight line on his face. How his eyes stare into his drink, as if it will give him words, weapons to use in retaliation.
He also knows if there is something in the world that Yuu truly hates it’s change.
“I love watching bad movies at your apartment, I love staying up until the sky turns blue talking about music, and life, and... Taka... I love you.” Yuu’s brow furrows, like he is confused by his own admission.
Taka is impressed that he says all this without causing the people around them to notice. It falls off of his tongue as it were simple fact, like it isn’t a plea for Taka to stay in its own right. Taka’s frustration almost overwhelms him. It takes all of him not to burst. He bites his lip and takes a deep breath.
“You can’t have both of us.”
He feels regret like a slow pulse as he stands, his hand going for his wallet before he even realizes. He pulls out enough bills to cover both his tea and Yuu’s coffee and sets them in a disordered pile on the table. His stomach aches and he can’t tell if it’s from the cigarettes and caffeine or if it’s because he can’t bring himself to look at Yuu anymore. He knows it will get easier, that he won’t always feel quite so at fault for everything. He knows this like he knows his heart will continue beating and his lungs breathing.
And with each breath he feels a little lighter.
He lets his hand linger only a moment on Yuu’s shoulder as he turns and starts for the door. With each step, his mind becomes a little clearer, less muddled down with memories. His thoughts are quiet, only soft whispers, and they speak of letting himself move forward.
When he steps outside the diner, his feet leave shallow prints in the snow, and he loosens his scarf a little to feel the wind better against his skin.