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The Color of Love

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"Hey, Tomo." Yuki nudged me with his foot. My back stiffened. That slightly whiny tone of voice could only signify one of two things, and since he'd eaten a massive dinner only an hour before, the only explanation was an appetite of another sort.

"Um, what is it?" I glanced over at him without putting down my phone.

"Tomooo, stop messing with your phone and pay attention to me. It's important."

Urgh. He was definitely horny, the look of slight embarrassment and nervous anticipation on his face a dead giveaway. Yuki was kind of shy about initiating, but once he got into it, he turned into a shameless monster. And then he went back to being embarrassed afterwards. Well, satisfied too. I liked to think I did a pretty good job, even if I didn't have other experience to compare it to...

I set my phone on the nightstand and rolled over to face him. "Hm? What's up?"

"You've kind of been avoiding me again." Yuki's gaze drifted away from mine. "It's been more than two weeks since the last time we did it..."

Exactly sixteen days, but who was counting? My stomach knotted up at the thought of having this same conversation again. No, it wasn't the conversation that was the problem, it was the meaning behind the conversation that terrified me.

Yuki was the most important person in the world to me, and I'd naively thought that meant we should be together in every possible way. College roommates, best friends, and lovers. It had been my idea to take that last step, proposing it almost as a joke when we were both kind of high from a lack of sleep after midterms. It had been great at first. I mean, what guy was going to complain about sharing a room with someone who was pretty demanding about having sex every night? But after the novelty wore off, the sensation of excitement was replaced with one of steadily growing wrongness.

Yuki was meant to be my best friend, my brother, not my lover.

I didn't know how to fix it. How could I step back and make things go back to the way they'd been before I'd made my fatal mistake? If I rejected Yuki as a lover, wouldn't I also lose him as a friend?

Having the wrong Yuki was better than having no Yuki.

But I couldn't force myself to keep doing something that felt so wrong. I pulled away, and Yuki noticed. Yuki complained. Yuki kept reaching out to me, and I kept giving in, because the only alternative was facing my mistake head on and losing everything. My only choice was to keep pretending everything was okay, hoping he wouldn't notice my pasted-on smile or the gloom that had settled around me. Everything felt dull and pointless.

In short, I'd fucked up, and now I was paying the price.

"Oh. Two weeks? I didn't realize... I guess we've been so busy with class projects and stuff..."

"Tomo." Yuki wore the stubborn expression that meant he wasn't going to let me off the hook. "I think I've figured it out. You aren't interested in being lovers, are you?"

I tried not to let my shock show on my face, but I felt my eyes widening anyway. I'd never expected Yuki to come right out and say it. "W, what makes you think that? I never said that."

"You didn't say it, Tomo. But your actions keep saying it..."

Oh shit. I knew my reluctance was getting more and more obvious, but I wasn't prepared for being confronted directly! I stared at Yuki, mouth slightly open, as if looking at his expression of hurt would somehow jar my brain into action.

Except Yuki didn't look all that upset.

Actually, he smiled a little when our eyes met. Not a sad smile, not an inviting smile, but his usual warm and gentle smile. The kind of smile that was reserved for your best friends.

"Tomo, I've been thinking about it for a while. I don't think we should be lovers. That's why I haven't really been asking, because I don't really want to... I mean, it feels good, but then after, my heart's all jumbled up and it's like we did something wrong. I don't like feeling that way."

My heart sank. He knew. Yuki had realized. And now he was going to disappear, just like everyone else who'd ever been important in my life. Even knowing that, I couldn't disagree with him, because he was right. I lowered my eyes. "Yeah. You're right... we never should have..."

I'm sorry, that's what I wanted to say. I fucked up and I'm sorry and can we hit the reset button and undo this mistake, can we go back to being brothers and best friends because I can't stand to lose you?

"Tomo, don't." The sheets rustled as Yuki inched closer, and then his arm was around me, squeezing me tight. "Don't go off into your own head like that, worrying about everything. You can't hide that bad habit from me, you know. And you can't hide your feelings either. You're thinking that you want everything to go back to the way it was before, right?"

"How can it? I screwed it all up."

"That's not true. Nothing's screwed up and I'm not going anywhere. I told you before, you're like a brother to me. That won't change."

"But," I hid my face in his shoulder, "I ruined everything."

"Don't be stupid, Tomo, you didn't ruin anything." His hand rubbed my back, like he was trying to soothe a small child. "We tried something and it didn't work out, so what? It was fun, it was nice, and I don't regret it. And I learned I don't love you that way. There's no reason to keep hanging onto the mistake. We both want things to go back to normal, right?"

I nodded, biting my lip to hold back the tears. "Yeah."

"Then it's fine. Aren't you relieved?" Yuki sighed, the long and deep sigh of someone who'd finally surpassed a serious problem. "I feel like all my bones turned to jelly just now. I was really afraid that you wouldn't want to be my friend anymore..."

"What? That would never happen. That's exactly what I was worried about!" I shook my head, still not looking up. "Now I feel like an idiot for thinking you'd hate me or something..."

"But you are kind of an idiot, Tomo." Yuki pulled back to look at me, frowning. "Why didn't you say something sooner? I was worried about it for a long time, you know."

"Then," I mumbled, "why didn't you say anything?"

"Because I didn't want to hurt your feelings by rejecting you."

I scowled at him. "How do you think I felt, dummy?"

I could almost hear the gears clunking in Yuki's head as he considered it. "O... Oh. That makes sense."

Just like that, the air was clear. I could breathe again. And with that weight lifted from my mind, I was free to act like myself around Yuki again. "Seriously," I sighed. "You're really dumb sometimes, you know that?"

"Hey! You were just as dumb this time!" Yuki kicked me in the shin.

"Ow! That's it, now you're in serious trouble." I grabbed Yuki as he attempted to roll away - not like he had any chance of escape, since he was sleeping on the side near the wall. "I'm going to tickle you until you pee yourself."

"Agh, no! Ahaha, Tomooo, stop it!" He wiggled around, desperate to escape my grip.

I stopped tickling him after a few seconds, but I didn't let him go. Instead, I snuggled up against his back and squeezed him tight, burying my face in his hair. "Geez. I'm so relieved. I didn't even want to touch you these past few months because I was afraid you'd think of it as a sex thing. Sometimes I just want a hug, you know?"

"Yeah." His hands covered mine, their grip warm and strong. "Me too. It might seem kind of weird to other people, but... I like things this way. Hehe." Yuki snuggled a bit closer, then froze. "Uh... Tomo? There's something poking me. Is that what I think it is?"

"Um, no?" I lied, quickly letting him go and retreating to a safe distance. "Uh, sorry... My body's kind of stupid and I don't think it's gotten the message that sexy time is cancelled for the near future."

Yuki rolled over to look at me, but I avoided eye contact, too embarrassed by my body's betrayal. He made a little amused noise, not quite laughing at me, but almost. "I guess that means we probably shouldn't sleep in the same bed anymore..."

"Yeah, seriously." I glanced across the room at my bed. Or rather, the place where my bed would have been if it wasn't buried under piles of laundry - both dirty and clean - books, notebooks, papers, and were those pizza boxes still there under the mountain of socks? Ugh. "Um. I might have to stay in your bed one more night..."

"Huh?" Yuki pushed himself up on one shoulder to peer at my bed. "Oh... right. I've gotten so used to it being like that, I kind of forgot there was a bed under there."

"So, can I sleep here tonight?"

"Yeah, but no funny business. I'll put a line down the middle of the bed if I have to!"

"Geez, I'm not some crazy pervert..."

We went back to messing with our phones, the silence between us more comfortable than it had been in weeks. Every time Yuki's elbow brushed against mine, a small smile came to my lips. Much better than the knots of dread that had cranked my awareness of his body up to eleven. Half an hour passed before we got sick of playing games, and after making sure everything was plugged in to charge overnight, I switched off the lamp. Yuki fell asleep almost instantly, his slow and steady breath calming my heart.

I was nearly asleep when warm fingers brushed against my hand. I reacted without thinking, reaching out to take Yuki's hand like I had so many times before. A soft, contented sigh came from the pillow beside mine.

"I love you, Tomo."

I smiled into the darkness.

"Yeah, me too. I love you, Yuki."