Mihashi lived alone in his apartment. It’s not that he particularly wanted to. He would have loved to have a roommate for the company and to split the rent, but he wasn’t good at keeping them. Everyone he’d roomed with had eventually left because he was awkward at communicating and they couldn’t take his constant anxiety over the smallest things. Shuugo had offered to room with him, and Mihashi had seriously thought about it since they’d been friends since childhood, but he didn’t want to chance ruining that friendship.
So after three consecutive failed roommates and an annoyed looking manager in the leasing office on the first floor, Mihashi decided to just forgo the idea of sharing his apartment with someone. So what if he had to pay the full rent month to month? He could afford it, and besides it wasn’t much more expensive than the one bedroom apartments.
It’s not like he was alone either. His friends from college and even Shuugo would come to visit him now and again. And he wasn’t lonely either. He went out and did things on his own like going to the movies or shopping at the mall. Plenty of people did that on their own, so he really wasn’t any different.
He did wish that he could make friends a little easier though. It would have been nice to maybe befriend at least one person in his apartment building. There were many different types of people. Some of them even seemed approachable to Mihashi, but he could never find the courage to do so. He was afraid his nerves and stutter would just push them away. He hated being rejected, so in his opinion it was just better not to try.
Needless to say, most days Mihashi spent watching anime or baseball games when he came home from work each day. As much as he loved watching over 18 hyperactive kindergarteners, it was exhausting. Though the nice thing about it was that the kids were easy to talk to - unlike adults who could be very judgmental. Mihashi was able to teach them freely without stuttering or tripping over his words, and he found that he was also good at his job. He just wished he didn’t feel the need to pass out before dinner every day.
So Mihashi dragged his feet into his apartment building - relieved that it was finally Friday - which meant he could relax until he needed to make the lesson plans for the following week. At least it wouldn’t be too difficult, seeing as they were kindergarteners. Half of the teaching he did borderlined just playing around or finding more interesting ways to get them to learn their letters and numbers. Basically, anything that could hold their attention span for more than five seconds. But he was happy for the weekend. With Christmas coming up fast, his students were all the more hyper and it left him running on fumes by the end of the week.
Instead of taking the stairs like he usually did, Mihashi opted to take the elevator to the third floor. He’d run around after kids enough that day, he could slack off just this once. He leaned against the wall of the elevator as it slowly made its ascent, flinching slightly with each jerk the old thing did. It reminded him as to why he never took the elevator to begin with.
It shuttered to a stop when it reached his floor. But of course the doors didn’t open until the whole elevator seemed to drop slightly. Never again… Mihashi swallowed and breathed a sigh of relief when he was met with the pale green walls of his hallway. He went to step out, but his foot hovered awkwardly midair.
Looking down, Mihashi came face to face with a gray striped cat. Its bright green eyes stared at Mihashi intensely, and he found himself afraid to maneuver around it. They stared at each other until the cat stood and walked away. The whole situation seemed so bizarre that Mihashi didn’t snap out of his trance until the doors of the elevator started to close and he was left scrambling to hit the open button before he was forced to take another horrendous ride on that metal death trap.
Practically falling out of the now open doors, Mihashi looked to his right to see the cat strolling along down the hall without a care in the world. Just a few doors down, his eyes fell upon large boxes and furniture. Moving? He wondered, but he couldn’t tell if they were just arriving or leaving. The cat stopped just outside the door, and Mihashi figured the pet had simply wandered out once the door was open.
He turned in the opposite direction, away from the mess in the hall, but flinched when a loud voice echoed against the walls. “Hey! What are you doing out there?” The voice yelled, causing Mihashi to turn around. “Get back in here! You can’t wander around in this place!” The cat’s tail flicked slightly in annoyance before it stood and walked inside. The door closed and Mihashi tried to slow his racing heart.
Scary… he thought as he quickly rushed two doors down to get into his own room. The peace and quiet of his room left him feeling safe and secure as his body relaxed almost instantly as he settled in for the night. There was a Christmas movie playing that he’d wanted to watch, so he changed, made dinner and situated himself on his couch. As the movie played, Mihashi found himself wondering about the person four rooms down. Maybe it was best that he didn’t know his neighbors.
The next day started like any other. Mihashi woke up earlier than he wanted. His anxiety never really let him sleep in, waking him up for the most ridiculous reasons. He showered and brushed his teeth before going to the kitchen to cook what could barely pass as breakfast. He’d never really gotten the hang of cooking no matter how many times he watched his mother make the most delicious meals.
But the most important thing was the coffee. It probably wasn’t the best thing for him to drink. His nerves were always high to begin with and the caffeine did nothing but increase the jitteriness of his movements. Each time he would remind himself to find some other way to wake himself up every day, but it was just too conveniently easy to make coffee that he pushed the thought away for another day.
So there he was… breakfast already finished and dishes washed. He sat on the couch with coffee in hand and turned on the news to catch the scores of any sports teams that were currently in season. Even though baseball was his favorite sport, he still enjoyed sports in general, so why change the routine he’d built up for himself over the years?
As he took in the results of the games from the previous night, Mihashi wondered what he should do for the day. There was that new action movie that had just recently come out that he’d been wanting to see, but he wasn’t sure if there would still be a crowd going to watch the movie. He’d much rather wait a few more weeks to avoid being around a lot of people. Maybe he could finally start that book he’d bought last month. He really wasn’t sure why he’d bought it in the first place though… it’s not like he particularly liked to read…
His thoughts were broken by a sound from his front door. It had almost sounded like something had bumped into it. Probably someone’s bag or something, he decided as he turned his attention back to his television. Except that only lasted a few seconds as he heard the same sound.
“Weird…” He mumbled. He walked over to his door and looked out the peephole, but there wasn’t anyone there that he could see. Very weird, he thought. He turned to head back to the couch when the sound happened again followed by scratching noises.
It was now that Mihashi wished Abe and Sakaeguchi hadn’t convinced him to watch that horror film last weekend. All he could think about was that there was something trying to get in his apartment. He felt his heart going haywire as his palms began to sweat. He really needed to stop drinking that coffee.
Another set of scratching sounds had Mihashi glancing out again, but again… was met by nothing. This wasn’t just some random kid of the building playing a prank on him, right? Gathering as much courage as he could, he put his hand on the doorknob. He knew if he didn’t check, he was going to freak himself out for the rest of the day, so it was better to just get it over with at this point.
Pulling the door open slightly, Mihashi peeked out. He felt a weight pressing against the door and looked down. There was the grey striped, green eyed cat from before, standing on its hind legs with its front paws pressing against the door, trying to get it open. “Oh…” Mihashi mumbled. “It’s you,” he said as he opened the door. “What do you…” The cat stared at him again with those large eyes. “U-uh… u-um…” He stuttered as the cat just walked into his apartment as though it owned the place. “You… you can’t be he-re…”
He followed the cat unsure of what to do. He could try to scare it out? But what if it decided to attack him instead… He didn’t want to end up with scratches and bites. Where was its owner? Didn’t he realize his cat was missing?
The cat wandered around his apartment, sniffing here and there. It jumped onto Mihashi’s couch, sat down, and stared at Mihashi with large eyes. Mihashi got closer, deciding it best to probably just get it over with and grab the cat. As long as he managed to get it outside, it would probably go back to its owner down the hall. He held his hands out cautiously as he inched closer, but the cat just continued to stare.
Just when Mihashi thought he was close enough, the cat hopped off the couch and away from his hands. Grumbling, Mihashi followed the cat into his kitchen. It jumped onto his counter and mewed at him. “What?” He asked confused and ignored the fact that he was now talking to this intruder of a cat. “I… I don’t have food…” At least not food he thought would be safe for a cat to eat.
The cat’s tail flicked back and forth at Mihashi’s statement and he wondered if it was possible for the cat to understand him. He knew dogs could understand humans to some extent, but cats were usually more independent and hard to train. It walked along the counter and Mihashi tried not to think of the germs on the cat’s paws.
Again, the cat jumped down, and Mihashi was forced to follow it. The last thing he needed was for the cat to somehow get lost in his apartment. If it decided to hide, Mihashi had a feeling that he’d never be able to find it. The cat meandered around before turning to walk into Mihashi’s bedroom.
He watched the cat lean back on its legs to look up over the bed. Please don’t… but his hopes were shattered as it jumped up onto his bed. He watched helplessly as the cat made a bed out of his pillow. Why couldn’t it choose the pillows that he didn’t use? Why did it have to curl up all cutely right smack in the middle of his favorite pillow?
“Um…” Mihashi moved slowly as not to disturb the small creature. “You need to go home…” He said slowly. The cat opened one of its eyes and stared at him. Mihashi raised his hands - ready to try to pick it up - but a small growl from the cat had him backing slowly away.
Well, if the cat wouldn’t leave willingly, Mihashi would just have to go to its owner separately. He walked out of his apartment, and stood outside the door that he was 99% sure had had all the boxes outside the day before. But what if it wasn’t? No, no… he told himself. This is definitely the apartment. He lifted his hand to knock, but paused.
What should he say? “Hi, I think your cat is in my apartment?” “Do you own a gray cat with eerily large eyes?” Would the person think he stole the cat? Oh god… what would he do then?
Taking a small breath, Mihashi steeled his nerves and hoped he’d be able to get his words out clearly. The last thing he needed was to have his explanation escalate the problem. Knocking on the door, he willed himself to keep the jittery movements to a minimum. He really needed to start drinking some calming tea instead of coffee.
Mihashi waited and waited. He glanced down at his phone. How long should he wait? Oh god… what if he’s not home? Did he have to hold onto the cat until later? Is that how the cat got out in the first place?
Sighing, Mihashi dragged himself back to his apartment. He glanced in his bedroom to see the cat still sleeping. It was equal parts cute and annoying the way it had its face tucked underneath its tail. It was hard to stay mad when it was so adorable looking.
Mihashi left the cat to its own devices, hoping it didn’t mess anything up. He sat on the couch and turned on some random anime that was on his list to watch. He pulled the blanket over himself and made himself comfy. Halfway through the second episode, Mihashi felt something crawling over his body. Tensing, Mihashi looked over to see the cat staring at him.
“Uh… Mm…” He didn’t know what to do as the cat stared down at him. It was really unnerving with its intense gaze. He’d never owned a cat before, so he wasn’t exactly sure how he was supposed to handle this.
The cat didn’t seem to mind Mihashi’s inability to use words as it continued to crawl over him. The closer it got to his face, the more concerned Mihashi felt. What if it decided to claw at his face? But instead, the cat blinked lazily and began to knead the blanket around Mihashi’s shoulder. It made itself comfy and laid down in the dip of Mihashi’s side with its head leaning up against his shoulder.
It let out a small huff of breath, and Mihashi let out his own breath he’d been holding. He turned his attention to the screen again when he was sure the cat held no ill will toward him. It was kind of cute the way it would reposition itself now and again.
They were another two episodes into the show when a loud banging at his door startled both them. Mihashi jumped so hard the cat went flying into the air. When it landed again, it took off running somewhere in his apartment. He didn’t blame it. Honestly, he probably would have done the same thing if the banging didn’t continue a second time.
Walking timidly to the door, Mihashi looked out to see a person he had never seen before. He had secretly been hoping that it was Abe at the door, but unfortunately…
Mihashi opened the door slightly, and looked at the guy. He seemed to be about the same age as Mihashi. “Um… ye-s?”
The guy’s sharp eyes landed on him. They were intense, but even Mihashi could see the worry they were clearly portraying. “Have you seen her?”
Confused, Mihashi looked at the picture the man was holding out to him. Opening the door a little more, he took the picture and looked at it closely. “I just got back home, and she’s not there. She’s really good at sneaking into places, so…”
It was the cat that had so easily made itself comfortable in his home. “Oh, um…” Mihashi tried to find the words to explain that yes, he had seen his cat, and that she was currently hiding somewhere in his apartment after the loud banging on the door.
Before he was able to get his words out, the man’s eyes narrowed and it sent a chill down Mihashi’s spine. “You!” He snapped and Mihashi panicked.
“Wai-t!” He didn’t want the man to think he’d purposely taken his cat, but instead of yelling at Mihashi, he pushed by him and into his apartment.
“What do you think you’re doing?” The man snapped. He had his hands on his hips as he glared down at the floor. Mihashi realized that the cat must have heard her owner’s voice and came back out. “You know better than to just sneak into other people’s homes!” He chastised it, and it may have been the most bizarre sight Mihashi had ever seen.
Mihashi watched as the cat stared back at her owner with an unyielding gaze all the while flicking her tail back and forth. Mihashi didn’t even know the cat but he could tell she was not happy about this. “You’re coming home right now,” her owner grabbed her, and she instantly began to struggle. “Hold still…” The man grumbled, trying and failing to avoid the cat’s claws.
“U-um…” Mihashi began - ready to tell the man what had actually happened - but as soon as the stares from both human and cat fell on him, all sentences he had previously thought of turned into jumbled words inside his mind. They both had the same intense gaze, and for a brief moment, Mihashi understood why people said pets resemble their owners.
“Sh- I-” Mihashi felt like he was sweating bullets. “Plea-se don’t… I le-t, um… tried t- bu-t n-” The more he failed to get his words across, the more flustered he became. His hands felt clammy and his heart raced. He couldn’t stop the feeling that everything was a disaster.
Why was he like this? Why couldn’t he ever get his thoughts across? Why couldn’t he just speak clearly? This was why Abe always got mad at him, and this new person was already seeing him at his worst.
Screwing his eyes shut, Mihashi bit his lip as he waited for the inevitable judgment that always came from others. This is why I can’t make any friends… he thought sadly.
“Ah!” Mihashi looked up just as the man clapped his hands together. The cat was now lying limply in the other’s arms as if it had given up even trying. “So you’re saying that she came to your door and you let her in?” He asked, and Mihashi nodded in shock. “And you also tried to give her back?”
Mihashi nodded more eagerly this time. The initial shock that someone other than Sakaeguchi was able to translate what he had truly wanted to say gave way to a rollercoaster of emotions that he wasn’t entirely sure what to feel. Part of him felt like crying, but he wasn’t sure if it was from relief or happiness. Maybe both…
“So that’s how it is…” The man pouted slightly as he looked down at his cat. He walked over toward Mihashi, and despite there not being any misunderstanding, he felt his body tense. When the man was right in front of Mihashi, the cat began to fight again. When he loosened his grip, the cat jumped into Mihashi’s arms, and he barely managed to hold onto her. “Ah, sheesh…”
Mihashi cradled the cat in his arms. He looked up at the man in surprise, and hoped he could explain the feline’s behavior. “Momokan seems to like you…” He said, frowning.
Opening his mouth to speak, Mihashi quickly closed it. The man said that as if it were a bad thing. Perhaps seeing Mihashi’s confusion and concern, the man elaborated. “She’s always been good at sneaking out. If she likes you, she might keep coming back.”
Maybe he thought that would be an inconvenience for Mihashi? Maybe that’s why the man seemed annoyed? Or maybe he just wanted nothing to do with a person like him… “Is…” Mihashi took a slow and steady breath. He could do this. “Is that… a ba-d thing?”
“Hm?” The man looked up at him in surprise. “You wouldn’t mind her coming over?”
Looking down at the gray cat that was now starting to doze off in his arms, he realized he quite liked her company. Despite her growling at him earlier, she seemed to enjoy his presence now. Smiling at his almost neighbor, Mihashi shook his head. “She’s ni-ce…”
“Momokan? Nice?” The man’s eyes widened comically. He looked from Mihashi to the cat in disbelief.
“No?” Mihashi looked down at her as well. She seemed kind enough for a cat.
“Well, usually,” the man said with a huff. “She’s just a little mad at me right now. She doesn’t like being confined in small places, so these apartments aren’t ideal for her.”
“She… can co- um… stay… when-ever,” he tried to say that she could come by and stay whenever she wanted, but his nerves got in the way again as he felt embarrassed about opening his home to some random person’s cat. Was this all too weird?
But the man didn’t seem to mind. His face lit up at Mihashi’s attempts of communication. “Really?” He asked loudly, smile stretching across his face. “She really can come over whenever she wants??”
Mihashi felt his face warm at the bright smile on the other’s face, and he found once again that he could only nod when the realization hit that the man had again understood what he had wanted to say. “You’re a lifesaver!” He exclaimed, shaking Mihashi’s shoulders and startling Momokan, who had just about fallen asleep. “Maybe she’ll actually like it here now!”
“Um…” Mihashi held Momokan a little tighter on reflex, but relaxed his hold when he felt her squirm. Tajima looked at him with unblinking eyes, waiting for him to speak. But the problem was… how was Mihashi supposed to ask for the other’s name after talking to him for so long? “Um.. N…”
Mihashi watched the other blink slowly, trying to process his words - or lack thereof. Head tilting to the side, the man’s eyes went from confused to understanding. “Ah!” He yelled, and Momokan flinched along with Mihashi at her owner’s loudness. “I’m Tajima,” he said with a grin and pointing at himself.
Relief flooded Mihashi once again. “Miha-shi…”
Tajima grabbed his shoulders - smiling brightly again - and Mihashi felt the tips of his ears warm in embarrassment. “Nice to meet you Mihashi!” He then reached for Momokan, but a low growl caused him to pull away. “Maybe I’ll just bring her things over for the day?”
Tajima grinned at him before disappearing from Mihashi’s apartment and reappearing with food and a litter box. The whole thing was so surreal. He looked down at the cat in his arms and wondered, what did I just get myself into?
Sunday came much too quickly for Mihashi. The rest of his Saturday was passed spending time with Momokan. They had spent the day curled on the couch watching various shows and movies without a care in the world.
It was weird though. He’d done that sort of thing so often, but waking up Sunday morning, he felt a lot lighter than usual. Well the weight part was a bit metaphorical since he had almost panicked when he felt something heavy sitting on his chest only to find Momokan sleeping on him.
He probably should have felt annoyed that Tajima had never returned the day before to retrieve his pet, but he felt oddly happy waking up to the cat. At this point, he probably would have started worrying that the other had left Momokan with him permanently, but his anxieties were relatively calm.
The loneliness that he felt sometimes was abated, and he could only smile as he lightly pet Momokan’s fur. He watched as the cat stretched and wandered off, letting Mihashi get up without having to find a way to remove her from his chest. “Good morning, Momokan,” Mihashi whispered when he noticed the cat staring up at him from the floor.
She followed him into the kitchen and waited patiently by her bowl for her food. Mihashi was glad that Tajima had left him with so much. “Here you go,” he said and smiled as the cat began eating the food he offered. After eating his own breakfast, Mihashi got dressed and joined Momokan on the couch.
“I wonder when Tajima is going to come back…” He whispered as he watched the cat clean herself. Not that Mihashi minded her presence at all, but she technically wasn’t his… He was then hit by just how strange the whole situation was.
I probably shouldn’t have offered… He thought, worriedly. His anxieties began to spike and he felt fidgety again. Before the feelings could escalate, he felt something soft bump into his arm. Looking down, he found Momokan rubbing her head against him and begging for attention. Mihashi felt his body relax as his hand moved along her fur. The purring that came from her made him smile brightly.
His fears slowly dissipated. They were still there, but so small that he couldn’t even really worry about it. No, it was a good thing he agreed to this, and Momokan’s owner seemed nice enough. The calmness Momokan brought him was enough to make Mihashi wonder if he should get his own pet one day.
A loud knocking at his door startled Mihashi, but unlike the day before, Momokan stayed near him - already used to the loudness. “Maybe it’s Tajima…” Mihashi mumbled, leaving the cat on the couch.
However, a glance through the peephole of his door made him fidget. Opening the door, Mihashi glanced at his friends. “Sakaeguchi,” he smiled at his ever kind friend, but then he shifted when his eyes fell on the other person. “A-A-Abe…”
He watched Abe’s face twitch in annoyance and braced for the anger that was bound to burst out of his friend. “Why do you always stutter on my name?!” Abe snapped in frustration. “It’s been years now!”
Sakaeguchi awkwardly patted Abe’s shoulders. “Maybe if you lightened up and smiled a little more…” But Abe’s smile was still tinged with his anger that it had the opposite effect on Mihashi, and he felt his body shiver in fear. “Or not…” Sakaeguchi slapped Abe, making the other stop his attempts of looking friendlier.
Mihashi gripped the door in an attempt to ground himself and hold himself steady. “U-um… what… why are y-ou here?” He flinched when his words sounded harsh. He always enjoyed his friends’ company, but he hadn’t realized they were planning on stopping by.
He was relieved when Sakaeguchi didn’t seem perturbed by his words. In fact, Mihashi thought his friend smiled a little brighter. “We were in the area,” he explained, “we thought we’d stop by to say hello.”
“Oh…” Mihashi blinked, and then stepped aside to let them in. As he closed and locked the door, he heard Sakaeguchi making what could only be described as cooing sounds.
“Well, hello there beautiful,” he said happily.
Mihashi turned around in time to see Momokan rubbing against Sakaeguchi’s leg. He picked her up easily and cradled her to his chest. Mihashi could see just how much she was enjoying the company.
“Why didn’t you tell us you got a cat?” Abe turned to him with an almost accusatory tone that set off Mihashi’s nerves again as he scrambled for an explanation.
Sakaeguchi sighed from beside the two. “What’s her name?” He asked, pulling Mihashi’s attention to him instead of Abe.
“Her name i-is M-Momo...kan…” He answered a little embarrassed.
“Momokan?” Sakaeguchi blinked and looked down at the cat, who was still enjoying the head scratches he was giving her.
“That’s a weird name,” Abe bluntly said, and Mihashi began to panic.
“I-I didn’t!” He blurted. “She- She’s not!” His face started to warm up in embarrassment. How the hell was he supposed to explain that he hadn’t named her and that she wasn’t even his? “She’s! Um!”
He looked at Abe and really wished he hadn’t. His friend of five years looked ready to explode - his patience with Mihashi’s blubbering was running thin - so Mihashi looked to Sakaeguchi for help. He’d known Sakaeguchi since their very first day of college with both of them wanting to be teachers.
Mihashi watched Sakaeguchi place a hand on their friend’s shoulder, hoping to placate him. “Relax,” he mumbled before turning to Mihashi. “It’s okay, Mihashi,” he said, “what are you trying to say?”
“Mo-mokan,” he mumbled, reaching for the cat. Sakaeguchi handed the cat over to him and Mihashi held her close. “She’s not… mi-ne…”
“Wait, what? Did you steal someone’s cat?” Abe asked confused, earning a reprimanding slap on the shoulder from Sakaeguchi.
Shaking his head, Mihashi looked down at Momokan. “If she’s not yours, who does she belong to?” Sakaeguchi asked softly.
He opened his mouth in an attempt to explain, but a loud knocking that could only belong to Momokan’s owner interrupted him. Mihashi felt his face flush in embarrassment. He felt Sakaeguchi’s curious eyes on him and refused to look at his friend - afraid of see the other’s expression.
He had to answer the door. He knew if he didn’t, Tajima would just keep knocking. So swallowing down his concerns, Mihashi moved back to his door. Opening it only a little to hide Tajima from his friend’s eyes, he gave his neighbor a small smile. “Hel-lo T-Tajima…”
“Hey Mihashi!” Tajima grinned at him and Mihashi felt as though his face would burst into flames at how bright and happy the other was to see him. Then Tajima noticed Momokan in his arms. “Momokan!” He said happily, but Mihashi watched as Momokan’s eyes widened in panic when she saw her owner about to take her.
Everything happened so quickly, and Mihashi’s already anxious riddled mind couldn’t keep up. Momokan leapt over his shoulders, disappearing into his apartment. “Momokan!” Tajima yelled in annoyance and rushed passed Mihashi and into his apartment like he’d been there multiple times and not just once.
He heard Tajima yell, “get back here!” There were loud bangs coming from one of the rooms, but Mihashi was too shocked to even register what that could possibly mean for his belongings.
Mihashi closed the door and turned to his friends, who seemed just as confused as Mihashi. “Um…” He didn’t know where to begin.
“Let me guess…” Sakaeguchi had an amused expression. “Momokan’s owner?” Mihashi nodded. Sakaeguchi’s amusement shifted slightly to one that looked too wicked for Mihashi’s liking. “He’s cute.”
If Mihashi thought his face was on fire before, he was sadly mistaken. “It’s not-! Don’t-!” He panicked, which only caused Sakaeguchi to snicker slightly.
Abe looked at the both of them with an unamused expression. “You guys are weird…”
“Sa-Sakaeguchi!” Mihashi covered his face, wanting nothing more than to just hide away somewhere. Maybe if he prayed hard enough, a hole would open up in the floor and swallow him whole.
Sakaeguchi lightly patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry… I won’t say anything,” he teased.
Before he could try to explain himself, Tajima came back looking a little worse for wear. “Sorry about that,” he said, holding an irate looking Momokan in his arms. His arms were covered in red puffy scratches. “I promise we didn’t break anything.”
Mihashi simply nodded, not knowing what to say or do at this point.
Tajima’s eyes fell upon the two other people in the apartment. “Oh! Hello!” He smiled brightly, not even caring that he had just made a scene in front of strangers and Mihashi, who he had only known for a day. “Are you Mihashi’s friends? My name’s Tajima,” he explained.
Sakaeguchi smiled kindly. “I’m Sakaeguchi and this is Abe.” He said, motioning to himself and Abe beside him.
“The-y… um… from u-ni…” Mihashi tried to explain, but he was just too flustered to calm the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions going through his head.
Tajima stared at him briefly with a look of confusion until a smile spread across his lips again. “Oh! So they’re friends from college,” he nodded in understanding. “That’s nice that you guys still hang out together.”
Mihashi smiled and nodded. He didn’t even notice Sakaeguchi’s mouth hanging open in disbelief or Abe’s look of utter shock. “Wait!” Abe’s voice boomed through the apartment, startling everyone. “You understood that?!”
Mihashi had a hand on his chest, trying to settle his racing heart. Tajima just looked at them all confused. “What? You didn’t?” He seemed just as confused as them.
Abe looked ready to throw a fit, so Sakaeguchi stepped forward. “I mean… I can for the most part, but…” Sakaeguchi looked between Mihashi and Tajima with an interest that made Mihashi’s stomach turn. “So are you Mihashi’s neighbor?” He asked, changing the subject and leading Tajima away from the door and deeper into Mihashi’s apartment.
“Yeah, I moved in two days ago,” Tajima said, letting Sakaeguchi guide him.
Mihashi watched in disbelief as the three of them walked away. “And this is your cat?” Sakaeguchi asked, continuing his questions.
“Yup!” Tajima grinned and lifted Momokan up slightly, but kept a strong hold on his cat. “Her name is Momokan.”
Mihashi followed closely behind - unsure of what to say to stop the questioning. He’d just met Tajima himself! Why did he feel like he was witnessing his parents interrogating his boyfriend?
“That’s a weird name,” Abe replied bluntly as they sat on the couches. Mihashi hovered by the couches, hoping that Tajima wouldn’t feel offended by the comment, but when the other let out a loud laugh, his worries were relieved. “Why’d you name it something like that?”
Despite his concerns for all the questions, Mihashi was curious to know the answer since he hadn’t gotten to ask himself. “She reminded me of my high school baseball coach. Momokan is short for Momoe kantoku,” he explained.
“That really is weird,” Abe gave the man a look filled with confusion.
Tajima just grinned. “Is it?” He asked, not letting the other’s words bother him. “I thought it fit her.”
Sakaeguchi took this moment to look up at Mihashi, who was still loitering behind the couches. “Mihashi, why don’t you take a seat?” He asked, but Mihashi could see through his innocent statement. The reason why he hadn’t sat down yet was because the only available spot was beside Tajima, and he didn’t want to play whatever game Sakeguchi was pulling.
He was about to decline, but then Tajima’s concerned eyes fell on him. “There’s room here,” he said, patting the spot beside him.
Shifting awkwardly, Mihashi stiffly sat beside him. As soon as he made himself as comfortable as he could with how tense he felt, Momokan had freed herself from her owner’s arms and perched herself on Mihashi’s lap. Within seconds, he felt his muscles relax and his body lean into the cushions. Momokan really was a nice cat.
“Ah, Momokan,” Tajima whined and Mihashi couldn’t stop the smile from stretching across his lips at the sound. “Why do you do this to me? How many times do I have to apologize?” He continued to complain, while Momokan showered Mihashi with attention.
Mihashi gave Tajima a questioning look. “She’s still mad that I brought her here,” he whined. “Momokan you can’t keep staying here! You’re bothering Mihashi.”
“Bu-t I… don’t…” Mihashi began only to be silenced by Tajima.
“Just because you don’t mind having her around doesn’t mean she can just do whatever,” Tajima narrowed his eyes. “She used to get away with too much stuff when we were living at home, but she can’t keep getting what she wants.”
Mihashi rubbed Momokan’s head. “I li-ke her com-pany…” He whispered, laughing when Momokan pressed her head against his chest.
“Seems like she likes Mihashi more than you,” Sakaeguchi teased, causing Tajima to pout all the more.
“It’s not fair,” he whined again.
Mihashi smiled at the other’s reaction, but was distracted when Momokan began head butting and furring her face against his chin. Giggling at the soft feeling, Mihashi thought he heard the word “cute” being said by someone but he wasn’t sure over his own laugh.
“Cute?” Sakaeguchi asked and this time Mihashi clearly heard the word. He looked over to see that twinkle of mischief in his friend’s eyes again. “What’s cute?” He asked Tajima. “Momokan or Mihashi?”
Tajima turned to look in his direction, and Mihashi found himself holding his breath in anticipation. A bright smile - similar to the one from the day before - spread across Tajima’s face. “Both.”
The word was said with such sincerity that Mihashi didn’t know what to say or do. If he was embarrassed before, this was a whole new level of embarrassment. He could feel his ears burning and he knew his face was probably bright red.
On reflex, he pulled his arms closer and accidentally squeezed Momokan too much. The poor cat wiggled herself free from his hold and went back to Tajima, who accepted her return without comment. Mihashi quickly hid his face from everyone’s view, earning a few laughs. The most obvious from Abe.
Oh my god, Mihashi internally panicked. He never thought someone would say something like that about him and earnestly mean it. What was he supposed to do?
“He is sometimes,” Abe said, shocking Mihashi further.
“Like whenever he gets embarrassed like now,” Sakaeguchi continued. “Oh!” He exclaimed, looking at Abe, “Do you remember during university when Kanou brought-”
“N-No!” Mihashi yelled, but it sounded more like a loud screech than an actual word. Mihashi knew exactly what story Sakaeguchi wanted to tell, but he couldn’t let that get out yet. Not when he’d just met Tajima.
However, Mihashi’s reaction to said story resulted in Abe laughing even louder than before, which piqued Tajima’s interest. “What? What?” His neighbor asked curiously, wanting to be in on the joke.
Mihashi dared to show his red face in order to give his friends the most pleading look he could muster. He really didn’t need this right now. Please, please, please, he mentally begged them behind Tajima’s back.
Abe, who was completely oblivious to Mihashi’s panic, began speaking. “Well…”
But thankfully, Sakaeguchi had seen Mihashi, who looked ready to hyperventilate. He put a hand on Abe’s shoulder. “It’s actually not that funny.”
Rolling his eyes, Abe responded with, “speak for yourself.”
“Why can’t I know?” Tajima asked curiously. It wasn’t too difficult to realize that they were purposely trying to keep him from the story.
“Uh…” Sakaeguchi glanced at Mihashi. “Well it’s not really our story to tell…”
Abe frowned. “Since when don’t we tell this story?”
While his two friends bickered back and forth, Tajima turned to look at him expectantly. “It…” Mihashi looked away from his curious eyes and instead focused on Momokan, sleeping in her owner’s arms. “It’s… em… barrass… ing…” He trailed off.
“That’s it?” Tajima asked, grinning from ear to ear. “I could tell you a hundred embarrassing stories about me if you want. We could decide who has the funnier story.”
“It’s… not funny…” Mihashi mumbled to himself. Everyone else thought it was funny, but Mihashi just found it embarrassing. “Shuu-chan brought… we drank…”
“Did you strip or something when you were drunk?” Tajima asked confused as to where Mihashi was going with this. This caused both Sakaeguchi and Abe to start laughing. “Is that it?” Tajima asked again when the other’s laughing didn’t stop. “I mean who hasn’t gotten really drunk and ended up naked somewhere?”
I haven’t! Mihashi thought panicked, but he was too embarrassed at the thoughts and his imagination to even figure out how to correct Tajima. So instead, he just buried his face in his hands and hid again.
“Oh my god!” Sakaeguchi laughed loudly. “Could you imagine Mihashi doing that?” His laughter started to sound like wheezing.
“That’s not it?” Tajima asked confused.
“No!” Mihashi squeaked out from behind his hands. He just wanted to curl up into a little ball and hide from the world. How did it get to this?
Abe wiped tears from his eyes. “He did get drunk, but it was adorable.”
“He gets really clingy and needy,” Sakaeguchi added. “I think Kanou kept the video of Mihashi clinging to everyone like a Koala.”
“We had to carry him everywhere,” Abe added. “It’s a good thing you don’t weigh that much.” He said to Mihashi.
Tajima laughed at that. “That really is cute!”
Mihashi pulled his hands away to look at them all. “It’s! Em! Embarrassing!” He shouted, startling Momokan to the point where she jumped and tried to run from Tajima’s arms.
“No you don’t,” Tajima said, wrestling her back into his arms. “We have to leave. I can’t have you hiding on me.”
“Leaving already?” Sakaeguchi asked, but Mihashi could hear the teasing behind it.
Tajima stood with Momokan securely in his arms. “Yeah, I have to be somewhere today and I’m not sure when I’ll get back, so I wanted to pick up Momokan before.”
“You can’t stay a little longer?” Abe asked, and Mihashi wondered if his friends wanted him to stick around just to tease him longer.
“I’m already late as it is,” Tajima explained, but seemed disappointed with leaving. “It was nice meeting you though. See you, Mihashi!”
Tajima flashed him a bright smile as he began walking to the door. It took a second for Mihashi to realize he should probably walk Tajima out. Scrambling to his feet, he followed closely behind to help Tajima open the door.
Once outside, Tajima smiled softly at him. “Thanks for taking care of Momokan.”
Mihashi awkwardly scratched the back of his neck. “It’s… f-fine. She’s… always welc-ome…”
Tajima stared at him with serious eyes, the intensity making Mihashi squirm under their gaze. Before Mihashi could ask, Tajima leaned forward and pressed a small kiss to his cheek. Mihashi could feel the heat spreading across his face and his eyes widened in shock.
“You really are cute when you’re embarrassed,” Tajima said, sporting a bright smile and a slight blush appearing on his cheeks. “Bye Mihashi.”
Mihashi couldn’t even bring himself to say goodbye. Once Tajima had passed the elevators, he closed his door and made his way back to his friends. The two who had purposely embarrassed him in front of his new neighbor. “Wha-t?” He asked, knowing his face was still a deep shade of red.
“We approve,” they said simultaneously, sending another wave of embarrassment through Mihashi.
A week passed quietly before Mihashi even realized. An entire week without seeing Momokan or her owner that lived just a few doors down. A part of him was grateful for not seeing Tajima - he wasn’t sure if he could handle remembering all the embarrassment - but he missed the cat’s presence more than he anticipated.
Walking up the stairs back to his apartment, Mihashi remembered the awkward encounter he had with Momokan just outside the elevator, which he vowed never to take again. He wondered if that’s why the cat appeared outside his apartment door the next day.
Regardless, Mihashi felt unbelievably lonely all week. He still had the spare litter box and food, but no cat to go with it. He even found himself looking for her when he was lying on his couch at night.
As he opened his apartment door, he was met by silence. He decided there and then that he missed both Momokan and Tajima because the latter did make things interesting. Even if Mihashi still flushed scarlet at the thought of his neighbor.
He changed his clothes, opting for comfortable sweats instead of the slacks he wore for work and a long sleeved T-shirt instead of the button up he had chosen to wear for the day. They were comfortable and what he usually wore after a long day of work, but he wondered if he should trade the sweats for jeans. He found himself wanting to make a good impression on Tajima.
But he’s already seen you like this, he told himself, and he still stuck around.
Leaving the sweats on, Mihashi made himself a small snack. He had no idea what Tajima did and wasn’t entirely sure when the other would be home. He could let himself relax a little before subjecting himself to further embarrassment in front of his neighbor.
An hour later, Mihashi found himself standing in front of Tajima’s door. He was still only 90% sure this was his room. He’d been too embarrassed to check last weekend when Tajima took Momokan back.
The thought that this whole thing would have been easier if he still had Momokan crossed his mind. At least then he would have had an excuse for knocking. Well, he also missed the cat so there was that. That counted, right?
Before he could psych himself out, Mihashi knocked on the door. It took a long minute before anyone answered, and Mihashi wondered if he had the wrong apartment. He turned to go back to his own door, when the door opened to reveal Tajima looking slightly confused.
“Oh! Hey Mihashi!” He said, grinning brightly when he noticed Mihashi slightly off to the side.
Mihashi looked over Tajima and felt a slight blush adorn his cheeks. It was winter. Mihashi knew this. Christmas wasn’t too far away. It was cold outside. Even in his long sleeved shirt, Mihashi was a little cold. So why… why was Tajima wearing a tank top with shorts.
“H-h-h-hi…” Mihashi swallowed, and awkwardly began looking in every direction except for Tajima. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.
“Do you want to come in?” Tajima asked, stepping back from the door.
“Um…” Shifting a little away, Mihashi tried to find a way to escape without sounding rude. He was the one that had come knocking on his door in the first place. “I’m… just… uh…”
Before he could make a run for it, Tajima had a grip on his wrist. “You should come in,” he said, dragging Mihashi through his door. “I think Momokan has been wanting to see you.” The door closed behind Mihashi, blocking his exit. “She’s been trying to escape all week, but I kept her in.”
“She can… come stay…” Mihashi said slowly, but kept himself from stuttering for once.
Tajima grinned. “I know, but I still think it’s a bad idea if she just gets what she wants.”
“Week… um…” Was it too much to ask if he could see her on the weekends? He felt like a divorced parent asking to see his daughter every other weekend.
“She can stay with you on the weekends, yeah.” Tajima nodded his head as he walked farther into his apartment. Mihashi found himself smiling as he followed him. There were boxes still packed, lined along the walls. “Momokan! Your new favorite person is here!”
There was a small thud followed by the pitter patter of feet on the hardwood floor. As soon as Momokan came out from the bedroom, she ran at Mihashi’s feet. She circled his legs, furring and meowing up at him for attention. Mihashi laughed as he stroked her fur.
“Unbelievable,” Tajima laughed. “She’s been hiding in my room all day because I’ve been trying to unpack.”
Mihashi picked up Momokan and held her close. “I… uh… I missed her…” He mumbled.
Tajima lifted a box and began unpacking some clothes. “You can take her if you want. I want to finish with most of these boxes by the weekend.”
“Do yo-u… nee-d help?” Mihashi asked - unsure if Tajima would want his help or if he should just take Momokan to his own apartment to get out of the way.
“If you could just help move some of the furniture?” Tajima asked while carrying one box to his bedroom. “My brother was supposed to come help, but he got called into work.” Mihashi gave him a questioning look as he placed Momokan down on the ground. “I’m the youngest in my family. Do you have any siblings?” Mihashi shook his head and helped push a couch against the wall.
Sighing, Tajima fell onto it. “Must have been nice growing up an only child. I always had to fight for attention… and food… I was always more worried about the food. It’s why I brought Momokan with me here. It felt weird being alone.”
“I had… Shuu-chan though…” Tajima frowned at the words. “Um… K-Kanou…”
“Oh! The guy that your friends were talking about?”
Mihashi nodded and shifted on his feet. “Ye-ah… He lived… uh… next to my grand-father.”
“So you guys grew up together?” Mihashi nodded, smiling at the thought . “You guys are close then?”
Smiling even brighter, Mihashi nodded again. “Best friend…” He whispered - glad it was so easy to communicate with Tajima.
Two hours later, both sat exhausted on the couch. They managed to move most of the furniture into place and half of the boxes were unpacked. Momokan was curled up in Mihashi’s lap while he stroked her fur slowly. Every now and again her ear or tail would twitch while she rested. It was comfortable.
“Thanks for the help,” Tajima said through a yawn. “That would have taken a lot longer without you.”
“You’re… wel-come…” Mihashi smiled happily. It was different from his routine, but he found he didn’t mind it much. “Um…” He looked over to find Tajima staring at him, so he chose to look down at Momokan instead. “Do you… uh… would you… w-want t-to…”
He wanted to ask if Tajima would want to go somewhere with him, but he was starting to question himself. Was it too forward to ask if Tajima wanted to maybe get coffee with him? What if Tajima didn’t drink coffee? They could go to the mall instead, but what if Tajima didn’t want to go?
“Hey Mihashi,” Tajima asked, pulling him from his downward spiral. “I saw this cafe around the corner on the way home from work. Let’s go tomorrow morning before I finish doing all this!”
Mihashi didn’t even care that Tajima had basically decided for him. Maybe Tajima had seen his struggle and decided to just ask something and hope for the best. “Y-Yeah!” Mihashi smiled brightly.
Saturday morning, Mihashi woke to the feeling of Momokan curled against his side. “Good morning, Momokan,” he whispered to her, smiling at not waking alone. It felt good and a part of him felt needed.
He fed Momokan and looked through his closet for things to wear. He felt like this was a date, but at the same time… it wasn’t. He was just joining Tajima for coffee and breakfast at the cafe… nothing more.
Yet… he really wanted to look nicer than usual. He pulled out various options. Three different jeans of different colors and twice as many shirts lay across his bed. There were too many options, but he needed it to be just right.
“Mihashi?” Sakaeguchi’s voice rang through the phone. “It’s rare for you to call. What’s up?”
“I… I need… help…” He explained.
“Help?” Mihashi nodded even if Sakaeguchi couldn’t see. “With what?”
“I uh… I don’t know… what t-to wear…” He said and watched as Momokan jumped on the bed and settled on his pillow.
“Well where are you going?”
“Out… w-with T-T-Tajima…”
“Oh?” Mihashi could hear the excitement in his friend’s voice. “Where are you guys going? Is it like a date?”
“No!” Mihashi yelled in a high pitched voice, causing Momokan to startle. “J-Just… a cafe…”
Sakaeguchi hummed in thought. “Just wear whatever you’re comfortable in. Jeans and a nice shirt never did anyone wrong.” But that’s exactly what Mihashi already had out. Just… multiple options of that. “How about that dark blue shirt you always wore in university?” Sakaeguchi offered. It was one of the shirts he’d pulled out. “It was always your favorite.”
He was right. It was always his go to. Shuu-chan had said that it fit him well. “T-Thanks Sakaeguchi…” Mihashi smiled as he pulled the shirt out of the pile.
“No problem!” His friend said happily. “Go show Tajima what you got.”
Mihashi knew it was meant to be teasing, but he still felt his face warm at the thought of going on a potential date with Tajima. He quickly hung up the phone without even saying goodbye to Sakaeguchi. His friend probably wouldn’t have even heard him with all the laughing that he could hear coming from the other end. It made him question his taste in friends.
By the time he finished getting dressed, there was a knock on the door. It was a lot less frantic than the first or second time Tajima had knocked, but still louder than what Mihashi thought was normal. His neighbor stood there in jeans and a sweatshirt, smiling from ear to ear.
“Ready?” Tajima asked and Mihashi nodded.
They said goodbye to Momokan, who remained curled in a ball on the couch, and walked out of the apartment. They took the stairs, and Mihashi was so happy to hear Tajima grumble something about the untrustworthy machinery that dared to call itself an elevator.
The walk was peaceful. It was still early enough for most people to be sleeping in after a late Friday. Mihashi listened to Tajima talk about his family and learned that he was the youngest of five. Growing up, he had had a pet dog, cat and hamster. Since he was used to living on a farm in a suburban area, Tajima was still adjusting to the new area and the noise of the city was something he had yet to get used to.
They bought their drinks - Mihashi a coffee and Tajima a hot chocolate - and sat at the back of the cafe away from the people. Tajima set down some muffins he decided to buy and then dug in. Mihashi was the happiest he’d been in a long time. It felt nice to get along so well with someone without having to really communicate.
“Hey, Mihashi,” Tajima asked as Mihashi took a large bite out of an apple flavored muffin. He looked at Tajima with a questioning look. “What do you do for work?”
Mihashi smiled brightly. “I te-teach Kind-ergart-ten.” He loved his students like they were his own kids… most of the time.
“Oh? You’re a teacher?” Mihashi nodded. “Me too! I teach high school and coach baseball!”
“Base-ball?” Mihashi’s mouth fell open. “D-Did you pl-ay?” He asked curiously.
“Yup!” Tajima said, choosing a peach flavored muffin to eat. “I used to play third base. Did you ever play?”
“P-Pit-cher,” Mihashi smiled slightly, “but I wasn’t… uh… well… not v-very good…”
Tajima laughed. “I bet you were better than you thought. Everyone thinks they could do better.” Mihashi shrugged, embarrassed to have someone other than Shuugo compliment his playing. “Did you have any pets growing up?” He asked, but Mihashi shook his head. “Really?”
“You get along so well with Momokan… I just thought you were a cat person.”
“I li-ke her…” Mihashi smiled slightly, lowering his head.
“You can watch her on the weekends!” He decided. “She wasn’t happy with me. I kinda kept her from leaving all week.”
Mihashi looked shocked. “She c-can c-come anyt-time! She’s no-t a problem…” He really liked her company. “It’s not… It’s not as…” It’s not as lonely, he wanted to say. He had always thought he was fine living by himself, but meeting Tajima and Momokan made him think otherwise.
Tajima stared at him. He seemed to be thinking over the words Mihashi had said and also left unsaid. Taking a sip from his hot chocolate, he seemed to make up his mind. “I’ll bring her over whenever I’m free!”
The words shouldn’t have put such a big smile on his face, but they did. He was so happy. He was glad that his stuttering and awkwardness hadn’t scared Tajima off like all the others. It was… nice.
“And we can watch baseball games!”
“Y-Yeah!” Mihashi laughed at the thought. “And… soc-cer!”
“Yes!” Tajima cheered and comically threw his hands up in the air causing muffin crumbs to go flying across the table. “This is going to be the best!”
Mihashi silently hoped that it would be. He had wanted at least one friend that lived in his apartment building, and he found that. He just wasn’t sure if the fact that he was praying for something more from this would make him a bad person. God… he didn’t even know if Tajima liked guys. He might just be looking for a friend. Mihashi prayed that wasn’t the case especially since he’d been replaying the way Tajima’s lips had felt on his cheek all week.
The rest of the weekend drifted on. After breakfast, Mihashi ended up spending the rest of the day with Momokan while Tajima continued fixing up his apartment. It was quiet and it was peaceful, and before he knew it, Tajima was taking Momokan back Sunday night.
Mihashi was pleasantly surprised how easily the cat went this time. Granted, she still clung to Mihashi like her life depended on it, but she wasn’t sprinting away from Tajima like the time before. He was pretty sure his furniture appreciated it at least.
Falling asleep Sunday night without Momokan’s soft purring felt weird, but he still woke up early Monday morning feeling better than he usually did at the start of the week. As he got ready, he felt refreshed and he thought maybe today he could go without his daily dose of coffee. But after thinking it over, he didn’t want to chance it. Eighteen kindergarteners without caffeine in his system sounded like a hell he did not want to experience.
He was out the door earlier than usual. Pausing in the hallway, Mihashi glanced down in the direction of Tajima’s room. He wondered when the other left for work. If they were in similar areas, maybe they could walk together.
No, he told himself, that would definitely be a weird thing to ask. He turned toward the end of the hall and made his way to the steps. Maybe later… He ended up thinking as he descended toward the lower floor. Besides, he didn’t even know if Tajima walked to work.
Mihashi made it to work quicker than usual due to the extra energy running through his veins. He thought it must have been a personal record. He even had extra time to prepare for the day. Usually, he’d still be putting his things away and gathering all his materials as his students arrived, but today he was meeting them and greeting them at the door.
As his students continued to arrive, Mihashi felt a small tug on the leg of his pants and looked down to see two of his students looking at him curiously. “What’s wrong?”
“Sensei…” The young girl, Hana, gave another tug to his pants and stared at him with curious eyes. “You seem happy. More than normal.” Mihashi raised an eyebrow as the other nodded in agreement.
He let out a small chuckle because honestly he was, and any other day, he felt like he’d be slightly offended at their words. “I do?” They nodded excitedly.
“Did sensei meet a special person?” The second, Aiko, asked.
Mihashi felt his cheeks warm at the question. “W-what?” Was it really that obvious that even a child could tell? Was that why the other teachers were giving him those looks? Oh my god, he panicked as Tajima’s face flashed across his mind.
“My mom always said that boys get happier when they find someone special,” Aiko added.
Then Hana spoke up adding in, “and there’s hair on your clothes!”
Hair? Mihashi looked down to find Momokan’s fur stuck to his shirt. He hadn’t even realized when he’d put it on that morning. “Ah… this is cat fur,” he explained - surprised that within a week Momokan had already managed to get her hair everywhere.
The girls cooed at that. “You got a kitty?” They smiled brightly. “What’s her name?”
“Her name is Momokan.” The girls’ faces scrunched up at the odd name. “But she’s not mine. She belongs to my… friend.” At least Mihashi thought they were friends. He’d only known Tajima for just over a week, but Momokan had stayed at him place a few times. Mihashi helped Tajima move his furniture, and they had gone to get breakfast together the day after. Plus… the kiss on the cheek...
“Is it the special friend?” Hana’s eyes widened in anticipation.
What was he supposed to say to that? “Um… I guess he is?” Honestly, knowing the two girls, even if he had said no they’d probably take it as a yes anyway. Besides, they were kind of right. Tajima was special in the sense that Mihashi was able to be around him without really worrying about being judged. But he doubted his idea of special was the same as what the girls had in mind.
Aiko grinned brightly. “So he's a special boy friend!”
“Just… special friend is fine…” He said, not wanting the two going around saying he had a boyfriend. He hadn’t told many about his sexuality and he didn’t need two of his students accidentally spreading it through rumors because of the way they chose to word it.
“Will we get to meet your special friend?”
They seemed so excited that Mihashi felt bad flat out saying no. So instead, he settled with a, “we’ll see,” which left the girls squealing in excitement. Damn himself for not being able to say no to his cute students…
But a part of him wanted Tajima to meet his students. He wondered if the other would be willing to visit one day.
It was another couple days before Mihashi saw Tajima or Momokan again. It was Wednesday evening and he heard scratching at his door. Without even looking, Mihashi opened the door and in walked Momokan.
“Hello, Momokan,” he said with a laugh as she circled his legs, rubbing her head against his feet. “Are you staying the night?”
“She can if you want.”
Startled, Mihashi looked up to see Tajima standing there with a box of what he assumed to be pizza. “T-T-Tajima!” His voice rose in surprise and he felt a blush spread across his face as the other laughed at his reaction.
“There’s a game on tonight and Momokan and I thought we would stop by,” Tajima said.
Again, Tajima had just decided something on his own, but Mihashi wasn’t offended in the least. It made being friendly with Tajima easier by taking the pressure off himself. “C-Come in…” He mumbled, opening the door a little wider.
They each grabbed some pizza, and Mihashi was glad that he hadn’t decided to grab something on the way home today. He watched in amusement as Tajima made himself comfortable on the couch, turning the television to the correct channel. It amazed Mihashi how at home Tajima made himself each time he was there.
But he let Tajima do what he wanted anyway. Mihashi enjoyed his company since it made everything more interesting. Like now, he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be disgusted as Tajima let Momokan take a bite out of his pizza and then continued eating it as though nothing had happened.
He turned his attention to the game playing on the screen. He wasn’t familiar with the teams, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. He laughed at Tajima’s loud complaints of bad calls and groans when the other team took possession.
Everytime Tajima became a little too excited, Momokan would retreat to Mihashi who remained much more tame than her owner. And Mihashi would welcome her with open arms. Eventually, she just curled up on his lap while the game continued.
The sound of a shutter going off grabbed Mihashi’s attention and, looking to the side, he noticed Tajima holding up his phone with a smirk. “Cute,” he mumbled, causing Mihashi’s face to flush. “I’m saving this,” Tajima declared - much to Mihashi’s dismay.
Mihashi had a feeling that being around Tajima meant learning to just accept the randomness that always seemed to follow him. And somehow… he was okay with that.
The weekend arrived in the blink of an eye, and a phone call from his mother reminded Mihashi that Christmas was just a week away. He looked at his schedule and realized that he only had a week left of work before the holiday. He told his mother that he would make the trip home on Christmas Day. It would at least give him enough time to go shopping.
Maybe he could go today and get it out of the way. But think of all the people… There was bound to be crowds of people out for last minute shopping. Maybe…
Mihashi knocked on Tajima’s door before he could second guess himself. “Hey Mihashi!” Tajima said while holding his toothbrush in one hand. “Come in!” And then he was gone.
“Um…” He stepped in and closed the door behind himself. He picked up Momokan who was already at his feet. “Did you… want t-to go shopping?” He called into the apartment.
“Sure!” Tajima yelled back from the bathroom. “Let’s go to the mall! I have to do some Christmas shopping!” His head popped out from behind the door. “Can you believe that it’s next week?” Mihashi laughed and shook his head.
Tajima disappeared into his bedroom to reappear seconds later in jeans and a heavy coat. “Let’s go!” He cheered, hooking his arm through Mihashi’s. Momokan jumped from his arms and hid somewhere in the apartment.
Mihashi let Tajima lead him to the mall. He was too embarrassed by Tajima’s hold on his arm to even realize what was happening. He was sure the other was talking to him, but he couldn’t comprehend anything.
“We’re here!” Tajima exclaimed and finally let go of his arm. “Come on!” Mihashi felt Tajima’s hand in his as he was tugged along to one store, which quickly turned into two, then three.
Somehow, Mihashi had bought all the gifts he had needed to. It was always easy finding gifts for his parents and he had also bought his students some chocolates they could take home. So now he was just following around Tajima, who still held onto his hand whenever he felt like it. At one point, Tajima had mentioned something about it keeping them from getting separated in the crowds.
He watched Tajima briefly pause in front of a music store. His eyes lingered on the record sitting on display before he quickly turned away and continued walking. Mihashi just managed to get a glimpse at the cover before they had walked on.
“What do you want for Christmas, Mihashi?” Tajima asked as they entered the next store. Tajima had said the only thing left he needed to find was a gift for his mother.
“Um… nothing really…” He mumbled under his breath. He was never one to really want anything. His parents usually just gave him a gift card or clothes or something along those lines.
Tajima hummed as he looked over the necklaces on display in one of the cases. “I bet you’re one of those people that’s really easy to shop for.”
“Really?” He asked surprised. Mihashi always thought he was difficult to shop for because he never actually asked for anything.
“Yeah!” Tajima laughed at Mihashi’s confused face. “It’s because you’re so easy going!”
Easy going? Now Mihashi was extremely confused. He was always flustered and embarrassed. He had a hard time speaking without stuttering… And the coffee he always drank made him jittery at best and twitchy at worst.
“No, really!” Tajima said with conviction after he asked the woman behind the counter to see one of the necklaces. “Like I know you’d be happy with anything even though you say you don’t want anything.”
Oh, Mihashi thought. When said that way, he could be considered easy going. And just like that he was smiling so much his cheeks were hurting. He’d never been described like that and it was really nice to hear.
Much too soon - in Mihashi’s opinion - their shopping trip was over. They were about to go separate ways now that they were back in their hall, but Tajima stopped him. “Hey Mihashi…” Tajima began but paused to put all his bags down. “When are you done with work?”
“After Friday…” He answered, confused as to why Tajima wanted to know.
“After Friday?!” Tajima’s mouth fell open in shock when Mihashi nodded. “Ah… I’m done after Wednesday… I can’t believe you have a whole week.”
Mihashi shrugged. He had a feeling it was because it was easier for parents with kids that young. “Are you… going home?” He asked.
“Not until Christmas Day,” Tajima answered and Mihashi found himself much more relieved than he should have been. “You?”
“We should do something before then,” Tajima decided. “Like dinner or something. We could get take out and watch movies.” Mihashi nodded, smiling brightly at the idea. “Can I see your phone?” Mihashi handed it over. Tajima typed in his passcode without even asking. Seeing Mihashi’s shocked face, Tajima said, “I saw you put it in earlier.”
That should have bothered him, but Mihashi again didn’t care. He watched Tajima work quietly. “There,” he said, handing Mihashi his phone back. “Now we have each other’s numbers and it’ll be easy to set something up.”
Mihashi almost felt like saying it wouldn’t be too hard since they lived mere feet from each other, but was too happy at the new addition of the number to comment. “O-kay,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.
Tajima said goodbye and began walking down the hall towards his room. “T-Tajima?” Mihashi called out. Tajima looked back at him and Mihashi shoved the nerves down. “Are you doing anything… on uh… Friday?”
“Nope!” Tajima smiled at Mihashi’s question.
Just ask, he told himself. “D-Do you wanna… meet m-my kids…?” Tajima gave him a confused look. “I m-mean m-my st-tudents!” He panicked at the thought of Tajima thinking he had actual children.
Tajima laughed loudly. “Sure! See you later!”
He watched Tajima until the other was in his apartment before retreating to his own. He wondered if he really would see Tajima later. He wouldn’t be surprised if his neighbor just popped by in an hour or so.
Later that week, Mihashi found himself back at the mall against his better judgment. He stopped by the music store and bought the record that had been on display. He also found himself buying something for Momokan at the pet shop on his way home.
“Is this the special boy friend you talked about sensei?” Hana questioned, looking up at Tajima with bright eyes as she took in this new person in their classroom.
Mihashi spluttered as embarrassment took hold. He knew he shouldn’t have brought Tajima here! He should have known they’d say it like that! Oh god, now Tajima was going to think he was telling everyone he had a boyfriend! They’d only gone on two dates together and he wasn’t even sure if they were dates or just friends hanging out? He hadn’t even asked!
He had been so excited to bring Tajima with him, but now… Why?!
But Tajima simply grinned, bending down to meet the girl’s gaze. “Yup!” He affirmed. “I’m his special boyfriend!” He glanced over his shoulder with such a beautiful smile that Mihashi could feel even the tips of his ears warming.
“Really?” Aiko asked. The two of them stared in amazement as the other students gathered around them.
Tajima stood, pulling Mihashi over. Mihashi could feel the other’s arm around his waist. “Really,” he said before placing a kiss on Mihashi’s cheek. His face was already so warm that Tajima’s lips felt cool to the touch.
This was so embarrassing. Mihashi hid his face behind his hands, but could still hear the squeals and giggles coming from his students. Even Tajima was chuckling at his response. Oh god, Mihashi felt like he was going to die.
“Alright!” Tajima cheered, removing himself from Mihashi. “Who wants to watch the movie?” He asked.
There were a lot of cheers from his students and Mihashi remembered that they were supposed to watch a movie for class. He robotically made his way to the computer to get the movie projected onto the screen while Tajima helped the kids gather the pillows and blankets.
As the movie began and he calmed down from his initial embarrassment, Mihashi felt his heart swell. Tajima had placed himself right in the middle of the students and they were all watching the Christmas themed movie play on the screen. It was something so small and simple, but the fact the Tajima was able to get along with his students so well - students that he always treated with respect as if they were his own kids - it had him falling for Tajima.
Mihashi let his head fall onto his arms as he gazed at the movie. He closed his eyes slightly and let the sounds of the movie wash over him. He must have fallen asleep because the presence of a hand on his shoulder had him startling awake. “Hey,” Tajima’s whisper touched his ears, “it’s just me.”
“Did I… fall asleep?” He mumbled, rubbing his tired eyes.
Tajima grinned at him. “For a little bit, but so did the others.” Mihashi looked over to the floor to see all of his students sleeping soundly. They were bound to run out of energy eventually. Thank god…
Tajima pulled a much too small chair up beside Mihashi. “Sorry about earlier,” he said. Mihashi looked at him confused. “For the whole boyfriend thing.”
Ah, Mihashi felt his face flush again. “It’s ok-kay…” He whispered. “I didn’t… mind…” He looked away and missed the bright smile that had appeared on Tajima’s face.
Christmas Eve arrived with a knock on his door. Yawning, Mihashi made his way to answer it. He was still in his pajamas and his hair was sticking in every direction. He’d overslept for once and he should have been embarrassed opening the door for Tajima, but he didn’t care.
He waved Tajima in, not even registering the large box in the other’s hands. He made his way back to his bedroom and changed into some sweats. Returning, he noticed a small Christmas tree by his television, standing two feet tall. Tajima was also hanging up three stockings on small tacks.
“Merry Christmas Mihashi!” Tajima grinned, making Mihashi laugh.
Momokan meowed at him from the couch. He hadn’t even noticed she had come in. “Merry Christmas!” He said to them both, waking up a little more. He walked over to the box and saw a bunch of random decorations.
“I may have borrowed them from my parents’ house last time I was there,” Tajima answered the question that was on Mihashi’s mind. “We can’t have Christmas without decorations.”
“What’s this…?” Mihashi pulled out a very small Santa hat.
Tajima quickly grabbed and hid it. “Oh, Momokan~” He called out. The cat wandered over and stared at her owner. “Come here~”
Mihashi watched in amusement as Tajima attempted to wrestle the hat onto Momokan. There was a lot of hissing, biting, and growling on the cat’s part, but Tajima came out victorious. Momokan looked as though she hated the world in that moment with the Santa hat situated on top of her head. Tajima, despite the scratches adorning his arms, smiled brightly.
“Poor Momokan…” Mihashi whispered, trying to calm her down by petting her. He was a little disheartened when she ran from the room.
“Don’t worry,” Tajima laughed at Mihashi’s disappointed face. “She’ll be back.”
Turns out, Tajima had acquired very random decorations, but it did the trick. The rest of the box contained multiple Christmas themed movies, hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, cookies, and other snacks. They lounged on the couch, doing absolutely nothing the whole day. Mihashi was sure he had fallen asleep multiple times just to wake up to Momokan pawing at his face.
She had managed to remove the Santa hat at one point, and even though Tajima searched every nook and cranny, he couldn’t find it. Mihashi had never seen someone so devastated, but he found it hilarious and endearing.
In fact, Mihashi was sure he had never had such a fun Christmas Eve. He usually spent it alone since he only went home for Christmas Day. It was a nice change of pace. They ordered takeout from a place just around the corner and had it delivered. They ate and turned on another random Christmas movie. As cliche as it was, Mihashi decided he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ll be right back,” Tajima said at one point, disappearing before Mihashi could ask where he was going.
However, he took the opportunity to grab the gifts he’d hidden in his work room. He put them underneath the tiny little tree and smiled, wondering if Tajima would be surprised about his gift. He hoped he would like it and that he hadn’t chosen the wrong record by accident, but Mihashi had a feeling Tajima wouldn’t mind either way.
“Back!” Tajima grinned brightly, holding a wrapped gift in his hands. “Merry Christmas, Mihashi.” He placed the gift in Mihashi’s hands and sat down beside him.
“For… me…? Mihashi asked surprised, looking down at the present.
Wanting to take the attention off himself, Mihashi quickly grabbed the two gifts and handed them to Tajima. “H-Here,” he mumbled.
The two opened their gifts. Mihashi stared down in surprise. The box was filled with different flavored coffee. “Thank you…” He said, smiling brightly at the thoughtful gift. He couldn’t wait to try them.
Tajima laughed loudly. Mihashi looked over to see he had opened Momokan’s gift first. “She’s gonna love this,” he said. Mihashi had gotten her a stuffed animal in the shape of a small bird that could be filled with catnip. “Oh god, she goes crazy over catnip.”
Mihashi smiled happily at that, curious to see that side of Momokan since she was usually so relaxed. But then Tajima began opening the other gift and he felt the nerves spike. “Woah…” Tajima’s subdued voice just added to Mihashi’s worries. Tajima held the record in his hands gently. “How did you know?”
“I-I saw you look-ing at it…” He mumbled.
“Thanks, Mihashi,” Tajima’s voice remained quiet as he stared at the present. “I love it.”
“Welcome…” Mihashi was pleased that he hadn’t gotten it wrong.
The rest of the night was spent much the same as the day had been. They wrapped themselves in blankets as yet another Christmas movie played on the screen. Momokan rested on their legs while they slowly drank hot chocolate. “This… is nice…” Mihashi found himself saying out loud. “Thanks…”
Tajima grinned at him and wrapped an arm around Mihashi’s shoulders. “No problem.”
The next day, Mihashi woke up in an awkward angle. Eyes fluttering open, he noticed the small Christmas tree in the corner and realized he had fallen asleep on the couch. However, as he continued to become more alert, he felt a weight around his waist that was definitely an arm and not Momokan. The slight breath he heard from behind him confirmed his suspicion.
Turning around, Mihashi came face to face with a sleeping Tajima. He took the time to look over Tajima’s features. There were a lot more freckles than he had originally thought and Tajima’s eyelashes were longer than they looked. Running a hand through Tajima’s hair, Mihashi watched as the other slowly woke.
“Good morning,” Tajima said through a yawn. “I felt bad waking you up,” he explained as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“Merry Christmas,” Mihashi said with a smile, remembering that he would have to leave soon.
Tajima’s eyes widened at the realization. He pulled his phone out to look at the time and silently cursed. The first thing Mihashi registered was the number of missed calls and messages on the other’s phone. The second thing he noticed was the background image that just so happened to be a picture of himself and Momokan sitting on his couch.
“They are going to kill me!” He got up from the couch, almost falling as his foot hooked on the blanket they had been sharing. “I promised my mom I’d be home this morning!” He ran around looking for his things.
Mihashi helped as best he could, but eventually, he decided to just hold onto Momokan and stay out of the way. He walked a frantic Tajima to the door to hand Momokan back to him. “Sorry, I’m running out so quickly,” he said, cradling Momokan in his arms.
“It’s okay,” Mihashi said with a smile. Somehow, he’d already become immuned to Tajima’s impulsiveness and abrupt changes in plans.
“I’ll talk to you later,” he said hurriedly. “Bye!”
And like that he was gone. Mihashi smiled as he closed the door and looked around his apartment. He would also have to get ready to visit his family, but a loud knock sounded at his door before he could move.
He noticed Tajima on the other side and opened it as quickly as possible. “Did you forget-” Mihashi began, but Tajima had leaned forward to press a kiss to his lips.
“Yeah,” Tajima breathed. “Mistletoe.”
“W-What?” Mihashi asked, eyes wide at the sudden kiss.
Tajima grinned and pointed above them, where mistletoe was hanging. “Mistletoe!” He laughed as Mihashi’s face turned scarlet. “Merry Christmas, Mihashi!” He cheered as he ran back down the hall.
Slamming the door shut, Mihashi stood there in shock. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t immuned to Tajima’s actions, and he now had a feeling he never would be. “Oh my god…” He breathed as he touched his lips tentatively. Tajima kissed him. Tajima kissed him, and now he had to go home to his parents thinking about it.
He could just imagine the teasing his mother was going to give him because he knew for a fact he would never be able to keep what he was feeling off his face. If his students could tell, there was no doubt his own mother would just as easily pick up on it.
I’m so screwed.