Shoma squinted. He lay belly first on his shikibuton, spine bent in a long “U”, clutching his phone. The text shone neon at him while the music in his headphones blared. His game remained forgotten.
It wasn’t a naughty text from Yuzu, nor a cheerful one from Javi reminding him to eat his vegetables.
Hey, hi Shoma. I’m in town. Dinner?
Why was Daisuke texting? He rarely texted, except to congratulate Shoma or wish him a happy birthday. Sometimes he sent him a joke or a picture. Aside from that, Daisuke was elusive to Shoma. He was kind, of course, and always willing to give advice, or to listen. But elusive as smoke.
He heard Itsuki come in. There could be no mistaking that traipsing post-school walk of his. He wandered down the short, cramped length of their apartment to Shoma’s little room, his school backpack knocking against the walls. He nearly tripped over some of Shoma’s clothes, scattered all over the floor.
“Hey,” Shoma said, taking off his headphones.
Itsuki said something which Shoma didn’t really pay attention to -- he was too distracted by Daisuke’s text -- until Itsuki sighed and said: “Did. You. Take. Out. The. Trash?”
“Of course,” Shoma said, trying to remember if he had. He bit his lip, wondering what to do about that text.
Itsuki made a noise and left, presumably for his room at the other end of the apartment.
Shoma decided to text back.
Sure. Where do you want to go?
Daisuke answered almost instantly.
Let’s go to your favorites of restaurants. In an hour?
Sure. Meet you there?
He wondered why Daisuke had to use three exclamation points and a smiley face. Daisuke wasn’t cold by any stretch of course, but he wasn’t a Javi either, drowning Shoma in kissy faces (not that Shoma minded when Javi did).
The light spilling through the windows facing the balcony greyed with the approach of evening as Shoma meandered into the bathroom. He showered, steam filling the glossy white room and clouding the mirrors. Then he filled the tub, making sure the water was just the right temperature for a good soak. He was in the midst of said glorious soak when his mind began drifting to Yuzu and Javi, and when they would next have real time together. It would be over the summer, in Madrid. His heart quickened a little thinking about it. Of Yuzu’s silky lips wrapped around his cock, or Javi’s strong hand pressed between his shoulder blades as he fucked Shoma from behind. He took his cock in hand and began stroking himself.
Itsuki stuck his head into the bathroom. Shoma started. Even through the steam Shoma could see his younger brother’s scowl.
“What the hell?!” Shoma said. “You shouldn’t just barge in like that.”
Worse than Yuzu . He didn’t say that because if he thought too much about Yuzu his cock might not stop throbbing.
Itsuki narrowed his eyes. His glower, that teenaged glower, could raze the entire city of Nagoya.
“You didn’t take the trash out.”
“I’ll take care of it before I go out with Daisuke. Now scram.”
“You’re going out with Daisuke?”
Itsuki cocked his head.
“Doesn’t he live in Osaka?”
Shoma shrugged. “He just said he was in town and wanted to go to dinner.”
“Huh,” Itsuki said. “Well, I’m going to Ren’s house for dinner and to study.”
“Nerd. It’s only the first day.”
“ ‘You study hard? Impressive!’ ” Itsuki did an impersonation of his older brother.
Shoma splashed water at him and Itsuki exited, cackling.
Shoma finished bathing, rinsing, and toweling off. He pulled on his jeans and was putting on a t-shirt when there was a knock on the door.
Shoma answered, thinking it was possibly Ren. A pair of arms wrapped around him, octopus-like, and he was smothered in another man’s shoulders. The smell of alcohol was thick and stinging.
Shoma struggled out of the embrace.
“Daisuke,” he stammered.
“I’m sorry, I just couldn’t wait.”
“I need to take the trash out,” Shoma said, then shut his mouth, thinking of what an idiot he was. Why did he have to say that now?
He waved his hand and his wrist was limp as an overcooked noodle. Yes, Daisuke was definitely a little drunk.
While Shoma went about the apartment collecting trash and sorting it into the right bags, he pondered why Daisuke might show up drunk at his front door. And then he worried about what the hell he would feed Daisuke, since he was here already. All they had in the house was meat and rice. Daisuke usually liked a more balanced meal.
Dragging the bags outside to the trash pick-up area, he wished suddenly for Javi. Javi would know what to do, both with the drunkenness and the food. Instead, Shoma felt a flare of panic as he went back to the apartment.
Daisuke was propped awkwardly against the kotatsu table in the dining room. Shoma regarded him warily, before noticing a few of his own t-shirts lying around on the dining room floor.
“I’m sorry,” Shoma said, picking the shirts up.
“It’s fine,” Daisuke replied.
“I don’t really have much to feed you here,” Shoma said, and he wished he didn’t sound so despairing about it all.
“We’ll just go to your restaurant and have yakiniku,” Daisuke said. But Shoma eyed him and wondered if he would be able to make it, the way he was listing.
“There’s actually a depachika nearer if you’re really hungry,” Shoma said.
“Whatever you want!”
Once again, Shoma was snagged awkwardly as Daisuke hugged him.
“I need to find my wallet,” Shoma said to Daisuke’s collarbone after a while.
Finally Daisuke released him. Shoma went to his room, looking for his wallet.
“They’ll have sweets at the depachika,” Daisuke said while Shoma searched.
“They do,” Shoma said, having found his wallet.
“Where is Itsuki?” Daisuke asked.
The thought of his younger brother out of reach of Daisuke’s overly tight drunken hugs made Shoma relieved. There were some things that Shoma wanted to protect Itsuki from, and one of them would definitely be seeing Daisuke like this.
“Itsuki is studying at a friend’s house.”
“Already? Oh. It’s just the two of us then,” Daisuke said.
And then he winked, eyes gleaming with that classic charm of his. Shoma felt his heart in his throat and he thought: but why did you have to show up drunk at my door when I’ve spent my whole life looking up to you?
The air outside was overly sweet with the scent of cherry trees. It made Shoma feel sticky and sick, especially when he saw Daisuke trip a few times. He took the older, taller man’s elbow and helped orient him. Daisuke weighed more though, and almost toppled the both of them onto the pavement. Daisuke laughed nervously. Shoma wished this whole evening was over and Daisuke was safe back home. He kept thinking he didn’t know how to do this, how to help Daisuke. It felt like trying the triple axel for the first time: impossible.
They didn’t talk on the way to the depachika.
The escalator down into the depachika was packed nearly shoulder to shoulder with people just off work. The smell of fresh baked bread wafted up from below, as well as cherry blossom pastries. When they reached the floor, fried dumplings sizzled nearby, and the cases glowed: precise cuts of meat, bright and pink, tight little bundles of sushi, cuts of sashimi translucent as an onion skin. Shoma shouldered his way through the throngs as best he could, given his size. Daisuke waddled, and even after the clumsiness on the way here, Shoma was surprised enough that he kept looking at Daisuke.
“What?” asked Daisuke.
“Nothing,” Shoma said. “What do you want? You like Indian food, right?”
“Indian food is good, if you don’t mind.”
“As long as they have beef.”
Daisuke laughed and would have hugged Shoma again, except that a few people stepped between them.
They eventually muscled their way to the Indian food booth, where Shoma turned his attention to ordering. He got Daisuke some chicken curry with rice and vegetables. He got himself beef stew with rice, and, because Javi kept pestering him about it, vegetables. He was paying when he noticed Daisuke was . . . not there.
Shoma gathered the warm to-go bags in his arms, standing on tiptoe, looking for Daisuke. He surprised himself by swearing under his breath. He wandered around the depachika, arms full, the anger throbbing in his temples. There were too, too many people, jostling around him, squeezing him in. The air was thick and wet, and he felt a flush burning along his jaw. There were a multitude of voices hammering against his chest. Shoma thought: this was a bad idea. He hated having so many people around him, crowding him.
He finally found Daisuke near the French pastries. With his left hand hand, he cradled some pastries in their plastic containers, while with his right hand he held a bottle of shochu.
“I bought some canelés,” Daisuke said. “See? They look like nipples!”
The throbbing in Shoma’s temples increased and everything collapsed on him all at once. He wanted, very deeply, to slap Daisuke. He was acting like a child rather than an adult.
“Should you have the shochu?” he asked. His patience was gone and all that was left was his blunt way of saying things. Yuzu said he was “tactless”, but Shoma preferred to think of it as “matter of fact”. He told the truth, regardless of the consequences.
Daisuke’s face dropped. He shrank. It was like watching a cherry blossom wither.
Shoma internally kicked himself.
“Let’s go,” he said, because he couldn’t stand another second in the depachika.
He lead Daisuke out of the market and back home. He moved so fast that Daisuke struggled to keep up and stumbled. Each time it felt like something broke inside Shoma. He remembered sitting in front of the TV, watching Daisuke glide -- no, float -- across the ice. It was like watching water; he was so fluid, so graceful. Daisuke’s personality, his vivacity, leapt out of the screen. He was so full of life. He’d been everything that Shoma could hope to become. He still was. And it hurt to see someone who was so vivid, so agile and elegant struggle just to make it back to the apartment.
Shoma slowed down. He reminded himself that Javi would tell him to be patient, to be kind. Javi always said that people had their reasons for behaving the way they did, even when they behaved poorly. And Shoma didn’t know why Daisuke was acting so . . . un-Daisuke-like.
Shoma balanced the food with one hand and used the other to help Daisuke as they made it back to the apartment. He set the food down on the kotatsu table and reminded himself to put his keys and wallet on top of the pale little bookcase in his room. While he did that, Daisuke put the canelés and shochu down on the kotatsu table as well.
“I’m sorry,” Daisuke said as Shoma came out of his room.
Daisuke intercepted Shoma in the middle of the living room, winding his arms around the younger man. He held on like he was drowning. Sadness radiated off him in cold waves. Shoma stilled and put his arms around Daisuke.
“My boyfriend broke up with me,” Daisuke said.
Shoma didn’t know what to say. Duh, you’re gay? Daisuke had never admitted as much to Shoma, but Shoma knew. He didn’t know what to say about his boyfriend breaking up with him. Shoma had had a few crushes before he turned senior. Furtive kisses and hand-holding. And he’d had sex, once with a girl and then another time with a boy, before Yuzu and Javi invited him into their relationship. But no one had ever broken up with him. He’d been the one to end it. He didn’t know what that felt like, and therefore didn’t know what to say that might help.
He wished again for Javi, or even Yuzu. Both of them would know what to say. Shoma yearned for them, and ached for Daisuke.
“Well, that was stupid of him,” Shoma said eventually.
“He lives here in Nagoya. I came to visit him and he broke up with me.”
“I’m sorry,” Shoma said.
Daisuke let go and shrugged.
“He broke up with me because I’m asexual.”
“You mean . . . you’re a virgin?”
He felt the blush, warm and rosy, along his jaw. That wasn’t something you asked your idol.
“No, it means . . . I don’t really like sex.”
“But you’re gay,” Shoma sputtered.
“Why does everyone think that?” Daisuke asked.
Shoma raised his eyebrows.
“Okay, maybe I have projected a certain image at times,” Daisuke said.
“Hush you,” Daisuke ruffled Shoma’s hair.
“What is . . . ‘asexual’, exactly?”
“It’s like I said. I don’t really care for sex.”
“How can you not like sex?”
Shoma tilted his head, genuinely curious.
“How can you like it so much?” Daisuke countered.
Shoma thought about this. Of course he liked pleasure, and pleasing others. But more than anything he liked the closeness that sex could bring, how it drew him and Yuzu and Javi together. Though, he felt some of that when they cuddled, or cooked in Javi’s tiny kitchen, or skated together. These sweet, private moments like threads binding them.
“So you don’t like sex. What’s the problem?” Shoma asked. “Can’t you do other things?”
“My boyfriend likes sex, duh.”
“I will have sex with the right person. It doesn’t disgust me or anything. I’d just rather . . . skate, or dance, or something. I just don’t care for it.”
Shoma realized what a terrible host he’d been so far and how much his mother would have upbraided him for it.
He gestured to the kotatsu table.
“Do you want to sit down?”
Daisuke sat at the table and Shoma unpacked their dinner and brought out some chopsticks and plates. All the while Shoma’s mind whirled. He kept thinking of how brave Daisuke was to come out to him like that, drunk or not, and that he should say something reassuring to him. Something that might make him feel less alone. Shoma wasn’t sure. What might Javi, or even Yuzu, say?
They were in the middle of dinner, when he found himself saying: “I’m in a relationship with other men.”
Daisuke rolled his eyes.
“Of course, everyone knows about you and Yuzuru.”
He must have edited out the part about “other men”. The few times Shoma had come out about his relationship with Yuzu and Javi, he found that people often did edit that out.
“No,” Shoma put down his vegetables. “I’m also with Javi. I’m with Yuzu and Javi. We are all together. We’re a . . . three.”
Shoma scratched the table top, worrying he was going to vomit. He almost laughed at the irony, because now he needed Daisuke to reassure him. He needed Daisuke to say something, anything, to confirm that he didn’t think Shoma was perverse or disgusting.
Daisuke laughed and the sound was like sunshine in the little apartment.
“You sly devil, snagging Javier and Yuzuru? Javier is very good-looking.”
“But you don’t even like sex!”
“I can appreciate beautiful men and women without wanting to sleep with them.”
Shoma thought about this. He certainly could look at Javi and Yuzu all day and feel radiant with their outward and inward beauty.
“How did you end up with them?” Daisuke asked.
“Yuzu and Javi were together and wanted me to join them. This was last year, after Worlds.”
“You are very lucky,” Daisuke said.
“Yeah, I am.”
“You know we’re both screwed, though.”
“Because neither of us can ever be out. Not really.”
“What matters to me is that we love each other.”
He didn’t really mean to say that. The words just popped out. He bit his lip afterwards, feeling ridiculous. He barely knew anything about relationships. He’d only been with Javi and Yuzu for a year, after all.
“Shoma, Shoma, Shoma,” Daisuke said, and his voice was full of such affection.
Daisuke came and sat right next to Shoma. He put his arm around him and bowed his head. Their foreheads touched, skin to skin.
“You are so wise,” Daisuke said.
Shoma laughed. He circled Daisuke’s waist with his arm. Daisuke sighed. Shoma felt the weight of something leave Daisuke’s body.
They both sat there a long time, entwined, leaning and breathing together. Shoma closed his eyes and just felt Daisuke against him. His shifted a little, his face scratching against Daisuke’s stubble. His kiss was a tender whisper of lips. Daisuke stayed very still.
The final light outside dimmed and the sky turned a dark sapphire. They unwound their arms from around each other.
“Why did you do that?” Daisuke asked, fingers on the cheek where Shoma had kissed him.
“Because you don’t have to be perfect,” Shoma said, not realizing that was true until he said it.
Javi and Yuzu had taught him a lot about imperfection. Each of them was just human, and every human being needed a home, a place where they could be imperfect and still be held and comforted and loved. And since Daisuke didn’t have a boyfriend anymore, maybe he needed someone to tell him it was fine to be . . . not fine.
Daisuke didn’t say anything. He helped Shoma collect the plates and chopsticks. They did the dishes in silence, but a warmth vibrated in the space between them.
“Well, I should probably go,” Daisuke said when they had finished.
“You don’t have to,” Shoma said. “You can stay, if you want.”
“Stay. You can sleep in my room. I’ll sleep out here,” Shoma said.
“Are you sure?”
Shoma nodded, though he was now fretting over whether or not he had any extra sheets. He found some in the hall closet and made his shikibuton up for Daisuke. He tried to clean up his room at least a little, and ended up shoving things into corners, hoping that it wasn’t too terrible.
“Thank you. Again.”
“It’s nothing. We just have to hide the shochu before Itsuki gets home.”
Daisuke snatched it off the table.
“I’m going to bed early if you don’t mind. That way I can get out of your hair early too.”
Daisuke retreated to Shoma’s room with the shochu.
“No drinking,” Shoma teased.
“Yes, sensei,” Daisuke said.
Shoma blinked at that, and didn’t know what to say.
It felt strange and good having Daisuke there. Shoma thought about that as he laid some pillows and blankets out on the floor of the living room. He opened Skype on his phone and woke Javi and Yuzu for a video call. The pair of them were snuggled up together in Javi’s bed.
“It’s too early,” Javi complained, and then muttered something in Spanish. Yuzu shoved him.
Shoma could see the white morning light from Javi’s apartment glowing against his two lovers and he felt a longing for them so deep and abiding it made him hurt down to the marrow.
They video chatted for awhile. Though he tried to be quiet, so as not to wake Daisuke, the apartment eventually filled with the low patter of their laughter. He’d just hung up, with a pang in his chest, when Itsuki came in.
“Why are you out here chatting?”
“Ssssh,” Shoma said. “Daisuke’s asleep in my room.”
Itsuki’s eyes widened.
“Why is he sleeping here?”
“He’s had a rough day, he just needed a place to stay.”
Itsuki’s eyes narrowed.
“Have you picked up another boyfriend?”
“No! No! It’s not like that at all!”
Itsuki giggled into his fist.
“You little turd,” Shoma said.
“I can hear you both,” Daisuke said from Shoma’s room.
“Goodnight Daisuke,” Itsuki said.
“Goodnight,” Daisuke replied.
Itsuki went to his room.
The night darkened, turning velvet and deep. Shoma lay down and exhaled, long and low. He felt boneless, exhausted, as though he’d been training all day rather than having a day off. He heard the faint sound of snoring coming from his room and he smiled at that. Of course Daisuke snored.
Shoma was full then, full to the brim. Even though they were far away right now, he was grateful, so grateful for Yuzu and Javi. He was grateful for Itsuki, probably playing games even if he had school tomorrow. And grateful to have Daisuke -- this luminous, intelligent, talented, striking man -- in his life. Even if he’d showed up drunk on his doorstep.