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Five Years Later

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Staring up at the clock on the wall, Yosuke willed the second hand to move faster. Souji was always on time - he couldn’t remember a time his partner had been late - and it was Yosuke’s fault that he’d gotten to the bar a good half-hour early. That didn’t mean he didn’t want the time to pass more quickly.

He couldn’t help himself. It had been ages - almost five years! - since he and Souji had actually seen each other in person, and five years was far too long. Granted, there had been reasons - Souji had been out of the country for most of those five years, writing articles for a travel magazine, and Yosuke had been busy travelling Japan as a new ventures consultant for Junes. But Yosuke had been back in Tokyo for a year now, having been promoted into a different department, and Souji was back in Japan - for good, he’d said. And the first order of business, of course, was to meet up.

It had been too long. That was the thought that kept cycling through the brunette’s mind.

He was startled out of his reverie by the clunk of a glass being set in front of him; looking up, he nodded to the bartender, who also set a glass down at the stool next to him. The liquid in Souji’s glass was far paler than the citrus hue of Yosuke’s - Souji had always preferred wheat beers to Yosuke’s favourite IPAs - and although the brunette had hesitated to order for his friend, he’d reminded himself that even if they hadn’t seen each other in forever, they still talked every day. And Souji hadn’t changed, any more than Yosuke had.

Just then, the door to the bar opened; the brunette’s head jerked around and he couldn’t stop the grin from spreading across his face when he saw a very familiar figure step inside. Souji stopped for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim interior, after the glow of the setting sun outside; Yosuke took this chance to examine his friend, see what a difference five years had made.

...holy shit

It wasn’t that five years had made a difference, honestly. Souji looked much as he always had - a bit tan now, because of his travels, but the same haircut, the same glasses, the same smile. He’d bulked out a little, but not more than would be expected for a young man who was no longer a teenager. Even his style was much the same, even if his clothes were a little sharper, a little more expensive. But the collared shirt, blazer, and jeans he was wearing looked good on him and Yosuke was suddenly Very Glad that he’d decided to wear his new leather coat and jeans.

When Souji caught sight of Yosuke, his expression brightened; it made Yosuke feel warm inside, and he stood up as his friend - still his partner, even after all these years - hurried over.

“Yosuke!” There was barely a second’s hesitation before they both threw their arms around each other. “It’s been too long,” Souji said, his words echoing Yosuke’s thoughts.

“You said it, partner. Welcome back to Japan.” As Yosuke wrapped his arms around his friend’s shoulders, he couldn’t help but close his eyes, breathing in the familiar scent of Souji’s cologne. It was the same as it had been back in university, but somehow that familiarity was tinged with something else, an underlying current of electricity that snaked straight through Yosuke, making it hard for him to catch his breath.

a hug on the riverbank, the warmth of Souji’s arms lingering long after the embrace was over

lying awake at the Amagi Inn, the sting of the pageant’s humiliation forgotten as he watched the moonlight gild Souji’s sleeping features

a disappearing train, carrying Souji back to the city, a ragged hole in Yosuke’s heart that spoke of more than just loneliness

whispered phone calls at too late an hour, desperately trying not to wake parents (or Teddie) but unable to say goodnight

the first night of university, both under the same roof again, laying awake only to listen to his partner’s even breathing

a party with friends after second-year finals with too much alcohol making it too easy to watch every curve of Souji’s lips as he smiled and laughed over another friend’s jokes

… the list could go on forever. Honestly, Yosuke had started recognising that his feelings for Souji were more than just friendly partners sometime during uni - but he’d been too scared, too much of a coward to actually admit it. It hadn’t been until the two had parted - again - and Yosuke had worked his way through a string of unsatisfying dates and relationships that he’d realised just how much Souji had meant to him.

All of this flashed through Yosuke’s mind in the time it took them to have a good, hearty welcome-back hug and still not hold on too long, no matter how much the brunette really wanted to. He was just pulling back when Souji smiled at him.

“You look good, partner.”

It was a voice Yosuke heard often - they didn’t talk every day, but it was close - but hearing it in person just made everything right again. The words, however, made him blush, even though he tried to hide it.

“You’re so cheesy.” They laughed, but Yosuke couldn’t leave it there. “But you look good, too.” At Souji’s surprised expression, the brunette pasted a grin across his face. “A tan suits you, you know.”

“Yeah, well. If I want to keep it, I’ll have to work on it. Tokyo’s not exactly known for its sun.” Souji sat down at this, and Yosuke followed suit. “Oh, man. It’s been too long since I had my favourite beer. Thanks, partner.”

“Of course.” They both tapped their glasses together, and Yosuke grinned. “To the partners, back in business.”

“Partners, back in business.” Souji grinned, too, and they both took long drinks. As Yosuke wiped his mouth, he turned to look at his friend.

“So it’s true? You’re really back, for good?” He couldn’t keep the hopeful tone out of his voice.

“I’m back for good.” Souji grinned at him, and it was like old times all over again. Yosuke threw an arm around his partner’s shoulders, and they both toasted again.

“Where’s your job putting you? You’re still working for the same magazine, right, but you’re doing local reports?” The only thing that could make all of this better would be-

“Tokyo.” Yosuke felt his face light up, and Souji grinned, leaning on his elbows on the bar. “Yep, I’ll need to do some travelling, but I should still be here most of the time. I actually started looking around for apartments today, and-”

“Roommates.” It had been the first thing on Yosuke’s mind when Souji had told him he was coming back. Of course, it wasn’t exactly the smartest thing on his mind - not with the way his thoughts had been trending lately - but… he’d missed Souji. Even when they’d talked almost daily, it hadn’t been the same. He would hold back if it meant that they could get that dynamic back.

At the word, Souji’s eyes widened - though not in surprise - and a smile spread across his face. “Honestly, I was hoping you’d say something like that, Yosuke. I just didn’t want to presume-” His voice faltered for just a moment. “We’re both getting older, and I remember our talk when you first told me you were coming back to Tokyo, you’d mentioned maybe looking to settle down eventually. I know Kaori didn’t work out, but-”

But it was my breakup with Kaori that proved to me that I don’t really want to ‘settle down’. Not when I could be with my partner, instead.

Keeping such thoughts firmly in the realm of his mind, however, Yosuke shook his head. “I’m good. I mean, nobody knows what’s in the future, right? If we need to get our own places sometime down the road, we can do that. But right now, why not?” A thought hit him at this, however, and he balked for a moment. “Unless- shit, sorry. I didn’t even think to ask. Were you looking for a family home?”

Souji had never talked much about his relationships. He’d had a few during his travels, but because of his travels, he hadn’t really had many, nor had they lasted very long - especially as Souji really wasn’t the ‘in it for a fling’ type. It was easy for Yosuke to overlook them, because of that fact, but… that didn’t mean that Souji hadn’t met somebody who he was looking to get serious about. Hell, that might even have been the reason he’d changed jobs.

Before the hot feeling in Yosuke’s stomach could get too heavy, however, his friend blinked at him, then laughed. “What? No. You know me, Yosuke. When was the last time I had anything that could actually be called a relationship? I’m just looking forward to getting back into a routine. It’s been too long, you know? We’ve got movies and games to catch up on. If you’re serious about the roommate thing, I’m all for it.”

“Hell yeah! Of course I am! It’s a decent apartment, I had a spare room for just odds-and-ends but we can totally turn it into another bedroom. Oh and dude, you should see the setup I have in the living room! I got a 4k tv and a PS4 and there’s surround sound ohhhh man.” The thought of rooming with his best friend again was pumping Yosuke up even more than he could have predicted.

“Oh, joy. Hi-def ghost movies.” They both laughed, and Yosuke called for a second round.

They spent the next couple of hours catching up, and it was like the last five years had never happened. Sure, it wasn’t like they hadn’t talked otherwise, but if Yosuke closed his eyes he could pretend that it was fourth year again in university. And that… was nice.

As the evening wound down, Souji pushed his chair back. “Hmmm. I’m feeling like I could use some fresh air. Want to go for a walk?”

Yosuke was all for it. They’d both had a fair amount to drink, but it had been spaced out enough that neither of them was even really tipsy; they’d grown since college, and it was no longer a race to get shit-faced and silly. “We’re in Odaiba, why don’t we hit the beachfront?”

“Perfect.” Souji grabbed the tab - there had been a fight about that, but he’d cited the roommate offer and Yosuke had been forced to acquiesce - and then the two of them stepped out into the night.

They weren’t far from the beach and even though Odaiba was never silent, even at night (the rainbow bridge and water shows kept sightseers around at all hours) it still somehow felt like it was just the two of them. Yosuke had always felt that way when he was with Souji. It wasn’t a bad feeling, not at all - they’d just always been on the same wavelength. One would stop to look at something, and the other would immediately realise why - or have already seen the same thing or had the same thought. They’d stop at the same restaurants, suggest the same movies.

It was comforting.

Both of them spotted the bench at the same time, and again, it wasn’t even a conscious moment when they both sat down, side-by-side. The night was dark - overcast - but with all of the lights of Tokyo, especially reflecting on the water, it was more than bright enough to see.

“This is nice,” Souji said. His voice was quiet, and Yosuke had to agree. It had always been like this; Souji enjoyed a good night out, but he wasn’t exactly a partier, so the two had often left after a while just to go some place and hang out. Sometimes they’d be with other friends, sometimes they’d be alone. But even alone, it was never awkward. It couldn’t be, not when they were together.

Ironically, this started to make Yosuke second-guess his offer to have Souji move in with him. The longer they sat together, the more his brain spun into overdrive, thinking about… well, everything. Being with Souji, talking to Souji, laughing with Souji… kissing Souji, dating Souji, I might as well admit it, dammit, I’m in love with him, and-

“Hey, Yosuke?”

Souji’s voice was still quiet, but there was an overtone to it that snapped Yosuke out of his reverie - which was good, because even if it he hadn’t exactly been having a revelation, it was still something he had been trying to avoid actively admitting. When he looked over to see the look on Souji’s face, however, his own focus sharpened and he felt his heart start to beat faster.

He looks… nervous. What-

Souji seemed oblivious to Yosuke’s inner turmoil as he cleared his throat, looking away. “About moving in together.” The brunette’s dismay must have shown on his face, because when Souji looked back he frowned and continued hurriedly. “I want to. And I’d like to. But there’s one- one small problem, and I don’t think I can ignore it, not like I did back in uni.”

There was no way this conversation was going where Yosuke thought it might be going, and yet he had no idea where else it could be going as Souji continued, after a quick sideways glance at the brunette. “We’ve been partners for a long time. In high school it was enough, and god knows that was all that got me through third year, when we were apart. Uni was great, because it was just so good to be together again, living on our own, making our own rules, and over the last five years it was easier to adapt no matter where they sent me because all I had to do was pick up my phone, and you were right there. Now, though…”

Souji took a deep breath, and Yosuke could only watch, heart in his throat. If Souji hadn’t reassured him that he still wanted to move in together, the brunette would have been convinced that he was going to suggest they go their separate ways. But now- now he could only watch, tongue-tied, praying that Souji was saying what Yosuke hoped he was saying. With the solemn expression on Souji's face, he just couldn't tell.

“, it’s going to be hard to move in together as partners when I’m in love with you - I just know that I’m going to do something or say something at some point that’s going to make everything awkward, and that terrifies me.”

Oh my god. He is.

A fluffy, foolish feeling of joy swept through the brunette’s heart and he put a hand up to cover his strangled response, a noise that was half-sob, half laugh. At the sound, Souji’s head snapped up; the look on his face had been almost heartbreaking, but as he stared at Yosuke, his expression of disbelief slowly morphed into one of happiness. He opened his mouth several times, as if to say or ask something; Yosuke knew he should actually respond with words, but he was feeling so warm, so amazed that he just put a hand on Souji’s shoulder and leaned forward to kiss him.

Souji froze, but it was clear that he was going through the same revelations as Yosuke because after a moment he sat up, reaching for Yosuke’s waist, and tugged the brunette in closer as his lips opened and he tilted his head, responding to the kiss with no small amount of eagerness. The brunette felt a hand snake up and into his hair, and the fingers felt amazing against his scalp; kissing Souji was every bit as perfect as he’d thought it might be and then some, and after a moment Yosuke was so out-of-breath that he had to pull back - still close enough that he could feel Souji’s breath against his lips - and give a happy sigh.

The grin on Souji’s face as the two looked at one another, faces inches apart, lit Yosuke’s heart like a sunrise. Reaching up, he placed his palm gently against his partner’s cheek. “Hey.” His voice was quiet, but if he’d tried to speak any louder, he would have found himself shouting his joy from the rooftops. “Come back with me tonight, see the apartment. We can pick your things up from the hotel in the morning.”

Souji’s eyes widened at this - neither of them were blind to the implications of “come back to my place”. “Yosuke. Are- are you sure? I don’t- I really don’t want to make things weird if we’re going to move in together, and-”

As Souji stammered, Yosuke realised he hadn’t actually responded to Souji’s confession with words and he mentally facepalmed. “Souji, I’ve been in love with you since we first met - I just spent all of my time finding ways not to admit it, not to tell you, because I was scared. But I’m not scared anymore.”

As he spoke, he realised it was true. He’d spent all night thinking about how things were just as they had been - but they weren’t the same, and they couldn’t be the same, not now - and that was fine, because they were going to be better. They were going to be everything they should have been before. Taking a deep breath, Yosuke laughed a little at the relief on his partner’s face.

“I’m sorry. I should have said that earlier, but I was so happy that I honestly thought I had, and all I could think about was kissing you.”  He laughed again and Souji joined him; the air between them was so bright and so easy that he had to lean in again to kiss Souji again, although eventually he remembered that he had more words to say. “Anyway… the point is that I’ve been looking for the love of my life, somebody to settle down with, but it’s been you - good grief, you’re my partner, aren’t you? - all along. If you feel the same way-” here, Souji nodded “-then there’s nothing to stop us.”

“Nothing short of bad apartment etiquette.”

Yosuke laughed again, even as Souji relaxed against his shoulder. “We lived together for four years, partner. I’m just looking forward to eating your cooking again.” When Souji raised an eyebrow, the brunette laughed. “Yes, I’ll take on dishes duty again.”

They laughed together, and as Yosuke wrapped his arms around his partner, Souji leaned back into them so that he was resting against his chest. The two watched the lights from the Rainbow Bridge dance across the water in the ripples left as ships passed beneath it, and in that moment, Yosuke realised that this was what he’d been chasing since the day that Souji first faced his shadow. He was just drawing a shaky breath when Souji looked up; the expression in his eyes was gentle and Yosuke could only smile as he brushed a strand of silver hair off his forehead.

Souji gave an answering smile, placing his hand over Yosuke’s. “We should think about heading home. I could lay here forever, but it is getting late… and I want to see your place.”

It’s true, it was, but neither of them had work the next day, and Yosuke was torn between kissing Souji again, and getting him back to his apartment. He settled for a quick peck; the look in his partner’s eyes said that if he was looking forward to seeing Yosuke’s apartment, it wasn’t for the game room. And to be quite honest, Yosuke felt the same way.

They’d talk things over tomorrow, and then start making plans. After all, they had the rest of their lives together.