September 15, 2018
If Shoma hadn’t had so much of the rosé he might have noticed how closely Dima hovered. If he wasn’t giddy with victory, albeit an imperfect one, he would have noticed how Dima’s casual touches seemed to linger across his shoulders, the back of his neck. When Kazuki and Matteo excused themselves and went to the bathroom, Shoma didn’t even notice he was alone with Dima. He just thought: oh, my friend is here. Because Dima had become his friend on The Ice earlier that year, with those brown eyes and gentle gaze and careful way of touching Shoma, almost like he was fragile. Or a lover.
This last idea popped through the sludge of his thoughts as Dima put his hand on Shoma’s thigh. Before Shoma knew it, Dima, his friend Dima, was leaning in. He felt his breath and then the softness of his warm lips.
Shoma, though drunk, jerked away. He saw a kind of heartbreak bend Dima’s features.
“What’s wrong with Dima?” Matteo asked in English when he returned, Kazuki in tow.
“Nothing,” Dima shifted away from Shoma.
Shoma could feel his heat evaporating. He picked at the red checkered tablecloth, wishing he could talk to Dima alone. Not to kiss him or anything. But to tell him: it wasn’t him. He was his friend and he cared about him, but he also had two boyfriends he loved already.
They ate the rest of their meal, Matteo making awkward jokes and Kazuki giggling while Shoma and Dima were quiet. Shoma forced himself to finish his pizza, even though it was huge. The red, green, yellow, and blue chairs, and tablecloths buzzed. All these people were packed in the restaurant, talking, chewing, silverware clinking. And Dima was hurt. It exhausted him. He wanted to be back in the hotel, texting Javi and Yuzu. Instead he drank more rosé, trying to dull his senses.
He remembered earlier that day, after the Lombardia Trophy Victory Ceremony, when Javi had called an impromptu video date to celebrate. Shoma had taken the call in his hotel room, on his bed. Afterwards, glowing from just seeing and hearing Javi and Yuzu, Shoma had wrapped his hand around his cock and stroked himself.
I came thinking of you both, he texted later from the hotel lobby, as Matteo gathered people to go out to dinner.
Yuzu had sent an eggplant emoji and Javi a smiley face. Their different reactions had made Shoma laugh.
“What are you laughing about?” Dima had slid up and Shoma stuffed his phones in his pocket.
“Nothing,” he said, even then ignoring how close Dima was, how fond his expression.
Too moony over his two lovers to pay any attention. Javi would have noticed, Shoma scolded himself as the checks came. He signed his through a haze and he wondered if he was possibly drunk. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been. When he stumbled as he got up, it was confirmed. Dima caught his elbow and steadied him, and his touch hissed. Shoma leaned on the table, the whole room swirling.
“Shoma, are you okay?” Kazuki fretted in Japanese.
Shoma nodded, though he felt more like he was going to throw up that entire pizza. He wobbled -- wobbled -- between Dima and Kazuki to the doorway, Matteo leading.
The outside was not a relief. It was a rank slap in the face that smelled of car exhaust and burned with crimson lighting. The bright red box lighting up the name of the restaurant -- Numero Uno, Matteo had brought them here thinking it was ironic -- sizzled in his eyes. He squinted into the night, down the long road back to the hotel, congested with traffic, the wiggly buildings with their terraces, and glaring signage.
They moved slow for Shoma, and while Matteo lead, he kept looking back worriedly.
I’m going to throw up, Shoma thought. He felt his skin prickling, the bile working its way up his throat. But he took some deep breaths and willed the bile back down, willed that sick feeling away. He was dimly aware of Dima’s hand still on his elbow and it made him want to cry out of frustration. Dima was his friend. And had kissed him.
They made it back to the hotel and as Shoma staggered up the stairs and down the calming beige hallway, somehow it was Dima who got him back to his room. Shoma worried, briefly, that Dima would try to kiss him, or grope him, but he merely let Shoma into his tidy, beautiful little room, and left a glass of water on the nightstand before going.
Shoma lay, face first, on his bed, for a minute. Even the smell and feel of the clean sheets was too much and the bile came back. He tripped to the bathroom and threw up in the toilet and felt enormously better. Like some kind of clamp in his gut was gone.
He wiped his mouth with toilet paper and then went and drank that entire glass of water Dima had left. He poured himself another glass from the bathroom tap and drank it as well.
He wanted to kick something. He wanted to shout at Dima: How could you?! He wasn’t sure his English would be coherent enough for that, between being drunk and angry.
So he got his phones out, his personal phone for texting and communicating, the not for gaming phone, and did the next best thing he could think of in the moment.
Dima kissed me, he texted Javi and Yuzu.
They felt like the only words that could explain, somehow, as he curled up in bed and went to sleep.
# # #
In the morning his phone bleeped. And bleeped. And bleeped. It was crawling with notifications. Forty-seven, to be exact, all from the group chat he shared with Javi and Yuzu. He tapped the chat open and started scrolling through messages, wondering what the hell was going on. But the further he scrolled, the more it ached to even read . His head and neck throbbed. He needed a bath and breakfast for this shit.
The bath was warm and luxurious, kneading the tension out of him. Washing his hair made him feel fresh, clean. Like the kiss had never happened. Like he’d never gotten drunk and thrown up like a lightweight.
He put on some fresh, comfortable clothes, things that made flying easy, stuffed his phones in his pocket, then clumped down the stairs to the breakfast room. Though hung over, he was starving.
Shoma loved how they laid out the pastries so carefully and beautifully in glass and porcelain dishes. It made him feel almost guilty about filling his plate. He also poured himself coffee.
Higuchi-sensei was already there, cheerfully nibbling on pastry and drinking coffee herself.
So was Dima, on the other side of the room, the white light pouring through the windows striking on his face and shoulders. Maybe in another life I would have kissed you back, Shoma thought.
“I heard you had a bit of an adventure last night,” Higuchi-sensei said in Japanese, dark eyes twinkling as though she knew.
“Yeah. Nothing serious,” Shoma replied.
He looked at Dima. He wanted to talk to him, at least. But Dima noticed Shoma and got up and left, leaving Shoma with a plate full of pastries that didn’t seem so appetizing.
While Higuchi-sensei ate, Shoma sipped his coffee and tried to check his messages again. There were fifty-three in total now as Shoma scrolled through. He felt his very haggard brain trying to jump clean out of his skull as he read.
Mostly it was Yuzu, Yuzu being hysterical, worrying, worrying, worrying, getting impatient that Shoma wouldn’t answer, asking if Shoma was happy with their relationship, or maybe if he just wanted to be with one person, asking Shoma if he wanted to have Dima as a boyfriend. And most of all, being hurt. Yuzu feeling rejected, lost. This made a stone form in Shoma’s throat, thinking of Yuzu all alone in Toronto, hurting without answers.
The rest of the messages were Javi trying to talk Yuzu down and repeatedly saying “give Shoma time to speak” and “let Shoma speak”.
Shoma put his head down on the table and made a small, strangled noise.
“What’s wrong, kiddo?” Higuchi-sensei asked.
Yuzu is being an idiot, Shoma wanted to say, but then he’d sent that first text, and it had been so damnably ambiguous. That made two idiots and one Javi stuck in the middle trying to be reasonable.
“It’s just Yuzu,” he said after a minute.
“Will it take long to sort out?”
“I don’t know.”
One could never be sure with Yuzu.
“Well, remember we have to check out and head to the airport in a few hours. So you have to get packed.”
“Okay,” Shoma said, regretting, as he always did, how he just unpacked things and threw them thither and hither in his hotel rooms. It made packing a pain in the ass. And it would mean less time to sort out this mess with Yuzu and Javi.
Higuchi-sensei got up and went to pack, presumably. Shoma sat alone with his pile of pastries and fifty-eight messages.
He sighed. He wished he wasn’t hung over. He wished he could talk to Dima.
He began to text as he ate. Though his brain was sluggish, he worked his way through the English.
- I’m sorry I didn’t answer soon. I was drunk and went right to bed last night. This morning I am hungover.
- Dima kissed me. I moved away. I didn’t want his kiss.
- Dima is my friend only.
- I don’t want another boyfriend.
- We’ve been through a lot in the past year and I want to focus on us.
- I’m sorry you’ve been so hurt Yuzu.
- Yuzu, I love you, but you send a lot of messages and it made it hard to keep track. It also makes me crazy.
- Nothing but a kiss happened.
Shoma sighed when it read Yuzu is typing . . .
That’s all? Yuzu texted, and Shoma could just hear his snide tone.
When Shoma saw Javi is typing . . . he perked.
Yuzu, you see? Nothing happened. You worried for nothing you noodle.
I am not a noodle!
Yes you are, both Javi and Shoma typed.
A very bendy noodle, Shoma said, feeling well enough to send a leering face.
Well, both of you would know, Yuzu texted.
Now can we just put this behind us? Javi asked.
Yes, Yuzu texted.
Yes, Shoma answered.
Good, Javi said. I love you both.
I love you both times infinity, Yuzu said and Shoma rolled his eyes. Yuzu always had to be the best.
I love you both too, Shoma said.
He finished his breakfast and coffee and headed back upstairs. He felt lifted, tethered to his two mates. So he didn’t quite pay attention to Dima coming down the hall and collided right with him.
“D-Dima,” Shoma stammered. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Dima said flatly, clearly looking for an avenue of escape.
Well, not today, Shoma decided. He was small, but commanding when he needed to be.
“Dima,” he said sharply, mustering every ounce of his command presence.
Dima blinked, as though dazed.
“I need to talk to you. Do you want to go to the terrace?”
Dima grunted and Shoma lead the way.
The terrace was a lovey little patio of pale gray wood. They could hear the cacophony of the city, and a low wind rattled the branches of a nearby tree.
Thankfully, the terrace was vacated. They sat across from each other at one of the white tables.
“You’re my friend,” Shoma said simply, because it was true.
“But nothing more,” Dima said, crossing his arms and slouching.
Shoma, hating the hurt in Dima’s face, nonetheless nodded.
“That’s true,” Shoma said. “But I want you to be my friend.”
Dima bowed his head.
“I thought -- I thought you, Javi, and Yuzu were -- you know. Free, I guess. Like you could date who you wanted.”
Technically, yes, Shoma almost said, but he didn’t want to give Dima false hope.
“Javi, Yuzu, and I . . . have had a hard year. I want to focus on them now.”
“Do you want to be my friend still?” Shoma asked.
“I don’t know if I can. I would always be . . . wanting you. Maybe sometime. In the future.”
“I will still root for you, Dima,” Shoma said, and he meant it.
Dima bit his lip.
“And I will root for you, Shoma. Always.”
Shoma felt a splinter of loss as Dima got up and went on his way. He sighed and sat on the terrace for a little while, thinking of the mysteries of the human heart, before he got up to pack.