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March 2018

Shoma shook with rage. He’d been pissed off all night, hadn’t slept. Now, he stood outside the hotel, orange sun drenching the mountains, trickling through the streets of Milan, glowing against both the modern steel skyscrapers and the older, spired churches.

Without thinking much -- uncharacteristic, given that Shoma considered and weighed every word he said carefully -- he typed a text.

We need to talk. Now.

Are you all right? was the reply, surprisingly quick given the hour of the morning, Shoma thought.

Fine. We need to talk.

Is it that urgent amorcito?

If you value this relationship, yes.

He sent the last message because he was so angry all he could taste was anise, sharp and bitter.

His phone rang.


Javi’s sleepy voice saying his name made him even angrier. As though he had a right to cradle his name on his tongue with such tenderness.  

Shoma spat a barrage of Spanish profanities. He hoped they felt like shrapnel burying itself in Javi’s skin. When he finished, he waited for his boyfriend’s response.

“What the fuck Shoma? I haven’t done anything to deserve that --” Javi replied in Spanish.

“Oh right,” Shoma said. “You haven’t bad mouthed me all over Spain.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Shoma knew he was violating their rule: the no talking about competitions, scores, and medals. But he didn’t care.

“Your interviews, about the Olympics. You said I didn’t deserve the silver medal. You bad mouthed me.”

“I wasn’t bad mouthing you, I was complaining about the judges. Or did you not listen to the interviews?”

“You know perfectly well I understand Spanish by now. I know what I heard.”

“Shoma, you are blowing this out of proportion --”

He sat down on a bench to keep his voice from trembling with both hurt and fury.

“You betrayed me,” he told Javi.

“Amorcito --”

“I don’t want you to come to Milan.”

His voice all katana steel now.

“Can’t we at least talk?”

Shoma felt something in him buckling at the pain in Javi’s voice.

“No. I have to compete. And I don’t want you there,” he said in terse Japanese, wiping tears from his eyes.

He hung up before Javi could respond. He ignored Javi’s calls and texts. As far as Shoma was concerned Javi had already told the whole of Spain, and the world, what he thought of his beloved.

# # #

Shoma wished he didn’t care, but the truth was, with his heart jack-hammering between his ears, the top of his foot burning, splintering, and everything whirling around him -- reporters, other athletes, the arena lights blistering through the curtains -- he just wanted to sit down and cry. Heaving sobs that would tear out whole chunks of him.

The Japanese reporters were very nice, of course, which made it all the more frustrating. He tried to answer their questions. The thought that such disastrous performances had earned him a silver medal gutted him. Yet, that wasn’t why he fought with all he had to not cry in front of the camera.

He wanted, more than anything, familiar arms wrapped around him, the smell of clean aftershave, the sound of that sweet tenor voice. He wanted Javi to whisper in Spanish that he loved him. He wanted to to bury himself in Javi’s warm, muscular frame and disappear.

Later, finally at the hotel, Shoma curled in bed after a shower. He scrolled through some of Javi’s texts, listened numbly to his voice messages. Though it felt like being ripped into pieces, he knew what he had to do.

His phone beeped.

Javi is here, Higuchi-sensei had texted.

Shoma seethed while his heart capered.


He seems very worried. Should I let him up?

Shoma sighed. These things were best done in person, anyways.

Fine. Let him up.

He waited, heart thrumming. Like he was still in love.

A knock.

“Shoma?” Javi said through the door.

Shoma got up, slowly, feeling like he was made of lead, and limped a little to the door.

They stared at each other. Javi’s eyes were red-rimmed, and he smelled of sweat, of moist, tight spaces.

“Are you going to let me in?” Javi asked in Japanese, voice hoarse.

Shoma shrugged, leaving Javi to close the door. He slouched on the edge of the bed.

“I told you not to come,” Shoma said.

“I heard you were hurt. My flight was cancelled so I took a train and then the bus.”

“That’s why you smell like shit?”


You’re welcome.

Shoma’s throat was closing in on him.

“Still took you two days,” he said. “A train or a bus doesn’t take that long.”

“You told me not to come,” Javi said, sounding aggravated.


Javi sat down on the edge of the bed and reached for him.

“Don’t touch me,” Shoma flinched even as he wanted to relax into Javi’s hands.


Then, they spoke at once:

“I think we should break up,” Shoma said.

“I’m sorry, Shoma. I didn’t think,” Javi said. And then: “What?”

“What?” Shoma jutted his chin.

“You can’t be serious,” Javi said.

Shoma felt the strings which bound them, and how gossamer thin they had become in just a few days.

“I am. I don’t care about your apology. Did you think I wouldn’t hear those interviews? That I wouldn’t understand? You know what, it doesn’t matter --”

“I was angry at the judges, Shoma. It’s a matter of honor.”

“Whose honor?” Shoma spat.

He could tell Javi was reining himself in, choosing his words carefully.

“Judges can’t just be sloppy. It’s not fair,” Javi said slowly.

“So a positive GOE on a popped quad sal is fair now?”

Javi scowled.

“No, of course not. Look: I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was just . . . not thinking. Mouthing off.”

“Like you do sometimes,” Shoma said.

“Yes, like I do, and I’m sorry I hurt you so. I never meant that you didn’t earn silver, Sho. You know I believe that. That I’m proud of you. That I want that for you.”

Silence again.

The softness of the endearment Sho , which Javi rarely used, hit Shoma in the chest like a brick. He sat breathless, and angry, and hurt, and loved.

“Why do you want to break up?” Javi asked, and Shoma could hear the tremor in his voice.

Shoma thought for a minute, turning the words over in his head.

“I don’t care if strangers say bad things about me. I care if someone close to me does. That’s disloyal. And if you can’t be loyal to me, then you’re not worth having around.”

Javi swallowed and nodded.

“I understand.”


“Do you still want to break up?”

Javi was trembling now.

Shoma didn’t know what to do for a moment. One part of him wanted Javi to just leave. He was exhausted, and didn’t have space for for this. That part said: yes, tell him you’re finished because it’s simpler.

And another remembered how, on their first vacation together, in Florence, they had kissed in front of The Birth of Venus simply because they could. Or how good it felt when they slept together, Javi’s warm arms around him, making him feel safe, secure. Or how Javi loved sushi so much they could spend hours at the depachicka looking at it if Shoma didn’t pull him away. Or Javi’s naked flesh and hot breath against his.

“Hold out your hand,” Shoma said.

Javi did.

Shoma put his hand in Javi’s.

“Tell me if you think we’re breaking up or not.”

Tears gathered in Javi’s eyes and he bowed. He took Shoma’s hand and kissed the back of it. That kiss bloomed like a flower.

“I love you,” Javi said simply in Japanese.

Shoma wasn’t ready to say those words back. It still hurt. It probably would for a while. But it would pass.

“I am sorry,” Javi said, squeezing Shoma’s hand.

“You said that,” Shoma said. “You don’t need to say it again.”

Javi slumped against Shoma and Shoma drew comfort in the heat and nearness of him. He was here, he was really here. He’d come for him. Even when Shoma said not to. He cared more about Shoma, about supporting him, than some fight between them. And he’d come with an apology on his lips.

“Javi,” Shoma said, so Javi would turn towards him.

It was a stretch, but he cupped the back of Javi’s head, guiding him down just enough that they could kiss.

Tender, slow. And Shoma found, just like after his free skate, the emotions colliding with him like a tsunami.

The kiss ended and Shoma began to laugh, that high squeaky laugh of his when he found something really funny. Because it wasn’t funny at all.

“Shoma?” Javi asked, alarmed.

No, it wasn’t funny. It was everything all at once. They’d almost lost it: all their little inside jokes. All their bright mornings where they really weren’t sleeping in, but having sex. Rainy days curled up together, just talking. The few times they practiced together. Walks through Madrid or Nagoya or Toronto. Javi teaching Shoma how to cook. Playing games together.


Shoma’s laughter broke and he began to sob. He put his face in his hands and sobbed over everything. He felt Javi’s arms around him, firm and warm and he relaxed into him.

“It’s alright,” Javi said over and over, rubbing his back.

Shoma finished, wiping his eyes, sniffling. Javi got him tissues from the bathroom. There were four people in this world that Shoma didn’t mind crying around: his coach, Keiji, Itsuki, and Javi. So it was alright. He felt released, calm. He blew his nose and tossed his tissues in the trash bin before flopping in the middle of the bed.

Javi dropped next to him, putting his hand on Shoma’s belly. He rubbed his stomach a little before drawing closer and kissing Shoma.

The kissing was hot now, tongues and teeth. Hands reached over bodies, under clothes.

“Mark me,” Shoma said between kisses. “Under my jaw.”

He felt incandescent, a white flame, and he wanted to be marked not just to show the world he belonged to someone, but to remind himself they were together. That they had come through this.

“People will talk,” Javi said.

“Let them,” Shoma bared his throat.

Javi leaned down. At first it was just licks and gentle kisses, but then he slid his hand under Shoma’s shirt and pinched his nipple as he latched onto a patch of skin just below Shoma’s jaw. Shoma moaned, shuddering between the sensation of his nipple being pinched and the painful sucking.

When the spot under Shoma's jaw ached and burned, and Shoma was making a considerable amount of noise, Javi withdrew.

“It’s hard to tell if I left a mark. You turn so red,” Javi said, running his thumb over Shoma’s lips.

Shoma took Javi’s thumb in his mouth and sucked, hollowing his cheeks.

“Jesus,” Javi said.

Shoma smirked, knowing that all Javi could see was Shoma’s mouth around his cock.

The kissing and groping turned ferocious. Clothes were shed and Shoma clawed Javi’s back. He wanted him to bleed. He wanted him to feel the sting of those marks and also know he belonged to Shoma.

Javi gripped Shoma’s ass with one hand, and with the other he guided their cocks together.

Shoma didn’t close his eyes, didn’t let himself stop seeing: their bodies together. Javi hovering above him. That man who he loved until his teeth ached who could also be a loudmouthed, spoiled brat.

But then Shoma wasn’t perfect. He was so stubborn the sun would implode before he changed his mind. And he didn’t believe in himself enough.

As Javi stroked them together, Shoma remembered how imperfect they were. But this -- Javi’s frantic hand, the soft skin of their cocks together, their bodies bending towards each other -- this had made those imperfections sacred.

Shoma dug his nails into Javi’s shoulders, moaning Javi’s name as he came. Javi came a minute later, with a jerk, saying Shoma’s name over and over, like a prayer. He slumped on top of Shoma, nuzzling Shoma’s hairline.

“Get off me,” Shoma said. “You’re too big.”

Javi smiled.

“Oh, am I?” he asked suggestively.

Shoma giggled.

Javi rolled off him and cupped Shoma close.

“You scared the hell out of me,” Javi said after a while. “I never want to lose you.”

He held Shoma tightly.

“Just stay loyal to me,” Shoma whispered, tired, overwhelmed.

“Always. Always.”

They settled into a gentle silence.  Shoma burrowed closer to Javi, though sweat and cum were still cooling on the both of them. He didn’t care. What mattered to him was this: locked in Javi’s arms, warm, and loved.