Things... change after Kira. Josuke supposes it can’t be helped. When you and your best friend get blown to various degrees of smithereens by a psychotic serial killer, things can’t be expected to stay the same.
It’s hard at first. How do you act after seeing your friend with half his body blown away? Even though he had managed to save him, Josuke still can’t help the swooping feeling in his gut every time he thinks about how close he came to losing Okuyasu. Okuyasu didn’t have it too easy either. A lot of Josuke’s memories of his own experience are lost to a medically induced haze, but he knows that Okuyasu didn’t exactly have a good time.
They eventually crack one afternoon as they sit in Josuke’s hospital room. Both of them crying, talking over each other as they tell each other how powerless they felt, how scary it was... they hug for a long time on Josuke’s small and too stiff bed. Things start to change from there.
They hug just a little too long and there’s a moment, when they both pull away, that their eyes meet and something in their world tilts on its axis. But then they both blink it away and Josuke remembers feeling an almost physical sensation as their walls go back up and they switch topics to instead give each other bravado laden compliments on the bad ass things they did during their encounter with Kira. It’s a macho attempt to regain their composure, but Josuke decides to just take it as it is.
He continues to take it for months. He continues to take the longer casual touches and leans during video game sessions and movie nights. He continues to take the ever more frequent brushes of hands as they walk about town. He continues to take the fact that, when these things are on the cusp of being acknowledged, they both instinctively turn away.
But not any more. It’s been a year since the bizarre summer of 1999 and Josuke has had it up to here with the deflections and the non-acknowledgment. In a perfect world, he’d just own up to the fact of what they’re doing but, deep down, he’s still not 100%, totally, wholly and absolutely sure. And that part of him wants to be 100%, totally, wholly and absolutely sure, before he tries anything.
So, he thinks up one of his schemes. Plans like this, Tomoko is always sure to tell him, have to come from his father’s side of things, because she’s just too stubborn to do things in a round about way. Josuke secretly agrees, but also knows that he’s probably 50/50 when it comes to stuff like that.
This particular instance, however, requires some underhanded methods is all.
He starts with laying things on a bit heavier. He makes the casual touches more unavoidable; he makes sure not to back away when he catches Okuyasu staring at him; and he allows his own stares to linger a bit longer and a bit more obviously. Okuyasu gets predictably flustered, but Josuke doesn’t really give him an inch. He wants to be sure, after all. Besides, doing this is kind of fun. He gets butterflies in his stomach every time, but that just adds to the excitement.
He’s not going to back down now. Okuyasu is going to confirm his suspicions sooner or later, and when he does, Josuke’s gonna pounce.
This summer is gonna be a summer of romance even if he has to beat Okuyasu over the head with flirting to make him come clean.
One weekend, an absolutely golden opportunity presents itself in the form of Koichi inviting the two of them along for a beach day with Yukako. Josuke happily agrees. Despite living so close to the ocean, he rarely makes a day of visiting, even in the summer. He’s not a big fan of swimming in the ocean and sand tends to be troublesome; but there are just too many perfect chances for romance on a beach. He’d be a fool to say no.
The day of the trip arrives and Josuke makes sure to put some extra hold gel into his hair. He’s not planning on swimming out far enough to get his hair wet, but you can never be too careful.
Sunblock is next, followed by a very tight, very white shirt. Josuke’s not stupid. Just because he doesn’t use his looks to flirt with anyone besides Okuyasu, doesn’t mean he’s not aware that he’s a good looking guy. He’s also not above exploiting the fact that white shirts cling appealingly when they get wet.
Contemplating the rest of his look, he debates for a moment on some of his tinier shorts, but as he holds a pair up, he catches a glimpse of the large, puckered scar on his leg. It’s not something he’s very self conscious about, really, and Okuyasu and Koichi have seen the extent of the damage but... he’s still not used to it, at least not enough to have it out on display. He doesn’t want to deal with any stares on a day that should be focused on good things.
With a sigh, he grabs a pair of longer shorts, slipping into them before heading out the door.
The rest of the gang is waiting a few blocks down, closer to the beach. Okuyasu looks as incredible as always, muscles happily on display. Josuke takes a moment to appreciate them, but isn’t so distracted that he doesn’t see Okuyasu giving him an equally appreciative look.
It feels like he’s scored some sort of point. He grins and allows himself to be swept up in easy conversation as they make their way to the beach.
The day goes, if you’ll pardon the pun, swimmingly. They build sandcastles, they get into a water gun fight with Koichi’s awesome new super soakers that leave Josuke’s shirt wet and almost see through... which in turn leaves Okuyasu’s mouth almost permanently agape. It stays open as he peels the fabric off and it drops open again later when they get ice cream that Josuke makes sure to take his time tonguing.
Is it shameless? Yes. Does he regret it? No. Especially with as red as Okuyasu has been and Josuke can tell that it’s not from the sun.
Yep, today has definitely been a win as far as Josuke is concerned. He’s much more sure now. In fact, he’s feeling so confident, that he’s contemplating being the one to just up and admit his feelings. Who knows? He'll see how the night goes.
By the time evening rolls around, Koichi and Yukako take their leave to go on a couples walk along the shore in the sunset. Josuke is secretly envious, but is more than happy to plop down on their blanket next to Okuyasu to watch as the sky fades to night.
Shifting to get comfortable, he brushes the sand off his legs and catches Okuyasu staring again, only this time it’s at his leg. Something in Josuke twists as he reaches to pull his shorts down to cover it, but Okuyasu’s hand on his wrist stops him.
“Does it... uh, does it still hurt?” he asks quietly, almost as if he’s unsure if he’s allowed to.
Josuke can feel his heart heart jump to his throat and begin to hammer as Okuyasu’s hand travels down to trace at the edge of the scar. “N-no, not really, it just... I dunno, tugs sometimes. Sorry,” he mumbles, moving to cover it before Okuyasu can touch it more.
“You don’t gotta hide it, you know,” Okuyasu says, insistent. “It looks bad ass.”
There’s something in the air. Things suddenly feel very close and very real and for all of his brazen behavior before, Josuke is very close to panicking now that things are becoming so... intimate.
“Hah, just like the rest of me?” He asks. Hoping that the joke will be taken for what it is.
Instead, Okuyasu finally decides to look at him properly. There’s a heat in his eyes that makes Josuke’s stomach swoop. “The rest of you? Dude, no the rest of you is... well yeah, you’re totally a bad ass, but bro... the rest of you is driving me crazy.”
Josuke feels faint. How freaking pathetic. He’s all talk and no action, he can’t believe he can’t properly handle his plan working. “Is it?”
“It is,” Okuyasu answers. His voice is low and close and he’s leaning even closer. “And you damn well know it,” he says with a grin, reaching in between them to flick at Josuke’s nose. “You’ve been laying it on so thick, dude! What the hell?”
The mood whiplash makes Josuke’s head spin, but he bristles nonetheless. “What do you mean 'what the hell'!?”
“The flirting, I can totally tell. What made you change your mind?”
“Change my--? You knew?!”
“Well today at least, you were being really obvious about it. Most days we get like, real close, but then you just kind of... don’t do anything.”
Josuke could scream. “I don’t? YOU don’t! I wasn’t sure if you were really... I dunno, for real... so I thought I’d... oh my god...” he cuts himself off, burying his face in his hands before he dissolves into disbelieving laughter.
“I wasn’t sure if you were, so I wasn’t doing anything either!” Okuyasu confesses before laughing too.
“God we’re idiots,” Josuke finally manages to say. Leave it up to them to be so completely ridiculous. Beside him, Okuyasu agrees. Things suddenly seem so much lighter to Josuke. Like a weight has been lifted from him and now he’s unburdened and free to look at the future full of wonderful possibilities.
After a moment of comfortable silence, Okuyasu’s words come back to him in full force and his earlier shyness disappears. “So, the hardcore flirting definitely got to you, huh?”
It’s Okuyasu’s turn to look flustered. “Bro, you have no idea,” he groans. “That shirt of yours alone is enough to make me go nuts. But then like, the ice cream thing? I wanted to kiss you so bad, Josuke.”
Happiness bubbles up inside of Josuke’s chest. “You should,” he says, like it’s the easiest thing in the world and, all previous apprehension aside, it just might be.
“Can I?” Okuyasu asks, turning to push closer.
“You totally can,” Josuke affirms, pushing to meet him half way. They both smell and taste like salty air and skin warmed by sun. As far as first kisses go, it’s pretty great. There’s the gentle lap of waves in the background and the sun is painting the sky a gorgeous red, gold, purple and Josuke is 100%, totally, wholly and absolutely sure, that there’s no where else he’d rather be right now.