The half-hour-long train ride home seemed to drag forever as Keiji fidgeted in his seat. If past years were anything to go by, he was sure once he opened the door to the apartment he would find himself surrounded by noisy friends and more food than he could ever eat. As much as he appreciated them coming over every year to celebrate his birthday, classes that week had been stressful and he really needed some rest.
Taking a deep breath and bracing himself for what was to come, he climbed the last few steps to his floor and unlocked the door. It was silent when he took his shoes off and walked past the genkan. He only saw Koutarou’s shoes, but Keiji knew that since one of his surprise birthday parties had been spoiled by having twelve pairs of shoes by the genkan, now they paid more attention. (Maybe not enough, last time they had spent forty minutes looking for everyone’s shoes, only to find them under the kitchen sink.)
By then he should have been hearing shushing and giggling, but there was no sound coming from the living room. Maybe they had finally learned to stay quiet, he thought. Yet no one jumped at him as he stepped forward.
“I’m home,” he announced. There was no reply. There was no one in the living room and no one in the bedroom when he went to change his clothes into something more comfortable. He even checked the bathroom, but there was no one there either. They should have had more than enough time to get out from wherever they were hiding, but he failed to find any trace of guests.
“Kou?” Feeling the slightest hint of disappointment, Keiji peeked inside the kitchen. Just as empty as the rest of his suddenly too quiet home.
It couldn’t be that Koutarou forgot about his birthday, right? He hadn’t mentioned it that morning before leaving for practice, but he thought it was just part of his usual plan to surprise him. He might not have been looking forward to their noise, but that didn’t mean he wanted to spend the day by himself, forgotten by his friends.
But then as he was about to turn around and leave the kitchen he realized something was out of place. Several somethings, actually. There were dirty plates and bowls all over the counter, broken pieces of ceramic on the floor, flour everywhere, a black smoky something on top of the stove.
And there was Koutarou, hugging his knees on the floor, his back pressed against the wall, and everything made a little bit more sense.
“Hey,” Keiji said softly, kneeling next to his boyfriend.
“I’m sorry, ’Kaashi,” he mumbled.
“What happened?” He asked, more to get him to talk than anything. The clothes in a similar state to the rest of their kitchen seemed a pretty clear indication of what had happened, just like every time Koutarou tried to cook something for them. That didn’t stop him from trying, though. Nothing ever did, and it was one of the many reasons why Keiji loved him.
“I wanted to surprise you,” Koutarou replied. Keiji had to bit down his tongue to keep himself from remarking how much he did surprise him. Even if it hadn’t been in the way Koutarou wanted to, that didn’t make the gesture less meaningful. “Yukippe offered to help with the cake, but I wanted to do it myself… You’re always helping me so much, I just wanted to do something in return.”
His heart about to melt, Keiji ran a hand through Koutarou’s hair only to get his fingers stuck in a gooey mess. How did he get so much cake mix on his head? “Why don’t you run a bath while I clean this up?”
Koutarou looked at him, big eyes full of concern, and blinked.
“I’ll join you as soon as I’m done here,” Keiji promised. That seemed to cheer him up a little, and Keiji helped him get up on his feet. After a forehead kiss and a promise to not take too long, Koutarou padded happily toward the bathroom.
The kitchen needed a much thorough cleaning, but twenty minutes later Keiji was finally able to undress and get into the tub. Koutarou welcomed him with a smile and open arms that enveloped him as soon as he was seated. He basked in the warmth of his boyfriend’s chest against his back for a while before pulling back and turning around to face him.
“Sorry you had to clean up my mess,” Koutarou mumbled before he got the chance to speak. “I know you like your quiet and I thought this year it could be just the two of us, but…” he trailed off with a sigh.
Keiji reached for the shampoo bottle behind him, spreading some on his palm. “All I wanted was to spend some time with you,” he said as he started washing Koutarou’s hair, “and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
“But you’re not supposed to spend your birthday cleaning up after your boyfriend,” he whined, leaning into the touch. “And now you don’t even have a cake.”
“We can get cake tomorrow,” Keiji shrugged. “Why don’t we just take it easy for tonight? We can order something and watch a documentary,” he suggested. As upset as Koutarou was, Keiji couldn’t really complain about the turn of events. “Wasn’t there a new one about owls you’ve been saving for when we both have time?”
“Are you sure that won’t be boring?”
Keiji shook his head. With Koutarou playing for a pro team, and his own classes being too demanding, it was rare that they both had time to just laze around together. “This is perfect,” he replied, burying his face in the crook of Koutarou’s neck, arms around his waist. Koutarou’s hands found their way to the small of his back with the familiarity that only years together could bring. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”