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"Hey, there's a part-time opening for a friend's gallery. Why don't you try?" A sudden offer by glasses guy Fukuda to his best friend Rikuo, while staring at his just-finished game on the Sega. "The pay's good and it's pretty easy. Hope you won't waste it."

"I have no idea what people do in galleries."

"Nothing unusual! You just need to carry stuff; help installing displays. And you'll get a lot of hands." His friend continues in convincing Rikuo as he lights up a cigarette. "And I thought you like cameras?"

"Looking at your photos displayed is another thing, you know."

Rikuo's used to Fukuda poking fun at his life ever since they became friends in college. After all their lives went in divergent directions: him floating aimlessly and dreamless while Fukuda seems in a hurry with his checklist: get a good job and a girlfriend as dessert. His slick car's just waiting for him outside.

They haven't met much since they went separate ways with their classmates. Until one time he blasted on Rikuo's apartment and announced Shinako's return to Tokyo - that woman who caught Rikuo's heart but won't let hers be caught. If not for his friend's booze and snacks he could've kicked him out every time out of annoyance.

But those drinks exactly make Fukuda welcome in his house - he knows it's time for drunk musings and his friend will willingly join him. He'll understand his drama even if he feels deep inside that Fukuda pity him for his failures.

-----

Rikuo's gallery gig is also part-time like in the convenience store, but it's more interesting compared to dealing with annoying customers. Time is slow in galleries though; no heavy or bulky display would make him tired enough to forget his depression. Rikuo knows not everyone blessed to do an exhibit make money, but at least they made that great leap. His name could've been part of them if his courage were enough.

Fukuda found this job from a friend but he never bothered to drop by. He's not artsy after all. Sometimes Rikuo would feel he was just thrown mid-air by his friend - other people like Haru (the eccentric girl head over heels with him) does it better. He never even bothered a phone call. But knowing how occupied Fukuda his being an adult somewhere else Rikuo felt he has no reason to feel antsy.

His mood made a radical turn when Fukuda shows up; finding out he had an entry for a photo exhibit.

"I told you can make it if you want..." Praises emanated from his friend's voice as he views his art on display. "Just not this way, man. Not deep enough."

"You're rubbing more salt to my wounds, huh."

Rikuo thought it could've been better if he accepted Fukuda lending him money for a brand-new camera, but his sense of pride won. After all, his new job already demands a huge debt of gratitude. But forget the regret - Fukuda making time out of his busy schedule's enough to make him feel better.

-----

"Gotta go; need to catch the last train." Fukuda's sudden announcement as his eyes aim for the door. That's shocking for Rikuo - what happened to his car?

"Why rush? I thought your car's outside."

"Sold it."

Rikuo's jaws almost fell in disappointment. "What? That hell of an expensive car you broke your back working for?"

"I need to. Gotta visit my girl's parents." His friend explains. "We're getting married."

"W-w-wait, am I hearing this right?" Rikuo never thought an explosive revelation would be followed by another. "When did this happened? And why did I heard it just now?!"

"Sorry, this isn't really planned." Glasses guy clarifies himself, his hand on the doorknob. "You're invited, of course. I'll even make you our photographer!"

"Don't tell me you filled her up?"

"Fuck no. Bye!" He runs off from the stairs, leaving Rikuo still agape with what sounds a secret kept away from him.

Fukuda sets the record of being the first to marry among their batch. They're still young though - why cross that line? It makes sense for Rikuo though knowing how his friend plans everything to the smallest detail. He can't help but remember what a drunken Fukuda reflected one time: I can't stop the cogwheels of this society, so I'd rather join its pull. The sudden marriage is a proof of that conservative attitude.

Rikuo can't deny his annoyance. Fukuda always complain how his life lacks direction, like he certainly has his own when in fact he's just going with others' flow. Or could it be his friend's way of passing his baton of hopes and dreams to him? Rikuo's lamentations about his are endless, but Fukuda never shared his dreams even once.

-----

Fukuda loves mahjong, and it's a good sign he's drunk if he invites for one. Just like how he's being pesky with Rikuo when they're about to go home from the class reunion. Shinako's there though, and that means Rikuo has the responsibility to walk her home. He doesn't consider it a chance though - his feelings have been busted, and he could be the only one holding on to their friendship as if there's still hope flickering.

That nothing of an event was followed by a surprise. Fukuda, teary-eyed, clings to a sleeping bag in front of his apartment.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Confused Rikuo asks as he fights his eyes closing out of sleepiness.

"Let me sleep here for tonight..." Fukuda pleads to him. Rikuo can't figure if his tone's one of a joke or a desperation. "She kicked me out."

"My god, don't even bother me with your issues you two..." He had no choice but open his door in the end. How lucky he is to be single in this regard. "You're getting married and you still have time for that drama."

Fukuda continues his rant while he shares the coffee Rikuo prepared for their hangover. Weird that it made him sleepy though, while Rikuo stays awake surfing for late night shows. Fukuda didn't even bother changing his clothes, his body absorbing the coldness of the floor and his snores making a chorus with the TV.

Those snores will become low whispers to himself later on...

"I'm only doing this because I got no choice..." Rikuo turns off the TV to listen to him. "Can't deny my parents expect a lot from me. Get into college, get a job, a wife...all of that just meant for them..."

At that point Rikuo can't figure if his friend was really asleep. Fukuda's hand was touching his belly, visible with the moonlight piercing the window. Rikuo chose not to intervene though - you can't fight with someone half-asleep.

"That makes me a good son, don't you think? They'll finally have a grandchild; they won't bug me anymore. And my fiancee loves me, I'm sure of it. That's not a bad deal..."

"You're damn lucky you know." Rikuo finally felt the need to reply.

"No, you do...you're free to do what will make you happy." Fukuda continues with his helpless rants. "Guess I'm more of a coward than you. Sorry man, I know I've annoyed you for so long. I just don't want you wasting your youth for nothing."

Fukuda returns to sleep, while Rikuo doesn't get if his friend really makes sense. But he's sure his friend is lonely. Lonely that he need to let go of his childish dreams for a stable, comfortable life. Who wouldn't want it, though? Even Rikuo wishes for it once in a while. It comes a price though, like everything else.

But Fukuda's silence was short and Rikuo's reflection got suddenly cut as he shouted. "That bulky build's wasted on you..." His depressed tone got replace by craziness, something out of his calm demeanor. "You're chasing Shinako all this time when her interest with you's zero. What if I made a move with you instead..."

The glasses guy's hand slides down to somewhere Rikuo never expects. No malice for him supposedly, but he can't ignore it as he pairs it with what enters his ears. Shivers flow into his body - I'm just drunk, this is all just hallucinations.

But Fukuda will not make him calm as he repeatedly screams his name. Rikuo...Rikuo...repeated many times together with his moans. "It's impossible I know, but give in to me just for tonight..."

His grumbling stopped, leaving Rikuo flabbergasted in a corner. He's not even sure if Fukuda released whatever he's feeling.

How lucky he is for being loved by everyone, Fukuda included. He never expected it to be this way, however.

-----

"Got a gift here." Fukuda passes a paper bag to Rikuo across the counter. He rarely visits the convenience store, which makes it a welcome surprise. Or a sign of relief, knowing it's not just Haru who'd pester him on shift.

Inside there's a box, paired with an envelope. He's sure it's his wedding invitation, but...

"What the hell?" Rikuo curiously reads the fine print in the box. "I'm the one supposed to give you a gift! You're the one getting married here!"

"Makes it easier for you to contact me." He's got a point. "Handy for your dates too!"

Once home Rikuo checked out his gift. To his surprise, it's not just a phone he received, some reminders too.

"Text me." Fukuda scribbled on the note. His phone number's at the back of the sheet. "And do your best at the gallery."

It's not a letter of apology, or a confession like Rikuo partly expected - or wished. Maybe his friend was just really drunk. He could've forgotten his antics that night.

It could've been on purpose though, as Fukuda knows it's the best for them both. It's the early 2000s back then, and it'll take some time before life gets a bit better...