Kojiro Nanjo has always been, and always will be, soft-hearted. He had a tough, thick exterior, but inside? Absolute mush. Sometimes he felt disgusted at how soft he could be. It just didn’t match what everyone thought he was.
Another fact about Kojiro Nanjo and his soft, big heart; he was in love with his best friend. And he was an adult, so admitting that was so much more embarrassing than it should be.
It didn’t help that he had been feeling this way for fifteen whole years.
That’s right. Fifteen. Rounding the corner of sixteen.
Let’s count, shall we?
When had he realized? First year of high school. High school lasted three years, then he spent two years away at culinary school, then two more years were spent finishing his education around Europe, traveling another two years, before a whole year took up building a restaurant from the ground up. Then, five years had passed out of nowhere and Kojiro wished he had lost count all that time.
To be honest, he was happy. He was successful, which not many in the culinary arts could say for themselves. He had a hobby, skateboarding, a stable job, as he was the owner of a fairly well-liked restaurant, and he had a best friend. And as of this year, a bit of a family, considering his hobby had brought on a middle school-aged child, and two youthful teens. Oh, and a punk disguised as a flower shop worker… although that could be the other way around.
Kojiro had a full life. So when his brain occasionally reminded him that he was deeply in love with Kaoru? It was hard not to sigh.
He’d fallen slowly, and when the thought first entered his underdeveloped adolescent brain, it didn’t surprise him. Anybody would be in love with Kaoru, especially high school Kaoru. He was pretty, and only a blind man would deny that.
At least, that’s what Kojiro told himself since he’d probably be offended if someone told him Kaoru wasn’t pretty.
And in high school, the pink-haired boy was the perfect combination of loose and fun, as well as calculated and nerdy. As he grew up, Kaoru lost a lot of his looseness, but Kojiro had predicted that and was fine with it. In fact, maybe the sophistication became part of the appeal, as Kojiro never changed his loose nature.
It sucked being in love with your best friend. Kojiro learned that quickly. Watching Kaoru pay him little attention during what Kojiro called ‘the age of the bastard known as Adam’, putting most of the effort into keeping in touch during the times they were away from each other, and giving a lot of himself to Kaoru that maybe he’d never get back, it stung sometimes.
If Kojiro had to guess, the only reason he had stayed sane was his and Kaoru’s bickering. It released a lot of tension, and maybe a twinge of frustration towards the other man without actually hurting anyone.
Except for Kojiro.
Don’t get it wrong, he lived for the corny-ass insults and loud, empty arguments. They were funny, and Kojiro liked seeing Kaoru all riled up. He just had this hopeless wish that maybe his friend would offer a little softness back to him.
That being said, Kojiro wouldn’t exchange anything about Kaoru. He couldn’t hate anything about Kaoru, besides his occasionally stuffy attitude. If Kaoru was happy with how their relationship was presented, then Kojiro was happy as well.
That’s what it always came down to, didn’t it? If Kaoru was happy, Kojiro was happy.
High School- Year 2
Kojiro scoffed, “Yeesh, don’t sound so annoyed. Anyway, I have two copies of this week’s Jump, want one?”
“Duh. Wait, is there another chapter of One Piece in this one?”
“Duh,” Kojiro grimly impersonated Kaoru.
Kaoru extended his hand while Kojiro fished the magazine out of his backpack. He stared at Kaoru’s dainty but steady and smooth hands. How the veins didn’t affect his pearly coloration as he softly flipped the pages of Shonen Jump.
Kojiro turned away and messed with his uniform tie. God, this was so stupid. Even Kaoru’s hands were attractive. How annoying.
High School- Year 3
Kojiro could act like he liked Adam if it meant Cherry continued to hang out with him.
It was just a simple fact that if Kaoru had to pick, he’d choose Adam and over his friend of many years. And while Kojiro was never the brightest, he could outweigh the pros and cons better than anyone. He had strong common sense and intended to use it.
If he loved Kaoru he had to like Adam. He had to.
It was a simple fact.
He tried to warn Kaoru, now dubbed “Cherry Blossom” for nothing other than the color of his hair (While Kojiro was stuck with ‘Joe’, it was the best play off of his name he could come up with), about his hunch on Adam.
The issue? The second Kojiro tried to lightly bad-mouth Adam, Cherry defended him.
“He is reckless, but that’s just how skating is,” The teen argued, “Don’t act all caring, you’ve fallen on your head one too many times,”
“And if you keep trying to match Adam, you’re gonna hit your head one too many times, asshole.”
“Whatever. He’s helping me improve.”
“He’s helping you get a big head,” Kojiro frowned, his eyes downcast.
“You act as if you aren’t friends with him also,” Cherry scowled.
Friends. With Adam. Okay yeah, Joe could admit, Adam was charming at first. But he quickly realized that the guy hadn’t even given them his real name, and he never showed his face from under his hood, and he was just kind of… off. Joe knew he shouldn’t judge off of ‘vibes’ alone but… could you blame him?
Kojiro settled on something ominous that would end the conversation. He was tired.
“I act like a lot of things, dimwit. Now c’mon, let’s go get food, it's late.”
Cherry’s board slid out from under him.
When Adam caught him, Kojiro knew the twinkle in Kaoru’s eyes when he watched the blue-haired boy wasn’t him just seeing something.
Cherry had fallen for Adam, in a distorted sense.
Kojiro went home early that day, not that anyone cared. If he went home and made himself instant ramen and quietly ate it, tasting nothing? There wasn’t a single person who cared, especially not Kojiro.
He didn’t expect anything from Kaoru, really, he just… wished he’d be spared a glance. A word of praise. A friendly smile.
But if Cherry’s focus was on Adam? Well, Kojiro knew Kaoru hated being interrupted.
High School- Year 1
Kojiro had a strained relationship with his family. He had a deadbeat dad he’d only had about three conversations with before the man just disappeared completely, and his mom worked so much he’d had just as little conversation with her. She worked at the hospital, and while Kojiro admired her work ethic or whatever, she was never in a good mood. Always grilling her son on grades because ‘if he didn’t work at some high-level job like a lawyer, doctor, or accountant, he’d be homeless on the street!’.
The day Kojiro had worked up the courage to say he had a dream of opening a restaurant, she’d laughed in his face, before getting angry that he was serious. She yelled and complained that he’d never have a real house, or that she’d die young because her son couldn’t support her, yadda yadda.
He never brought up the cooking dream again, but he saved up anyway. Being a chef was the only job he could actually see himself going into. He loved cooking, and he had the patience for a long-time goal, which at the moment was ‘have a restaurant!’. He needed to pick a cuisine or something, but he had a few years and he wasn’t super worried. Kojiro had a policy, and that was he needed to be a teen while he could. Then he’d book it, as he really did not plan on living with his mom as an adult.
The only issue was that Kaoru was here in Okinawa, and Kojiro didn’t think he could leave his friend/crush.
But that was future Kojiro’s problem.
2 Weeks before High School Graduation
“He’s leaving m— us! And he doesn’t— fucking care!”
Kojiro winced at the hurt in Kaoru’s voice.
“Listen, we didn’t even know Adam’s real name, maybe it’s for the best…” Kojiro tried.
“... Are you fucking kidding me? Nanjo, we were special! He told us—“ Kaoru punched his chest, which didn’t hurt due to Kojiro’s size and Kaoru’s less-than-powerful punch, “He told us…”
‘He told you,’ Kojiro wanted to say, ‘That’s why you hurt so much.’
But he didn’t. The rain tonight allowed Kaoru to cry comfortably, something he didn’t do often, even around his childhood friend.
Adam and Cherry had a private conversation without Kojiro before Kaoru came angrily back to the skatepark. Joe suspected something between the two and Adam must’ve broken it off. Painfully.
And that made Kojiro mad. Because Adam had Cherry. Cherry was the best thing in their lives.
And maybe that was Kojiro projecting, but the knowledge that someone could even cut Cherry, ever the asshole, this deep, was so angering.
If it were him…
What a selfish thought.
Kojiro shook his head, his focus fully on Kaoru now. He led him to a bench, where they sat, letting the rain seep into their clothes.
Kojiro was upset because someone had the audacity to break Kaoru. Kaoru was upset because he had been broken.
They sat in solitary silence, that comfortable nature they had with each other seeping back after months of their dynamic being interrupted by some blue-haired dickwad.
Kojiro was too kind-hearted to be relieved.
1 Week after High School Graduation
Kaoru was a product of generational wealth, he knew he was covered all after high school. As far as Kojiro knew, he was going to go to a calligraphy school on the mainland.
Kojiro, on the other hand, was anxiously waiting for any word from the many schools he applied to.
Having to lie to his mother and worrying about if his dream colleges would accept him took up so much of his energy, even his skating was uncoordinated.
A ping went off on his phone and he quickly stopped his board.
It was an email from his top school.
He opened it.
It was an acceptance email… from his dream fucking school.
Cherry stumbled off his board and jogged back to where Joe had dropped to a squat on the floor.
“Kojiro? Are you…?”
“I got in.”
“I GOT IN!” Kojiro jumped up laughing, shaking Kaoru by the shoulders. He felt happy tears spring into the corners of his eyes, god, he’d never been this happy in his life-!
“What do you mean, you got in?”
“Kaoru. I just got accepted into my dream school. Remember? The culinary school in Italy I told you about?”
“Italy,” Kaoru repeated.
“Did you hit your head?” Kojiro joked.
Kaoru shakily pouted. “So you’re going abroad.”
“I mean, yeah, the school’s in Italy. I thought you were the smart one, what’s up?”
“I— so you’re going to… leave.”
Kojiro sighed, “Yup, that’s the plan. But you’re leaving Okinawa too, so—“
“That’s different. I’m going to be a flight away.”
“Technically, so will I. What’s the problem?”
“You’re leaving, that’s the fucking problem,” He scowled, popping his board and moving to skate away.
Kojiro mounted his own skateboard and followed after him, catching up near the bridge where they always used to skate with... He grabbed Kaoru’s wrist.
“Look man, you don’t get to be a dick about me getting into my dream school! I’ve worked hard for this, jumping from restaurants to get experience—“
“I get it! You worked hard! But you’re going to Italy, and I’m going to Tokyo, and we’re never going to fucking talk again. That's what always happens to people after high school, dumbass.”
“So what, did you think I was going to follow after you to Tokyo?”
“I’m not your— your... dog, Kaoru! I finally took a step towards my dream and you can’t even be fucking happy for me?!”
“I— We. Are. Going. To. Never. Talk. Again. You realize that right?! When people go separate ways, they lose touch! Do you really want that shit to happen to us?!”
“Kaoru,” Kojiro grabbed his friend’s wrists, pushing his sappy thoughts to the darkest corner of his brain, “Tell that stupid anxiety brain of yours to fuck off. Do you really think I’m going to let us break away from each other? I’m sorry asshole, but you can’t get rid of me. If you’d let me, I will do everything in my power, and I mean that, to keep this friendship going. I’m going to annoy you forever, so stop being such a fucking douchebag, and let’s go get drinks.”
Kaoru gaped at him. “You don’t seriously think—“
“Yes, I do think. We’ve known each other since the third grade, man. Regardless of what you say, I have a brain. And that brain needs a drink. Oh, and you’re paying.”
Kaoru didn’t send off Kojiro at the airport, using a classic “I don’t like goodbyes,” excuse.
Be like that, Kojiro thought, although he wasn’t overly upset.
Even after all these years…
He watched Okinawa disappear behind him as the plane ascended into the clouds.
Secretly, he had taken a ton of candid photos of Cherry before leaving, and he decided to scroll through them as a torturous form of reminiscing.
One day, he’d come back to Okinawa. He’d come back to Kaoru. He’d promised.
Kojiro sent Kaoru three texts every day.
[Did you eat?]
And [Goodnight :)].
It forced a routine, and it forced Kaoru to respond and talk to him every day since he refused to initiate conversation.
Whatever. If Kojiro was the one who had to put in the work, he would. Because for some reason, he still loved Cherry. It was like it was embedded in his person now.
Italy was… alright. Nice scenery, most of the streets were skateable (although, the skating scene itself was small, and Kojiro didn’t really fit in) and the people were… well they were nice, Kojiro just didn’t click with anyone except his roommate, who was helping him with his Italian. Well, he had three roommates, one from Argentina, one from Italy, and one from Ireland. Kojiro felt a little isolated, being from Japan, but apparently, his old man was from Italy. Maybe he chose Italy to feel a connection to something he never knew, in that sense.
But with roommates all being from different places, language was a funny barrier. Kojiro found himself learning bits of Spanish and English along with Italian. Sometimes he’d get Spanish and Italian mixed up because they sounded similar, and his English had a thick accent since he took it at his high school in Japan.
Come to find out, his roommate from Argentina was a gym junkie. Now, Kojiro had always been a bigger dude but he never really toned what he had. Xavier thought that Kojiro had also been into working out, so they went searching for a gym together and Kojiro didn’t have the heart to tell him he didn’t care all that much.
Upon finding a nice and inexpensive gym, Kojiro browsed the magazines, staring at the bodybuilders adorning the covers.
Kaoru and Kojiro didn’t talk often about their type of… well their romantic types. Thinking about it now, Kojiro was pretty sure Kaoru didn’t know he was into men, but it’s not like it wasn’t obvious.
The one thing Kaoru had said about guys though…
“Kojiro, you know that wrestler that’s from the next town over?”
Kojiro glanced at Kaoru and immediately noticed his flushed cheeks. The pink-haired teen was staring hard at a man in a magazine. Kojiro strained his neck to get a better look.
“Ooh, does the Kaoru Sakurayashiki have a crush on a celebrity wrestler~?”
“So, you have a thing for muscles then?”
“I— I don’t, you meathead!”
His blush said the opposite though.
Kojiro sighed, picking up an informational gym pamphlet.
This was so stupid.
A few weeks later…
Kojiro had a new hobby. The gym was a small safe haven for both him and Xavier, a place away from culinary school.
And now Kojiro had deltoids the size of wedding cake tiers. He guessed that was a plus.
Year 3 Abroad
His school was having an exchange program, free of charge for students at certain levels in their cooking classes. Kojiro was eligible to go to France. Paris too, of all places.
He called Kaoru.
“Don’t act like you don’t know me. Anyway, guess what? I’m going to Paris baby!”
“Yup. Some exchange program or something.”
“Where’s the program?”
Kojiro told him the address.
“Alright, I’ll book a hotel near there.”
“Cool— wait, what—“
“I have a two-month-long trip planned for Paris this spring. See you then.”
“KAORU, WAIT WHAT—“
The bastard hung up on him. He moved to text.
[WE’RE GONNA SEE EACH OTHER???]
[HAHA YOU CAN’T IGNORE ME NOW DICKHEAD]
[Fuck off. I have a client.]
[Excited to see you too, pinky <3]
Kojiro had long accepted that Kaoru was never going to see him in a romantic light. So over the years, as to not devoid himself of young adult romance, he picked up a habit of having a flirtatious nature.
Call it a coping mechanism, denial, or defeat, but with Kaoru not around and thoughts of him plaguing his mind, Kojiro felt lonely. Girls filled that void on occasion, many of them in the same spot with an ex. They were willing to play a game of pretend for a night, and so was he. Plus, Kojiro didn’t have a particularly unattractive face, and some people didn’t care about any aspect beyond that.
So, yeah. He picked up a stupid habit. Sue him.
Kojiro didn’t hold himself back, trapping his friend in the biggest bear hug known to man. Kaoru made protests, but no one in the airport could hear him all buried in Kojiro’s chest like that.
They pulled away and looked at each other.
“You— you, ahem, got… big.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, sorta became a gym junkie in Italy.”
“... You look like a gorilla.”
“Hey! Watch it four-eyes, yeah that’s right, I noticed the glasses.”
They both laughed, despite people around them looking worried as if a fight was going to break out.
“Good to see you, now, time for a tour of Paris. I hope you’ve learned to hold your alcohol because I’ve already scouted the best bars around here…—“
Paris was wonderful. The only bad part was that feelings that had been pushed to the side were resurfacing and Kojiro wanted to do nothing more than kiss Kaoru under the Paris night sky.
But he couldn’t. Their bickering went on, and Kojiro’s longing looks went unnoticed, and Kaoru noticed him flirting with girls and bullied the shit out of him while simultaneously pouting and damn it all. Kojiro wished a look, that look, would be shot at him. But it never would, and the dull throbbing of want dejectedly moved back into its little corner of despair.
He was just happy to have Kaoru around, even if for a little while.
Years 4-6 Abroad
Kojiro went from France back to Italy, graduated, and joined a chain that was famous for transferring its cooks from restaurant to restaurant to help them gain experience where they could.
He spent half a year in Greece, where Kaoru mysteriously showed up for a week. He became a little obsessed with an American movie called ‘Mamma Mia’ there, after a night of movies and wine in Kaoru’s fancy hotel room.
The other half of his year was spent in Switzerland of all places, and Kojiro basically spent all of his time in the kitchen, even New Years’.
The next year he spent four months in Ireland, and he visited his old roommate’s restaurant that had opened up. It was a pretty nice pizza joint. After that, he spent six months in Amsterdam (where once again Kaoru showed up for two days?), before going back to Italy to check in with some official staff.
Official like… people who could give him licensing that would allow him to open his own restaurant.
He’d traveled so much that he’d been advised to pick any city he’d felt comfortable in and settle there. But Kojiro already had a vacant building in his hometown in mind. He’d been eyeing it since he was a teen, it was the perfect size for a restaurant, and it was placed in an atmosphere that would give him plenty of business.
On the plane back to Okinawa, Kojiro prayed and prayed the old building was still abandoned and musty. He was going to have his restaurant. He had saved, worked, and traveled all for this.
All to open an Italian restaurant in Okinawa.
Back in Okinawa
“Yup. Told ya, I’m too sentimental to make a living anywhere but this town. I’m surprised you actually stuck to Okinawa as well.”
Kaoru shrugged. “It’s home. I’m not very attracted to anywhere else.”
And I’m still very attracted to you, Kojiro thought, and maybe that’s why he was here, instead of France, Italy, or Greece. It was homey, and it was where Kaoru was.
Opening day was a success. Sia la Luce was given the light its namesake promised.
Kaoru was quickly becoming famous for his calligraphy skills.
A year passed before a pin with an S appeared on both Cherry and Joe’s doorsteps.
Adam’s skateboard shattered an image. It shattered any respect, and it shattered Kojiro’s patience. All he could think was, Kaoru, Kaoru, Kaoru, but it wasn’t the familiar longing. It was anger, something Joe didn’t feel as strongly and as often as most thought he did, and it was encompassing, spreading virally from a well of fear.
Hospitals were a place visited by most skaters at some point, and Kojiro hated them. Not only did the smell remind him of his mother, but his friend was in a hospital bed because he just had to chase Adam. Kojiro knew the second Cherry accepted that beef, it was either high school bad blood coming to clash or high school dreams going to merge.
But no. Adam had called Cherry boring. If anything the fucker was the boring one.
Cherry, with his long flowing pink hair, was boring? With his perfect skin, toned arms, masterful hands, dry humor, extraordinary intellect, he was boring?
Ha, Kojiro thought bitterly, what does that make me, the idiot in love with him?
“Carla, give me your master’s vitals. I can’t read these damn hospital machines.”
The little robot listed off everything it could if it related to Kaoru’s health.
“Is any further assistance needed, gorilla?”
Kojiro snorted, not knowing whether to feel offended by the remark or touched by the fact oh-so-precious Carla recognized his voice.
“Nah, it’s okay Carla. How about you go into sleep mode?”
Carla powered down.
“Kaoru. You’re stupid.”
Kaoru’s unconscious body did not respond.
“You’re stupid... like you lack common sense. Sometimes it’s funny, but when it lands you in a hospital bed it’s not. I can’t believe I love you.”
Kaoru still did not respond.
“Did you know it’s been fifteen years? I swear, the feeling never leaves me. Not that I want it to. It’s just… I wish I could be enough for you. I never took skating as seriously as you and Adam, is that it? Or is it really just that I’m an oaf?”
Kojiro ran a hand down his cheek.
“I dunno. I’m being dramatic. I’ve learned to live with… these feelings, I guess. They aren’t so bad, and somehow being around you makes it bearable, even though in all those romance dramas it’s supposed to make it worse. Maybe I’m stupid like that. I am stupid like that. I guess you only have yourself to blame for me being an oaf.”
The monitor continued beeping steadily.
“... Damn, I really want to kill Adam. That prick never deserved an ounce of your attention, you know that? You’re way out of his league. And I mean that in a good, handsome, person kind of way, not a skating way. But hey, he made you happy. I really hope a skateboard to the face stops your weird idolization of him, dumbass,” Kojiro took Cherry’s hand in his, “Watching that… it was almost as torturous as watching you fall into his arms as a lovesick teenager. Except for this time, I know it hurt you instead of making you happy, because well, duh, and it sucked to see. It felt so empty, really, how can physical fucking assault feel empty?”
He sighed again. “I feel so empty, Kaoru.”
Kaoru Sakurayashiki has been told he had a stick up his ass. But would someone with a stick up their ass really go through all this trouble to escape a hospital?
He sighed. He was acting like some unruly teenager, sneaking out to his friend’s house. Well, restaurant. His head still felt weird, so Kaoru really knew he shouldn’t be doing this.
It’s not like he wasn’t being safe. Carla turned into a wonderful wheelchair, preventing him from walking. That was enough, right?
Oh, but it was so worth it to see the incredulous look on Kojiro’s face. The man looked so angry, Kaoru had to hold back a snicker. One, because he was already in deep shit, and two, it would’ve hurt to laugh.
“Are you an idiot?” Kojiro pressed, “Sneaking out of the hospital like that…”
“It’s no problem, only a scratch.”
Kojiro looked like he was going to break the wine glass he had been cleaning. A vein appeared on his forehead.
“You look like a damn mummy!”
Kaoru turned up his chin. “An honorable wound. You haven’t gone up against Adam after all.”
For some reason, it was so easy to talk about Adam now. For years he pushed away thoughts of the blue-haired man, but now… his name felt so empty and meaningless if that made any sense.
“At least I would’ve won!” Kojiro shot back. They both knew that wasn’t necessarily true.
“Oh shut up. You lost against the rookie, Snow.”
“That kid’s no ordinary rookie,” The green-haired man sighed, “He could be a monster that’s even worse than Adam.”
“You’re overestimating him. Adam is… this is empty,” Kaoru gestured with the wine bottle in his hand. Seriously, what must an escaped hospital patient do to get a good glass of wine?
“You bring the next bottle then!”
“I’m injured .”
“Don’t talk all high and mighty…” Kojiro remarked, before turning to find some wine that could satisfy Kaoru’s picky tastes in his stocked bar.
He stared at his childhood friend’s large back. Kaoru could see his muscles move as he reached for the different bottles of alcohol. He wondered for a second, how did he get to the hospital?
Well, that was an easy question, Kojiro must’ve taken him. Kojiro’s always right beside him… he always… has… been…
“Is white okay? You like Lafite, right—“
Kaoru’s hair crowned his tired face as he softly slept. Sneaks out just to crash at a bar. Kojiro would tease him about how messy he was if the other man wasn’t asleep.
Suppressing an urge to gently move the eyeglasses strewn across his friend’s nose, Kojiro sighed, opening up a stool for himself next to Kaoru. He popped open the bottle and began to pour both the wine and the tension in his body away. He’d been very worried about Kaoru, and he couldn’t truly focus on work all day.
“Adam…” Kojiro said, the name feeling rightfully empty on his tongue, “Is currently skating all by himself. Sure, he’s an amazing skater, but I’m sure he’s not happy right now. That’s why his skating ends up… that way.”
He took his glass and scooted Cherry’s a little closer to his sleeping form.
Kojiro sighed and took a look at his childhood friend’s resting face. He was beautiful, such an indisputable fact. He felt that familiar softness leak into his facial expression.
Kojiro took back what he said. He didn’t feel empty. He felt full, so full of love.
“But you know,” He smirked, “We’re not alone. Right… Kaoru?”
The familiar clink between their glasses sounded, and so Kojiro drank.
“Hiromi, you’ve known Joe and I for a few months now,” Kaoru began, taking a spot next to his fellow hospitalized skater, “What do you think of Joe?”
“Ah, he’s cool. Pretty good music tastes, and he tips when he buys flowers for his restaurant,” The ginger answered, “Why?”
“Oh, um, no reason…”
“C’mon Cherry, that’s a weird question to ask. Aren’t you guys childhood buddies?”
Kaoru sighed. “It’s just… do you think he’s considerate?”
“Eh? He might be the most considerate skater I know, again, he tips well. Most guys like Joe put too much of their kindness into their muscles.”
“... But not Joe?”
Shadow shook his head. “Nope! When I first met the guy I thought all those girls hanging off of him were what he was doin’ it all for, y’know? But he’s not conceited like that at all. Why does Joe skate, Cherry?”
“We’re in public, call me Kaoru. And… Joe skates… well, because he’s always skated with me. I don't know.”
“Here’s a different question then, which one of you got into skating?”
Kaoru could answer this one. “Well, I was sent a pretty expensive skateboard in middle school from a relative, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. Kojiro tried it out a few times and decided to save up for his own. For a while, I just thought of it as an efficient way of travel but he was the one that showed me all these skating videos with fun looking tricks and,” Kaoru sighed, “I guess I became a bit obsessed with the technical aspect while he just laughed at me every time I screwed up.”
Hiromi hummed, “You became obsessed enough to create Carla, an AI, of all things.”
“Yes, well, Carla is a bit more than a skateboard at this point. She’s an assistant to all my living, but she did start out as a skateboard.”
“That is so cool,” Hiromi began to trail off about Carla.
It was a weird question to ask, what others thought of Joe. Why did Cherry care? Kojiro was a dumb oaf whose muscles, and Kaoru could admit his heart was as well, were too big for ninety percent of regular clothing.
This was the perfect opportunity for a list, Cherry thought. He counted in his head Kojiro’s defining traits that weren’t straight-up insults.
1. Kojiro is determined.
If Kojiro had a goal, it had always been likely he’d reach it, both in life and in skating.
2. Kojiro is strong.
Kaoru knew that he was a lot more fortunate than Kojiro from the start. His green-haired companion had always worked hard for what he wanted and didn’t take charity. He knew his friend’s relationship with his parents was little to none, yet he didn’t complain about it. He’d smile and say, “Hey, I’m used to it.”
3. Kojiro is stubborn.
Both Kaoru and Kojiro were stubborn. It was their shared trait, but not much harm came from how much they pushed each other.
4. Kojiro is confident.
The man was always surrounded by girls. It was annoying. Every word out of his mouth could sound like a pick-up line if he wanted it to. He walked with his chest up and his chin out. This trait was a direct contrast to Kaoru’s insistent anxiety and need to look humble when his face wasn’t covered. His ‘S’ persona wasn’t him, and he liked to keep it that way. Even if he was a bit of a celebrity in his line of calligraphy work.
Kaoru… couldn’t think of anything else. Was his head really so up in the clouds that he couldn't pick five defining traits for his objectively closest friend?
5. Kojiro is… nice.
Every day Cherry and Shadow were at the hospital, Joe came to visit, joke around and eat. Most of the meals he brought were homemade, or restaurant-made since Kojiro insisted the restaurant was his home.
Which… Kaoru guessed that was true. His friend did live right above the restaurant, in a bare apartment with a small kitchenette and a room for sleeping.
Kaoru didn’t see the softer side of Kojiro often, not after high school when every bit of drama felt like the end of the world, but… Hiromi had been right in saying Kojiro was considerate.
All throughout their years apart, it was Kojiro that kept him and Kaoru in touch. He almost single-handedly kept their friendship going while Kaoru tried his best to hide and isolate himself, for no other reason than his anxieties. Friends weren’t supposed to stick around that long, right?
But Kojiro was different. He was always there. Whether he was talking Kaoru’s ear off, starting an argument with Kaoru, convincing Kaoru to do something stupid, feeding Kaoru, making fun of Kaoru, or the occasional serious heart to heart, Kojiro was always an extended hand ready for Kaoru to grab.
Kaoru felt a sense of dread. Why was he thinking about Kojiro in such an analyzing light now? Was it the concussion?
Or was it just the way Kojiro made him think?
“C’mon dipshit, you’re finally free and you’re still sneaking out to my place,” Kojiro groaned, “Don’t you want to go home? Maybe sleep in your own bed, like a normal person would?”
“Cherry’s here?” A higher-pitched voice came from one of the tables in the corner.
“Well, hello to you to Miya. And I do what I want, bonehead!”
“Oh, I’m the bonehead. Right. Now if you’ll excuse me—“
“Joooooe! You said you’d help me with the last one so I could go to ‘S’!”
Kaoru wheeled towards Kojiro who had shoved himself into a booth with Miya, where the two stared at a piece of paper.
“Yeah, you did the first two steps right! But you forgot to convert that to a decimal,” Kojiro pointed at something on the paper.
“Math homework?” Kaoru questioned.
Miya and Kojiro turned to Kaoru and in sync and grimaced. “Math homework,” They confirmed grimly.
Kaoru would’ve helped, but he found himself quietly captivated by the way Kojiro softly explained the math to the middle-school boy. Kaoru, somewhat of an educator himself, might’ve snapped already at Miya’s whiny remarks about math not making sense. Math was math! No point in spending so much time thinking about the details.
But Kojiro was the type of man to calculate the cost of shipping and handling ingredients on paper. Kaoru was strictly calculator-based, plus he had people to do things for him. He never needed to be sat down and taught simple things.
6. Kojiro was patient.
That was new. Or was Kojiro always this patient? He knew how to calm Cherry down, that took patience. He’d gone through culinary school, and that took patience. Why was it just now Kaoru had noticed?
“See kid! You got it. Now, I better see at least a 90% on that test next week, alright?”
“... Okay. I’ll try.”
“I know you don’t like math. But I’m not lying, you did good. Punch it.”
Miya and Joe gave each other a fist bump before Joe instructed the kid to go get his hoodie and board from the back and be at ‘S’ in two hours. After the boy waved bye, Kaoru was still a bit dazed.
7. Kojiro is good with kids.
Because… why wouldn’t he be?
“‘S’ is tonight?” Kaoru asked.
Kojiro blinked, before scowling at him. “Don’t you dare get that look… and you have the look. Great. You just got out of the hospital! You are not going to ‘S’!”
“Says you. I’ll wheel myself there if you're so opposed.”
“No, no, it’s not like you’ll be skating anyway,” Kojiro gestured to the wheelchair, “Did you bring your clothes? Go change.”
“I can hear you grumbling from here, what’s wrong?”
“Don’t sneak up on me like that, oaf!” Kaoru sneered, before sighing in defeat, twisting his hair ribbon in between his fingers, “I can’t put up my hair…”
“What was that?”
“I said I can’t put up my hair with one arm, you ass!”
“Oh,” Kojiro smirked, “Why didn’t you say so? Let me,” He held out a hand.
“You— fine. Whatever,” Kaoru relented, giving up his yellow ribbon. He hoped Joe’s big stupid hand wouldn’t rip the expensive material.
“Give me the brush,” The green-haired man instructed. Cherry complied.
It was as if time slowed. Kojiro’s sizable hands gently carded through Kaoru’s hair, treating it as if it was precious. His fingers gathered each strand of hair, tossing out the shorter ones into their usual bangs. Kaoru let out a breath. Kojiro had done his hair a few times before, but they were such unmemorable moments. Why was now different?
Kojiro’s palm brushed Kaoru’s jawline, and his breath hitched, but it went unnoticed. Cherry could feel some heat rise to his cheeks and wanted to scream. Why was he so flustered?! He almost felt like he was going to have a panic attack, but at the same time, he was feeling something completely opposite. If it had to be described, it was like he was slowly lowering himself into a cold pool on a sweltering summer day.
The familiar pressure of the ribbon being tightened broke Kaoru out of his small crisis. Even that radiated softness.
“There. All done, princess. Did I do a good job?”
8. Kojiro can do hair.
Kaoru wished his thoughts would just calm the fuck down.
“I- It looks passable. Like a four-year-old did it, but passable.”
“Hey!” Kojiro cried, “That would be the most talented four-year-old anyone’s ever seen! Your hair is uncontrollable.”
“I seem to manage.”
Kojiro snorted. “Live your fantasy. Let’s get going, Reki is going against Adam tonight.”
“Fantasy?! I’ll have you know- wait- Reki’s doing WHAT—!”
Kojiro had held himself back from bad-mouthing Adam for Kaoru for years. It was honestly so tiring.
But now rain was falling like the day Adam had destroyed Cherry, but the world didn’t have a blue filter any longer. Everything was shrouded in gold.
Kojiro turned to see Kaoru’s reaction to Adam’s dumb ass fall in the mud. What he got was so much more than anything he could’ve expected. His friend’s laughter blessed his ears, and for the first time since high school, it was full and sprinkled with cute little snorts.
Kojiro sent a quick thanks to whatever divine power let Reki Kyan loose on the world, and fixed his gaping mouth into a huge unrestrained smile.
He let himself laugh with Cherry, finally insulting Adam’s cowardice and feeling something loosen in his chest.
“So, what actually happened to Carla? I’ve been pushing you around all night.”
Kaoru waved his wrist around nonchalantly. “I lent her to Hiromi so he could watch the race.”
Kojiro seemed to pause at that. “You… left Carla with Shadow? Are you feeling okay?”
“You barely let me touch Carla. Let me check your temperature,” Kojiro teased.
“You don’t touch Carla because you’re an annoying muscle-brained idiot.”
“Thanks, love you too.”
Kaoru rolled up to the bar. “Wine?”
“Ugh, so needy. It’s one in the morning, you know that? Shouldn't you be getting home?”
“I want wine.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s like, morally wrong to send a drunk person in a wheelchair home.”
“Who said I’m going home?”
Kojiro raised his eyebrow. “Is this your impolite way of asking to stay at my place?”
“I’ll have to carry you up the stairs, the apartment isn’t wheelchair accessible,” He argued.
“Well, obviously, with muscles as obnoxiously large as yours, that shouldn’t be a problem, will it?”
“You know what, I’m going to take that as a compliment,” Kojiro retorted, grabbing a red wine from one of the bar shelves, “It’s not like carrying you is anything new.”
“The last time you carried me was when you threw me into the ocean. I’m still pissed about that.”
“Ha! Good. But I did carry you last weekend, you were just unconscious, so you probably didn’t enjoy the full experience,” He said, flexing a bit before pouring the wine.
Kaoru scoffed, conjuring up the mental image in his head. “Of course you carried me to the hospital. So dramatic.”
“I’m dramatic?! I seem to remember your crumpled ass in my arms, angled like some fairytale damsel in distress. I’m pretty sure you’re more dramatic, princess,” Kojiro laughed, sipping his drink.
With one, the mental image of Joe carrying him bridal style like a princess, and two, the dim light of the Sia la Luce bar, Kaoru blushed. Why was he flustered again ? He quelled his thoughts with a sip of wine.
Kojiro shuffled around, pressing a small radio he had on the counter.
“Kojiro Nanjo, is that a cassette player?”
“Yes, what of it? Not all of us are high-tech rich boys.”
Music began to filter out of the speakers, some song in English.
“What is this?”
“ Queen, ” Kojiro said, his English heavily accented, “Never heard them before?”
“Once or twice, but you know I don’t obsess over music. What is the song about?”
“I thought you knew English?”
“I do, but I’m too tired to comprehend what that old radio is saying. What is the song about?”
Kojiro sighed as he always did before explaining something. “It’s called ‘Good Old-Fashioned Loverboy’, and it’s just a love song.”
Kaoru listened harder. “Sung by a man? About a ‘Loverboy’?”
“Yeah,” Kojiro confirmed.
“... I’d just thought you’d listen to something… more you. Something about seducing girls.”
“Is that how you see me?” Kojiro took a long sip of wine, and it was just now that Kaoru noticed he was shirtless, “My life isn’t all girls.”
“Have something to tell me?”
“... Kaoru do you seriously think I’d only limit this,” He gestured to his toned body, “To women? Now that’s just selfish.”
“Oh,” Kaoru said dumbly.
Kojiro liked men. Apparently. Okay. Kaoru liked men too. That was fine.
“When did you figure that out?”
“Oh, I’ve known since high school,” Kojiro answered, “I thought you would’ve known I’d swing both ways.”
“... It never came up.”
The two men sat in relatively comfortable silence after that, and Kojiro began to sing the song, and Kaoru could pick up the lyrics much better with his friend’s voice singing it.
“When I’m not with you… think of you always… I miss you… when I’m not with you…”
“Hey, boy, where’d you get it from? Hey boy, where did you go?”
“Dining at the Ritz we'll meet at nine precisely, I will pay the bill, you taste the wine,”
“Driving back in style in my saloon will do quite nicely
Just take me back to yours that will be fine,” Kojiro made a little finger-gun motion with his hand before singing, “Come on and get it!”
“Ooh, love, ooh Loverboy~!”
“What're you doin' tonight, hey, boy?”
“Everything’s all right, just hold on tight, that’s because I'm a good old-fashioned loverboy~!”
The next song began to play, low and soft. Kojiro didn’t sing this time, and Kaoru couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. He would never admit it, but Joe had a voice akin to honey-drizzle on a crepe. Even when singing in English.
9. Kojiro had a comforting voice.
Just as Kaoru began to feel himself drift asleep, Kojiro said, “We’re both beat. Time to go upstairs.”
Kojiro pushed Kaoru towards the stairs leading up to his apartment and without warning picked him up, bridal style. He mustn’t have heard Kaoru’s squeak because he surprisingly didn’t make any nasty remarks. Kaoru himself couldn’t bring out any insults, he was much too tired, much too tipsy.
Much to his dismay, Kaoru fell asleep against Kojiro’s very large, very comfortable chest.
The sound of a running sink woke Kaoru up. Morning light filtered through gray curtains… Kaoru didn’t have gray curtains.
Now fully conscious, Kaoru sat up, forcing himself to remember his irrational decision to stay at Kojiro’s place.
Because of Kaoru’s rich lifestyle, it was rare he’d come to Kojiro’s apartment, as it was usually the other way around. So, Kaoru hadn’t been here for a while. Taking a look around, he saw the reddish couch he was sitting on was much more worn in than the last time he saw it, and that a circular rug had been placed in the small sitting room. A shelf with some hooks held keys up at the door, and the sitting area opened up to the kitchenette where a small table had been added, two stools sitting by its side.
A plate of… something was steaming on the table, and Kaoru’s stomach rumbled looking at it. Usually, he’d brush his teeth before eating any meal, but his curious appetite got the better of him.
As he got closer to the kitchen, satisfied that he could easily walk the small distance, music filtered into his ears.
“Is that… ABBA ?”
“Oh, Sleeping Beauty’s awake! There’s breakfast on the table,” Kojiro said, not looking up from washing the pan in the sink.
“... Thanks… Isn’t it past opening time?”
“I had Shigeo open today,” he answered, “I have employees, you know.”
“Hmm, I doubt they enjoy working under you.”
“Says the boss that forces formal wear on his workers,” Kojiro retorted.
Kaoru took a sip of miso soup. “My line of work happens to be more refined than yours, dimwit.”
“Four-eyes, you wouldn’t be able to run this restaurant for a day. Don’t talk.”
“Is that a challenge or something?”
“Oh no,” Kojiro laughed, “I’d never subject my employees to your wrath.”
“Yes, because they’d crumble under the pressure.”
“Hey, at least insult me, not my poor workers! Plus, there are very few who can keep up with your high matinence ways.”
You being one of them, Kaoru thought. He paused, looking down at his breakfast. A rolled egg, rice, some sort of light and refreshing fish, and a side of miso. It was simple enough, but it was the structured breakfast Kaoru made a point of eating every day, for the sake of routine. The fact that Kojiro remembered…
“I wonder how sore Reki’s feeling right now,” Kojiro broke Kaoru out of his thoughts, sitting down and chipping away at his own plate, “Poor kid was tossed through the wringer.”
“He was very bold,” Kaoru agreed, “But Langa went home with him after, right? I’m sure the boys helped each other.”
“Heh, yeah probably. Poor Langa.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, not only was Reki on a complete adrenaline high, but the poor kids were in deep with each other. I’m pretty sure that fight they had only brought them closer.”
“Are you saying Langa and Reki…”
“Are you not? They look at each other like one hung the moon and the other is the reason the sun comes up in the morning. Miya even called it sickening,” Kojiro snorted, shoving rice into his cheek.
Kaoru sighed. “Well, excuse me for not being so observant. I’m more worried about Langa’s upcoming beef with Adam. The way he looked…”
Kojiro scowled. “I swear, I thought he was going to pull some shit right there after the race. Even I was unnerved. But if he tries some dramatic bullshit like that again I’ll punt my foot up his ass…”
“Wow. How passionate.”
“That’s one word for it. I take it you’ll be going home soon? Knowing you, you want to be back at work already.”
In truth, Kaoru hasn’t really thought about work in the time he’d been injured. Especially now, in such a delicate and warm breakfast atmosphere. For some reason, he felt like he could be here forever…
“I actually am taking the day off, so let me know if you need something,” Kojiro took some of Kaoru’s empty dishes, a habit he gained from being a restaurant owner, “Miya said he wanted to pass by the cherry blossom festival on the East side today, so.”
“They’re in bloom already? And- Since when did you and Miya become so inseparable?”
“Oh, well… he doesn’t exactly have the best parents… he asks me to go with him to certain places, saying he needs adult supervision… but he’s really just feeling lonely. He’d usually force Reki to go with him, but something happened between the two of them that Miya hasn’t exactly shaken yet.”
Of course, Miya would take advantage of Kojiro’s soft-hearted nature. Kaoru sighed.
“That kid has you wrapped around his finger, I swear.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing! He’s a decent kid, better than the lot of them nowadays,” Kojiro said defensively.
“Now you just sound old. And I feel like that was a jab at younger me.”
“More like younger both of us. We were such little punks. How’d we get away with half the shit we did, honestly?”
“I had pretty, rich privilege, and you were fast.”
“At least you’re self-aware. Put the rest of your dishes in the sink, and go change your clothes. I’ll wash them for you.”
“Then what am I supposed to wear, dumbass? Your clothes are huge, they’ll fall off.”
“And here I’d thought you’d be content to flaunt around naked. Go to my room and on the left side of my closet are my older clothes. They should fit, although loosely.”
“Seriously… fine. Whatever.”
Kaoru made his way towards Kojiro’s bedroom. The room itself was just big enough for a bed, a desk with a dated computer, a closet, some selves with old trinkets, and a nightstand. The bed had plain blue sheets and the shelves were littered with old comics and cookbooks. On the nightstand, however, stood a well-preserved cherry blossom tree branch. It seemed familiar.
Kaoru picked a simple pair of black pants and a loose pink t-shirt. It was the most casual thing he’d worn in a couple of weeks.
After dumping his gross ‘S’ clothes into Kojiro’s arms, Kaoru sat on the floor and tried stretching like the doctor recommended. His legs felt fine, it just seemed to be his unbudging shoulders that bothered him, and there wasn’t much he could do about that with one of his arms in a sling.
“Alright, sit still,” Kojiro said, startling Kaoru. The man must’ve had some secret intuition or something because the moment Kaoru needed something he just appeared.
“I’m going to touch your shoulders because you look tenser than a snake, is that okay?”
Kaoru nodded because it was okay. They’d given each other massages before, skaters got sore all the time.
Kojiro kneaded his shoulders blades like Kaoru was made of dough, and it was hard not to make a… noise.
Kaoru went through all that Kojiro had done for him today because apparently, his brain found that to be the most interesting thought. He made breakfast before Kaoru even got up, Kaoru was given clothes and had his dishes washed for him, and Kojiro was washing his clothes and giving him a massage now. Honestly, Kojiro was perfect husband material with all this domesticity going on.
Did Kaoru really just—
Kaoru had to double-check his brain. Yup, he definitely put the words ‘Kojiro’ and ‘Husband’ together in a sentence. His brain put the words together and they fit. The words fit better than any puzzle Kaoru had ever solved. What.
‘Husband material’ ? What did that even mean?! It was obvious Kojiro could get any girl he wanted, but for some reason, he wasn’t married yet, and Kaoru was starting to see that as a travesty. It couldn’t be true that no one wanted Kojiro. Kojiro was… perfect! Sure he was a stupid, dumb, gorilla shaped idiot, but that just meant he was kind, considerate, heartfelt, and hot.
When did the word ‘hot’ ever associate with ‘Kojiro’ ?!
Well, of course it did, Kaoru wasn’t stupid. Perfectly tanned muscles and toned… everything was already a bit much to look at, anyone would get heated at seeing it! Kaoru’s been around it so long that the initial effect wore off.
He’d been affected at all?!
Of course, Kaoru thought Kojiro was… hot! He wasn’t blind! Anyone with eyes and a taste in men would be attracted to Kojiro! He had soft eyes and a beautiful face combined with a rock hard body—
Wait wait wait WAIT!
Since when was Kojiro’s face considered beautiful in Kaoru’s mind?!
Since always, again, he wasn’t BLIND! But why now?! Kojiro’s husband material, Kojiro’s kind, Kojiro’s hot, Kojiro’s beautiful, Kojiro’s good with kids, Kojiro, Kojiro, Kojiro, Kojiro, Kojiro—
What was happening?!
As Kaoru was piecing all his thoughts together, his friend’s hands were still adjusting his back like some sort of heaven-sent deity.
Kaoru felt heat rise to his cheeks. He was flustered and having all these thoughts thrown at him.
He was acting like… like he had a crush. A crush on Kojiro.
Did he… like Kojiro?
He liked Kojiro?
Was Kaoru in love with Kojiro?!
He’d always know Kojiro was attractive and kind, and he was always at Kaoru’s side…
Has Kaoru always been in love with Kojiro?!?!?!
“Uhm—!” Kaoru squeaked a bit, moving away from Kojiro’s very nice strong hands— “It’s getting late. I really have to get back to work, I mean, it’s been a week—“
“Yeah, yeah. You need help down the stairs?”
“No, um, nope. My legs are all good, in fact, I might return the wheelchair today.”
“That’s good. Have fun at work, because apparently, that’s fun for you, crazy workaholic.”
“Ah, yeah… bye!”
“Wait! Your clothes are still washing—“
“I’ll come to pick them up some other day. BYE!” Kaoru accidentally slammed the door.
It was times like these where he was reminded of his number one rule. Always have Carla around. Because if she was here, he would’ve said, “Carla, take a private note, I am in love with Kojiro Nanjo,” And then he’d schedule a time to think about it. Now, his entire day was going to be a mess because—
10. Kojiro is husband material.
Okay, Kaoru was being dramatic. He made it through his day just fine, and curled up in his bed. Carla had returned, thankfully, due to her ‘find home’ feature (although Kojiro found it creepy when Carla just rolled down the street with no rider).
“Carla, what time is it?”
“It is ten, master.”
Great. He’d hoped to be asleep by now.
For some reason, his usual anxiety-relieving music was the last thing he wanted to hear. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to sleep.
“... play ABBA’s ‘Voulez-Vous’. At low volume. ”
Kaoru groaned, wanting to shove his face into his pillows but not wanting to ruin the silk with his facial cream that had yet to dry. He settled on huffing like an upset child.
I can see that you're oh so sad, so quiet…
Kaoru couldn’t stop himself from acting weird. Seriously, listening to one of Kojiro’s favorite albums right before bed? It was out of place.
Your best friend, I'm the one you must rely on...
Kojiro was his best friend. Since… forever! Maybe the newfound feelings were some sort of fluke caused by not being in a relationship for so long.
Chiquitita, you and I know…
That couldn’t be it. It was rare for Kaoru to catch any sort of feeling for anybody, let alone so out of the blue.
How the heartaches come and they go and the scars they're leaving…
Then there was just the fact that… maybe it was impossible not to fall in love with Kojiro. He was perfect husband material, after all.
But why hadn’t he gotten married yet?
So the walls came tumbling down…
The man had girls hanging onto him left and right. Kaoru had even seen him kiss some of them, although nothing past a peck on the lips. Though, Kojiro did tell some… outrageous stories about his little… college experiments.
Gah! Why did that matter?
And your love's a blown-out candle…
Cherry held very few relationships during his college years, a few sloppy make-outs at parties that he’d partially forgotten about due to how drunk he really was.
Chiquitita, tell me the truth…
The only person Kaoru had really… fallen for…
Was a man whose real name he never knew. Whose true identity was hidden deeply away behind some emotional facade? Since then, Kaoru hadn’t felt like that about anyone.
There is no way you can deny it…
But was that really love? At least if Kaoru were to fall for Kojiro…
Try once more like you did before…
… Kojiro would catch him. Actually catch him.
Sing a new song, Chiquitita…
Now, the only issue was: did Kaoru have any chance?
“You should actually knock before you come in, instead of just saying it!” Kaoru yelled.
“Huh? I can’t hear you over the nice scent of a washed Cherry Blossom costume that hides someone’s very secret illegal identity—“ Kaoru stopped Kojiro’s rampage by tugging on his ear, the man pitifully whining at the action.
“What did I tell you about saying shit like that?!”
“Don’t worry,” Kojiro rolled his eyes, passing the folded clothes to Kaoru, “No one’s on this floor, and also none of your overworked employees care.”
“They are not overworked!”
“Yeah, and I’m not totally hot, uh-huh,” Kojiro chuckled. Kaoru’s heart skipped a beat but it was easily ignored. For some reason, Kaoru thought that facing Joe would’ve been harder, but it wasn’t. Everything seemed normal, except now Cherry had words in his head that weren’t there yesterday. This really only added to the theory that he had liked Kojiro this way before he’d truly realized it.
He sniffed his clothes. “Your detergent smells like a grandmother’s.”
“Says the prissy bitch who’s worn the same cologne since high school.”
Kaoru groaned. “Get out.”
“I was just leaving,” Kojiro smirked. “Oh, by the way, Langa’s not dismissing Adam’s beef.”
“I should’ve known that boy was lacking brain cells since he tried to apply to a calligraphy institute barely knowing any kanji,” Kaoru sighed, “Although I think your stupidity leaked onto him as well.”
“Yup! I’m leaving!”
Kojiro flipped him the bird on his way out, and Kaoru sighed into his newly washed, lavender-scented costume. He was in deep, and it hadn’t even been a day.
“Pick up the board and swing!”
“Crack him a good one, Snow!”
“Jeez, you two are in sync,” Miya mumbled behind Joe and Cherry, who were having the time of their lives yelling for Adam’s downfall, “Have some decency.”
“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?” Joe looked down at the thirteen-year-old.
“It means you guys are doing the old-married-couple routine again. It’s freaking me out.”
“Old married—!” Cherry gaped at the boy before the crowd began clamoring about the race almost being finished.
As he ran, Cherry concluded that Joe and he did act like a sitcom-like old married couple. That tied in perfectly with the ‘husband material’ theory.
This is starting to get ridiculous, Cherry thought to himself.
Langa launched himself onto his redheaded counterpart, and Kaoru couldn’t help but smile a bit. The boy had really done it, beat Adam of all people.
Cherry stood a bit off to the side as Joe engulfed the kids into a monstrous bear hug. The whole night did call for a celebration.
“Kojiro, would you like to go to the beach?”
“Didn’t we just go a few months ago?”
“I mean…” Kaoru flipped his fan open and hid part of his face behind it casually, “Maybe just the two of us this time? The kids are so rowdy…”
“Eh, I’m pretty sure we can be rowdier,” Kojiro shrugged, “But sure. I need a vacation after that whole ‘S’ tournament. I mean, I love skateboarding and all, but yeesh, so dramatic…”
Kaoru was glad Kojiro agreed. Due to the nature of the both of them, Kojiro knew most of the trip was to be scheduled, just like everything Kaoru did, but after years of knowing how each other behaved while traveling, they’d found a balance of structure and freedom. Kaoru scheduled things to do but not small things like eating times or bars and spontaneous nighttime impulses that Joe always begged for.
“You literally skate shirtless, you dumb oaf.”
“There’s a difference between showing off and being dramatic—“
“Okay, Mister ‘I launch myself off walls’,” Kaoru shot back at him.
“At least I look cool doing it,” Kojiro mumbled childishly.
And that, he did.
“Have you noticed Reki and Langa hanging off each other more often?”
Kojiro snorted. “Yeah. I mean, those two have become even closer after the little party we put together. Apparently, they had a race, private and just between the two of them. Ever since Miya says they’ve been… ‘obnoxious’.”
“Do you think…”
“God I hope so. I’m not willing to watch two high schoolers dance around each other more than I already have,” Kojiro sighed, “Tortuous.”
Some sort of timer rang from the kitchen. Joe jumped up.
He came back out, shoving a plate of some sort of square-shaped pasta in Kaoru’s face.
“Try this dish for me?”
Kaoru scoffed, “Yeah, no, I’m not falling for another one of your dumb pranks.”
“It’s not a prank this time! I’m trying to expand a bit for the summer menu, so please just try it!”
“... What is it.”
“Spinach ravioli, ” Kojiro replied, setting the dish down.
“And what makes you think I’d like that, idiot?”
Kojiro smirked. Kaoru’s heart skipped a beat.
“You have spinach in your omelet every morning,” He said, smug, “It’s almost the same.”
“I seriously doubt that…” Cherry shoved his fork because apparently, Kojiro was too lazy to bring him chopsticks, into the pasta. Just deciding to go for it, Cherry put the whole square into his mouth.
Kaoru had to hold back a moan at the taste. It was so fucking good. His eye twitched in an effort to keep his cool.
“Well?” Kojiro asked, tapping the counter impatiently.
Kaoru swallowed and refrained from taking another bite of the dish, “At least wait for me to finish chewing to ask, you oaf!”
“Just tell me if it’s good or not!”
“It’s— ugh, it’s passable, ” Kaoru responded. He didn’t even have the heart to insult Joe’s food. He really must be coming down with something.
“Yes! That’s a ten-out-of-ten in Kaoru language,” Kojiro winked while pumping his fist, “Might as well put it on the year-round menu, then.”
“There is no ‘Kaoru language’! Shut up!”
“That sounds like something a native Kaoru language speaker would say.”
Kaoru angrily shoved another piece of the dish in his mouth, the taste almost melting away his annoyance.
“... Whatever. Are we still on for a week at the beach or not?”
“Yeah, I just need to tell Satoru… you know he’s going for a scholarship soon? He asked me to recommend him and everything,” Kojiro said, that heart-melting warm smile on his face, “Ah, they grow up so fast~”
“You treat your employees like children.”
“And you treat yours like robots, let me have my fun!”
“I treat my employees professionally . Oh wait, you don’t know what that word means,” Kaoru sneered.
“Alright, that’s it, I’m taking your plate back!”
“No!” Kaoru snatched his plate away, “No refunds is the policy, dimwit!”
“You don’t even pay for food-!”
why is only satoru at the restaurant
Cherry and I are going to the beach for like two weeks. We just left. Why?
tell me these things old man
anyway have fun on ur honeymoon or whatever u old people do
… Can I get one day where you don’t call me old. And it’s not a honeymoon.
“it’s not a honeymoon” and reki’s not a slime yeah
Kid. Kindly shut your trap.
aww u can’t even cuss out a kid how pathetic
are u still in denial or is cherry the one in denial
… I will tell you to shut up unkindly.
And I’m not in denial, never have been. That’s all you get.
fuck yeah shadow owes me 2,000 yen
anyway go get ur mans or whatever
or don’t I like seeing u suffer
I’m going to block you.
ur too old to know how coward
Joe blocked Miya Chinen
hey unblock miya he wants to say something :(
Joe unblocked Miya Chinen
You’re a little shit you know that?
oh look he actually has balls
Don’t you have homework little boy?
Miya Chinen blocked Joe
“Oh boy. Sometimes I forget you’re rich, you know?”
“Just be glad I’m paying for you this time,” Kaoru scoffed, setting his bag down. The hotel room had two beds and a mostly traditional Japanese look to it. Kojiro made a few comments about how it was so unnecessarily big and spacious but Kaoru just threatened to kick him out if he kept whining.
“Ahh…” Kojiro flopped onto one of the beds, ignoring the loud creak under his weight, “You never realize how much of a bad back you have until you lay on a rich-people bed.”
Kaoru snorted. “It’s like you try to sound old.”
“And it’s like you try to sound snobby. Speaking of being snobby, should we go wine tasting? I heard there’s a place around here.”
“... And you want to get more wine for the restaurant I assume?”
“Hey, I’m a working man.”
“Yet somehow you’re still a lazy ape.”
“Stupid big baby.”
“We need that wine.”
It felt weirdly relaxing, taking a vacation with Kojiro. Obviously, since Kojiro knew everything about Kaoru there wasn’t much to worry about. Kojiro would order room service over the phone because he knew Kaoru hated ordering food. He’d tell Kaoru where he’d misplaced his hairdryer, and he always picked the right restaurants to eat at, as if it was intuition.
When they went wine tasting, Kojiro had flirted with a woman there, to which Kaoru responded by hitting him on the head with his fan. Call it jealousy, call it possessive, but these newfound feelings made the whole flirting thing hard to watch. Like a comedy routine that wasn’t catered to Kaoru’s sense of humor.
They took their skateboards to a smooth street spanning the coast right by the beach, where the ocean was easily marveled at. Kaoru admitted (to only himself) that he had been watching the way Kojiro’s muscles rippled in the sunlight rather than the ocean, but that was neither here nor there. He’d stared at Kojiro’s muscles before, but now there was a sense of longing behind it. He almost felt pervert-like, but it’s only natural to want to touch pecs bigger than your own head, right?
Of course, the two bickered and argued constantly, but that was their normal. It felt good, it felt fun. Banter had just been how they always communicated, as yes, as they got older the insults had to become harsher because otherwise, they would have run out a long time ago.
On night five, Kojiro asked for something a bit out of Kaoru’s comfort zone.
“What do you want, can’t you see I’m busy!”
Kojiro sighed, “You’re just picking at your face, which is smooth, by the way. There’s nothing to pick at. Anyway, do you want to go karaoke?”
“Do I— Kojiro, when have I ever wanted to do that?”
“We did it in high school once, at the end of our year,” The idiot reminisced.
“Yes, but I don’t happen to recall due to the fact I was blackout drunk.”
“Well, that’s the best part of karaoke, dumbass. So what do you say?”
“... You’re so stupid. You’re paying for the first round of sake at least.”
Drunk Kojiro was a menace to everything around him. He was loud, laughed a lot, and told really stupid jokes.
Jokes which drunk Kaoru unfortunately found funny despite the fact he’d never laugh at them sober.
The two adults were draped over each other in the karaoke booth, laughing their asses off at something they instantly forgot about when Kojiro jumped up and called for another round of singing.
“No, no! This one won’t be a joke. It’ll be a performance!” He declared dramatically. Kaoru snorted and then hiccuped, “Sure.”
When Kojiro finally picked the song, Kaoru recognized it immediately.
“Is this fucking Miki Matsubara?”
“Only middle-aged moms listen to this song!”
“Well, you’re gonna hear it from this close to middle-aged man!”
And he sang.
“ Watashi wa watashi anata wa anata to…”
(I am only me, and you are only you)
“Yuube itteta sonna ki mo suru wa…”
(I feel the same way as I did last night)
Kaoru watched as Kojiro practically glowed underneath the neon karaoke lights, singing drunkenly, but the sweetness in his voice was not lost.
“...Shou uindou ni futari utsureba… ”
(The two of us reflect through the window…)
“Stay with me~! Mayonaka no doa o tataki, Kaeranaide to naita, Ano kisetsu ga ima me no mae…”
(Stay with me, we’re knocking on midnight’s door, I’m begging you not to go home tonight, the season is right in front of our eyes…)
Sure Kaoru was drunk, but he wasn’t only drunk on alcohol.
“Stay with me~! Kuchiguse wo ii nagara, futari no toki wo daite, mada wasurezu, daiji ni shite ita…”
(Stay with me… uttering our favorite words, holding on to our little moment, I'll never forget it as long as I live…)
Kaoru suddenly wanted to stop drinking, in hopes he’d remember this stupid moment for the rest of his life. He needed to keep this memory forever. He needed for Kojiro to stay forever.
Instead of expressing any of this, he tried his best to cheer on Kojiro’s little performance without falling to the floor.
At this point, it was a little too late to stop drinking.
“Kaoru. Kaoru. KaoruKaoruKaoruKaoruKaoru— “
“What the fuck do you want?! It’s the middle of the goddamn night!”
“There was a fucking spider on my bed!”
“A— for fucks sake, you’re the size of a truck and you’re still afraid of spiders?!”
Kojiro shook him annoyingly, and it was only then that Kaoru realized Kojiro was only sleeping in some very short shorts— “Just scooch over! I’m not touching that bed tonight after seeing that!”
“No! Sleep on the floor!”
Kaoru threw a pillow at his head with as much strength as he could muster this late, “Fucking fine. But I will kick you if you snore like a whale.”
“Hey, you know I can’t control that…” Kojiro settled on this side of the bed. After a second of rustling, Kojiro had fallen into light sleep (as the snoring was minimal). Kaoru tried to ignore the fact that he had a thing for the man sleeping in the same bed as him because Kojiro and Kaoru had shared beds before! It wasn’t weird unless Kaoru made it weird!
How the fuck did I end up laying on TOP of him?!
That was Kaoru’s first thought the next morning. His head was buried into Kojiro’s chest, which was crazy soft. It was like… two little pillows… with a steady heartbeat behind it…
He woke up twice that morning, the second time all alone as Kojiro had gone to the hotel gym for a morning workout. Kaoru was left wondering if his first had been a dream.
“You know your cartilage piercing is still open right?”
“Oh- I didn’t really notice, why?”
“Well it is hidden under your bangs… should we go buy something to put in there?”
Kaoru sighed. “I can’t really wear piercings anymore for the sake of professionalism.”
“But it’ll be hidden behind your hair,” Kojiro argued, “And this time we could get a gold hoop for it that matches your glasses and eyes.”
Has he thought about this or something…
To be honest, Kaoru didn’t have a reason to say no. He really could just take off the jewelry if he needed to.
“Fine. Don’t be surprised if I take it off.”
“I’m not trying to force you to wear it or say you’d look better with it. I just think you should live a little, if you don’t now you’ll regret being so professional and then you’ll become a crazy old man.”
Kaoru hit him on the arm. “We literally have illegal skating aliases!”
“Yeah, but that could contribute to the crazy old man thing.”
“You’re impossible,” Kaoru scoffed.
“I’m fun, ” Kojiro threw him a cocky grin, “So yeah, maybe that's impossible to you.”
Fitted with a new piece of jewelry sticking out of his ear (a plain gold ring) Kaoru and Kojiro visited the beach for a bit.
Some girls came up to Kojiro when he was throwing away some trash and began to flirt with him. Watching it made Kaoru feel like he had a soul-sucking pit in his stomach. That first night he’d realized his deeper-than-necessary feelings for Kojiro he didn’t account for jealousy. He was bound to feel it at some point, as Kojiro was always getting on with some girl. It was like a sport to him.
Kaoru huffed, annoyed, and looked out at the water. Thinking back, he’d always gotten mad and upset when Kojiro flirted in front of him, but Kaoru always wrote it off as annoyance or disgust. And maybe it was. But he was starting to think there was another intention under those emotions.
He almost wished Miya were here. The kid had a personal mission to make Joe superficially miserable by scaring away all potentially interested girls whenever they were together. He’d roped Kaoru into it, calling him his “mom” and Kojiro his “dad” to rid girls of their affection for Joe, considering most young girls wouldn’t want a man who already had a family.
Kojiro sauntered back to where Kaoru’s umbrella and the chair were.
Kaoru sighed, throwing an empty soft drink cup at him, and as Kojiro mumbled “I already went to the trash…” Kaoru asked, “So, did you pick up a vacation date or what?”
“Huh? Oh, um, no. I’m not really up for all that,” Kojiro replied, scratching the back of his neck and looking away from Kaoru.
“You didn’t want to pick up girls at the beach? What, are you sick?”
“I’m not sick! I’m just trying to relax during this vacation.”
And here I thought flirting with random women was your way of relaxation, Kaoru thought. But he brushed it off.
The next day, they visited a festival away from the beach. It was celebrating something to do with agriculture, but Kaoru had a hard time paying attention to it.
Kojiro looked especially nice today. His skin was naturally dark, but it was now tanned from the sun, and small freckles had begun to pop up on his face (Kaoru almost felt as if he needed physical restraints for how much he wanted to reach out and touch them). He wore a stupid but outrageously form-fitting green button-up with little sunflower designs strewn across the material. Kojiro’s hair had gotten caught behind Kaoru’s hairdryer in the morning (due to a squabble involving a hairpin that had fallen into the toilet) so it looked more fluffy than usual (another thing Kaoru desperately wanted to touch). The sun even spread across his face and made his warm brown eyes glow.
The pair went to several vendors throughout the festival, buying useless trinkets like a stuffed animal cat that reminded Joe of Miya and greasy street food like takoyaki.
Kaoru was at a booth that was selling calligraphy brushes, more judging them than looking to buy when Kojiro’s face popped into view.
“Stop harassing whoever owns this booth,” He chastised.
“I haven’t even spoken to the owner! You— what’s that?”
Kaoru pointed to what Kojiro was holding. Kojiro held it up and offered a smile. “They reminded me of you! I don’t know where these are from but they’re the same shade as your hair.”
Kaoru gently took the wrapped bouquet from Kojiro. It was a bunch of cherry blossom branches, wrapped in palm leaves and a darker pink wrapping. Kaoru lightly touched the branches, knowing that cherry blossoms were fragile. His lip quivered a bit before his expression turned a bit more determined.
“Where’s the flower section of the festival?”
“Oh, it’s on the other side of the fruits we passed by earlier! Wait where are you—“
“Thank you for purchasing! I’m sure your lady will be pleased!”
Heteronormativity. So impossible to avoid.
Kaoru waved and said thank you to the flower booth owner, and picked up his pace.
“Kaoru! I thought you’d left me alone and went back to the hotel, you little prick! Anyway, want some ice… cream?”
Kaoru shoved the bouquet of flowers into Kojiro’s chest and plucked the ice cream cone from Kojiro’s hand. The sunflowers matched the exact color of the ones on his shirt.
“Are these… for me?”
“You’re so dumb. Obviously.”
“Aww, Kaoru! Hey, they match my shirt!”
They match you, Kaoru thought, just like the sun.
Kaoru bit into the ice cream, taking a huge chunk out.
“Did— did you just bite the ice cream, you weirdo?”
“Yes. It’s food, it’s not like it’s unethical to bite it.”
“It is very fucking unethical to bite ice cream!”
And so they walked back to their hotel, cradling bouquets and bickering. Kojiro stopped to take a selfie with the both of them in the sunset, and Kaoru couldn’t stop himself from asking the man to send it to him.
Kojiro and Kaoru had been skateboarding since middle school. They’d zoom through streets that they weren’t supposed to be in, and they’d get lost but laugh about because really, what was there to worry about? They were together (and Kaoru had a cell phone to quell his own anxiety) so they’d be fine.
It was only natural that now, speeding down the sidewalk on their boards, even being older they felt young.
They slid down some stair railing before landing under a bridge. It was surprisingly clean for a place Kaoru would expect any homeless population to take advantage of. Kojiro threw him a can of grape soda and popped open his own melon flavor from the vending machine they had stopped by earlier.
“Kaoru, do you remember when we went to America?”
“Yes. It was our first high school trip, wasn’t it?”
Kojiro kicked some pebbles. “Yeah. I’m pretty sure it was the first time we went out of the country together too. I did thank you for paying for some of my expenses, right?”
“Yes, Kojiro. You thanked me so much I thought you were going to bow low enough to break your skull on the concrete.”
The green-haired man chuckled. “I was pretty thankful. I still don’t know how I got into that school, everything cost so much…”
Kaoru hummed. “You got perfect test scores. You studied the whole summer.”
“Right. Scholarship. Anyway, what was your favorite American food?”
Kaoru paused to think. “Probably… I liked that hot dog vendor in Washington. Most American food is pretty trashy though, I wouldn’t eat it again.”
“Are you sure you didn’t like the chicken and waffle place in L.A. better?”
“Oh? I seem to remember you being so stuffed you wanted a piggyback ride back to the bus!”
“Being stuffed doesn’t mean it was my favorite, you stupid oaf!”
“This stupid oaf carried you to the bus. Without me, you’d still be in the states.”
Kaoru crossed his arms. “Without me, you would’ve taken the wrong flight to Ireland!”
“Without me, you would’ve fallen into that sinkhole near the ruins in Greece!”
“And you wouldn’t be here on this vacation unless I had asked!”
Kojiro cornered Kaoru, “You would’ve hated going alone,” He smirked.
And he was right.
“Shut up. I hate you .”
“I hate you more~!”
It was then that Kaoru realized Kojiro had pushed him to where his back was against the wall and Kojiro’s arm was across his shoulder, pressed against the wall behind him. Kojiro looked down at his pink-haired counterpart, smug and unaware of the compromising position they were in.
Usually, Kaoru would kick him in the shin or groin to escape. But today… Kaoru wanted to wipe that stupid smirk off of his face.
Some heat rose to his cheeks and he found his hand moving to cup Kojiro’s jaw, whose smirk was promptly replaced with a confused downturn of the lips.
“Don’t make this a competition, Kojiro…” Kaoru said softly, letting his eyes slip closed.
And he kissed him.
He kissed Kojiro.
Kaoru kissed Kojiro, and it felt right.
After a second, he pulled back, opening his eyes to a very frozen-looking Kojiro. His eyes were wide and his body was stiff. But his cheeks were darkened, so despite himself, Kaoru laughed.
“You look so stupid,” He snarked, snaking under Kojiro’s arm, leaving him to gape at the concrete wall desecrated with graffiti.
“Wait— Kaoru what was—“
Kaoru prepared to mount Carla. “Race you back to the hotel.”
“No, no, wait—!”
He heard Kojiro yell a curse behind him and the telltale sound of a skateboard scraping concrete.
“Carla, give me a boost.”
Kaoru sped across the street, following the ocean coast that would inevitably lead to the hotel under the orange hue of the sunset. His brain, finally off the high of making the first move, started to fire off anxiety-ridden thoughts.
He kissed Kojiro. What if Kojiro didn’t want to be kissed?
What if Kojiro didn’t like him at all? Did he read the situation wrong?
How would Kaoru feel if he was kissed so out of the blue? Probably not good, but if it were Kojiro…
It had just felt so natural. Like kissing his closest friend was a sport he’d been playing for years and years. He felt like he could do it again for years and years.
Kaoru came to a stop right in front of the hotel, and he could see Kojiro coming towards him. The man slid to a stop and stared at Kaoru.
“Hello there,” Kaoru said, eyebrows raised. He needed to know if he fucked this up.
“Hi,” Kojiro said simply, before laughing loudly and running a hand down his face, “Let’s head up. You probably smell like shit.”
“I— Shut up. You sweat like a pig.”
Kojiro was drying his hair off when Kaoru finally spoke up from his bed, where he sat with a hotel-issued robe wrapped around him.
“Kojiro. Are we going to… or are you just going to act all casual?”
He tilted his head. “I didn’t wanna say anything. You initiated it, so…”
“So you expect me to talk about it?”
“I don’t expect anything,” He shook his head, “But I’ll just get this out of the way; Did it actually… mean anything?”
Kaoru bit his lip nervously. “Me… kissing you. Why would I do it unless…?”
“I dunno. I did kind of put you in a corner.”
“... You know, I’d rather you wear a shirt if we’re going to be serious.”
Kojiro picked up the first article of clothing on top of his suitcase.
“Kojiro, that’s a jacket.”
“Goes over my torso, doesn’t it?”
Kojiro settled on his bed, groaning as he plopped down. He felt… spacey. He hadn’t exactly decided if that kiss was real or not, despite them talking about it now.
“You want food?” He offered because really he didn’t have much else to say.
Kaoru tilted his head. “You own a restaurant. Don’t you ever get tired of food?”
“It’s necessary for human life,” Kojiro said, putting the words of one of his professors in his own mouth, “Getting tired of food means you’re getting tired of breathing.”
“Well, that’s a bit dark. I… I know I never… talk, about things or problems until it’s too late, so I want to get this over with now…”
“So, no food until you tell me what you need to say?”
Kaoru shook his head. “No food.” Then he smiled softly. “You… okay, remember in our second year I passed out in gym class because I hadn’t eaten?”
“Yeah,” Kojiro gulped, “You scared the shit out of me.”
“Since then you always made sure I’d eat. I thought it was annoying.”
“You think everything’s annoying, asshole.”
There was a pause.
“Nanjo, why aren’t you married?”
Kojiro shot up, “Huh?!”
“I asked, why aren’t you married? You’ve got girls hanging on you all the time and you’re going to tell me none of them ever brought up the prospect of marriage?”
“I— I… I never went out to look for a wife…? I don’t…”
“Think about it. You have all the perfect qualities of a husband. You’re a cook, you’re good with kids, you’re determined and stubborn, and… you are nice. You can do hair, you’re patient and you’re always just… around! So I don’t get why someone like you isn’t immediately seen as husband material!”
Kojiro just sat there in shock. His brain was overheating. It was shutting down. Kaoru called him… husband material.
“What?” Kaoru continued, “It’s true, and I’m being factual!”
Kojiro was melting. He was a popsicle and Kaoru’s words were a blowtorch.
God, he was terrible with metaphors.
“I— okay, just pinch me, will ya?”
Kaoru reached over and pinched him hard.
“Ow! Fuck, okay, not dreaming… yeesh, cut your fingernails…”
“I will do no such thing,” Kaoru responded, “That nail tech needs my business.”
“Or you just like being pampered.”
Kaoru scoffed but didn’t deny it. Kojiro heard his bed creak meaning Kaoru was now also staring at the ceiling existentially. A moment passed.
“Why’d you kiss me, Kaoru?”
“Really? You’re going to make me use my words?”
“Using words is literally your job, first off, and second, it’s just a question, no need to get defensive.”
Kaoru sighed. “I already answered your question though. I said you’re always around. I don’t like repeating myself.”
“Sorry, my Kaoru language translator is broken. What do you mean by ‘I’m always around?’”
Kaoru made a frustrated noise. “You— ugh, you’re always there for me. You’ve always been there for me. And now I’m mad at myself because I never realized how much I…”
Kojiro sat up after Kaoru let his sentence trail off.
“You don’t need to repay me for anything. Don’t feel like you have to.”
“That’s not what I mean you idiot! Gross,” Kaoru sat up as well, making a face, “And I was going to say I never realized that I… needed you. Even though it was so obvious.”
Kojiro gulped. “Needed me…”
“Yeah. I… okay. When I ‘liked’ Adam,” He said, putting air quotes around the word liked, “He was never there for me. He was just cool, and I was overly curious. But even throughout that whole phase, you were there. And then when my grandfather died? You held me when I cried. You even kissed my forehead, yes, I felt that by the way. When I got sick in Greece for a week you stayed at my place, even taking off work. Then that time I broke my arm—“
“Alright! I get the point!” Kojiro said, panicked over the sincere words and his flushed face. He let out a small laugh. “Of course I’d be there for you! That’s—“
“... That’s how it’s always been. I just don’t get how this all relates to what happened under the bridge.”
“Did you not…” Kaoru seemed to take a too-deep breath, “Want that? To happen, I mean.”
“No! I mean— no, I didn’t not want it to— I mean yes, I wanted that. Ha, you have no idea…” Kojiro stopped himself. Kaoru was sure to think he was pathetic if he expressed how long he’d been waiting for something like this to happen. Not even waiting, dreaming. But Kojiro had convinced himself Kaoru would never like him the same way Kojiro did.
“If you liked me in that way, why do you always try to pick up girls? Just… curious.”
Kojiro sucked in a breath. “Well, I… I didn’t think you’d ever…”
“I didn’t think you’d feel the same way when I realized either but… we’ve known each other so long I felt no reason to be nervous. A small peck like that… if you truly hated it I could’ve played it off as a joke. But… you didn’t hate it.”
“No I didn’t. When did you…?”
Kaoru mumbled something.
“Can't hear you, dickhead.”
“I said it’s been a few weeks, okay?! It just— it feels like forever… I’ve had these feelings much longer than a few weeks. I just didn’t know.”
Kaoru rolled his eyes. “Nosy. I realized the morning I stayed at your place. It hit me… well, it hit me as hard as a skateboard to the face.”
Kojiro groaned. “That’s not funny!”
“It was a little funny,” Kaoru shrugged.
“Well. At least you seem to be over it.”
Kaoru gave him a small smile. “Maybe I finally got some sense knocked into me. But enough about that… I’d like to know when you realized.”
Kojiro wanted a sinkhole to open up and swallow him. Let him become one with the Earth.
He opened his mouth, and the only thing that came out was a vague chuckle. Internally, he began to panic more when Kaoru decided to cross the space between them and sit by Kojiro’s side.
At Kaoru’s quirked eyebrow, Kojiro calmed himself. Kaoru had always been the overthinker, the anxiety-ridden, the more nervous between the two of them. If he could be truthful with Kojiro without being scared, then there was no reason for Kojiro to be.
It was easy with Kaoru.
“We were studying for a midterm exam, and you got hungry. I bought you the matcha pocky and you bought me the strawberry,” Kojiro said, not a brave enough man to look at Kaoru.
He continued. “We obviously made comments about how we picked out each other’s hair colors, and the corner store employee yelled at us for being too loud. We both just barely passed the test.”
Kaoru was quiet before gasping in realization. “Kojiro! That happened in our first year!”
Kojiro flopped back on the bed, and once again an empty chuckle escaped his lips.
“Fifteen years…” He mumbled.
A beat passed.
“You! Liked! Me! For! Fifteen! Years! And! You! Didn’t! Say! Anything?!” Kaoru hissed, emphasizing each word by smacking Kojiro.
“You’re so stupid!”
“That’s not even a word!”
“Shut up, grammar police!”
“Maybe get it right next time, you brainless gorilla!”
With Kaoru now positioned above him, Kojiro smirked. It really was so easy with Kaoru. He twisted a strand of pink hair between his fingers.
“What do you say we make up for lost time then, huh pinky?”
Kaoru blushed but scowled.
“How’d you know I was going to be impatient?”
“Because you are,” Kojiro replied, tucking the hair behind Kaoru’s ear, “ Husband material’s intuition.”
Kaoru smacked him again, before kissing him. Hard. Luckily Kojiro didn’t have to ask for a pinch this time, as the growing heat was awakening enough.
“And you drooled on my bicep, so I think we’re even four-eyes.”
Kaoru lay wrapped comfortably on Kojiro’s arm. Like a pink koala. One of his pale fingers traced the outline of Kojiro’s tattoo.
“I wish we could stay like this forever…” He heard Kaoru mumble, then he froze like he hadn’t meant to say that out loud.
“I wouldn’t mind that,” Kojiro said, a lazy smile evident in his voice, “You know I’ll always be around, anyway.”
“God, just marry me already.”
This time they both froze.
“I didn’t mean to—“
“No, no, don’t freak out. You’re right. We’ve basically been married since high school. It’s only logical, ” Kojiro made an impression of Kaoru, “I’m not going to say no.”
“Isn’t this too fast?”
“Only if you think it is. I waited fifteen years, and I can wait more if you need me to.”
“... What if I don’t want to wait?”
“Well then, that’s just a testament to your lack of patience.”
Kaoru smacked him lightly, then sighed peacefully into his partner’s soft unflexed muscles. A bird chirped outside the hotel window.
“Crap!” Kojiro suddenly yelped.
“If we’re hypothetically married, that means Miya was right! This is a honeymoon!”
Kaoru gave him a look that said “I love you but I really do wonder if you have a brain”.
“You deserve to be at the mercy of a child, honestly.”
“Yeesh. Love you too.”
“... Pretty sure I love you more,” Kaoru said quietly.
“Is that a challenge?”
Bonus- After the “Honeymoon”
“I’m mad at you,” Kojiro said, not looking up from his knife sharpener.
Kaoru snorted. “Oh yeah? Why might that be?”
“I wanted to propose. Technically you did it already.”
Kaoru hummed. “We never made it official. We don’t even have rings.”
“Huh,” Kojiro set his knife down, and turned, “Carla? Take both our ring sizes.”
“You’d better change that to husband soon,” He said, pointing a finger at Kaoru. “Okay Carla, now access my phone and open my notes. Order the gold blossom rings.”
Kojiro smirked at his boyfriend, soon to be fiancé. “I’ll propose next week,” He winked.
“I— you’re… an idiot.”
“That was a weak insult.”
Kaoru scowled. “You really had rings saved… you’re hopeless.”
“Hopelessly devoted~” Kojiro sang, quoting an American movie he and Kaoru watched last night.
Kaoru responded to that by grabbing the collar of Kojiro’s chef uniform and yanking him into a kiss. The kiss deepened until the employee door slammed open. The two adults broke apart to see a stunned Miya Chinen gaping at them.
“What the FUCK did I just witness?!”