“So, what are we doing tomorrow?” Akihiko folded the edge of the sheet back over the duvet and patted Suzuki-san before placing him in the middle of the bed. “Grocery shopping?”
Misaki left the room with the laundry basket under his left arm. Maaan, this week is sure going to be long. Now that Usagi-san was on a break, Misaki found himself scrambling for activities to do with him. “We went to the supermarket just this afternoon. There’s no need to go there tomorrow again.”
“But I like going shopping with you. Besides, we didn’t buy everything.” He followed his lover down the stairs. “If you’re going to cook bœuf bourguignon, you need some good wine, like a Bordeaux or a Chianti.”
Misaki snorted. “You know, for someone who can barely make coffee, you're sure good at telling people how to cook." He turned on the lights of the service corridor. "Can’t we use some of the wine in your cellar?”
“I don’t mind, but maybe you would: those are around ¥1,000,000 the bot---”
Misaki’s knees faltered and he had to hold on to the wall. “D-d-don’t even think about it! Okay, I get it. Supermarket it is, then. Ah, I know! Can we go to the Aeon in Chiba?” A long-ish drive should keep him entertained for some time. “I could use some new pajamas and underwear.”
“Oi, why do you sound so interested, bastard?” As he entered the laundry area, Misaki blushed, feeling grateful that Akihiko had stayed behind to change Suzuki-chan’s ribbon. It’s only seven days, right? Maybe next weekend we can go to the hot springs in Kamakura. He seemed happy enough to go there with me. Well... Except for that incident. Ah, but it would be a good chance to rewrite that day.
Misaki turned off the lights and walked back to the living room. Usagi-san was already upstairs. It was strange to feel that this had become their everyday life. Even if he sometimes put up a barrier between them, he’d come to accept that there would be nights in which they’d share the bed, and he’d been surprised to discover than even if they slept together, not every night involved having sex. Now that he wasn’t going to his classes every day, and that Usagi-san appeared to have found a relatively normal rhythm for his activities, life seemed… It was…
Well, it felt nice.
Akihiko was already in bed and absorbed in a novel when Misaki slipped under the covers. Both Suzukis had been settled between the two men as usual. “If the light bothers you, I can sleep in the other room,” Usagi-san offered, his eyes barely parting from the page.
“It’s fine. I’m pretty tired today, so I’ll probably fall asleep in a while.” I’m glad he finds it enjoyable, Misaki thought merrily, patting himself on the back for having found that book. He’d sent Mizuki an email asking him for some tips and it had been his first time on his own in the second-hand book district. He’d told himself that it was only so that Usagi-san wouldn’t follow him like a chick all day long, but seeing how riveting Akihiko had found the book was rather rewarding.
With that happy thought floating about, Misaki turned around and closed his eyes.
* * *
“You! Your second button is not done up. Correct that, now!” a harsh voice shook him, and his hand instinctively moved to the collar of his uniform. Who was that man? He obviously looked like a teacher, but he’d never seen him before. He looked around discreetly. Maririn and Mina-chan were there, and Mokkun and that other guy who always spent all his free time in the science lab, as well as… That was...
There was no mistaking: that was Takahiro’s back.
“Niichan!” Misaki stood up and was struck down by the same teacher that had shouted at him before.
“This is an exam, Takahashi-kun! Know your place!”
“I’m sorry…” Misaki murmured, confused. Why was he in the same class as Takahiro? This was a dream, right? Why, why did he have to dream about school, then? And besides, this was an exam. He really couldn't catch a break, could he? He lowered his head and tried to focus on the writing, but the characters kept shifting. Japanese switched to English, and Misaki could no longer understand---
He raised his eyes. A muffled laughter that made his cheeks burn with embarrassment. Where had it come from? If he looked up, the teacher would surely scold him again.
Misaki shuddered as he finally located the source of the voice. Two seats ahead of him, to his left, there was a slender boy with ash blonde hair and mischievous purple eyes. Misaki gritted his teeth. What was with the smug attitude? The boy was now sticking out his tongue, making Misaki’s eyebrows twitch. So the teacher wasn’t going to tell him off? He slammed the desk with his open hands. “Sensei!” he called out, standing up.
But the teacher was gone, and so were most of the students. Only Takahiro and the blonde boy remained behind, engaged in conversation. Misaki tried to call his brother’s name, but his voice wouldn’t come out. He could only watch them from a distance. As he was doing so, the purple-eyed boy glanced in his direction, and Misaki’s heart skipped a beat.
“Hmph,” Akihiko scoffed, as he took Takahiro by the hand and led him out of the classroom.
“Wait!” he shouted. “Don’t leave me behind!” The ground felt unstable and the corridor had no end. His brother and Usagi-san… How had they ended up in his school?
He walked down familiar streets, buying things in convenience stores to keep himself warm. He was barefoot and it was a warm afternoon, but as the sun set, a chilly wind ran through his body. Tiredness set in, and all he wanted to do was go back home.
As he opened the door, he found Akihiko’s arms wrapped around Takahiro, who was chuckling. “Oi, stop!” Misaki shouted, aware that he’d seen that image before. “You bastard!” The words came out before he could know what he wanted to say or who they were directed at. His eyes welled up with frustrated tears and he rubbed his face until it started hurting. This pain... My skin hurts... Or is it my heart? "Why are you ignoring me?”
“What are you talking about, Misaki?” Takahiro tilted his head and gave Akihiko a concerned look. “Have you two been fighting?”
“We never do. I know I can be hard on him, but it's for his sake. His grades have been improving, so I thought everything was fine?” Usagi seemed confused. “What’s wrong, Misaki-kun? If I did something to offend you---”
Takahiro’s hand rested on Akihiko’s arm. “I don’t think so, dear. You’re always nice to everyone.”
Misaki’s stomach churned. His brother and Usagi-san were holding hands now, watching him as if he was crazy. “You… You two…” He took a step back, away from them.
Takahiro bit his lower lip as he let go of Akihiko. “I see… We’ve talked about it, Misaki. When I told you about it, you said you didn’t object to our relationship, that you held us both dear. If… If my preferences... If having a brother like me is a problem, then…” He hid his face in his hands.
“Don’t say those things!” Usagi-san shouted as he took Takahiro by the shoulders and turned him towards him. “I'll never leave you, Takahiro! I told you that I would protect you! You!” He glared at Misaki. “Do you take pleasure in seeing your brother suffer like this?”
Niichan, I’m sorry.
Still standing at the door, Misaki discovered that he was rooted to the ground, but he didn’t feel like detaching himself and running away. He couldn’t help but look at them, always from a distance, no matter how hard he tried to get close; the two of them were in their little world, as it had always been. You said you would protect me. You said that you loved me. Me. Then why? His heart felt heavy in his chest. Why is my brother the one by your side? Why not me? He shut his eyes tight.
“Misaki?” Takahiro’s kind face was smiling before him once more. “What are you saying? There’s no need to feel sorry, is there?”
Usagi-san was standing behind his brother, and Misaki’s eyes went from Takahiro’s smile to Akihiko’s eyes. “Because I love him,” Misaki said plainly. “I love Usagi-san.”
Takahiro’s look turned cold, and the hand that crossed Misaki’s face felt like ice.
* * *
Startled, Misaki woke up. Hot chills ran through his body, and his heartbeat was going alarmingly fast. He clung to his pillow, not wanting to move from his position, afraid of letting Usagi-san know what he’d dreamed about. The lights were out now, and he took comfort in the darkness of the room. But somehow, something felt odd. The bed felt empty. “U---Usagi-san?” he called softly. There was no reply. He sat up and glanced over Suzuki-san. Akihiko wasn’t there.
Misaki pinched himself. This wasn’t a dream. But where could he be at this time of the night? He got up and left the room. The lower floor was dark. His study room? He pressed his ear to the door. The soft clicking of the keys could be heard. Misaki closed his eyes and let out a sigh, feeling comforted by that sound. If it wasn’t work, it was his hobby. He could picture the scene: Akihiko’s straight back and engaged look, his long fingers running across the keyboard almost fervently...
He soon realized that the keys weren’t clicking anymore. He took a step back too late: Usagi-san had already opened the door and his beautiful eyes were watching him with amusement.
“What happened? Were you feeling lonely?”
“Eh? Me? Ah, nnno! No, it’s---I mean…!”
Usagi-san took him by the hand and kissed his fingers softly. “I know that look. Come, I’ll let you recharge for a while,” he smirked, as he pulled Misaki into his study room and closed the door behind them.