"Do you need any help?"
Kaidoh wasn't having any trouble with his math, but he thought about saying yes anyhow, just to have Inui explain it to him. There was something about the tone of Inui's voice and the way he moved his hands when he was completely involved in a subject. But that could end up taking a long time.
"No," Kaidoh said. "I'm on the last problem." Because whenever Inui invited him over to study, Kaidoh always did most of his homework ahead of time.
"Good," Inui said and that was a different tone of voice, one that sent little tingles of anticipation chasing up and down Kaidoh's spine. Inui always had most of his homework done as well.
Kaidoh stared at the page but now he couldn't concentrate. He closed his book. Inui was at his desk, working on something. Inui pushed his glasses up his nose, then rested his chin in his hand. Kaidoh watched Inui's shoulder moving as he wrote, watched his forehead crease as he bent lower over the page. He watched Inui put down his pen and turn around.
"Done?" Inui said. Kaidoh nodded and Inui sat down beside him, both of them on the floor with their backs against the bed. Inui's cellphone rang and he fished it out of his pocket. "Hello...oh, okay...yes, I'll tell him." Inui turned to Kaidoh. "Oishi says we should be fifteen minutes early for practice in the morning."
"He knows I'm here?" That wasn't good. It had taken Kaidoh quite a while to feel okay about being in this...being with Inui like this. But he still didn't want anyone else to know. What would they say?
"He asked me to call you," Inui said. "So don't worry." Inui took Kaidoh's hand and started to play with his fingers, bending them back and forth and brushing their fingertips together. "Do you like math?" Inui asked.
"Not really," Kaidoh said. He tried to slide his fingers in between Inui's but Inui kept angling his so they wouldn't fit together.
"But you're good at it," Inui said. He held Kaidoh's wrist and drew a slow spiral over Kaidoh's palm, out then in again. It was an odd feeling -- not quite a tickle, not quite an itch. More tingles ran down Kaidoh's back. Now Inui was pushing his finger just between Kaidoh's fingers, in then out again. "Don't you enjoy doing things you're good at?"
Kaidoh didn't think he was especially good at math. He just studied hard. "Sometimes." He enjoyed winning at tennis, improving his running times, beating another level at a video game. He enjoyed opening a stuck jar or finding a book his brother had lost. "Some things."
"What things?" Inui said. Kaidoh put his other hand on top of Inui's and stroked his knuckles. Inui tangled both his hands with Kaidoh's and they teased their fingers back and forth while the tingles skated out everywhere under Kaidoh's skin and made it hard for him to breathe quietly.
"Some things," Kaidoh said. He raised his head and pressed his cheek against Inui's.
"Wait," Inui said. He pulled back and took off his glasses. "There." Inui moved his hand up Kaidoh's arm, under the sleeve of his shirt, onto his shoulder.
Kaidoh leaned into Inui, rubbing his face against Inui's neck. Inui's hair always had an unusual smell, not unpleasant, but not easily identifiable either. One day, Kaidoh had gone into a store and smelled twenty different bottles of shampoo before he got chased out. But none of them had been the right one.
It was still a mystery. Whatever the smell was, though, Kaidoh liked it. He slid his hand onto Inui's back and tried to push Inui's collar aside with his chin. "Mmm," Inui said and his throat hummed against Kaidoh's cheek.
Kaidoh was all tied up in knots, stomach twisting, skin pricking. He wanted to kiss Inui right now, but he made himself wait, just a little longer. It was always better when they waited. Inui stroked Kaidoh's shoulder under his shirt. Then slowly, very slowly, they both turned their heads until they were face to face, millimetres apart, and breathing in each other's breath.
Kaidoh closed his eyes. All he had to do was move just a little. Just a little.
There was a fanfare from across the room. "Just a minute," Inui said and got up.
Inui's email. Kaidoh sat and listened to his heart beating while Inui tapped out a quick reply.
"Sorry," Inui said. "I was waiting for that." And then he came back.
That was longer than Kaidoh had planned to wait. So this time he just put his hand on the back of Inui's neck and kissed him.
Kaidoh didn't know if he was good at kissing, but he certainly liked it. Inui's mouth moved against his and he matched the slow pace, trying to keep from seeming greedy. He wanted to straddle Inui's lap and put his arms around Inui's neck while they kissed, but that would be too hard to get out of quickly if someone came to the door.
Inui put his hand on Kaidoh's thigh and Kaidoh wondered if they would ever be alone together, somewhere where they didn't have to worry about being seen. He opened his mouth wider and Inui teased him with his tongue, sliding it just past Kaidoh's lips, then pulling it away.
It was nearly more than Kaidoh could stand. He pushed into the kiss, chasing after Inui's tongue. He put his hand over Inui's, pressing it down onto his leg. He pulled at Inui's shirt, trying to free it from the waistband.
And Inui's cellphone rang.
That always seemed to happen at least once, but this was twice. Inui picked it up and answered it. Kaidoh leaned against Inui's shoulder and got his hand up on Inui's bare back. He made little circles with his fingertips.
"Chapter 10," Inui said. "And all the questions." He laughed. "You're welcome." He hung up. "Where were we?" he said, and squeezed Kaidoh's hand.
Inui took Kaidoh's face into his hands, stroking Kaidoh's jaw with his thumbs. They just looked at each other for a while. Staring into Inui's eyes from so close up was so intense, Kaidoh wanted to turn away, but he forced himself not to.
Inui leaned in and started kissing Kaidoh's face: his temple, his cheek, his forehead, the corners of his mouth. Kaidoh put out his tongue and tried to catch Inui's lips, but Inui slipped away from him. Inui laughed and Kaidoh slid his hand up Inui's back, between his shoulderblades.
They kissed again, harder this time, open-mouthed and salivating. Inui stroked the back of Kaidoh's neck, fingers brushing into his hair. Kaidoh just held on. He wanted to kiss Inui all night long.
So when an alarm shrilled not five minutes later, Kaidoh was not happy. "I've got to go siphon it right away," Inui said and jumped up. He pushed on his glasses, tucked in his shirt, and left Kaidoh alone in the room, with the timer still going off. Kaidoh found it on Inui's desk and shut it off.
So many interruptions. And Inui didn't seem to care. Inui was just as happy talking on his stupid cellphone or working on his stupid juice variations as he was kissing Kaidoh. A cold feeling welled up inside Kaidoh's chest and his skin began to crawl.
Maybe Kaidoh just wasn't that important to Inui. Maybe Kaidoh was just something to fill up Inui's spare time. Kaidoh clenched his fist. He would have to make Inui care, then. If he knew how.
He sat back down and waited. A bunch of feelings were churning around inside of him and he couldn't really sort them out. But they made him feel queasy.
Inui was gone about ten minutes. He sat down next to Kaidoh. "It's not ready to sample yet," he said, "or I would have brought you some."
"That's all right, senpai," Kaidoh said and was glad he had escaped that, at least.
"It's a special formulation to increase energy and vigour," Inui said. "This is the third round of adjustments. This time I added some serrano peppers..." He waved his hands in the air as he explained the whole recipe to Kaidoh.
Kaidoh waited. He was starting to wish he hadn't even come over. But still, he wanted to be with Inui. And he had decided to try to make Inui want to be with him.
So when Inui seemed like he was winding down, Kaidoh reached over and pulled Inui's glasses off. Inui looked at Kaidoh and the corner of his mouth twisted a little. But Kaidoh took Inui's chin and turned his face away. Then he leaned in and nuzzled Inui's ear.
He had seen something like this in a movie once. Kaidoh licked gently at the earlobe, then sucked it into his mouth. Inui drew his breath in sharply and he put his hand on Kaidoh's leg. Inui seemed to be paying at least some attention now.
Slowly, Kaidoh ran his tongue along the edge of Inui's ear, then carefully followed over each curve and into each depression. Inui's hand tightened on Kaidoh's leg and his mouth was open as he breathed. It made Kaidoh light-headed and excited that he could make Inui react that way.
Kaidoh stroked his thumb along Inui's hairline and rubbed his face against Inui's. Then he wet his tongue and slid it into Inui's ear canal.
It seemed to electrify Inui. The muscles in his leg jerked and he let out a loud "Oh!" His fingers clamped down so hard it hurt Kaidoh. Kaidoh kissed Inui once on the cheek, and sat back, satisfied.
"Oh," said Inui once again, softer now. He was still clutching Kaidoh's leg. "Oh."
Inui at a loss for words! Kaidoh felt calmer now, and proud of himself. Anyhow, he had probably been worried for nothing. Inui certainly seemed focused enough now.
"Just a minute," Inui said. He let go Kaidoh's leg and picked up his glasses. He went to his desk. Then he actually took a notebook out of a drawer and started writing in it.
Kaidoh felt like Inui had punched him in the gut. He was just one of Inui's fucking hobbies after all, and not a very important one at that. Kaidoh jumped to his feet and crossed the room. He grabbed the notebook right from under Inui's hands. And then he threw it out the window.
Inui just sat there for a minute. Then he stood up and they faced each other. Inui was frowning and Kaidoh supposed he was angry. Not so angry as Kaidoh was, though. Inui's hands couldn't be shaking, his chest couldn't be tight.
"Kaidoh," Inui said.
It was hard to speak. Kaidoh hissed and balled his hands into fists. Inui took a step forward but Kaidoh backed up. "Stay away," Kaidoh said. "You don't--" You don't care, was what Kaidoh couldn't quite get out of his mouth. "You don't have time for me," he said. "I should go."
"Don't go," Inui said. He made a move forward again, but stopped. "I didn't realise..." He pushed his glasses up his nose. "I'm sorry, Kaidoh," he said. "I haven't been paying proper attention to you."
This was the part where Kaidoh was supposed to say, It's all right, senpai but he didn't. He just waited to see what Inui would do next.
"Please stay," Inui said. "I'm sorry. I just didn't think." Inui looked worried now. Maybe he did actually care whether or not Kaidoh was there. "Come on," Inui said and when he moved closer to Kaidoh, Kaidoh didn't step back. He let Inui put his hand on Kaidoh's shoulder. "Please stay. No more interruptions."
Inui went to his computer. "See? Email off." He picked up his phone. "Phone off. And the juice timer won't go off until tomorrow morning." He put his hand on Kaidoh's cheek. "I'm very sorry."
"All right, senpai," Kaidoh said finally and let Inui put his arms around him. Inui really did want him there. He put his head on Inui's shoulder. "I'm sorry about your notebook," he said.
Inui's whole body tensed. "The notebook!" He let go of Kaidoh and they both looked out the window. It was growing dark and the streetlights had come on.
"I don't see it," Kaidoh said.
"It's there." Inui pointed and Kaidoh could see it now, caught in the spindly branches of a tree. "We need to get it down."
"I could climb up."
"No," Inui said. "The branches wouldn't hold you."
"I could throw a tennis ball at it."
"There's a 40% chance the ball would continue on to hit a car in the street."
"I could shake the tree." This was Kaidoh's fault. He had to fix it somehow.
"No, I know what we need to do. Come with me."
Kaidoh followed Inui outside. Inui stopped on the way to take a broom out of a closet. They stood under the tree and looked up. Inui handed Kaidoh the broom. Kaidoh didn't know what to do. Even with the broom, they wouldn't be able to reach the notebook.
Inui crouched down. "Get on my shoulders, Kaidoh."
"Won't I be too heavy?"
"You weigh 68.3 kilos," Inui said. "I can lift 1.8 times that." If Inui said it, it was true. Kaidoh straddled Inui's shoulders. Inui wrapped his hands around Kaidoh's ankles and slowly rose to his feet. "If you sit up and completely extend your arm, you should be able to reach it."
Kaidoh sat up and completely extended his arm. He could almost touch the notebook. He adjusted his grip on the broom. Nearly there, nearly...and Kaidoh almost dropped the broom when Inui slid his hand up under Kaidoh's jeans leg.
"Senpai!" They were right out in the street! What if someone saw?
"Sorry," Inui said and moved his hand. Kaidoh took a deep breath to compose himself and reached up again. He stretched out until he thought his tendons would snap and finally managed to poke the notebook until it fell to the grass. "Good work," Inui said and lowered Kaidoh to the ground.
Kaidoh reached for the notebook, but Inui grabbed it first. They went back inside, back to Inui's room.
"Thank you," Inui said. "The probability is 100% that you wouldn't want that notebook found by anyone else."
"What's in it?" Kaidoh asked.
"Your data," Inui said.
Kaidoh was puzzled. It didn't seem too likely that anyone who could use his tennis data would be lurking around Inui's apartment building, waiting for notebooks to fall from the sky. "Who would find it here? Do people spy on you?"
"It's not about tennis," Inui said and his eyes shifted, looking left, right, anywhere but at Kaidoh.
"What--" But then Kaidoh knew. Inui was writing down stuff about him, about them. Like it was some sort of fucking experiment. Writing it down and keeping it in his desk drawer. Where anyone could find it. "What's in there?" He grabbed for the notebook, but Inui pulled it out of his reach.
"No," Inui said. "It's personal."
Kaidoh had thought he was angry before. But he had just been annoyed. Now he was angry. Now his whole body was trembling, his vision was narrowing, something black was surging inside of him. He hissed and grabbed the front of Inui's shirt. "Give it to me," he said.
"No," Inui said.
"Give it to me," Kaidoh said and yanked Inui closer.
Inui's face was frozen, like he had no expression at all. When he spoke, each word was like a heavy weight dropping to the ground. "If you want to do this," he said, "we'll have to go somewhere else."
If they fought, really fought, Kaidoh didn't know who would win. Inui was bigger and heavier, but Kaidoh had been in fights before and he had always won them. "Why?" Kaidoh said.
"I like to write things down," Inui said in that same heavy voice.
And Kaidoh shouldn't have been so surprised about that. But he had never imagined that Inui would write about...this. "Someone will read it," he said.
"The probability is 99% that no one will ever find it."
"No," Kaidoh said. He was still in Inui's face, still ready to grapple him, to fight him over that 1%.
"Listen, Kaidoh," Inui said. "Just listen for a minute and then if you're not satisfied, we can go out to the park and you can beat me up, if that's what you want to do."
Kaidoh swallowed hard. He should at least listen to Inui. He owed him that much. He let go and stepped back.
"I just like to write things down," Inui said. "I never dreamed you'd care or that you'd even know. I won't show it to you. It's personal. But--" He passed his hand over his forehead and took a deep breath. "If it's that important to you, I'll destroy it."
That seemed fair. "All right," Kaidoh said and felt a little calmer. "How are you going to do that?"
Inui reached under his desk and pulled out a paper shredder. He plugged it in and sat down. "I'm sorry," he said. Then he ripped out the first page and fed it through.
It was very noisy. It turned the page into tiny paper diamonds, far too small to be pasted back together. And that made Kaidoh happy. Until he looked at Inui's face.
Kaidoh had never seen Inui look like that, not when he had lost a game, not when he had scalded his arm with boiling water. It was like this hurt him, hurt him a lot. Inui tore another page and shredded it. Kaidoh could hardly stand to watch him.
"Inui-senpai, wait!" he said. Inui looked up. "It's...it's all right. You don't have to do this."
"No," Inui said. "If I don't, it will still bother you. And I don't want that." He fed another page through. The corners of Inui's mouth turned up, although he didn't look happy. "I have it nearly memorized anyhow."
Kaidoh didn't know what to say. He just watched as page after page of Inui's words were chopped up like cabbage. So many words. He wondered what Inui had written. Maybe someday, Inui would tell him. If Inui even wanted to talk to him after this.
Finally it was over. Inui held up the notebook. There were still a few blank pages left in it. "You can have it now," he said and tossed it on the desk.
"Inui-senpai," Kaidoh said. He dropped to his knees in front of Inui's chair and put his arms around Inui's waist. He felt so tired all of a sudden, tired and anxious. His eyes burned and he blinked hard.
"Kaidoh," Inui said. He put his arm around Kaidoh's shoulders and stroked his hair. Maybe Inui didn't hate Kaidoh now, after all. "Stand up."
They both got up and Inui put his arms around Kaidoh. Kaidoh locked his arms around Inui's waist again and they just stood there, holding on tight, for a long, long time.
"All right?" Inui said, finally.
"All right." Kaidoh let his breath out in a long sigh. Somehow, it seemed like things were okay again.
"It's been a difficult evening," Inui said and pulled back to smile at Kaidoh. "Can you stay a little longer?"
There was still time. "Yes," Kaidoh said and they sat down on the floor again.
"No more interruptions," Inui said and then they kissed. A warm kiss, deep and slow. They pressed as closely as they could, arms around each other, thighs tight together. It made Kaidoh feel almost dizzy, almost lost. He stroked Inui's back. Inui slid his fingers just inside the waistband of Kaidoh's jeans and Kaidoh shivered. Just a little bit longer, a little bit more, a few more minutes, please.
And then the beeping started.
Inui sat up. "I swear I turned it off," he said and pulled out his cellphone. It was off. He looked at Kaidoh, who looked over at his ringing bookbag.
"Well, I wasn't going to answer it," Kaidoh said.
And then they were laughing too hard to kiss any more that evening.
When Kaidoh left, he took the notebook home with him. He put it in his own desk drawer. And then he went to bed and thought about all the things that he could write in it.