“I am so very much in love,” Keito says very quietly.
“In love?” Chinen’s voice cuts through the silence.
“With this cake!” Keito answers too enthusiastically. He swings his plate towards Chinen’s face. “You should try it.” He breathes a sigh of relief as Chinen happily takes a bite of the chocolate cake. And then he watches as satisfaction spreads across Chinen’s face, enjoying the dessert for a moment before he passes the plate back.
Keito wants to kick himself for chickening out. It was supposed to be so simple. Just tell Chinen how much he loves him and ask him on a date. It didn’t have to be like a shoujo manga with anything dramatic. No pushing Chinen up against a wall to confess. No running to catch him at the airport before he leaves on a soul-searching journey.
Just. Say. It.
But Keito can’t.
He expects Chinen to bounce off to the other side of the room and chat with someone else now that he’s satisfied his sweet tooth, but Chinen stays seated beside him. The post-concert party continues around them. Keito’s just as happy as the rest of them, but he doesn’t feel like getting rowdy at the moment.
“I’m sleepy,” Chinen says. Keito shouldn’t be surprised when he feels Chinen’s head suddenly leaning against him. The warm weight presses into his shoulder and Keito just wants to adjust his arm to pull Chinen closer. Chinen always makes Keito feel more comfortable and more at ease in any situation. Like the whole world could be crumbling around him but if Chinen was there, it wouldn’t matter.
Just say it.
But Keito can’t.
“I don’t think anyone would mind if you went back to your room early,” Keito tells him.
Chinen yawns, and Keito feels him shake his head. “I don’t mind staying here with you for a little bit longer.”
So the two of them sit together in silence watching the party happen all around them. Keito says nothing. Maybe he doesn’t need to say anything after all. The truth is, he really doesn’t know anything about love and confessions and crap like that.
Maybe, for now, it’s enough to just share a bite of cake and a quiet corner of the room.
“Enough already,” Yamada groans. “Stop making that pouting face at me. I’ll drive you to the dentist, okay?”
Keito sighs in relief. He feels a bit bad because Yamada is swamped with work these days, so it’s not like he gets a lot of time off. But Keito can’t drive himself home after getting his wisdom teeth removed, so it’s necessary. “Thank you! I’ll buy you lunch later because you’re the best friend in the history of best friends.” Hopefully the promise of food will make up for the inconvenience.
“That’s right, I’m the best,” Yamada nods briefly before laughing at his joke. He stands up and grabs his car keys which he’d haphazardly tossed on the kitchen table when he walked in. “Let’s get going. I don’t want you to be late for your appointment.”
Keito’s a bit nervous about getting his wisdom teeth removed, but luckily Yamada spends most of the car ride talking about the new drama he’s filming, so that keeps Keito’s mind occupied for the most part. But then Yamada says something that throws all his calm and stability for a loop.
“So I saw you and Chinen looking pretty cozy at the party the other night.” Yamada shoots him a sly look before casting his eyes back at the road. “Did you finally confess?”
“No,” Keito answers. He turns to look out of the window at all the scenery they drive past instead of seeing whatever face Yamada is making. “I’m giving up. It’s just not meant to be.”
Keito winces as Yamada reaches over and whacks his shoulder.
“You can’t give up. You love him,” Yamada continues. “Do you want me to tell him for you?”
“No,” Keito repeats emphatically. That is exactly the kind of thing Yamada would try to do to be a helpful friend but actually end up making the whole thing worse. “Please Ryosuke, you’re not my mom. Stop worrying about it.” Keito had already decided that it would be good enough if he could just spend time close to Chinen. His life isn’t a romantic shoujo manga after all, so he’s resigned himself to the fact that it’ll never work out.
Yamada sighs and Keito knows he’s given up on arguing for the moment. That’s good because Keito doesn’t want to worry about confessions anymore while he’s at the dentist office. It’s already stressful enough as it is.
Yamada is silent for the next few minutes as he parks the car and they walk into the dentist office. But then Yamada says something about how gaudily decorated the waiting room is, and that sets everything back to normal again. Keito reminds Yamada that they’ll need to stop and pick up his pain medication on the way home, and Yamada wishes him good luck.
Keito tries to relax as he sits down in the dentist’s chair. The memory of Chinen resting his head comfortably on his shoulder the other day flashes through his mind, and that brings a brief moment of calm. It’s the last thing he remembers before he passes out.
Keito doesn’t have anything to worry about when he wakes up. Or at least that’s what he thinks for all of about two seconds before he realizes some important things that are very worrying: one, his whole face hurts; two, he’s on the couch of his living room and he doesn’t remember how he got there; and three, Chinen is actually sitting in a nearby chair casually reading a magazine.
Chinen Yuri. Chinen. The guy who’s the subject of his unrelenting crush. Sitting in his living room for some reason.
Keito is confused.
“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Chinen greets him with a joke once he realizes Keito is awake.
“Hi?” Keito manages to slur out. His face is still sore from the surgery. He wonders vaguely if the dentist performed the procedure with a hammer and if Yamada remembered to pick up his pain medication.
“Ryosuke got a call about doing some extra drama filming or something,” Chinen explains as he hops up from the chair and breezes into the kitchen. Keito’s eyes follow him as he continues speaking. “So I told him I’d stay for a while and make sure you’re okay.” He returns with Keito’s medicine. “How are you feeling?”
Keito blinks because he’s still pretty confused and unsure about how he’s supposed to react in this situation. “Uh… okay I guess?” He gingerly pokes his jawline, trying to get a feel for the differences after the surgery. “So why are you here again?” he asks, tilting his head in confusion, which he quickly realizes is a mistake as a wave of dizziness washes over him.
Chinen’s lips curl up into a mischievous smile, like he knows something secret and he’s deciding whether he should share or not. “I didn’t know Ryosuke was taking you home from the dentist when I called to ask him for a ride to the store earlier,” he begins to explain while he rummages around in his bag for something. “But he happily stopped and picked me up too. Ah-ha!” The interjection of joy is in response to finding the hand-held digital camera he had stashed away in his bag. “I think this is something you’d like to see. Then it’ll make sense.”
Chinen cozies up to Keito on the couch and quickly presses a few buttons on his camera. Just a few seconds later, a video begins to play and Keito says nothing as he watches what Chinen had recorded in Yamada’s car earlier. It’s weird to see his own face and not have any memory of what he’d done. Hopefully nothing too embarrassing.
“How did the surgery go?” Chinen’s voice asks from somewhere offscreen. Keito has a goofy, distracted grin on his face and it takes him a moment to notice that Chinen is talking to him. They’re both sitting in the backseat of the car.
“They took my teeth out!” Keito answers as if he only just realized it. “I’m gonna make them into a necklace. That’d be cool.” Clearly he was still under the influence of the anesthesia. He giggles as he presses his face close to the car window.
“Don’t leave smudges on my window,” Yamada’s voice scolds him.
Keito wonders how Yamada can see him while driving, but then the footage continues and he can hear the sound of the car door opening and he realizes that they’ve arrived at the store.
“Where’s Yama-chan going?” Keito asks. “Is he abandoning us? Is it because I smudged the window?”
“He’s just getting your pain medication,” Chinen explains.
“But I feel fiiiiiiiine,” Keito says with a giggle. He spaces out for a moment while Chinen giggles too. Then he suddenly looks really serious. “What if Ryosuke doesn’t come back? What if he runs away to join the circus?”
Chinen laughs out loud. “The circus? Would he be any good?”
“Oh yes,” Keito nods. “He’d be the most famous and shortest lion tamer of them all.”
Chinen snorts and the camera footage jerks for a moment until his laughter dies down. “I’m going to tell him you said that.”
Keito shakes his head. “Noooooooo, it’s a secret.” He raises one finger to put to his lips like he’s making a shushing noise, but his coordination is off and he doesn’t realize his finger is in front of his cheek.
“Wow, I was really out of it,” he says. It was so weird to watch, but funny nonetheless.
“Oh it gets better,” Chinen reassures him.
“I can keep a secret,” Chinen laughs.
Keito looks around the car and out the window again before returning back to Chinen. “I know another secret. You wanna hear?”
Keito leans forward. “I love you,” he says in a singsong voice. “I love you Chinen Yuri.”
Suddenly watching this video isn’t funny anymore and Keito is painfully aware of how close Chinen is sitting beside him. Close enough that he can match the timing of Chinen’s even breathing.
“You love me?” Chinen repeats but the tone of his voice is different. It’s an honest question, not like he’s playing along with a joke like he was earlier.
“Yep,” Keito nods as though he’d just said something routine like the color of the sky is blue. “I love you but it’s a secret. I can’t tell you. Just like the main characters in all those shoujo manga that Yama-chan says he doesn’t read but I borrowed them from him when he wasn’t paying attention.” He grins because it’s true. “I want to kiss you right now but I can’t feel my lips.” He gets distracted poking his face with his fingers.
The car door opens and Yamada climbs back inside.
“How was the circus?” Keito shouts without warning.
And that’s where the video ends. Chinen turns the camera back off and places it in his lap. “So… is that true?” He’s much more calm than Keito expects him to be for the situation.
“That Ryosuke would be a good lion tamer? Yeah I think so.” Keito resorts to the easy joke because he doesn’t want to think about how hard his heart is pounding. Chinen slaps the back of his head for this answer. Keito knows he deserved that.
“You know what I mean,” Chinen says. His cheerful attitude from earlier had disappeared and had been replaced by a seriousness, a hesitation, and maybe… a hopefulness?
Just say it, Keito tells himself. There was no denying it anyway. He’d already done it once even if he couldn’t remember.
“Yeah,” he admits. It feels a bit freeing to finally let go of his hesitation. “I’m in love with you.” He doesn’t know whether he should make eye contact or not. “Sorry,” he adds just for good measure.
This time Chinen punches his shoulder. “Don’t apologize for love.”
Keito can’t figure out if this is a good reaction or a bad one. This isn’t how he envisioned declaring his love for Chinen at all. “Well I’m sorry it wasn’t a very romantic confession. I didn’t know how to tell you so I just had decided not to.”
“But I’m telling you now!” Keito tries to defend himself.
Chinen’s grin is suddenly back again. The usual bright one that makes Keito feel like he’s floating on air when he sees it. “You know, I think you have more wisdom without your wisdom teeth.”
Keito blinks. “I don’t know if you’re insulting me or complimenting me.”
The grin morphs into a smirk. “We can discuss the subject over dinner. That is, when you can eat solid foods again.”
“Like a date?”
“Yes.” And then Chinen presses a light kiss to his cheek before he hops up from the couch. “I’m going to head home now because you need to rest. Ryosuke left you a crap ton of strawberry yogurt in the fridge so eat that if you get hungry. And call me later tonight.” Chinen moves like a whirlwind, not giving Keito the chance to really react. He’s still sort of in a daze from the kiss and all he can manage to do is place his hand over the spot that tingles a little, although he’s not quite sure whether that’s from the numbness wearing off or not.
It takes a few minutes for everything to sink in and then Keito starts laughing. He can’t help it. For weeks, he’d been avoiding the confession and now suddenly everything is out in the open. It actually does feel like a plot twist in a shoujo manga. But now that it’s over and done with, he feels better. He doesn’t even remember why he waited so long.
Keito stands up and stretches before rubbing his sore face again. Yogurt sounded like a good idea while the pain medication was starting to kick in.
He’s looking forward to spending more time with Chinen, getting closer, and seeing where their relationship will go. Thinking about it all, he laughs once more as he walks to the kitchen. He guesses that this will make a good story to tell at parties someday.