Takaki wasn’t surprised that Chinen immediately announced he would be in charge of making dinner as soon as they arrived back at his apartment. It had been a long day of boring conference meetings and Takaki had caught Chinen googling different recipes on his phone at one point. Not much else for a bodyguard to do when Takaki was actually spending some rare time in his company’s main office in Tokyo.
“Go take a bath,” Chinen commanded. “And when you’re done, dinner will be ready.” Without another word, he disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Takaki no room to argue. Not that he wanted to. He appreciated Chinen’s newfound passion for improving his cooking skills. The guy was rarely unskilled at anything, and Takaki admired his determination.
So Takaki settled down to soak in the bathtub, giving himself time to forget about the stresses of the day. The warm water swirled around him like a sweet embrace.
He had almost forgotten what that was like. But things had been quiet lately for everyone now that Yuto had been rescued and recovered. He and Chinen had had time to pick up where they’d left off in New York. They had time to start settling into the routine of a relationship. A serious one. “Uncharted waters,” as Chinen had so elegantly put it. The idea of their relationship no longer being just a fling almost terrified Takaki in these quiet moments when he had a chance to think about it. He didn’t know if he was good enough to be a kind and caring boyfriend, at least in the way Chinen needed him to be.
He submerged himself completely under the water for a moment, letting the warmth envelop him completely. For just those few seconds he held his breath, it was like the whole world had paused. And when he rose back up out of the water, letting the air rush back into his lungs, he felt a bit lighter.
That was enough.
Chinen must have heard him reemerge from the bathroom because as soon as he opened the door to the bedroom, he could hear Chinen’s voice call out. “Don’t mind the smoke! Everything is 100% okay. I have everything under control.”
Takaki stifled a laugh as soon as he heard that. A faint smell of smoke lingered in the air, which wasn’t surprising. Chinen usually needed one or two attempts before he managed to produce something edible. But Takaki wasn’t overly concerned about the current state of his kitchen, so he focused on rummaging around in his closet for some comfortable clothes. He pulled out an old wrinkled t-shirt and a pair of worn out jeans. Anything would be better than the suits he wore day after day. Putting on the more relaxed clothing was like putting on a second skin. He didn’t have to be Mr. Takaki the CEO or even Takaki the spy. He would be plain old boring regular Takaki for the next few hours. He liked himself best that way, and if he was being honest, he thought Chinen might like plain old boring regular Takaki the best too.
Now that he was clothed again, all he had left to take care of was his wet hair. But Takaki decided against trying to dry and style it—he was already content staying in and relaxing all night—so he made his way towards the kitchen instead, ready with a witty one-liner to tease Chinen about his cooking skills.
But the words died in his throat as soon as he reached the doorway. He was struck with an overwhelming mix of emotions that he didn’t know how to identify.
Chinen was hovering over the pot boiling on the stove, staring intently at it with eyebrows furrowed together in deep concentration, as if the contents of the pot would explode if he looked away even for a moment. On the counter nearby rested his gun—the weapon he never dared part with—and the charred remains of his first cooking attempt of the night. Chinen looked so determined, so serious, over something as simple as their meal.
Takaki didn’t really know much about what Chinen and Yamada had gone through when they rescued Yuto, but he was sure it had some sort of profound effect on Chinen. He wasn’t the same person he knew from the beginning of their relationship in New York. Chinen seemed more resolute in all his decisions, more willing to open up and share his feelings, more mature in the way he handled everything. It was a good change, a natural one. Like Chinen was growing up.
It made Takaki feel like he should start trying to make himself a better person too.
“How’s the cooking going?” he finally interrupted the silence, dropping his planned joke for a sincere question instead.
“Almost there,” Chinen answered. He didn’t move his eyes from the stove, but Takaki could tell that the shift in his shoulders meant he was happy Takaki had asked.
Takaki grabbed two plates from the cabinet and placed them on the table. And then he wrapped his arms around Chinen in a hug he hoped would convey all the feelings he couldn’t figure out how to put into words. “Looking forward to it,” he said, keeping it simple so as to not distract Chinen’s concentration too much.
Chinen leaned back into the hug a bit but still didn’t look away from his cooking. “Hey,” he said so quietly that Takaki almost couldn’t hear him despite being so close. “Do you think tomorrow night we could cook something together?”
“Sure,” Takaki answered. He would love to create something together. He pressed a light kiss to the back of his boyfriend’s head and then let go so that Chinen was free to use his arms again. As Chinen put the finishing touches on their meal, Takaki watched without a word, trying to memorize every detail of it. Quiet moments like this were rare and Takaki wanted to savor every last bit.