Today, like every day, Mr. Takagawa looks up from the computer where he always promises to be studiously scheduling meetings for everyone or processing an invoice, to say: “Good morning, Mr. Katsuki!”
And after two years in the Business floor of the office, Yuuri has well learned to say, “Good morning, Mr. Takagawa,” back to him without pausing to swallow or double check that it’s really Mr. Takagawa and that is in fact his name. Sometimes Yuuri will find himself doubting who people are right at the moment of engagement. So he says: “Good Morning, Mr. Takagawa.”
What Mr. Takagawa does not say every day is: “Welcome back!”
Usually, he says: “How are you?” and Yuuri says: “I’m fine, thank you.”
So today Yuuri says: “I’m fine, thank you,” and only realizes it after Mr. Takagawa is squinting at him. “Ah! S-sorry, I—Thank you. Sorry. Nice to see you!” And then Yuuri run-walks past the receptionist desk and through the divider that drops him out into a tightly packed swamp of desks cluttered by newspapers, stocks, magazines and small shrines to beloved faces erected amongst the routine rubble of office material to remind all the hard-working souls why they endure aching necks.
Yuuri has a picture of his family on his desk, a small split leaf philodendron trailing its leaves over its pot, and a mug with a cartoon dog on it. Snoopy. He brought it back from America; bought his third year studying abroad and it’s been with him eight years since. There’s a permament stain coating its once-crisply white ceramic inside. Nothing on his desk has moved, and he cradles the cup happily in his hands.
“Yuuri! You’re back! How was Uganda?” Takeshi greets him with a hearty clap on the back, summoned from nowhere.
Yuuri fumbles his mug onto his desk and smiles up to his friend, correcting his glasses with a few pokes of his fingers. “Takeshi,” he softens. Takeshi rocks Yuuri back and forth in his seat, performing an impromptu massage. Takeshi Nishigori is the second most reassuring thing in the office; well, most reassuring person. Yuuri likes his mug because he can take it anywhere. He likes Takeshi for, if lacking in complexity, for being his friends nearly his whole life.
Yuuri was covering a more complex economy and culture piece in Uganda regarding an ongoing Chinese investment in a railway that was spanning several countries in central and Sub-Saharan Africa. It had been a more interesting piece, and Yuuri feels his privilege and pleasure flow as he relays the experience and his current outlook, the write up already submitted, as they fetch tea together. The sun had given him a freshly dark complexion, and Takeshi teases him for the freckles speckling his nose and cheeks. His friend’s warm welcome is almost enough to make Yuuri forget his social ineptitude just prior; however, he can’t shake the blunder.
When he burns his lip on his tea, Yuuri resigns himself to a poor day back in Japan.
Ryota’s apartment is as familiar to Yuuri as his own. Ryota’s body as familiar to Yuuri as his own. His manners, his habits.
It’s not that Yuuri necessarily expected Ryota to take him out his first full day back from his work trip, but one would think that a boyfriend of five months would put more effort into the evening than take out and ‘whatever happened to be on.’ But not to complain! Yuuri liked nights in, he liked comfort and domesticity. He likes how hungry Ryota was for him, “missed this, Yuuri” sticky-sworn against his lips when they roll over together on the couch. But there’s something distinctly uninspired in the way Ryota fucks him that night, Yuuri on his hands and knees, the sensation around him faceless, nameless. Distant.
Ryota doesn’t tease him about freckles; he doesn’t kiss them. His fingers don’t stroke the tan line left by Yuuri’s wristwatch. The bed sheets are damp and loveless. The tip of Yuuri’s tongue hurts where he burned it earlier, where it got sucked on. He slips off to sleep; he wakes up an hour later, the luminous screen of Ryota’s phone displayed to him over the crest of his boyfriend’s shoulder. It’s a dating app. It’s the one they met on. The one Yuuri deleted after two weeks of dating Ryota and hadn’t considered in months.
“I was only gone a week and a half,” Yuuri says quietly, voice scratchy. Ryota never planned ahead by putting a water bottle on the bedside table.
Ryota thumbs off the screen, but when he rolls onto his back, no words of protest or comfort leave his lips. Yuuri inches the touch of his leg away, relocates to a cooler part of the bed. The guilty silence stretches until it breaks. Yuuri sits ups and throws his legs out over the side of the bed, flushed and chilled at once, eyes stopped up with ready-made tears.
“I guess it’s good that we never stopped using condoms, isn’t it, Ryota,” he accuses.
“Yuuri,” Ryota sighs. He reaches out and his rough hand on the small of his back makes Yuuri flinch. “Look, Yuuri—“
“Why didn’t you just make it clear to me that this wasn’t working, or that I’m not what you want, or you just wanted to f-fuck or leave me like a respectful man or—“
“You’re so exhausting,” Ryota groans, throwing an arm over his face and cutting Yuuri’s rant off. “Everything’s zero to a hundred with you; except the sex! This! All you saw was an app on my phone and you’re freaking out.”
“I’m not,” Yuuri argues, starting to cry and despising himself for it. “I’m not freaking out. You’re the one who’s looking for other guys while lying in bed with me.”
“I’m just talking to people! Just going out and having fun. You know, fun? Let loose? Go partying? I’m not eighty, Yuuri, I want to have fun.”
“Then have fun! We could have fun,” Yuuri shouts, closing his hands into fists in the sheets. “I never said anything against fun.”
“But you’re not fun,” Ryota says almost pitying, apologetic on Yuuri’s behalf. “Babe.”
“Yuuri, come on. Yes, alright, I’ve been going out occasionally. I’m not dating anyone. I just like to meet up and have a good time.”
Yuuri takes a long, deep breath. His heart’s racing in his chest; even if he had his glasses on, he doesn’t think he could see straight. Fun. “I’m not doing this.”
“So we’re not fighting?”
“We’re not anything. Have fun with that.”
He thinks it’s a pretty good comeback; he’s quite proud of himself. Ryota protests, whining, but doesn’t rise from bed as Yuuri dresses and storms out. Maybe Yuuri would buckle, maybe he'd go crawling back into that bed that lacked passion if Ryota made an effort to catch him, to call him back. Yuuri would crumple if his boyfriend (ex!) hugged him, cried for him; he'd cut Yuuri down to the wick of his weaknesses, to need and affection. But Ryota didn't. He let Yuuri go. He didn't fight for him, didn't make Yuuri stumble in his actions. Fine! That's fine. Yuuri takes the last carton of take out from the fridge while he’s at it. That’ll show Ryota who he's messing with.
He’s pretty sure crying into dumplings in the back of a taxi isn’t the sign of a successful getaway. “Take me to a club,” Yuuri hiccups through his tears. “Someplace fun.”
He’s better than this. He’s better than Ryota, better than being – god, what? The safety fuck? The leisure boyfriend? He resents every dollar and every minute wasted on that venture. He resents himself. He drowns the parts of himself that say: you can be fun. Show him. Be fun for him. He nods his head to the parts that say: To hell with him. To hell with men who don’t want love. Fun? Where will fun be when you’re bald? He's better than that.
Exhausting? Yuuri’s not exhausting. He’s a breath of fresh air. He’s life itself.
He’s…in Phichit’s apartment.
He’s…throwing up in the toilet.
“You okay in there?” Phichit’s voice calls worriedly from the other side of the door.
“Did I have fun?” Yuuri moans into the bowl, words splashed back like a hex on his face.
Yuuri’s late to work and hung-over. He snaps at a colleague during a meeting. He accidentally deletes the publisher file with the info-graphs he’d spent all morning making. He’s going to mutilate his laptop.
“Maybe you need a break,” Takeshi suggests, leaning on his desk.
“I don’t have time for a break,” Yuuri grits, frantically typing.
“Look, it might be better to take a breather. You know how you get when you’re worked up—“
“I know how I get, Nishigori,” Yuuri snaps, hands slapping palm down on his desk; the skin smarts. Everyone in their quarter of the office stops and perks their heads up to spectate. “I don’t need a break and I don’t need you nagging me. Go.”
He doesn’t regret the words, even when Takeshi’s face stones over. He doesn’t. He’s busy. He has a deadline and this file, and Ryota, and everything. He’s been back in the office for two days and it’s miserable.
Takeshi folds his huge arms over his huge chest and couches the obvious hurt and embarrassment under a disappointed frown. They hold eyes until Yuuri gives under the weight and returns to his computer screen, acutely aware of Takeshi taking his seat at the desk beside Yuuri’s. Yuuri digs his head down and his shoulders up and pulls up his research notes, opens the apps for graphs, starts dragging boxes. But he can’t seem to type anything right, and his eyes are crossing, and he can’t read anymore.
He shoves out of his seat and marches himself to the bathroom, face scorched hot, breathing high and fast. He cries, then he throws up, still tasting whatever he drank last night, and then cries some more. The bathroom door opens, but whoever might’ve entered bails quickly at the sound of suppressed crying. He emails his boss from his phone, claiming the sickness that made him late has reemerged, but he’ll have the piece to her by the deadline, he’ll just need the rest of the day off. Takeshi looks worried when Yuuri hurries in to collect his laptop and bag and hurries out, but he doesn’t stop Yuuri either.
Maybe he’s exhausted too.
Alone. Alone sounds nice. He can be alone forever. Safe, boring, and exhausting. Is it possible for one to exhaust oneself? Yuuri thinks it’s highly likely. He’ll make himself a case study, the prime subject of the hypothesis. He’s not thirty yet, neither is Ryota; they shouldn’t be safe and boring. Ryota’s right, they should have fun – stop! Stop thinking in they and we. There isn’t a Ryota anymore, Yuuri, stop counting him into your reasoning.
Yuuri’s known for a long time that other people exhaust him; that things run him ragged. He’d been in Uganda for almost two weeks, and what had he done? His job. He’d done his job and hung out in his hotel room, doing the same nothing he does at home; nothing.
But a number of coincidences of disaster can add up to a serendipitous result.
If Yuuri had not been boring and exhausting, he wouldn’t have broken up with Ryota --> he wouldn’t have gotten drunk --> he wouldn’t have been a hung-over mess --> he wouldn’t have lost his shit at work and run home in the middle of the day --> he wouldn’t have gotten off at the stop closest to his house as opposed to the earlier one closer to the grocery store --> he wouldn’t have realized there was no food in his house until night --> he wouldn’t have gone out to the convenience store --> he wouldn’t be staring into the unconscious face of a strange beautiful man passed out on his doorstep.
Edit: boy. Man-boy. Young adult.
Regardless, he’s the most foreign looking person Yuuri’s ever seen. Even dirty and slack-jawed, the kind of pretty you want to protect. Or beat up and rob, potentially. He reeks of booze. Well, that’s something Yuuri understands. He’s breathing, at least. Yuuri doesn't think he could handle a corpse right now. Or ever. He'd like no human corpses in his future, please and thank you.
“Are you okay? Are you sick?” he asks in English, shifting the stranger up against the wall. He slaps lightly at razor-sharp cheeks. “Do you speak English?”
“Da,” the man mumbles, cracking his eyes open. They’re, and Yuuri feels he could have predicted this, a pale steel blue. He fixes an unsteady gaze on Yuuri. “Yuuri? I am...found you,” he says nonsensically before his head drops forward.
There’s no way Yuuri would forget meeting him. “H-hey, wait. How do you know me?” He picks up the strangers face in his hands once more, but this time, touch lingering, he feels the heat melting the surface of the skin in sweat. “O-oh, no, you’re sick. You’re sick and pretty and you know my name. Why did you have to be sick and pretty and know my name?”
Bringing a stranger into his apartment is neither safe nor boring, but dragging a grown adult man in your arms is certainly exhausting.