Word count: 6,172
Pairing: Koyama/Shige, Shige/OC
Summary: Sometimes you don't realize what is most precious to you. Inspired by the song Never Knew I Needed by Ne-Yo. Thanks to my beta sanjihan, who definitely has my love <3 Reposted from the awesome NEWS lovefest that is newsficcon.
It’s supposed to be perfect. The restaurant has a warm ambiance, cozy chairs and soothing music in the background. The menu is just right, delicious but not too sumptuous for a first date. Now they are moving slowly on the dance floor amid other couples, Shige's hands tentatively resting on the girl's curvaceous waist, her hands circling his neck. Shige dimly realizes he's fixing his gaze at two old men arguing at the bar in the far corner instead of the obviously attractive girl in front of him.
"What's on your mind?" she asks at one point.
What, indeed? Shige wonders. Why should be thinking of anything else — anyone else — during the date? Why is it that his thoughts keep straying elsewhere, speculating what a certain person halfway across the town is doing? Why is he wishing that it's not this girl who is in his arms right now?
Not this girl, but Koyama?
Shige wouldn't even have known if he hadn't seen the book. It happened when he was crashing Koyama's apartment after a photo shoot one afternoon. Koyama was on the phone ordering pizza when Shige remembered something. "Hey, I want to see that manga you've been raving to me about."
Koyama signaled toward the door of his bedroom, the person on the other end of the line still commanding most of his attention. "Yes, I'm still here. That's right, pepperoni and cheese..."
Shige took it as an okay for him to enter Koyama's bedroom. He had done it many times before and Koyama had never made him feel like he was crossing any boundaries. So he went in and looked around, immediately noticing the pile of books and magazines on the nightstand. He turned over a few of the books before finding the manga he was looking for. When he pulled it, a notebook fell from the pile and landed on the carpet below.
Shige wouldn't have thought anything about it had the notebook stayed closed. But as it was, the book fell open to a page and his eyes couldn't help from taking it in as he picked it up. There were a few lines scribbled in Koyama's handwriting, which at first Shige thought were song lyrics. They were not.
I tried as hard as I possibly could,
But I can't lie to myself anymore.
These feelings are real, there's no use denying it.
I'm in love.
In love with Shige.
"Did you find it?" Koyama's voice and the sound of his footsteps preceded him, but it was too late for Shige to do anything. He looked up and saw Koyama in the doorway, the latter’s stare immediately resting on the open notebook in Shige's hand. Koyama turned pale and slowly walked closer to take the book and glance at it, pursing his lips when his fears were confirmed.
“I’m sorry,” Shige stammered, “I wasn’t... the book just fell open and—” He let the words trail off, feeling how useless they were.
Koyama closed the book and returned it to the nightstand. "Serves me right for leaving this lying around, huh?" he said, a disarming weakness in his voice.
Koyama backed away from Shige and sat on the edge of the bed. It was then that Shige realized the magnitude of what had happened, that those words in the notebook had created an unbridgeable gap between them. They were separated by less than a few steps, but it felt like an expanse of ocean had opened up on the floor, ready to swallow them both if they dared take a step.
"Is it..." Shige's throat suddenly felt constricted. "Is it true? What's written there?"
Koyama's eyes were fixed on his fingers, suddenly fidgety on his knees. "Yes."
"Oh," Shige responded stupidly. He shifted his weight awkwardly from one foot to another, the manga he was holding in his hand now much less important than it had been before.
A ringing silence fell in the room before Koyama sighed and said, "Since there's no point in hiding it anymore, I'm just gonna be upfront with you." His gaze met Shige's for the first time since he entered the room, and there was a bold, almost defiant look in his eyes. "I'm in love with you, Shige."
Reading those words on paper was very different from hearing them straight from Koyama's mouth. He had written that “these feelings are real”, but they had never felt as real to Shige as when Koyama said them to his face. It was as though they took on a form of their own and Shige could actually hold them in his hands.
Koyama continued, his tone gradually becoming more confident, "I don't know how or when it started. All I know is that I looked at you one day and realized I have loved you all along. I don't know how long it will last, but right now it seems like the feelings are still going to be there for a while."
He paused for a moment to take a breath with his eyes still locked with Shige's, as if finding courage in them to keep going. "I realize you might not feel the same way, so I'm not demanding anything from you. I'm not even going to ask you to think about it, because I know you will over-think it and let it mess with your head." He smiled wryly before continuing, "The reason I've been hiding this from you is because it can potentially ruin our friendship, and that's the last thing I want. If I had to choose between our friendship and my feelings for you, I'd choose the former. So even if we can't pretend this never happened, I hope we can at least not let it get in the way of our friendship."
At this point Koyama's audacity seemed to have run its course, and he lowered his gaze. "Just... don't be mad at me, Shige," he said in a small voice. "I won't be able to stand it if you are."
Shige was still very much confused and unsure how to respond to it all, but Koyama’s last words caused something to tug deep in his chest. He sat down on the bed as well, not crossing that ocean between them yet but somehow reducing the distance. "I'm not mad at you," he said. "How can I be?"
Koyama lifted his eyes slowly, and his hope was strengthened by the tender look on Shige's face. "Friends...?" he asked, not without a sizeable amount of caution.
He was right. Shige definitely would over-think this, but now he just wanted to appreciate the fact that his relationship with his best friend could still be maintained. He nodded and offered a conciliatory smile. "Friends."
Koyama smiled back, the relief in his face an obvious sign of how agitated he was earlier. They sat there together for a while before they felt they were ready to move the conversation to lighter topics: the much talked about manga, the pizza guy who was always late. Then they got up and went back to the living room, eating the pizza after it arrived and chatting just like they would any other day. But as Shige closed the apartment door behind him later, he noticed with a heavy heart that he was also closing a chapter in his relationship with Koyama. It was like a mark of the end of innocence, and from then on it would never be the same again between them.
Shige spent the next few weeks in a daze. It wasn’t that Koyama treated him differently after that day; it was more like he had been walking around with a veil over his eyes and it was only now after it had been lifted that he could see things for what they truly were.
Koyama was in love with him. But of course he was. How else could one explain the thoughtful gestures, the kind eyes that followed Shige’s every movement, the undivided attention he gave to Shige whenever he needed him, the pressure of his hand on Shige’s when he was nervous, the gentle whisper: “It’s okay.” Even the joking and teasing, because it was all in good sport and not meant to inflict hurt. Instead it was a sign of camaraderie and a proof of the strong connection between them.
Koyama was in love with him. All this time Shige thought he was kind to everyone but never had it seemed clearer to whom he was kindest. Yes, he took care of the members, he even indulged Tegoshi’s every whim, but it was Shige he looked after the most. He never stopped even after that day in his apartment and Shige didn’t have the will to stop receiving his attentions either, the both of them so used to it anyway. At times Shige would feel guilty that he couldn’t repay the affections, although they both knew very well that’s not what Koyama was looking for.
Koyama was in love with him. But was he being honest when he said he wasn’t demanding anything from Shige? How can someone not require anything from the person he loves? It is humans’ natural instinct to give and take, to offer and receive something in return. Shige knew how generous Koyama was, but this level of selflessness baffled him. Would Koyama always be content with this one-sided love?
And then came the most important question. Koyama was in love with him, but how did he feel about Koyama? The man was very important to him, yes. You don’t become best friends for nearly a decade without developing a really strong attachment to your friend. Do these feelings equal love? Shige wasn’t even sure how he felt being loved by a member of the same sex. But this wasn’t just any guy; this was Koyama, his best friend. His very special friend. No, more than a friend. But where does friendly love end and romantic love begin?
All this was giving Shige a massive headache, and the only sound conclusion he was able to come up with was that Koyama was completely right when he said Shige would let this mess with his head.
Despite all that had happened, Shige tried his best to act normal around Koyama. When they were both free one night, he invited the man to his house for a homemade dinner. It felt like the natural thing to do.
“I want you to be the first to try my new fish steak menu,” he told Koyama over the phone. “I caught the perfect fish for it yesterday.”
“Meaning, you need somebody to test your experiment on?” the older man said in a mocking tone.
Shige grinned although Koyama couldn’t see him. “Precisely.”
Koyama arrived a few hours early so he could observe the cooking process and offer unnecessary advice, most of which Shige ignored in good humor. Shige was slicing the vegetables for the side dish when his grip on the knife slipped and he cut his finger. He uttered a short, suppressed cry of pain and Koyama, who was sitting across from him, got up and went over to him in an instant.
“Are you okay?” Koyama asked worriedly, taking Shige’s injured hand in his.
Shige was surprised to see his friend so alarmed. “It’s nothing,” he said, playing it down despite the throbbing pain in his finger. “The cut isn’t very deep.”
Koyama looked at Shige doubtfully, glanced back at the bleeding finger and, without warning, put it in his mouth. Shige drew in a sharp breath as he felt Koyama’s hot tongue on his finger, his mouth sucking on the wound until it stopped bleeding. All the blood must have gone to Shige’s face instead, because when Koyama looked up at him his expression changed and he quickly let Shige’s finger out of his mouth.
“Sorry,” he murmured. “I wasn’t... I just want to help.”
“It’s all right,” said Shige, the words somehow sounding more like a reassurance for himself rather than Koyama.
The taller man went to get a band-aid from a drawer and then carefully put it on Shige’s wounded finger. He bit his lip nervously and said after a moment’s silence, “I should probably go.”
Koyama moved back to his previous station across from Shige, his face clouding over, shoulders slumped in defeat. “I just want to stay your friend. But lately it seems like it’s getting increasingly uncomfortable for you.”
Shige felt the tension inside him subsiding, replaced by a surge of warmth for his friend. He began to understand why Koyama had hidden his feelings from him, not wanting to create awkwardness between them. But now Koyama was exposed, his heart out in the open, and there was something about his vulnerability that touched a chord within Shige.
“Koyama,” he put his uninjured hand over Koyama’s on the kitchen counter. “I’m not gonna lie to you. It is difficult sometimes. But I want to stay your friend too.” He smiled a little. “Who’s gonna eat my super delicious steak if you leave?”
A small laugh burst forth from Koyama’s lips. His face softened as he looked at Shige and said, “It better be tasty.”
Things got a little more complicated after someone else entered the picture. Tomomi was a classmate of Shige’s, a smart, confident girl with watchful eyes and an affable smile. She had olive skin and a heart-shaped face framed by shoulder-length wavy hair dyed a dark burgundy. Shige had known her since last year, when they both attended the same class and worked together in a group for the final project. He liked her because she seemed independent and could hold her own in an argument. He never thought that their relationship might progress further, at least not before the events that were soon to unfold.
He was walking out of the campus gate after wrapping up afternoon classes, wanting to catch a cab to a photo studio for a magazine shoot. He hailed an approaching taxi, but when he put a hand on the passenger door to open it another hand closed over his own. He looked up and saw Tomomi, apparently in a hurry but managing a smile when she recognized him. “Kato-kun! Ah, sorry, I thought the cab was free.”
Shige backed away, shaking his head politely. “No, you go ahead. You seem to be in a rush.”
“I am, actually — I have a part-time job at an art gallery.” She straightened her bag strap on her shoulder, eyeing Shige concernedly. “But you look like you have to be somewhere too, don’t you? For work?”
Some of Shige’s friends and acquaintances often did that, or at least those who weren’t too close to him. Whenever he had to leave early from whatever they were doing, a discussion for a class project or lunch at the cafeteria, they would look at him meaningfully and say, “Oh, of course, you have work!” Their tone would be slightly cynical, sometimes even blatantly envious of the fact that he was a celebrity and got to do stuff like hanging out at award shows or getting drunk at the after parties — not that Shige did much of either. His close friends who really did know him wouldn’t do that; they knew enough of the toilsome labor his idol status entailed to understand that when he said he had to go to work, he really did have to work. Tomomi wasn’t like that though. She seemed genuinely concerned that Shige might get into trouble if he was late.
Shige smiled, appreciating the kind gesture. “I do have work, but I can catch another cab.” He opened the door and stepped back, motioning for her to go inside. “You go on, don’t worry.”
Tomomi looked at Shige in hesitation before asking, “My part-time job is in Shinjuku. What about you, where are you going?”
“To a studio in Okubo, but—”
“That’s not very far. Let’s just go together!” Before Shige had a chance to resist, she grabbed his hand and pulled him inside the taxi with her. When she gave the address of the gallery to the driver, Shige opened his mouth to protest but she lifted a finger in warning and gave him a faux stern glare. “Nuh-uh! I won’t hear any refusal. I’ll drop off in Shinjuku and you can continue to Okubo. Win-win situation, right?”
She flashed such a charming, victorious smile that Shige couldn’t help but yield to her. All through the taxi ride they chattered incessantly, her large earrings swinging to and fro as she described her job as an assistant to the art gallery owner. Their conversation later strayed to school-related topics, how they were each trying to complete the required credits in order to graduate soon. Then Tomomi brought up the mutual friends with whom they took the International Law class the previous year.
“It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen them. I invited them to an exhibition at my gallery on Wednesday; it would be a good chance to catch up.” Her eyes lit up as she looked at Shige. “Hey, if you’re free that day you should come over as well. It’d be fun!”
Shige saw no reason to decline — he hadn’t been hanging out with the guys from that class for a while either, and he had also developed an interest in art since his visit to a museum in New York a couple of years back. He told her he had no plans for that day and would love to come, earning an appreciative smile from Tomomi.
When they arrived at the gallery in Shinjuku she pulled out a few yen notes from her wallet to split the fare, but Shige courteously said there was no need, he would pay for it. Tomomi laughed and said, “Thanks for being such a gentleman, Kato-kun, but sometimes it’s better to just let the girl pay her share. Modern woman and everything, you know?” She stuffed the money into Shige’s hand and swiftly got out of the cab. Just before the driver sped off again she waved goodbye at him, saying, “See you Wednesday evening!” Shige looked at the yen notes in his hand and chuckled at Tomomi’s persistence, her jovial smile lingering in his mind.
At the photo studio in Okubo, Koyama and the staff were already waiting for him. The former flashed his usual grin, handing him a cup of coffee from the vending machine. “Did you see Massu? I thought you were going to come with him.”
Shige felt suddenly guilty with no valid reason at all. He accepted the cup and returned Koyama’s smile feebly, saying, “No, I... I came here alone.” He wasn’t even sure why he told the lie.
On Wednesday Shige went to the art exhibition as he promised. It featured a series of postmodern paintings and sculptures, with an acoustic band playing in a corner. The place wasn’t too packed but there was a steady flow of visitors coming, chatting with each other and enjoying the art and music. Shige spotted Tomomi among the crowd and waved to catch her attention. She looked especially stunning that night, her green satin dress falling gracefully on her figure, her hair made up in bouncy curls. She beamed when she saw Shige and strode over to greet him. “You came!”
“I said I would. Seems like you’ve got quite a lot of visitors.”
“Yes, I’m so glad. I was worried we didn’t promote enough.” She pointed at the far end of the gallery where a group was clustered around one of the pieces on display. “The folks from our class are over there if you want some company. I have to see my boss for a moment. Enjoy your time!”
Shige nodded in thanks and crossed the room to meet his friends. There were five guys and three girls there, all of whom had taken the International Law class with him and Tomomi. After a lot of high-fives and exchange of pleasantries, one of them suggested they continue the gathering at a nearby cafe afterward. Shige readily assented, feeling that a proper catching-up was in order.
As they were strolling around to look at the exhibited works, one of the guys leaned over to Shige’s ear and whispered, “Tomomi is totally checking you out, man.”
Shige lifted an eyebrow, a rebuttal already at the tip of his tongue, but when his eyes drifted to the crowd he caught the girl in question staring at him. She noticed him glancing at her direction and quickly turned her gaze, one corner of her mouth turned up in a furtive smile. Not knowing what to make of it, Shige shook his head and summarily dismissed his friend’s idea.
Later that night, though, while they were hanging out at the cafe a few blocks from the gallery, Shige was aware that Tomomi’s attention was devoted solely to him. She asked him what he thought about the exhibition, which paintings he liked best, whether he felt the music was too loud for such an event. Shige good-naturedly answered each question, trying to ignore others that were gradually forming in his head: was she attracted to him, and if so what was he going to do about it?
His phone rang, and Shige tensed when the caller ID revealed it was Koyama. He excused himself from the group and went to lobby to take the call. “Hello...?” he said, almost doubtfully.
“Shige! Hey, what are you doing right now?”
“Um... I just went to an art gallery in Shinjuku with some friends. Now we’re at a cafe.”
That’s entirely true, he told himself. He wasn’t lying or anything. He fiddled with the nails on his free hand while Koyama blabbered in his ear about a rare DVD he just got. “...so I thought you might want to watch it with me some time.”
“Sure,” Shige said hastily. “Let’s talk about it when we meet tomorrow, okay?” They said goodbye to each other, then he flipped his phone shut and returned to his seat. As he saw Tomomi turn to him with a smile he vaguely thought that he hadn’t done anything, yet he felt he had somehow done Koyama wrong.
When the rest of their friends were busy with their own conversations, Tomomi tilted her head, gazing at Shige as her fingers played with the straw of her bright-colored cocktail. “So, Kato-kun, have you tried that Italian restaurant in Omotesando? The guys were saying that apparently it’s the hot new place near campus.”
“No, I haven’t. Is it any good?”
“So they say, I haven’t tried it myself.” There was a pregnant pause as her eyes twinkled meaningfully, causing Shige to be discomfited.
“Tomomi-san, um...” he cleared his throat awkwardly, his voice unconsciously getting smaller and smaller. “You want... no, I—”
She threw her head back and burst into laughter. Luckily the cafe was quite noisy and their friends were all talking about different things anyway that they barely noticed her uproar. When her laughter died down she leaned back in her seat, shoulder to shoulder with Shige, a playful smile on her face. “It’s okay, Shige-kun. Can I call you Shige-kun?” Seeing his timid nod, she went on, “So, are you seeing anyone right now?”
Shige found himself hesitating for a split second before replying, “No.”
“Would you be opposed to the idea of going to that restaurant with me, say, next Friday night? If you’re free?”
“I... I guess not.”
“Wonderful. It’s a date then!” She raised her glass and clinked it against Shige’s in a celebratory manner, while he just sat there staring at her. Her skillful maneuvers had him backed into a corner but the emotion that she evoked in him was nothing short of awe.
The only thing that bothered him, he thought as he said goodbye to Tomomi and the others that night, was that Koyama’s face kept flashing in the back of his mind, making him feel in an absurd way like he was cheating on him.
He realized he had to tell Koyama about the date — he at least owed him that — but he couldn’t figure out the right words to say. In his latest attempt, as he was sitting next to Koyama on his couch, Shige felt like something was stuck in his throat, rendering him speechless. Koyama saw the odd look on his face and giggled. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Koyama,” Shige sputtered. “I need to tell you something.”
“Well, can’t it wait until after the movie?” Koyama grabbed the remote and handed Shige a bag of potato chips, but he put it aside.
“I really have to say this now,” he insisted.
“Oh.” Koyama’s smile vanished and he put the remote on the coffee table, turning so he was facing his friend, an elbow supporting his head. “All right, go on.”
Shige heaved a deep breath. “I’m... going on a date, with someone. A girl.”
The change was subtle, but he could discern the thinning of the lips, the slight frown on the forehead, that told him Koyama was struggling to maintain his composure. “...Okay,” he mumbled after a while, a hand clutching his knee.
“It’s just something casual, a dinner at a restaurant this Friday. I meant to tell you sooner but—” Shige paused for a second, uncertain, “I guess I was afraid of hurting you.”
The tautness in Koyama’s expression was replaced by a particular shade of gentle melancholy that Shige was lately so used to seeing on his face. He always saw it coming, like the sky darkening before heavy rain, and wished he had the power to prevent it. The shadow of a smile flitted across Koyama’s lips. “Don’t feel obliged to protect me, Shige. I’m perfectly fine.”
No, you’re not, Shige wanted to say. The look on your face says otherwise. But Koyama quickly slipped on the mask of a happy face and asked, “So tell me, is she the pretty type or the cute type?”
It was just like the old days, the two of them talking about which type of girl they think is the best. Shige started describing what Tomomi looked like, the lively way in which she talked, her independent attitude. As he watched Koyama listening to him attentively, he was unable to shake the nagging feeling that there was something terribly wrong in all this, something that he couldn’t name.
He awakes from his reverie and tries to concentrate on Tomomi in front of him, in his arms. The song in the background has just changed, now it’s a jazzy number. The lights overhead reflect off the sequins of Tomomi’s spaghetti strap dress and the glimmer in her eyes as she stares at him searchingly.
Shige manages a weak smile. “What?”
"I was asking you what’s on your mind." One of her hands slides from his neck to his chest, stroking the cool fabric of his jacket. “You seem preoccupied.”
Absentmindedly Shige shakes his head. He can’t admit to her that he’s thinking about someone else during their first date. It had started so well too; they never ran out of things to talk about, from school to friends to future plans after they graduate. They had a delicious meal accompanied by red wine and topped off with a delicious, creamy dessert. Then Tomomi suggested they dance and here they are right now, Shige’s arms around her but his mind miles away.
He needs to focus on something so he chooses Tomomi’s face, her skin covered by just the right amount of makeup, not overdone but simply accentuating her best features. Her eyes are framed by thick lashes that flutter against her cheeks as she blinks, looking up at him. Then Shige’s vision blurs and he sees a different pair of eyes in front of him, their bottomless depths trained on him as they are wont to do. He looks closer and recognizes a familiar face, with sun-kissed skin and soothing smile, and his heart rises to his throat. The word “Koyama” nearly escapes his lips, but he catches himself just as the image dissolves and Tomomi is in front of him once more.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asks, an anxious look in her face.
Shige scrunches his eyes tight and opens them again. “Yes, I... I’m sorry, it’s probably the wine.” Tomomi seems unconvinced and Shige can’t blame her, he knows he’s being weird for no apparent reason.
He just can’t stop thinking of Koyama, unable to get rid of the searing guilt he felt in his chest when he told Koyama he was going on a date with Tomomi. Even now he’s wondering what Koyama is doing tonight, whether he is lonely, or wishing Shige is beside him like in so many nights they spent together. He’s almost ashamed at his feeling of self-importance — for all he knows, Koyama might not even be thinking about him right now.
As he and Tomomi move across the dance floor another couple accidentally bumps into him from behind, pitching him forward against Tomomi. She holds out her hands to steady him, gripping his forearms. Their faces are dangerously close, and when she closes her eyes Shige realizes she’s leaning even closer for a kiss. Something tells him it’s only proper for him to respond, so he inches gradually closer until their lips meet.
It feels foreign, even odd, to have her lips pressed against his like this. He closes his eyes as well in the hope that it will make it better, but it doesn’t. His stomach twists into a hard knot as he feels Tomomi moving her lips, opening them up to him. An image suddenly forms in the back of his mind of his best friend fixing his gaze on him, saying, "I'm in love with you, Shige."
That’s when everything clicks into place — his hesitation in being honest with Koyama about Tomomi, his discomfort at her advances, the way he has been feeling all night. He wrenches his lips apart from Tomomi’s, prompting her to open her eyes and stare at him confusedly.
“I’m sorry,” he says, breathless. “I— I’m in love with someone else.”
Her face instantly darkens and she steps away from him as though by instinct. They stand there uneasily until Shige motions her back to their table so they can sit down. Still looking a little baffled, Tomomi begins, “I didn’t know that you...”
Shige shakes his head. “It’s my fault. I didn’t know about this either.” He winces at how stupid that sounds, but at this point he has nothing to offer her but the truth. “All this time I never realized how I felt, but... it was always there. I just wasn’t paying attention.”
Tomomi takes a deep breath, apparently trying to reconcile herself with this new fact, and then she smiles wryly. “Guess I don’t have a chance, do I?”
Shige looks down at the table between them. “I’m really sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.”
Suddenly she barks out laughing to his surprise. “If I had a penny every time a guy says that!” She lifts a hand before he has a chance to protest, the playful glint back in her eyes. “It’s all right, Shige-kun. I prefer you to be honest with me now rather than later.” She throws him a curious look. “Do I know her, though?”
Shige awkwardly avoids her eyes, not wanting to reveal too much. “No.”
She lets out a long sigh, looking resigned but not altogether cheerless. She’s a strong girl, and Shige doubts something like this is going to keep her down for long. In fact, as she straightens in her seat and attempts a smile at him she’s looking better already. “Well, in any case, you should tell that person how you feel.”
He grins back, nervous and excited all at once. “I really should.”
Koyama seems surprised when Shige shows up at the door of his apartment. “I thought you were on a date!” he says, locking the door behind him after letting Shige in.
“I was,” Shige replies and makes his way to the living room, unsure of what he’s going to do next. He planned a long speech in his head during the journey to Koyama’s, but now that he’s here his mind all of a sudden goes blank. How do you tell your best friend that you just realized you love him back, after all these years of a strictly platonic relationship? He turns around and looks at Koyama, who is smiling placidly at him.
“So how was it?” asks the taller man.
“How was what?”
“The date, of course!” a smile is plastered on his face, but Shige immediately sees that Koyama is trying to be cheerful for his sake.
“It was...” Shige begins, hesitates, worries with his bottom lip. “It was wrong.”
“Oh.” Taken aback, Koyama’s fake smile disappears, replaced by a genuine frown of sympathy. “What happened?”
Shige has learned in the past few days that words have a way of eluding you when you need them the most. He wants to explain how he realized Tomomi is not the one, that it has been Koyama, always Koyama for him all along, that he has been a complete and utter fool for not noticing it sooner. Instead of saying that he becomes distracted by Koyama’s lips, full and luscious, so different from Tomomi’s thin lips. He remembers how Koyama’s image flickered before his eyes during the date, how he wished it was Koyama instead of Tomomi, and before he realizes what he’s doing he walks over to his friend and kisses him.
At first Koyama is tentative, hesitant, but once he gets over the shock he’s more than eager, parting his lips for Shige, moving closer to him and coiling his fingers in his hair. Shige drags his teeth over Koyama’s bottom lip, feeling both thrilled and embarrassed to hear the ecstatic moan that escapes Koyama’s mouth. But he can’t deny how good it feels to have Koyama’s full lips crushed against his own, their tongues delving into each other’s mouths. It’s gentle but enthusiastic, affectionate but teasing, everything his kiss with Tomomi hadn’t been.
They break the kiss to take a breath, but Shige, not wanting to be too far apart, loops an arm around Koyama’s waist and pulls him closer. Koyama readily obeys his wish, molding their bodies together and pressing his forehead against Shige’s. Shige runs his thumb along Koyama’s half-parted lips, feeling the rise and fall of his chest against his own.
“Shige,” Koyama says between gasps, “does this mean...”
Shige can feel Koyama’s firm muscles under his shirt, body heat emanating from every pore, warm and inviting. He nods slowly. “Yes.”
“I thought you didn’t want me,” Koyama mumbles in a delirious voice.
“I thought I didn’t want you,” says Shige, before adding, “I was an idiot.”
“No,” Koyama shakes his head and smiles, placing a hand on Shige’s cheek. “You’re definitely not.”
When they later lay side by side on Koyama’s bed, bodies slick with sweat, Shige thinks he will have to disagree with Koyama: he really was an idiot for not doing this with him sooner. He twists his head to the side intending to tell Koyama just that, but is stunned by the desolate look on the other’s face. Turning his whole body to face Koyama, he props his head on an elbow and tips Koyama’s chin up with his free hand. “Hey. What’s the matter?”
Koyama’s eyebrows are furrowed, his eyes marked with apprehension. “It’s over, isn’t it?”
“Our friendship.” The words tumble rapidly out of his quivering lips. “Now that we’ve come to this, there’s no way we can go back. If this doesn’t work then it’s all over, Shige.”
Shige smoothes the hair from Koyama’s damp forehead. “So that’s why you never made a move? Why you said you wanted nothing from me?”
Koyama nods and averts his eyes but Shige puts a hand on his cheek, urging him to meet his gaze. “You’ll always be my friend, Koyama. I promise you that. But you’re also so much more.”
He kisses him softly and unhurriedly, hoping it can help convey what words cannot. He pulls away to see Koyama looking at him with doting eyes, and he kisses him once more before nuzzling his neck. Koyama wraps himself around him, and Shige can’t remember the last time he felt so comfortable, so right.
Sometimes you think you have it all planned out, that you know exactly what you need. As Shige falls asleep in Koyama’s arms that night, he learns that sometimes the best things in life come in the most unexpected ways, take you by surprise, and make you realize what you need has been right there all along, waiting patiently for you to notice.