Picking up the Pieces


Chapter Five


Yata wasn’t really sure what he’d been expecting the moment before he lost his virginity to be like – falling down onto the bed in a rush of fervent kisses while their clothing magically dissolved, maybe? – but he was pretty sure that being propped up on his knees and elbows with his hands clenched into fists, his face burning with embarrassment, and anxiety churning in his stomach wasn’t it.

“You’re not supposed to be so tense,” Saruhiko mumbled into his ear, biting lightly at the soft shell of it. The sensation sent a little shiver down Yata’s spine, but did nothing for the rigid set of his muscles. “It shouldn’t hurt that much if you relax. Probably.”

“I’m – I’m trying, okay?” That came out more defensive than he would’ve liked; Yata bit his lip, automatically tipping his head to the side as Saruhiko pressed kisses into the corner of his jaw. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded, relaxing in a situation like this.

Even if he had been the one to ask for it.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like the way things were going – actually, he liked it a lot; his erection hadn’t even flagged, despite his nerves. He wasn’t particularly bothered by not being “on top” or anything; he hadn’t had expectations one way or another going in, although he’d thought about it a lot, both ways. Honestly, it had kind of been a pleasant surprise when Saruhiko ended up taking the lead, because Yata was always the one initiating everything in their relationship. It wasn’t like he minded or anything – that dumbass had never been good with admitting that he had actual emotions – but it was still gratifying to get solid evidence that his desire was reciprocated. Saruhiko rolling him onto his back and planting desperate, sloppy kisses down his neck while simultaneously groping blindly at every inch of skin he could reach had been such a turn-on that being on the bottom had actually started to seem pretty exciting.

It was just… now that he was naked and on his knees and this was actually going to happen, it felt like every insecure thought he’d ever had about sex was screaming at him in his head, and he just… couldn’t shut them up.

“Maybe it would be better if we were face to face,” Saruhiko murmured. His chest was pressed close to Yata’s back, and his skin felt hot. One of his hands was running lightly – almost tentatively – over Yata’s cock, and it felt delicious and promising – a little teaser of things-to-come, hopefully. “Should we try it?”

“It’s – it’s fine, just give me a minute! This position’s easier, right?” He was sure he’d completely lose his nerve if he had to make eye contact now. Yata shut his eyes, breathing slowly. Against the curve of his backside, he could feel the hard press of Saruhiko’s erection, and that was both erotic and nerve-wracking.

Misaki…” His name came out as part of a soft exhale of breath against his jawline. Saruhiko pulled back a little, the hand on Yata’s dick stilling. “Misaki,” he repeated, planting a kiss at the base of his neck.

It was rare for him to be so… well… nice. But then, this was new for both of them, right? Yata breathed out, feeling his muscles relax a bit. “Saru,” he responded, voice coming out soft and a bit unsteady.

That was right – they were doing this together, after all. It wasn’t just about his first time.

Saruhiko hummed lightly against his skin. “Would you feel better if I tried to talk dirty?”

“Fuck off.” Yata huffed out a surprised laugh; the idea of Saruhiko talking dirty was just too ridiculous. “I can’t think of a better way to kill the mood, you dumbass.”

“Good. I probably would’ve choked telling you those kinds of things.” One final kiss to his shoulder, and Saruhiko was drawing back, the hand that had been touching Yata pulling away to brush over his hip. “You look pretty nice on your knees like this, though.”

He could feel his face growing hot again. Sh-Shut up! Don’t say things like that!”

“It’s a compliment, you know.” There was the snap of a bottle lid behind him; Saruhiko paused, then added in a lower tone, “I want to see you in ways that no one else will. Doing the things you only do with me.”

The raw honesty behind those words was what undid Yata; he bit his lip against a moan. “I – me, too,” he admitted, shakily. It was kind of crazy how closely those words echoed his earlier thoughts. He made an effort to swallow back his embarrassment and respond properly. “Saruhiko, you know… you know…”

“Yeah,” Saruhiko murmured back, while he was still fumbling with trying to force the words out. A slicked finger probed at his backside, brushing almost hesitantly at the sensitive flesh. “I probably know. Misaki.”

Yata pulled in a stuttering breath, but was able to force the instinctive tension out of his muscles by focussing on the flow of conversation. “I guess I’ve finally drilled it through your thick skull, then,” he managed, voice rough.

“I don’t need to hear that from you.” In that tone, it might as well have been a statement of endearment. Implicit permission granted, that finger wormed its way past the ring of muscle and inside.

It didn’t hurt, but it definitely felt weird. Yata shut his eyes again, adjusting to the intrusion. “Shut up,” he mumbled, without heat.

The finger withdrew, to be replaced with two. “Shut up yourself,” Saruhiko responded, a little too breathily to be properly snarky. “Virgin.”

Yata swallowed hard, letting the sting of being stretched pass before trying to respond. “Can’t – can’t believe you’re calling me that now. St-stupid monkey.” He couldn’t hold back a sharp gasp as the fingers scissored and moved inside him. It felt weird still… but…

It was just – it was really intimate. And – and kind of… kind of…

“If I can’t call you that now, then when?” Damn, and Saruhiko sounded just as out of it – his other hand braced itself on Yata’s hip, noticeably shaky, while he pulled back again and went in with three fingers instead.

“Ha… How about… never?” There was definitely more of a sting with three. But it wasn’t so bad. Yata leaned forward to rest his head against the mattress, panting as he adjusted again. This was his best friend, the person he was closer to than anyone, the person he’d gone to hell and back both for and with, and he wanted this. He seriously wanted it. His hands fisted against the sheets, and he swallowed again. “F-Fuck, Saruhiko…”

Misaki…” Saruhiko slid his fingers out again, leaning forward to drape along his left side. The hand that had clutched at his hip rested alongside his clenched fist, and warm breath tickled the side of his cheek. “Look at me.”

It was too unsteady to be a proper demand, but somehow that made it more compelling. Yata lifted his head, turning to meet his soon-to-be-lover’s eyes. Saruhiko was flushed, and his gaze was heavy-lidded, dilated pupils clearly exposed without his glasses, lips parted, looking as wrecked as Yata felt. He’s like this because of me. His neglected cock gave a little twitch of anticipation; without thinking, he twisted around, leaning onto his right hand so he could raise the left to pull Saruhiko’s head down and take his lips in a clumsy, almost frantic kiss.

A small, low moan was muffled against his mouth; he could hear slick-sounding noises and felt telltale motion beside him. Saruhiko broke the kiss, shifting to right himself over Yata’s back, and breathed out, “I’m putting it in.”

Fuck, don’t sound like that. I’ll lose it, seriously. Yata braced himself on both elbows again, and pushed back as he felt the tip of Saruhiko’s erection pressing into the cleft of his ass. His own cock was leaking pre-cum and the urge to wrap his hand around it and get himself off to this was strong. “F-fucking do it already, Saru!”

Saruhiko’s hand rested on his hip again, holding him in place as he pressed in. The huff of breath he let out was sharp; those restraining fingers shook.

It hurt, obviously, but Yata had more or less been ready for that. Being so turned on helped; the pain felt more strange than truly unpleasant. It was weird having something go up that way, but not exactly bad. The pace was slow enough to allow him to adjust; he unclenched his hands, pressed his forehead against the mattress again, and shut his eyes, releasing the last of his nervous tension.

It felt good to let go. To just accept, instead of forcing himself.

Saruhiko bent over his back again, propping himself up with his free hand and breathing erratically against Yata’s shoulder blade as he sank all the way in. He was trembling noticeably – from the sensation or from the effort of holding himself back, it was hard to tell. A low, almost desperate-sounding moan was muffled into Yata’s skin; the hand that had rested on Yata’s hip circled around his waist tightly. Possessively.

You could just say it. He almost could have laughed, even in the middle of it all. I get it, you know?Saruhiko.” His voice was rough, but it didn’t matter. You’re mine. You gave yourself to me willingly, so you’re definitely mine. But he wasn’t going to voice it, either. “I won’t fucking break. Move.”

The shaky exhale against his back sounded suspiciously like laughter. “Impatient as ever,” Saruhiko murmured, tightening his hold for a second before easing off again. “How typical, Misaki.” He drew back, sliding out of Yata’s body almost all of the way before pushing back again.

The slight sting that came with it barely registered, but the strangeness – the sensation of being thrust into, of Saruhiko moving inside him – was enough to make him gasp, even as his partner dug unsteady fingers into his hip, mouthing at the jut of his shoulder blade. Those lips and tongue felt impossibly hot.

“Fuck,” he groaned, past the point of feeling any embarrassment at the harsh arousal coloring his own voice. “Saru…”

Misaki,” Saruhiko breathed out in response, almost wonderingly, and pulled back to thrust again, drawing gasps from both of them this time as he came in harder.

It took a few tries to find a rhythm, but instinct kicked in eventually. Saruhiko’s pace was slower than Yata was used to, as if he enjoyed drawing things out rather than rushing towards climax. He was vocal in an understated way, making little sexy noises and repeating Yata’s first name over and over like it was a prayer.

It was an incredible turn-on; that, more than the strange, erotic sensation of being fucked, was what had him giving in to his own urges and reaching back to take himself in hand. He couldn’t bite back a moan when the first rush of pleasure came, measuring his strokes without really thinking about it to match the pace of Saruhiko’s thrusts.

Shit. At this rate…

Yata moaned again, too caught up in sensation to hold himself back. He was past the limit of his control already, rushing headlong for that peak with an intensity he was unfamiliar with. “Saru,” he managed, struggling for some coherency in the midst of a veritable storm of stimulation, “I…”

Orgasm caught him before he could decide how to finish that thought, wiping whatever it might have been out of his head entirely as he cried out into the sheets, jerking reflexively while pleasure pulsed through him. His vision blurred and for a few seconds he could only pant, mind blissfully blank.

Saruhiko continued to fuck him right through it, at a pace that felt almost frenzied, and Yata’s over-sensitive body twitched helplessly in response, fingers clenching and breath hitching as he fought to come back to himself properly. It was only a few short seconds later when Saruhiko thrust into him forcefully, stiffened up, and then shuddered as he came, gasping out a rough approximation of ‘Misaki’.

There was a moment – just a moment – when they were both still.

It didn’t last long. Saruhiko slumped bonelessly forward in the wake of orgasm, leaning heavily on Yata’s back as he fought to catch his breath. Yata’s legs and arms were trembling, shoulders aching with the strain of holding his position for so long, and the additional weight just wasn’t going to work. He leaned sideways and let them both fall against the bed, Saruhiko’s softening cock sliding out of him sloppily as they landed.

Holy fuck. The first coherent thought to enter his head. Yata let his breathing slow, drained of all his energy. His body felt heavy and kind of gross now that the high from earlier was fading, but a sudden urge to look at his partner’s face had him shifting over onto his back and turning his head despite everything else.

Saruhiko’s gaze met his, face still flushed and eyes heavy-lidded. It was the kind of look Yata sometimes tried to picture on him when he was jerking off – but the reality was way fucking better. Especially just after doing… that.

We seriously just did it. Sex. Together.

It was almost hard to believe. And it had felt really good, too, even being on the bottom. Yata felt the grin pulling at the corners of his mouth and didn’t try to resist it, a mix of triumph and sated frustrations and probably a bit of love mingling around in his belly. It didn’t even bother him when Saruhiko raised his eyebrows in return.


“Next time, we gotta do it face to face.”



Yata’s transition into wakefulness was sudden – maybe it was something to do with being in the same bed both in his dream and in reality. The imagined words were barely out of his dream-self’s mouth before his eyes were opening and he was staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom with blank incomprehension.


Another goddamn sex dream.

No. You know what? Just no. He narrowed his eyes, feeling a kind of stubborn certainty roiling in his stomach. There is no way I dreamed that up. I was on the fucking bottom, for fuck’s sake! How the hell would I have any idea what that feels like?

And what kind of stupid sex dream would have him starting off so awkwardly? Yata scowled, a little peeved at his dream-self for that. Former self, rather. Because it was definitely a memory. If his imagination had spun that up, either he should’ve been confidently handling everything in a strong, manly fashion or Saruhiko should’ve been servicing him in a much sexier way.

Not that he really hated the outcome or anything… A now-familiar rush of heat rose to his face as he considered some of the details. At least they’d been on an equally inexperienced level. And Saruhiko had been turned on – he’d wanted him. A lot, if his reactions were anything to go by. Yata squirmed, a little twinge down below reminding him that his mental satisfaction hadn’t exactly translated to real-life relief.

Even now, with just a handful of memories, he still kind of had a weakness for the idea of Saruhiko lusting after him. If he could somehow remember how to trigger it…

That was a tantalizing thought.

Quit getting distracted. He was going to end up like he had yesterday if he wasn’t careful, and Yata wasn’t sure if he could handle the hit to his pride two days in a row. Self-control, damnit!

The main problem was how to bring this up with Saruhiko. Yata considered that for a moment, still frowning up at the ceiling. What the hell should he start with?

‘So, I’ve been having these sex dreams about you that I think are memories…?’ No.

‘Question: we’re totally fucking, right?’ Hell no.

‘Theoretically speaking, if I asked you to kiss me…?’ Fucking what? No.

‘That thing about me losing my virginity – that was with you, wasn’t it?’ Lame.

‘Hey, so are we together or something?’ Yeah, still kind of lame.

There had to be a better way to do this. Yata pushed himself up carefully – the sense of heavy, dull pain lurking at the back of his head was getting less obvious, but sharp movements still didn’t seem like a good idea – and slid the covers aside, mind still working on the problem. Sometimes actions were better than words, right? Maybe he should start off with just… doing something. Like – like holding hands.

Or maybe kissing…

The thought brought another hot flush. Seriously, just going up to Saruhiko and planting one on him? I don’t know if I could do that. Even if he was about 99% convinced that they were together, it was still embarrassing, damnit!

So, what else…? Yata shifted his legs over the edge of the bed and stood up slowly. Guess I could try to get him to admit it first. That would probably be a losing battle, though – Saruhiko had pretty well raised ‘stubborn’ to an art form. Plus, back before Homra, he’d always tried to keep himself distant, even around the people he liked – or maybe especially around people he liked. And everything in the memories Yata had gotten back indicated that, if anything, that habit had gotten worse rather than better.

Well… everything except maybe that last memory.

He couldn’t help but squirm a little on his feet with that thought, and moved to pick out some fresh clothing so he didn’t focus too much on his embarrassment. Unfortunately, that unpleasantly smug voice at the back of his head had other ideas. If you could figure out how to bring that mood out again…

Yata clenched his teeth against that thought, tossing a shirt and shorts onto the bed. Fuck no. No way in hell was he going to make an ass of himself trying to seduce his fucking roommate. He’d figure it out in like five seconds, and I’d never hear the end of it.

If it worked, it would be really hot… It won’t work, so shut up!

That kind of eliminated all of his options, right there. Yata scowled at his clothing for a moment, disgruntled. This is going to be a pain no matter what, isn’t it? He probably should’ve guessed – this stupid romance stuff was complicated, and Saruhiko being involved didn’t help.

Well, whatever – there wasn’t much he could do about it.

At least I’ll have time to figure it out. He pulled on the clean shirt, shorts, and underwear, considered the painkillers for a moment before deciding against it, and then headed for the door. He’ll probably be at work until late again, so I don’t have to worry… about…

That thought trailed off into oblivion as he opened his bedroom door and found the exact person he was expecting to not have to worry about sitting at the table with a book in his hand, an empty plate shoved forward in front of him, and a mug of something steaming sitting to the side.

Yata froze in his tracks, too surprised to do more than just stare for the first moment.

Saruhiko glanced up from his book and spotted him. “Morning,” he greeted lazily, “I guess. It’s past lunchtime already – I was wondering if you were going to sleep all day.”

The shock that had immobilized Yata lifted. “What the hell are you doing here?” he blurted out, mildly aggravated at the unexpected intrusion.

He got a raised eyebrow in return. “I live here.”

“I know that, you idiot!” He scowled, irritation rising. “Why aren’t you at work?”

“It’s my day off.” Saruhiko shrugged, closing the book. He was dressed in casual clothing again, but his hair had been styled as if he was going out. “I thought I told you about that yesterday.”

Yata felt his eyebrow twitch. “No, you didn’t.”

“Huh.” He didn’t seem concerned; if anything, he looked ready to dismiss the conversation altogether. “Well, now you know.”

“Yeah, thanks for the fucking warning!” Yata let out a long, frustrated breath, thoroughly annoyed by the way his anticipated ‘time to figure shit out’ had been disrupted. “What if I’d walked out of my room naked or something, huh?”

“So what if you did? You’ve got nothing I haven’t seen.”

Yata narrowed his eyes, studying his roommate’s bland expression. That… didn’t actually have to mean anything; they were both guys, after all. Bathhouses, hot springs, change rooms… Plenty of places where Saruhiko could have seen it all, in a completely innocent manner – and that didn’t even include the times he’d definitely seen Yata before (not that it really counted at fifteen; he’d grown, right? Right?). Hell, he might have meant it in a ‘we’re both guys – we have the same equipment’ kind of way.

But that’s not how he actually means it, is it?

Saruhiko raised both eyebrows at him, and Yata belated realized he’d been staring silently for just a bit too long. “Something I can help you with?”

You could admit to being madly in love with me… A sudden, clear mental image of Saruhiko’s flushed face from his dream bludgeoned its way into Yata’s thoughts; he could feel his own face grow hot in response, and had to look away. “Never mind,” he muttered at the carpet.

“If you say so.” Saruhiko’s tone was bland, but his gaze felt sharp.

Yata scratched the back of his head, feeling strangely exposed. “I’m getting some food,” he announced, hoping to cover his embarrassment, and turned to head for the kitchen. “There’s still some leftovers in the fridge, right?”

He’d think about how to address this later. Maybe even tomorrow; if Saruhiko was going to be around all day, it would really be hard to focus properly. Can’t be helped, I guess. At least maybe they could talk or… something. Gaming sounded good. Watching TV, even. Something casual and easy that didn’t involve awkward conversations. It wouldn’t hurt to spend some time together, right?

Except that you could really be spending that time together.

… If only he could figure out how to shut that part of his brain up.

“Look and see for yourself,” Saruhiko was saying, in answer to his question.

“Yeah, thanks.” He tossed an irritated frown in that direction while making his way to the fridge. “Jerk.”

“You’re the one who was questioning whether I’d eaten it all.” He’d already turned back to his book. “Maybe you need to stop being so judgemental, Misaki.”

Yata stopped to stare at him with exasperation. “You’re seriously telling me to stop judging people? You, of all people?”

“I’m in a position to recognize it.” Saruhiko still wasn’t looking at him, but the corners of his mouth edged up in what looked like a sardonic little smile.

“Right, whatever.” Yata turned back to the fridge again, taking note of the selection. “I think we need to order more takeout – unless you want me going against the doctor’s orders tomorrow.” He frowned. “Not that I’d mind.”

“I’d mind – you’d probably pass out and set the apartment on fire.”

“Fuck you – I’m not going to pass out!” He glared into the fridge for another moment before pulling out what was left of the takeout. “I’m already sleeping most of the time anyway, it’s not like I need more.” Kicking the fridge door shut behind him, he set the trays on the counter. “Plus, not being able to do stuff for myself is pissing me off.”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, setting down his book. “You’re still recovering.”

“I’m fine.” Yata was pretty sure he was going to lose this battle, but he at least wanted to make his frustration clear. “Anyway, I don’t need a lecture – I’ve been resting, okay? I’m not touching the stupid stove, and I’m not doing the stupid laundry. I’m being so goddamn careful it’s driving me crazy, so you can just fucking relax.” He turned his attention back to the takeout, scowling. “That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.”

For a moment, that seemed to be the end of it. Just a moment. Then, in a tone so soft and reluctant that it could barely be heard, “You weren’t fine.”

Yata halted in the middle of loading a plate, lifting his gaze again. “What?”

Saruhiko was staring pensively off into the distance, his chin resting on one hand. “You weren’t fine,” he repeated, without much additional volume. It was hard to place his tone. “They weren’t even sure if you’d wake up, at first. There were questions about long-term hospital care. And you were just lying there, looking broken.” He slid the hand down and tilted his head, glaring out of the corner of his eyes. “You weren’t fine.”

This was the first he’d heard of this. Yata furrowed his brows, trying to think back to what Kusanagi had said about his hospital stay. “I was only unconscious for – ”

“Thirteen hours,” Saruhiko interrupted, flatly. “You think that’s nothing? Do you have any idea what those thirteen hours were like?”

There was something in that resentful glare that brought Yata’s hackles down. The automatic response that sprang to his lips – ‘I didn’t ask to get hit by a bus; why are you taking this out on me?’ – died before he could voice it. Behind the irritation and the inexplicable moodiness that characterized his best friend, he thought he saw a feeling he recognized and immediately identified with in that expression. It made him think of long days at Kusanagi’s abandoned bar, alone and feeling lost, his longing and grief so sharp it never seemed to stop cutting into him. That small, vulnerable thing that never quite left his heart, always lingering on the edges of his happiness as if waiting to pounce.

He swallowed around a lump in his throat, and tried to think of something to say.

Saruhiko wasn’t going to wait for him, though. “Then you wake up, finally, and you don’t remember anything.” He shut his eyes and made a soft, amused noise. “Ironic, isn’t it? You were the one who pushed so hard for this, and now you’re the one who forgets it all.” When he opened his eyes again, the smile he directed at Yata was cutting. “Almost like a revenge you planned out, wouldn’t you say?”

That sent a chill down his spine; he stared back, appalled. “What the fuck, Saru? Are you serious?”

“Who knows.Saruhiko pushed himself lazily to his feet, leaving his book on the table, and the smile twisted into a smirk. “Come to think of it, maybe you’re not smart enough to think up something like that, Misaki.”

This was better. Yata felt like he could breathe again, back in familiar territory. “Shut up! Only someone like you would think up a twisted idea like that!”

“Hmm?” Saruhiko drew that amused noise out, making his way into the kitchen. His smirk had the faintest hint of self-mockery, and he still wasn’t quite meeting Yata’s gaze. “You might be right about that.”

Somehow, that was unsettling; Yata covered the feeling up with a brash, “Of course I am!” In an effort to move past the subject, he added, “Anyway, I don’t know what you’re so worried about – I’m not going to off myself on a fucking stove.”

Saruhiko raised a mocking eyebrow. “But burning down the apartment still isn’t out of the question?”

“Shut up.” Yata scowled at him. “My point is, I’m not going to push it, even if I complain, so you can quit getting all bent out of shape over every little thing. Okay?”

 “I think you’re honestly the first idiot I’ve heard who referred to getting hit by a bus as a ‘little thing’.”

Yata’s frown deepened. “You know what I meant!”

“Sometimes I wonder if you even know what you mean half the time.” The words were light, but there was an edge behind them – reflected in Saruhiko’s eyes as he studied Yata’s face. “You should hurry up and get your memories back, Misaki.”

“Are you an idiot?” He raised an eyebrow right back, disgruntled. “I’d have already done it if I had any control over it. Getting random pieces in the middle of conversations and dreams and stuff is annoying.”

That seemed to catch Saruhiko’s interest. “Dreams?”

Whoops. “Like – like the one where the strains caught us.” Yata resisted the urge to cross his arms defensively, not wanting to give away his discomfort with the subject. “I dreamed about it again, that’s all. Anyway, Kusanagi kind of filled me in on what happened, like when they sent the picture of us to – ”

“You talked about it with Kusanagi?”

Something about Saruhiko’s tone got his hackles right back up. “Yeah, so what?”

There was obvious irritation in his roommate’s expression. “You didn’t tell me.”

“I need to tell you everything now?” This line of conversation was starting to piss him off. “You’re the one who stormed off in a fucking hissy fit last time I tried to talk about it!”

“That’s different.”

“How the fuck is that different?” Yata glared at him, thoroughly frustrated now. “First you say not to talk about it, and now you’re pissed that I didn’t! What the hell kind of sense does that even make?”

“What kind of idiot are you?” Saruhiko demanded in return. His lip had curled into that defensive sneer that Yata recognized from their more serious arguments in the past. “I tell you I don’t want to explain things, and you assume it means don’t talk about it at all? This whole situation is ridiculous.” He clicked his tongue again, more sharply. “What other memories haven’t you told me about?”

“Why should I tell you?” Somewhere at the back of his mind, Yata was kind of aware that he was being childish, but he was already too wound up to care. “You don’t fucking tell me anything! Hell, back in the hospital, you were just going to walk out and leave to avoid having to explain!” And he hadn’t really thought about it since, but… “What the hell would you have done if I hadn’t grabbed you? Kicked me out? Sent all my stuff to Homra?”

Something dark and bleak seemed to take root in Saruhiko’s eyes, dulling his expression. “I don’t know,” he mumbled, almost sullenly, and Yata saw his hands curl into fists. “I didn’t know then, either.”

It was hard to tell if the sting in his eyes was more anger or hurt. “Screw you!” His whole body felt hot. “What the hell does our friendship even mean to you, if you’d just leave me again without even trying? All I could think about was how I didn’t want to lose whatever we had, and you didn’t even… fucking… ” To his horror, his voice was choking up; he gritted his teeth and tried again. “Why is it always only me who tries to hold onto things? Do you seriously not even care?”

Through the haze of anger that tinted everything in his vision in red, he could see Saruhiko’s face contort – and then he regained control, dipping his head forward so that his bangs shadowed his eyes. “Don’t tell me I don’t care,” he responded, low and tense. “I spent thirteen hours staring at your sleeping face and waiting for some sign that you’d wake up. I don’t believe in hell, but if it existed, that would be it.”

Why, then?” Yata could hear the desperation in his own voice, but couldn’t bring himself to care about it. “What the hell are you running away for if you care so much?”

“’Why’?” The word came out sardonic, but the twist of Saruhiko’s lips was more like a grimace than a smirk. “Because it’s exhausting. You’re exhausting. I can’t stand it.” He brought his head up slowly, meeting Yata’s gaze with an almost manic gleam in his own eyes. “I can’t just push for things the way that you do, Misaki. You don’t seem to get that. I’m different from you.”

“Then tell me that, you asshole!” On instinct, Yata took the step needed to close the distance between them, grabbing a handful of Saruhiko’s shirt and tugging him down to eye level. “Don’t run away!” He was glaring up into the startled expression on his friend’s face, letting his own feelings and the hints from his few memories of the past year pull him forward. “I’m right here, so don’t run away, Saruhiko.”

It’s okay if I don’t get it – I don’t need to understand everything. I’ll take all of you, but you need to promise me you won’t leave again!

Those half-crazed eyes slid shut; Saruhiko’s tense muscles loosened, as if in resigned surrender. A shudder went through him, and then he stilled, pliant in Yata’s grasp. “Do what you want.” The words were soft – almost too light, like an unwelcome echo of when he’d been drugged.

“You fucking coward.” His rage had mostly faded, but the hurt was still there, rising up like bile at the back of his throat. “I can’t do this alone. You have to meet me halfway.”

“What are you even talking about, Misaki?” Saruhiko’s voice was breathy. “I’m already at the meeting point, right now, with nowhere to go.” The corners of his mouth edged up, into a sort of pained, wistful smile. “You’re the one who isn’t here yet.”

You’re the one…

“You’re the one who doesn’t get it.” Saruhiko’s tone was light, almost amused. He had a faint smile on his face, leaning against the back of the park bench behind him with his hands in his pockets and his gaze fixed on Yata’s face. There was a strange glint in his eyes, a reflection of the fading light from the sunset. “Have we reached the breaking point already? Or are we going to keep dragging out the inevitable?”

Yata glared at him, aggravated. “You’re still saying garbage like that…” Weeks of hanging out, watching movies, getting dinner together, re-adjusting and getting comfortable with each other again – and still, he didn’t know how he was supposed to get it through this guy’s thick skull that it wasn’t just temporary.

“Can’t help it, can I, when you still don’t understand anything?” There was something bitter in Saruhiko’s smile now. “I’m already bored with being one of your ‘comrades’.”

That definitely stung; Yata bristled, anger welling up instinctively in response. “Quit being an asshole! All I said was that you need to stop badmouthing my friends – how the fuck does that process in your stupid head as ‘be a jerk and ruin everything’?”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, eyebrows coming down with obvious irritation. He turned his gaze away sharply, almost sullenly, and didn’t bother to answer. There were traces of dissatisfaction all around the edges of his profile.

“You always do this, whenever we argue.” It was pushing Yata to the point of desperation; shouldn’t he be the one with issues? Saruhiko had been the one to betray him, after all, not the other way around. It was so frustrating he wanted to scream. “And it’s always about being comrades, like that’s such a bad thing – what the fuck?”

“If I wanted to be lumped in with a pack of idiots, I have plenty of opportunities for that at work,” Saruhiko muttered darkly, still not looking at him. “I didn’t go back to being your friend so you could look at me like one of your boring teammates.”

“You really piss me off sometimes, you know that?” Yata glowered at the tense outline of his oldest friend, too confused and frustrated to react with anything but anger. “First off, don’t call my friends boring when you didn’t even bother to get to know any of them! And second, when the hell did I say I look at you like one of them? You already made it really fucking clear that you’re not one of us!” And that was still a sore spot, too, but he was willing to live with it if that was the price of maintaining a connection between them. “You don’t need to bring it up every other day!”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, still radiating displeasure from about every angle. “As if I wanted to know them.” His lips curled derisively. “I don’t need to cozy up to every idiot thug on the street to know that I have no interest.”

“See, this is exactly what I’m talking about! ‘Idiot thug’? You’re talking about my friends, you asshole!” Yata clenched his hands into fists. “They don’t say bad things about you – and I’d beat the hell out of them if they did, anyway! So why do you always feel the need to cut down my other friends like you’re so much – ?”

“’Other’ friends.” Saruhiko cut him off, finally looking up. His eyes were glittering in the low light, eyebrows narrowed, the line of his mouth tight. “If that’s how it is, we shouldn’t be ‘friends’ at all.”

Yata’s head was beginning to hurt; that, along with the lump in his throat and the pounding of his heart, had taken him beyond his limits. “What the hell do you even want from me?” He ducked his head, shaking with a mixture of helplessness and rage. I don’t understand. What’s going wrong? “I’m willing to make compromises, but you never are, and I don’t get why! Do you just not care?”

There was a moment of tense silence; Saruhiko glared at him, almost as if to cover up whatever emotions were there under his irritation. “You don’t understand anything,” he said finally, low and dark.

“Then tell me, goddamnit! What the hell am I missing?” Yata returned his stare, desperation overriding his anger. “I don’t want to be your enemy, but you’re not satisfied with being friends, are you? What am I to you? What do you want me to be? I fucking – ” He caught himself just in time with that one.

I fucking love you, you asshole – you can’t do this to me again!

“How am I supposed to know?” There was an answering frustration in those words – and somehow Saruhiko seemed just as surprised as Yata was that they’d even come out. Even with the sun nearly gone, it was possible to see the color that rose on his face; he looked away again with obvious agitation. “You make less sense than anything else in my life. I don’t know what to do with you anymore. It’s so irritating.” He was starting to speak more quickly, muttering almost under his breath, as if talking to himself. “I don’t want to deal with you, but I don’t want to leave – it doesn’t make sense. You should chase after me. Focus only on me. I shouldn’t be the only one to feel like this, it’s stupid. Idiot.”

Yata wasn’t entirely sure if that ‘idiot’ was even aimed at him, but he was responding before his stunned brain could properly process, the instinctive push and pull motions of their relationship ingrained into him through years of repetition. “Who are you calling an idiot, you dumbass monkey?” The words sounded weak, shaky and lacking the anger to back them. It didn’t even sound like his voice.

I don’t… What, even…?

Saruhiko actually laughed, breathy and strained. His eyes slid shut, shoulders hunching, face still tilted away from Yata. “I’m not really sure,” he mumbled, sounding like he didn’t know whether to be amused or annoyed. “It’s your fault, Misaki. You make everything difficult. Why can’t you just…?” He waved a hand vaguely, as if that somehow conveyed everything.

Just what? Yata scratched anxiously at the back of his head, his mind racing as he struggled to wring some meaning from what he’d just heard. ‘You should chase after me.’ Why? How? ‘Focus only on me.’ What did that even mean? ‘I shouldn’t be the only one to feel like this’. Somehow, that sounded familiar. Like an echo of something someone else had said. Or maybe thought. Maybe he had thought it. Maybe...

‘Why should I have to feel like this?’

His heart was suddenly thundering in his ears; Yata swallowed, on the edge of a revelation that he was almost too overwhelmed to step into. I thought that. Weeks ago, when he’d slid off Saruhiko’s glasses and looked at his face and realized… that…

That I have feelings for him.

All at once, everything seemed very simple. It almost would’ve been funny, if he could’ve sorted through that mess of feelings in his head and located his sense of humor in there. Yata took another shaky step forward, and reached out before he could stop to think about it, gripping a handful of Saruhiko’s shirt with unsteady fingers and tugging him forward and down.

It was messy – just like always, between the two of them. He probably would’ve smashed their foreheads together if he’d been a little taller. And he barely remembered to tilt his head to the side to avoid bumping noses. His nerves got the better of him when it came to actually pressing their mouths together; instead of the firm kiss he’d been aiming for, it was more like a clash of lips and teeth. Even as he eased back a bit, trying to sort it out while his heart fluttered and his stomach flipped over and his mind seemed to shut down from overuse, Saruhiko’s mouth was slack under his, shoulders tense with shock, breath stuttering out against Yata’s cheek.

He wasn’t sure if it was the best or the worst moment of his life. He was – he was kissing Saruhiko. Kissing. Saruhiko. But – it was starting to sink in – he’d done it all wrong, gotten off to a terrible start, and… there was no response at all.


Humiliation sprung up like a fire in his belly, spreading heat across his face. Yata pulled back, forcing his fingers to unclench from around his friend’s shirt, retreating to a safe distance while he stared dumbly at the face of the person he’d just kissed and tried to think of something to say that would fix this. Now what? What do I do?

Saruhiko was staring at him as if he’d never seen him before. He blinked – once, then again – and shook his head as if to clear it. When he spoke, his voice was soft and bemused. “Misaki…?”

“S-Sorry!” The words were tumbling out of his mouth, and he wasn’t able to gather his wits enough to stop them. Yata suddenly couldn’t bring himself to meet Saruhiko’s gaze, and stared fixedly down at the ground instead. He felt like he was going to be sick. “Th-This should be proof, though, right? O-O-Obviously I don’t think of you like everyone else! It’s good – good enough, right? Right?”

There was a sharp intake of breath from in front of him. “Misaki…”

It’s fine, isn’t it?” His voice came out harsh and rough and desperate. “I’m chasing you, and focussing on you, and I f-f-feel like this, even if it’s only me, so it should be fine, right, Saruhiko?”

For what seemed like forever, he got nothing but silence as a response. Yata’s hands clenched into fists at his sides, his thoughts scrambling and his stomach turning painfully. It was hard to breathe. He waited for the telltale click of Saruhiko’s tongue, the mocking words, the rejection… or even just the sound of his former friend’s footsteps carrying him away.

Somehow, that last possibility hurt more than the rest.

Finally, Saruhiko seemed to collect himself – but instead of reacting the way Yata was dreading, he let out a long sigh. “So that’s it?” he mumbled, apparently to himself, and then huffed out a brief, almost disbelieving laugh. “Really. That’s all it was.”

“What?” Yata muttered back, still too nervous to look him in the eye.

“You probably wouldn’t get it even if I told you.” Those words were hardly out before Saruhiko’s fingers closed on his shoulder – Yata glanced up instinctively at that, startled, and then froze, caught by the unexpectedly vivid play of emotion in those cool blue eyes. Misaki.”

He’s so close… Just about every nerve ending in his body was on high alert; he swallowed hard, trying to pull himself back together. “Saru…?”

And then Saruhiko was leaning in, and his efforts kind of fell apart right there. Yata shut his eyes without really thinking – as if he could think in a situation like this, anyway – and felt his skin prickle and his heartbeat speed up as their breath mingled. There was a faint brush of something soft and dry against his lips, and then –

Nothing. That was it.

Yata opened his eyes, blinked a few times, and stared, a little stunned. Saruhiko was giving him a searching look, clearly waiting for some reaction. It was hard to tell with the light now almost gone, but he was pretty sure there was color on his friend’s cheeks again. The hand on his shoulder was noticeably unsteady.

He really… just… It was sinking in now. Yata felt the corners of his mouth edging up a bit, relief and elation brewing up quickly inside him. He fucking kissed me! Seriously! Saruhiko actually just planted his lips on me – well, kinda. It hadn’t been much of a kiss, but still. All this time thinking it was completely one-sided on his part, and now, everything just kind of clicked into place.

He should’ve done this weeks ago!

A finger flicked him in the forehead; Yata jerked back with a scowl, pulled out of those happy thoughts. Oi! What the hell was that for?”

“You were standing there spacing out, so I figured it was fair.” Saruhiko returned his gaze placidly. “The kiss was that good, was it, Misaki?”

Something about his tone of voice was really irritating, somehow. Heh!” Yata lowered his eyebrows and smirked, falling back into a familiar rhythm. “You mean that thing that was barely a kiss? Don’t flatter yourself, Saru!”

“Oh?” Saruhiko’s mouth twitched. “I thought it was a big improvement, after the way you jammed your teeth against my gums. No one ever told you that kissing was a delicate art, did they, virgin?”

“The hell? You’re a virgin, too, you dumbass!” He glared back. “Anyway, at least I was brave enough to show some enthusiasm! Were you too scared to touch my lips, or what?”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, clear annoyance spelled out across his face. “Who wouldn’t be scared to kiss you after you just tried to knock out their front teeth with your mouth?”

Yata scowled back, nonplussed. He wasn’t going to deny that his kiss wasn’t the greatest, but seriously… “It was my first time, okay? I’ve totally got the hang of it now!”

“Have you now?” That was a funny little smirk on Saruhiko’s face. “I guess you’ll have to prove it, then, won’t you?” he drawled out, leaning back down into Yata’s personal space.

Heat immediately sprang back up to his face again, and for a moment, he was caught without a response. “Y-Yeah,” he managed, finally, picking his brain back up somehow. His heart was going like crazy again, but he ignored it, tilting his head up purposefully. “You – you better believe I will.”

In all fairness, he probably couldn’t take full credit for their third kiss. They met somewhere in the middle, maybe a little hesitantly (more on Yata’s side, after the fiasco from before), but it was easier with the knowledge that things were mutual between them. Saruhiko’s lips were soft and responsive, and he pressed into the kiss with enough enthusiasm to kick of a little shiver of excitement in Yata’s gut.

The real first kiss, he decided, as they pulled back from each other slowly. Those other two were totally practice rounds.

Either way, things were looking up.

“So… yeah.” Yata resisted the urge to brush his fingers over his lips – it’d look totally uncool, even if this was his first experience with it. He shoved his hands into his pockets instead, looking up with a brash grin. “I guess that settles that.”

“’Settles’ it, huh?” The words were drawled out lazily, and they came with a smile that set off the jittery feeling in his stomach again. “Fine by me.”

His vision blurred out, and Yata was abruptly back in the present, fingers shaking where they were clasped around Saruhiko’s shirt, the fuzzy image of his best friend’s face slowly coming back into focus just bare inches from his own. He sucked in a breath and swallowed hard, struggling for some equilibrium.


Things were becoming clearer now – both his vision and his past. Yata stared up at Saruhiko, who was watching him now with an expression of guarded concern, and remembered the agitation that face had shown in the past.

“I shouldn’t be the only one to feel like this.”

Well, it was pretty obvious what he needed to do now. Yata steadied himself, ignoring the pounding of his heart, and gave the fabric in his hand a tug as he propelled himself up, matching some of the motions of his past-self and taking Saruhiko’s lips in a firm, insistent kiss.

For a moment, things just froze like that, completely still.

It didn’t last long. Saruhiko’s arms came up at once around Yata’s shoulders, pulling him in with a grip so tight that he made a little undignified squeak against his friend’s mouth. The return kiss was fierce, almost frantic, as if his lips were water and Saruhiko had been parched for days.

It was hard to keep up at first. Yata’s grip on the shirt he’d been clutching had been jarred loose by the abrupt violence of that embrace; he wriggled his hand free and snaked both arms around Saruhiko’s waist instead, feeling warm and a little overwhelmed with the sudden intensity. Dimly, he could hear the sound of their breathing, harsh and frenzied, and the soft, wet noises that matched the motions of lips and tongue. Saruhiko’s mouth was hot and demanding, his fingers bunching in the fabric of Yata’s shirt as he clutched at him, pressing their bodies together as closely as he could manage in their current position.

Fuck… how hard was it for him to hold back on me?

He wasn’t going to deny that it felt good, too. The combination of the warm body pressing up against his, the slick heat of the open-mouthed kiss, and sheer desperation that the person he’d been lusting after was now showing towards him had Yata groaning up into Saruhiko’s mouth. He tightened his arms aggressively around that slender, toned waist and surged up into the kiss with his own pent-up desires fueling him. His heart was racing from the rush.

This is really fucking happening… holy shit…

Saruhiko pulled back slowly, letting out a breathy huff of a laugh as Yata chased his lips instinctively. “Your impatience hasn’t changed any, Misaki,” he teased, resting his forehead against Yata’s. His eyes were closed, but there was a faint smile on his lips, and his cheeks were flushed.

It might just have been one of the hottest things Yata had ever seen. He swallowed hard around a lump that had risen suddenly at the back of his throat, and managed to croak out, “Fuck you, Saru – you could’ve just told me.”

“I couldn’t.” The response came with cool certainty. Saruhiko opened his eyes, meeting Yata’s gaze evenly. “I don’t expect you to understand.”

He sighed, a little exasperated. Stubborn bastard. “I don’t.” Then he let the corners of his mouth edge up in a small, rueful smile. “But, whatever.” I’ll still chase after you, just like I said. “I guess I can deal with the fact that you suck at this stuff.”

“Coming from the expert, hm?” Saruhiko raised his eyebrows meaningfully. “I seem to remember being called a fucking asshole and told to go die, approximately five minutes after going down on a certain someone for the first time. Somehow, that doesn’t strike me as very good bedside manner.”

That sounded vaguely familiar… Yata scowled back all the same. “Well, you act like a fucking asshole most of the time! You probably made some stupid comment or something.” Given who he was taking to… yeah, make that definitely. “My point is that I somehow fell for you anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”

“Hm.” Apparently that was about as far as the conversation was going to go. Saruhiko shifted, brushing the knuckles of one hand down along the line of Yata’s spine with a sort of casual familiarity. “How much do you remember?”

It was a pretty harmless question – but combined with the touch and the guarded tone, somehow Yata felt his skin prickle. “Not a lot, but… you know.” He tightened his hold on Saruhiko’s waist in an effort to cover his embarrassment. “Enough.”

That apparently was the right thing to say; he could feel the muscles under his hand relax a bit as some of the tension left them. Saruhiko shut his eyes, exhaling audibly. When he re-opened them, his gaze was heated. “You never told me, either.”

“Well… I thought maybe it was just my wishful thinking or something…” Yata met his eyes with determination, trying to ignore the rush of heat rising on his own face. “But, I dunno, I can’t see myself having super detailed fantasies about – about…” Even with everything that had just happened, it was still awkward, damnit. “T-taking it.”

Saruhiko raised an eyebrow at him again, but didn’t comment about the stuttering. A bit of a smug edge crept into his smile. “You seemed to like it well enough.”

That pretty much settled that. Yata could already feel the brash grin building on his face in response. “Yeah?” he challenged. “Prove it.”

When their lips met again, it was hard and fast and needy, and felt like catharsis.