Daisuke stood in front of his door, not really sure how he had come to be there. He remembered being at the restaurant with Miyako. He remembered her sickening words. They were making his stomach churn even now. But he couldn’t remember how he had gotten home, or even when the sun had decided to set.
Regardless, it was now dark and the streets were alive with people walking home to their families. A neighbor he knew only by sight stepped off the elevator and, with a nod in Daisuke’s direction, unlocked the door three down from where Daisuke stood and stepped inside. There was no missing a woman’s voice sing-songing her welcome home.
That was it, he had to go inside soon or someone would start to wonder what was wrong. Daisuke did not think he could handle even the mostly kindly of neighborly questions. Not right now.
He could leave. He could turn around and ride the elevator back down to the ground floor, walk out of the building and just keep walking until he had somehow managed to make sense of Miyako’s hurtful words, or at least rid himself of their echo, still ringing in his head.
He could go inside; hope that something there would answer his question, would put all this craziness to rest. Daisuke stared at the window next to the door, willing his eyes to somehow overcome the curtain’s opaqueness, hoping that he might see into the apartment. The light was on. Someone was already home.
Or he had forgotten to turn it off earlier.
Which was it? Daisuke reached out to turn the knob, the knob on the door he swore that he had locked, and was unable to contain his shudder when the door swung open with ease.
Daisuke stepped inside. There they were, where they always were when he was home, toes turned neatly towards the door, heels together, laces undone: Ken’s narrow oxfords.
“Daisuke? Is that you?” Ken’s voice was coming from the living room, “You’re home late.” Daisuke could just see him as he leaned over to kick off his shoes. He was standing by the coffee table, one hand still holding the suit jacket that he must have just taken off, the other holding a crumpled red paper. Crap! The New Year’s cards. Daisuke had meant to throw those away before Ken ever saw them. Too late now.
Ken turned towards Daisuke, the card in question raised, even as his only remark was a quirked eyebrow. When Daisuke failed to respond to his unspoken rebuke, Ken grumbled, “I was going to get to them.”
Daisuke couldn’t hide his smile at the surly tone. “Sure you were,” he teased, “It’s only May, after all.”
Ken shrugged, but there was a twinkle in his eye, “Since when were you such a stickler for details?” he asked before justifying, “I’ve been busy.” Daisuke laughed, taking the suit jacket Ken held in his direction and hanging it in the hall closet where it wouldn’t get wrinkled.
“Besides,” he heard Ken call from the kitchen, “I didn’t see you offering to help finish them.” Daisuke heard the distinct ker-chunk of their peddle-operated trashcan in the kitchen where Ken must have tossed the crumpled card.
“I did,” Daisuke defended himself when Ken stepped back into the living room. “As I recall, a certain perfectionist said something about my handwriting being so atrocious that nobody’d be able to read them.”
Ken laughed, “Me? I said that?” Daisuke nodded, unable to contain his own smile. “Oh well then,” Ken finally admitted, “I guess it is my fault. Forgive me?”
“Maybe just this once,” Daisuke did his best to sound reluctant, but he wasn’t very convincing. That was okay though. Ken was all too well aware of how Daisuke felt about him. There wasn’t much point in pretending otherwise.
“So, were you out with your other boyfriend?” Ken asked.
“Kind of,” Daisuke confessed, “Miyako came over and insisted I take her out to dinner.” Daisuke rolled his eyes, “You know how she can be,” he complained.
“So you’ve eaten?” Ken asked.
“Yeah,” Daisuke admitted, “But I can still make something if you’re hungry.”
Ken shook his head, “No. I’m fine,” he told Daisuke, “I’m glad you’ve eaten actually. We had a vendor show up today with food. Too much food.” Ken rolled his eyes. It was no secret that he preferred not to have to interact with the various and sundry vendors that showed up at his company hoping to curry favor. Ken was happiest when they just left him alone and allowed him to work. But that made him the exception rather than the rule and so he invariably ended up having to be sociable or risk hurting someone’s feelings. Still, Daisuke didn’t mind, since it usually meant Ken would bring him home left over treats.
“Ohhhh?” Daisuke queried, “Any leftovers?”
“As a matter of fact,” Ken smiled, “I might have brought you some mousse cake from Hidemi Sugino.”
Daisuke’s eyes grew large and he felt his mouth begin to water. “Seriously?” he queried.
“Seriously.” Ken confirmed, smirking, “But since you’ve already eaten...”
“I’m not that full,” Daisuke was quick to assure Ken. He would never, ever be that full.
“Fine,” Ken yielded, “It’s in the fridge,” he promised, “But first,” Ken chided, “I haven’t got my welcome home.”
“Wel—“ Daisuke stopped, remembering, “Wait a sec, you were already here when I got home,” he complained, “You should tell me welcome home.”
“Mmmmm?” that sound of query that only Ken could make, complimented, as always, by that grin that usually made Daisuke regret whatever it was that he had just said.
After all, Daisuke knew that grin, knew it well. And that wasn’t the normal soft, sweet, even vaguely submissive Ken smile. It was a Kiser smile and that usually meant only one thing.
Ken quickly closed the distance between them, leaning in to whisper a suggestive, “Welcome home,” even as his hand snaked around behind Daisuke and quickly squeezed his butt, making Daisuke yelp.
“So…” Ken queried stepping back again with a wink, “What did Miyako want?”
“Perv,” Daisuke complained. “Don’t grab my ass and then ask about Miyako.”
Ken laughed, settling himself on the couch before patting the space next to him. Daisuke was quick to comply, lying down next to Ken, his knees hooked over the arm of the couch, his head on Ken’s thigh. Daisuke sighed as Ken’s fingers began tracing circles over his scalp. “Well?” Ken asked after Daisuke, too, had settled.
For the longest second it Daisuke couldn’t quite seem to make sense of Ken’s question. What had Miyako wanted to talk about? It was like his mind was blank.
But then, it wasn’t, and he remembered everything she had said, almost as if he was rewatching their entire conversation on some twisted hidden camera television show. Daisuke felt the sickness began to churn in his stomach once again. He felt like every last drop of blood in his body had somehow managed to rush to his toes and none was left to help his brain sort through the wave after wave of emotions that were suddenly beating him about the head.
Ken must have felt Daisuke’s sudden stiffness because his fingers stopped the slow movement through Daisuke’s hair and Daisuke felt Ken’s thighs shift under him as the taller man leaned over to try and get a good look at Daisuke’s face.
“What’s wrong?” Ken asked. There was no denying the concern in his voice.
Daisuke covered his face with his hands. How to explain Miyako’s words? How to explain how real they sounded when Daisuke had heard them? How to explain how they still rung true even now when Daisuke was here, able to feel and see and even smell Ken? It didn’t make any sense.
Finally though, Daisuke managed, if just barely, to choke out a muffled, “Miyako says you’re…” there really wasn’t any other way to put it, “dead.” The apartment immediately lapsed into total, painfully heavy silence.
After several minutes, Daisuke heard Ken take a deep breath. “Wow. Fuck.” Ken seemed taken aback, even letting out an uncharacteristic obscenity before asking, “Seriously?”
Daisuke nodded. There weren’t really any words he could think to say.
Ken seemed to consider the idea for a long moment, finally asking, “Then why am I still working 65 hours a week?”
The question stunned Daisuke.
“No, really,” Ken insisted, “If I can’t get a vacation when I’m dead, when can I?”
Daisuke turned his head to look up at Ken who still sat, leaning over him, a gentle smile on his lips.
“Ken?” he questioned.
Ken shook his head, “I’m not dead, Daisuke,” Ken promised.
Daisuke considered Ken’s statement, comforted by its simplicity, only to have another, almost as terrifying thought strike him.
“Am I dead? Am I dead and trying to make you dead too so that you can be with me?” Daisuke whispered, his eyes wide as he stared up at Ken’s face. After only a second though, Ken began to laugh.
“Oh god,” Ken shook his head even as his fingers went back to rubbing comforting circles on Daisuke’s head, “Just how much did you two have to drink tonight?” he asked.
“None!” Daisuke insisted, pushing himself up so he could meet Ken eye-to-eye, to try and convey just how serious he really was. “Miyako said you were dead!” He kept the silent, “And I believed her,” in his head.
“I’m not dead,” Ken promised for the second time, “And you’re not dead either.” Ken insisted before muttering, “But Miyako may be, soon.”
Ken took Daisuke’s hand, pressing Daisuke’s palm against his own chest and asking, “Feel it?” meaning his own heart beat. Daisuke nodded. The beat of Ken’s heart was strong and steady against his hand.
Ken reached out again, this time laying his own hand against Daisuke’s chest. “There you are,” Ken assured him, smiling, “Same as always. I’m alive, you’re alive and we’re both still here together.”
“But—“ Daisuke began, but Ken quickly moved to cut him off.
“But nothing.” Ken insisted, “I’m alive, you’re alive and were both still here together,” he repeated, squeezing Daisuke’s hand.
Ken patted his own lap, quietly encouraging Daisuke to lie back down.
Daisuke complied, and the fingers of one of Ken’s hands immediately went back to gently, almost absent mindedly, threading their way through Daisuke’s hair, even as Ken’s other hand sought out one of Daisuke’s, pulling it close and squeezing it tight.
After a long silence, Daisuke felt, more than heard, Ken sigh. But by that point, Daisuke found that was so sleepy he couldn’t even keep his eyes open, never mind, acknowledge Ken’s barely whispered, “I’m here Daisuke. Always. Just squeeze my hand, and you’ll know I’m right here.”
“Please, just squeeze my hand.”
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