Notes: Written for Firescribble, who wanted something about beer and rain, although I did go off at a tangent rather - as usual. The title of this fic is from the song Mattis & Maia by Maia Hirasawa.

Somewhere Else

Yuusuke comes home in June to early Summer rain, so fine it's almost mist. The train from Narita speeds through hazy countryside, between the soft outlines of houses, half-hidden fields and trees with drooping, dripping leaves. He wants his bike—to ride through the wet air and breath it in, higher and higher until the rain turns cool and he really knows he's home. He also wants to sleep—ten in the morning and he could crawl right into bed and not get up for twenty-four hours. Pathetic.

Email. Onoda wants him to visit the club. Toudou has something completely pointless to say, at length and in ten separate messages, and it definitely doesn't make him want to smile for a moment. Kinjou talks about his courses and shares stories about the club—Yuusuke's already heard them from Onoda. But it's nice that Kinjou doesn't want him to feel out of the loop, or something. Maybe.

There's nothing at all from Tadokoro. It's not that he expected anything in particular, but maybe—something.

He tosses his phone back into his bag and tries not to fall asleep, leaning in against the train window with his chin propped up on his hand.

His mother meets him at the station. They're building something new beside it, a hulking mass of scaffolding and tarpaulin where he remembers some old office building, and there's a row of newly planted trees along the edge of the car park. She says the exact same stuff she said when she visited him in December. He's looking pale, he probably hasn't been eating proper food, or maybe it's the climate over there, or both. He has to tell her everything.

He never knows what to say to her—it's not like there's anything exciting about his life. Definitely nothing he wants to share. And it's not like he doesn't eat, either, but not everyone is Tadokoro. Neither of his parents used to ask him these kinds of questions when he lived at home—it feels weirdly belated, kind of incomprehensible. People shouldn't change the rules when he isn't looking.

It takes a few days to really land, and longer to start sleeping at a vaguely normal hour. The mist seems to be in his head, too, but if he cycles hard enough it starts to clear. In four AM half-light the streets are quiet, and he pushes as hard as he can up into the mountains. It's more difficult than he remembers. He must be out of practice after all—he's been training, but the hills aren't the same. Onoda isn't out of practice, and turns out to be a lot of fun to spend time with, somehow undemanding.

There's plenty of time to fill. Hardly anyone he knows is on holiday—the terms don't line up, of course.

After a week, his phone rings—not a number he recognises. He stares at it suspiciously, considers. Oh, whatever.

"Hey," Tadokoro says. Completely unmistakable.

"What the hell," Yuusuke says, startled. His pulse is racing, which answers one question. "I almost didn't answer."

Tadokoro laughs. "Yeah. I lost my phone."


Yuusuke shifts awkwardly on his bed. He has no idea what to say, again. There's small talk, which he hates, and then there's small talk with a guy who you kissed once or twice after a good race, even though you'd already decided you were going away. They've exchanged rather vague emails over the last eight months, but the last actual phone conversation they had was in September, and it was memorable for the wrong reasons. Not quite a fight, but confused.

"Come and visit," Tadokoro says. "Uh, if you want. I'll show you my place."

Yuusuke thinks a little bit wistfully about bad pick-up lines. About drawling: what, I don't even get dinner first? Oh, like fuck he'd say something like that. Like fuck Tadokoro would accept it if he did.

"Sure," he says. "Why not."

Three trains, into Tokyo and out into increasingly unfamiliar districts. Yuusuke is jostled down the platform by all the commuters on their way home, down towards the ticket barriers, and then there's Tadokoro, towering over the crowd, yelling for Yuusuke's attention as though anyone could possibly miss him—and Yuusuke is wrapped in a crushing hug, sudden and shocking and familiar.

"About time," Tadokoro says.

It rains and rains, drums on their umbrellas and splashes off the tarmac to soak their legs, surrounds them with white noise, nothing indefinite and misty about it today. Tadokoro leads him up a hill away from the station, along a wide tree-lined road and then up a little side-street between three-storey houses, ducks under the porch of a taller, slightly shabby block of flats. Up all the flights of stairs.

There are towels. Somehow Yuusuke's hair needs wringing out, despite the umbrella.

Tadokoro waves at the little flat, kitchen and bathroom and living space. The kitchen looks pretty decent compared to everything else: proper oven, huge fridge. It was probably the only thing Tadokoro really looked at. "Here you are. Grand, right?"

"Idiot," Yuusuke says. The whole thing makes him feel weirdly affectionate, and the burst of feeling freaks him out a bit, even though he kind of knew it'd be like this. He's always found Tadokoro really horribly adorable. It's some kind of inescapable bullshit personality flaw that he's going to have to live with forever.

"Yeah," Tadokoro says. "Hey, let's eat, I'm starving."

Not have you eaten anything.

He lets himself be directed around the kitchen, washes up as Tadokoro shoves things he's done with into the sink. Standing side by side, Tadokoro's elbow jostles against his ribs as he chops tomatoes—kind of companionable.

Of course there's too much food, but Tadokoro definitely isn't going to have any trouble making it vanish.

"I brought beer," Yuusuke says, and gets to see Tadokoro completely thrown for about half a second. Then a huge burst of laughter, and Tadokoro's arm settling heavily around his shoulders.

"Man, that's the best thing I've heard in ages."

There really is beer, and if Tadokoro wants to believe that Makishima has been sneaking around buying alcohol with fake ID or something then whatever. The real story isn't very cool; at the age of sixty it doesn't seem likely that his father is ever going to get the hang of ordering in the right amount of beer for parties, or of keeping track of where it ends up.

They sit at Tadokoro's low table. Yuusuke eats enough and lets Tadokoro clear scraps from his plate. Drinks slowly, feeling pleasantly light—not exactly drunk.

It should be more awkward than this, he thinks. He's still half in love with Tadokoro—gets those awful little jolts of emotion from completely ordinary, familiar gestures. Tadokoro flattens his palm against the table for emphasis, flashes that ridiculous over-the-top grin. When he's listening the corners of his mouth pull down and make him look way too serious. Yuusuke could definitely kiss him either way, if he had the nerve and hadn't already messed that one up.

But so far it's fine. They're just friends who're going to catch up after a busy year—and of course, the awkwardness might still show up. He has a feeling it's too early to breathe out.

"What's it like, anyway?" Tadokoro says. "London."

Yuusuke sighs. "It's fine, I guess." How do you describe a life in another world? London feels crowded. Kind of dirty. When he wants to shop he gets up early and tries to be off of Oxford Street by ten. The underground trains are narrow and low, and there never seems to be any oxygen in them. He's been to gay clubs, but he only sat in the corner with a drink and wondered how it was all meant to work. But aren't those all weird things to say? "Kind of flat. I'm never going to climb better than Onoda again."

"Huh." Tadokoro is giving him a kind of strange look; Yuusuke really can't work it out. "I guess I imagined—" he shuts his mouth abruptly.


"Never mind," Tadokoro says. "Come on, let's go for a walk before you get wasted."

He imagined. What does Tadokoro think he's been getting up to? Has he been sitting around here thinking about Yuusuke in London? But then again, why not—he's spent enough time wondering what Tadokoro's life really looks like back here. It feels bizarre to be moving through it. He knew Tadokoro had his own place now, but somehow he always imagined him in slightly smaller version of his family home, sleeping in something like his old bedroom—thought about a worn stripey duvet cover and white walls covered in posters and that rickety bookshelf he was always expecting to collapse. But it's comforting to think that from now on he'll be able to imagine this place: old mats and bare walls, mismatched plates on a scratched tabletop, a bit makeshift but welcoming.

Yuusuke lets Tadokoro help him up and, standing, realises that he really is feeling the alcohol a bit more than he thought. Tadokoro keeps hold of his hand until he's convincingly balanced on his feet.

"Of course you'd know," Yuusuke mumbles. He feels rather warm.

Tadokoro snorts.

The rain has finally stopped. It's already half dark and the air outside is pleasant, almost cool and clearer than it has been in weeks. Further up the hill is a small park, damp wooden benches and cherry trees; they walk quietly under rustling leaves. No-one else is out.

There are probably a lot of things Yuusuke is meant to be saying, and he can't find words for a single one of them. It's such a bother. He used to think it didn't really matter with Tadokoro, but since he moved he's not so sure. Maybe it's more important to find the right words with Tadokoro than with anyone—which doesn't make it easier.

"Man, that's better," Tadokoro says. "Now if you just had your bike—"

"Don't be stupid, I've drunk too much for that," Yuusuke says. "Not all of us are bears."

"Yeah, yeah. Pity. But I guess you have your good points."

Somehow, it isn't quite right. He wishes they were still inside, that he still felt pleasantly vague and could just throw his arm around Tadokoro's broad shoulders, lean in against him as they sat together. Maybe if he was drunk enough and comfortable enough something could just—happen. Maybe that'd be a really bad idea.

He wishes, abruptly and overwhelmingly, that he hadn't left after all. Maybe he could've gone to the same university as Tadokoro, hung out with him a few times a week. Learnt slowly how to kiss him without an adrenaline kick to make it easy.

What a stupid little fantasy.

And there's the awkwardness.

"Do I," he says, feeling uneasy—what if Tadokoro says something kind?

What if he doesn't?

"Well, yeah," Tadokoro says. "What exactly are you thinking about, anyway?"

Having sex with you on your living room floor doesn't really seem like a great answer even to Yuusuke, and neither does how much of an emotional fuck-up I am, but those are the only things that come to mind. "Who says I'm thinking anything?"

Tadokoro looks across at him. Even in the darkness Yuusuke knows he's being eyed in disbelief. "Oh, for fuck's sake. Nice try."

"Let's go back in," Yuusuke says. "I'm fine."

He thinks, for a moment, that Tadokoro might yell at him—and that'd be something. But there's nothing. Tadokoro just shrugs.

Tea and some kind of normal conversation, sitting cross-legged on opposite sides of the table again. It's a good idea in theory, but he finds it hard to focus. Having started overthinking things, he has no idea how to stop.

"—bet that I wouldn't sing it," Tadokoro is saying. "What the hell do they know, huh?"

"Yeah, seriously," Yuusuke mumbles.

Something is about to happen, Yuusuke thinks. It's like a weight in his chest. A bad feeling. He wonders if they're going to argue after all—maybe because he left, or because he didn't say enough about it. Because he didn't try harder at keeping in touch. Because of whatever it was that almost happened during their last year at school. Fuck knows he could make a list of all the things he should've handled better—not that it would help.

"Right," Tadokoro says. "What's wrong? If you say nothing, I swear—"

"You can always see right through me, huh?" Yuusuke says. He lets himself slump down over the table, forehead resting on his crossed arms—his hair pools around his face, filling his field of vision.

"You took me by surprise pretty well last year," Tadokoro says. He doesn't quite sound angry, but definitely strained. Yuusuke closes his eyes, listens to the little grunt Tadokoro makes standing up, the creak of protest from the table at being used as leverage, footsteps. It's hard to tell where Tadokoro is going—towards him, or away.

But he feels Tadokoro sit down beside him on the floor. Tadokoro's hand is gentle on the back of his head, fingers rubbing lightly against his scalp through the mess of his hair. Completely unexpected. Yuusuke is glad his face is mostly hidden. "Come on," Tadokoro says. "Just talk already, would you?"

"Ugh, like I know where to start," Yuusuke manages, muffled. He turns his head a little, lets Tadokoro comb his hair to the side, out of his face, so he can see Tadokoro looking down at him, frowning. "I messed everything up. Why aren't you yelling at me, Tadokorocchi?"

"It's not like I'm not mad at you," Tadokoro says. He looks away, pulls away. Yuusuke can't see his face very well any more, but his arms are tense. "I've been so fucking confused all year. I hate it."

"Yeah," Yuusuke says. "Me too. I'm such an idiot."

"Don't expect me to disagree right now."

Yuusuke manages a laugh, even if it is a bit strangled. He feels kind of sick. "I wanted to go, but I didn't want to leave. I guess that's weird, huh? I kept trying not to think about it and then it was time to go. And then I just wanted to come back, even though I was having fun. I don't know what's wrong with me."

"You ran away," Tadokoro says. "I thought you wanted—and then you just ran away. And I can't even hate you."

Tadokoro's hands are balled in his lap. Yuusuke sits up, stares at him. He looks—kind of weirdly lost. What can he even say? "I did," he manages. "I mean—I wanted us to—" Past tense, which isn't right, but it's hard enough. He feels completely exposed, a hermit crab scurrying frantically around without a shell. And he's hurt Tadokoro—it's even worse to see it than to know.

"You couldn't have said so then?" Tadokoro's voice is too loud. He winces, drags his hand over his face. "Damn it, don't look at me like that, I'm trying to be angry."

It's too much. He has to do something—say something. He can't stand the look on Tadokoro's face either—it's all wrong, too bewildered. "Shit," he says. "Shit, Tadokorocchi, I'm sorry. I want—" but it's too hard, finding words. It was always too hard.

The only thing he can think of is to lean in and kiss Tadokoro. So he does. Kneeling, he has to tilt his face down to Tadokoro's for once.

The sound Tadokoro makes against his mouth is startled. Yuusuke is about to pull back, to give him space to protest, but Tadokoro's hands are already on his back, pulling him in closer instead.

I missed you, Yuusuke thinks, desperately. I really am such an idiot.

There's something a bit fragile about the whole thing. Yuusuke has an active imagination when it comes to sex, but finds himself feeling cautious. On the other hand, he can't seem to stop touching Tadokoro—when they pass in the bathroom doorway, while they get the bed straightened out, while Tadokoro puts away the last few cups on the draining board. A hand on the small of the back, or fingers brushing. Tadokoro's hands on his shoulders, a thumb stroking carefully down the back of his neck that makes him lose track of the braid he's trying to get his hair to stay in for the night. He doesn't really know what any of it means. Or at least, it means something a little bit, terrifyingly, like love. But that isn't the same as a plan.

Maybe, though—maybe he could stay after all.

"Where did you go?" Tadokoro asks, pokes him amiably in the stomach. "I'm right here." They're curled together on Tadokoro's bed, which is far too narrow for the two of them really, but it doesn't seem to matter.

"I was just thinking something perverted, I guess," Yuusuke says, and Tadokoro laughs at him, kisses him until he can hardly remember what he was actually thinking.

It comes back to him later, when he's finally on the edge of sleep, Tadokoro's arm heavy across his waist. A little seed of an idea—that everything could be alright.