"There seemed to him to be something tragic in a friendship so coloured by romance." –The Picture of Dorian Gray
Chapter 1: Saikai (Reunion)
Rarely did she check her mobile at work, so she hadn't heard him ring. It was only after she had left for the day that she saw the missed call from an unknown number and a voicemail to go along with it. Expecting it to be a telemarketer, she held the phone to her ear with little interest and was shocked when she instead heard a familiar voice from her past.
He cleared his throat first, his voice deeper than how she remembered.
"Hi Hikari. It's me, Takeru… Takaishi. I hope you're well. Sorry I haven't been keeping in touch. I'm in town for a couple months, so if you have time, I'd like to catch up. Call me back if you aren't too busy. Talk to you soon."
She felt a strange sensation at the sound of his voice. She hadn't seen or spoken to him in years, save the random spouts of conversation they'd have every once in a while when one would type a message to the other. They were always short-lived and surface level—simply a courtesy not to sever the link to their past.
Without thinking of what to say to him, she rang him back. He answered after the first ring.
There was no reason to be nervous. Takeru was one of the kindest, least intimidating guys she knew, but perhaps due to the amount of time that had passed since she had last heard his voice, it felt unnatural to talk to him again.
It was strange to think that he had once been her dearest friend.
"Hi Takeru," she greeted, perfectly concealing the awkwardness she felt. "What are you doing in Japan?"
"Er, I'm here on a work assignment." He sounded distracted as he spoke. "Wow, it's been a long time since I've heard your voice."
"It has," she confirmed.
"Have you just gotten off work?"
"Yes, I'm just now leaving the school."
"I see. Have you eaten? Would you like to get dinner with me?"
She considered herself a very punctual person, but Takeru had always managed to get to places before her. Indeed, as she approached the intersection where they had agreed to meet, she saw he was already there, standing in plain view. He was wearing a suit, which didn't match her memory of him. Then again, the last time she had seen him, he had only graduated school. He hadn't yet become an adult.
"Boo," she greeted quietly, stepping in front of him.
He looked up at the sound of her voice, his eyes catching her own. She instinctively smiled seeing his familiar face. Time had barely aged him. His golden blonde hair, dark azure eyes, and pale smooth skin were just as she remembered, as was the charming smile that appeared as he reacted to seeing her.
They had once been so close, separated when he moved to France nearly ten years ago. She had seen him only once afterwards when he visited for Yamato's university graduation, but then he stopped coming to Japan all together and instead had his family fly out to France. He had at several times extended her an invitation to visit him, but life got in the way and she never followed through.
"What?" he asked, touching his cheek. "Do I have something on my face?"
She shook her head, still smiling. "No, you look exactly the same. It's funny because you haven't changed at all."
"You look nice," was his reply. He checked the watch on his wrist. "What do you think about sushi?"
He apologised, so Takeru of him.
"This was kind of selfish of me," he admitted as he held the door open for her. "I haven't had good sushi in so long, so I made a reservation without even asking you what you wanted."
She walked in, though she kept her eye contact with him as he did to her. "I love sushi, and besides how long has it been since you've been in Japan? You should eat what you want to eat."
"I actually came back a few years ago. I just didn't tell anyone because it was a short visit to see my family. My grandmother passed away, so I was in Shimane."
Her face fell. "Oh no, I didn't know that. I'm so sorry to hear that, Takeru."
He shrugged. "I'm sorry I didn't let you know. I thought my brother would."
He pulled her chair for her. He had always had good manners. She could remember his popularity at school. It wasn't that he was just attractive, but that he was kind and polite on top of it. Girls at their school had either found him too perfect or too boring, but to her he was just her friend Takeru.
Whether it was due to her age or their distance, she could suddenly see what those schoolgirls had once seen in him with just the simple act of pulling her chair.
She sat down, watching his tall frame as he made his way to his seat. "You don't have to feel bad. We all understand you've been busy."
"I actually haven't told anyone else I'm here yet either," he told her once he sat down. "Well, my family knows, obviously, but I only flew in last night, so…"
"I'm flattered that you thought of me second," she finished lightly.
He looked at her with an intensity she hadn't seen in a long time, the blue in his eyes a dark navy against the dim lighting of the restaurant. "I really wanted to see you again, Hikari."
She tried not to react to his sudden seriousness.
"So you're here for how long?" she asked him, changing the subject.
"Two months minimum, but they might extend it to a year after assessing everything. It depends how long they need me here. My company needs someone in Tokyo, and since I have citizenship, it made sense to send me. They're paying for my rent, which is nice."
"Wow, that's incredible. And what is it that you do again?"
Takeru at one point had been one of her closest friends. She could have named every little thing about 18-year-old Takeru.
Now, he felt like a stranger, though it didn't last long.
She had been a little nervous to see him again, but it was for no reason. Their conversations flowed, their chemistry still strong.
It wasn't until the waiter apologetically told them the restaurant was closing that either noticed they had been talking for hours.
Although they hadn't seen each other in so long, she couldn't help but feel they were picking up where they had left off.
She thought this was the definition of true friendship.
"Your place is nice," he commented, looking around her flat.
He had walked her home and accepted her invitation to show him her place.
"It really is nothing special," she said with a laugh. "Make yourself at home. I made some homemade lavender tea the other day. Do you want to try it?"
He said yes, so she went to her kitchen to fetch some. When she returned, Takeru was sitting on her sofa, his suit jacket neatly folded beside him. His crisp white shirt and navy slacks reminded her of his high school uniform.
"Do you live alone?" he asked, smiling thankfully when she gave him his glass.
"No, Miyako lives here too, but she's always at Ken's, so sometimes it feels like it."
"Wow, they're still dating," he said, more as a comment than a question.
"They're definitely getting married soon," Hikari predicted. "She thinks he's never going to ask, but I think he'll pop the question any day now."
A short nod was his only response.
"We should all have a reunion," she suggested. "We all still get together from time to time. Well, your brother is kind of always MIA—" he chuckled at that "—but the rest of us keep in touch fairly often. I bet everyone wants to see you too."
"That'd be nice," he agreed with little reaction, more to give a reply than actually showing interest. "Thanks for seeing me tonight."
"Thanks for ringing me."
"I really wanted to see you again," he repeated. "I had forgotten how much I liked you."
She tried not to overanalyse what he had said. He noticed.
"I meant since we used to be so close," he corrected himself, no hint of embarrassment on his face. Such a misinterpretation would have warranted a flush of colour back in the day.
"I wanted to see you too, Takeru."
"What are you doing tomorrow after work?" he asked. "If you aren't busy, let's get dinner somewhere you like this time."
"Hm, I can ask the group what they want. I'm sure they all want to see you. We can all go out together and—"
"Not yet," he interrupted, sudden but then diffusing into a softer look. "I don't want to see everyone yet. I just want to see you."
She didn't remember him ever being so direct.
"Oh, well then…" She tried to think something she had been wanting to try. "I'll think about it."
"Are you busy?" he asked, eyebrows furrowing.
"I mean I'll think about what I want to eat," she corrected. His expression changed as his gentle, straight smile lit up his face. He still looked exactly the same, his features hiding his age. She had always liked his smile, but she noticed throughout the night that they came less frequently.
"Great," he agreed. "I get off work at five. Can we meet then?"
They talked for a little bit longer, mostly about their past memories together as opposed to anything new. He eventually grew drowsy, blaming jetlag but was more likely just the late hour, and got up to leave.
"I've really missed you," he said at the door.
"You're so forward now," she joked, handing him his suit jacket.
"I'm not. I'm just making up for the time I never said anything to you."
She looked at him awkwardly, changing the subject again. "Are you going to take a cab?"
He nodded. "I think I have to. I've missed the last train, and I live a bit far from here. Good night, Hikari. I'll see you tomorrow."
She stood by the door, waiting until the elevator doors closed and he was out of sight to head back inside. She giggled a little to herself.
Takeru had always been cute. She had never been so blind that she didn't think the two of them could have dated in the past. Nearly every person she ever met had at one point questioned their relationship, and Miyako had grown so tired of it that she nearly asked Takeru out on behalf of Hikari during their last year in high school.
To her, Takeru had always been a close, valuable friend to her. She had on occasion tried to set him up with her friends during their school years, though he always rejected her offers. She would have been lying if she said she found him unattractive.
It was a question she assumed had been asked multiple times in both of their minds over the course of their friendship.
By the time the sun would come up, Takeru would be gone. She was one of the last people to see him, but that wouldn't hit her until later.
He had told them all that he didn't mind moving, but she wondered if this were actually true. His hand had been a little forced, no matter how anyone looked at it. His grandfather, aged but healthy, had suddenly passed away, and with nobody within her own family to turn to, Takeru had felt an obligation to move to be with his grandmother.
The timing worked out. They were eighteen, and Takeru's next step was university. It was just that his plan had been within his home country.
His mother was asleep in her bedroom, and their friends had long said their goodbyes and gone home. She had gotten lucky that her own brother had left the party earlier than anyone else for another appointment, or she probably would have had to go home with him.
They were seated on the floor of Takeru's balcony, the cloak of the night relieving them of the humid summer day they had experienced earlier that day. A slight breeze from the invisible black bay cooled them as they talked, their conversations ranging from their childhood together to what lied ahead for them. They were catching up now because she hadn't had the chance earlier.
She was leaning against one side of the wall, facing the city. He was against the balcony window, facing the bay, his long legs perched at an angle in order to fit without dangling off the edge.
"Hikari," he said suddenly, stopping midsentence of something else he was saying.
"Don't you have to go home?" he asked. "Your parents will be worried."
"No, they know I'm here," she said with little concern. Her close friendship with Takeru was something of which everyone was aware, including members of her family. They trusted him with her.
He moved to sit directly beside her so that he could stretch his legs. She looked at the difference in length between their limbs. She smiled thinking how he had once been shorter than her.
"I—" he started, stopping himself immediately.
She turned to look at him. Her eye contact with him made him turn away, looking out to the city. She watched as his wispy fringe hit against the bridge of his straight nose.
"Are you tired?" she asked him. "If you want to go to sleep…"
"No, that's not it." He turned to her again, turned away again. It was almost funny. Takeru was both outgoing and shy at the same time, this time settling for the latter. "Thanks for staying."
"Of course. It's going to be so different without you around."
And it would be. The two of them were so often together that it was difficult to find one without the other. He was her closest friend, and she his.
"Hikari," he said again in that same tone.
"I just—" He was struggling to express himself, which was rare. Takeru had been gifted with eloquence both in speaking and writing. It was how he had received a scholarship for a foreign university in the first place. "I wish you could go to France."
"I'd love to go to France," she sighed dreamily, thinking of the Eiffel Tower and macarons and viennoiseries. "We could switch."
He smiled. "You don't want me to be there with you?"
"Well, you told me your French isn't very good, so I don't know how much help you'll actually be…"
He nudged his shoulder with hers, and it stayed there. "It'll get better. I'll study hard so I can show you around properly when you visit me."
She giggled. "I think you can count on Mimi visiting you before any of the rest of us can. I don't have that kind of money."
His gaze shifted from her to the city again. "Then I'll come back to see you here."
She was upset that Takeru was leaving, but because he was still here in front of her, true reality hadn't yet hit.
For a split second, she felt herself choke up. They had rarely gone more than a weekend without seeing each other. He was a true friend of hers, and tomorrow he would be on a flight to Paris.
She had looked up the distance a few weeks ago. It was 9,710 kilometres.
He noticed her glazed eyes.
"Are you crying?"
"No," she answered meekly.
"I might cry too."
She laughed at him, and he grinned back before the expression dissolved to a more sombre one.
"Hikari, I should tell you something."
"Hm?" She rested her cheek on her knees, facing him even though he was looking back at the city. She didn't know what exactly he was looking at. Past midnight, the lights of the city had all but disappeared.
He glanced her way but hurriedly looked back when they made eye contact.
"I'll miss you the most," he said, facing the city. Even without proper lighting, she could see the colour rise in his cheeks and ears.
He was cute.
"I'll miss you too, Takeru," she said to him. He seemed flustered, so she reached out, tapping his nose. He turned to face her, surprised. "You have a nice profile."
He laughed. "Thanks, I guess. What about straight on?"
"It's not as nice," she joked.
He smiled at her but turned his head again so she could only see half his face. "Maybe you're meant to always look at me from the side, Hikari."
6 May 2019
Sorry, I know I have two incomplete stories, but despite my affinity for Taiora fanfics, Takari is actually my favourite couple and Takeru my favourite character.