Nakaya froze in the short hallway, startled by the sound of a voice he'd never expected to hear again... at least not like this. For a brief moment, he thought he was hallucinating. It wouldn't be the first time his love-sick mind had created such fantasies. Then he half-turned and looked up into a very familiar face framed by long, loose black hair. He almost dropped his hockey stick.
"Hi," Fuse repeated. He leaned against the railing a few feet above Nakaya's head, smiling down in one of the most open looks Nakaya had ever seen from him.
Nakaya shifted closer to the wall. There were still a few teammates straggling in off the ice after their practice, and he was well aware that he was blocking the way to the locker room.
"When did you get back?"
Fuse's smile widened slightly. "Just now." Belatedly, Nakaya noticed the bag on the floor behind Fuse.
Nakaya couldn't help frowning in confusion. He'd just gotten Fuse's last letter two days ago and he hadn't mentioned anything about a trip to Japan. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
"I wanted to surprise you." Fuse was teasing him, like he used to though there seemed to be a lighter air about it now. Canada seemed to have done well for Fuse. "I can see I succeeded."
"Yeah," Nakaya responded slowly. His mind was still trying to get over the fact that Fuse was here. It felt like a dream, a familiar dream for him in the past few years but one he'd never really expected to come true. Questions flitted through his head faster than a puck whishing towards the goal. Nothing was the same as it had been when he'd been in high school. "How did you..."
"Shino," Fuse answered before he'd even figured out what it was he was trying to ask. Nakaya opened his mouth to ask another question but Fuse cut him off. "Weren't you going to...?" Fuse gestured towards the locker room.
Nakaya glanced indecisively between the locker room doors and Fuse. Part of him was afraid that Fuse would disappear if Nakaya turned away. Considering their last parting, Nakaya felt his fear was more than justified.
"I'll meet you at the exit," Fuse offered. "Which one do you use?"
"Gate A. Give me five minutes."
The locker room doors swung wildly with his passing. He ignored the curious glances from his teammates as he changed in record time, haphazardly shoving his gear into his bag as fast as he could. He was out of breath from running through the halls when he reached Gate A. Fuse was waiting and that made the rush worth it.
"You didn't have to hurry." Fuse was teasing him again, but Nakaya didn't mind. He grinned like a fool and bounced on his feet.
"How long are you in town for? Are you staying a while? Did you have someplace to go? If not, you could stay with me. I..."
Fuse clasped a hand over Nakaya's mouth. He looked like he was trying to frown but his smile kept winning out. They both were a pair of lunatics, with the way they were grinning.
"Slow down," Fuse admonished. He couldn't keep the mirth out of his voice. Turning away from the stadium, Fuse started off into the streets of Tokyo. Nakaya followed at Fuse's side. "I hope you don't mind, but I already left my suitcases at your apartment."
Nakaya hadn't thought his grin could get any wider but he just proved himself wrong. "How did you get..."
"Shino lent me his spare key. He assured me that you wouldn't mind. He and Tenryuu-san seem to be doing quite well."
"I don't," Nakaya answered quickly. Belatedly he realized how his statement could be misconstrued and corrected himself. "Mind that you stay with me, that is. I've gotten used to Tenryuu-san. He's good for Shino, as much as I hate admitting it." He was honored that Fuse would want to stay with him while he was in town. That reminded him of one of his unanswered questions. "How long are you staying?"
Fuse smiled over at him. "A while. A long time, actually. I just accepted a coaching job here."
Nakaya's eyes went so wide he was afraid they might fall out. "Really? You mean it? You're back for good?"
"Yeah. I am."
"That's great!" Nakaya was practically skipping down the sidewalk at this point, hockey stick still clutched in one hand. "When do you start? Did they give you a couple days to settle in? I don't have classes tomorrow so we could spend the day together, unless you need to run errands, though I wouldn't mind going with you if you..."
Fuse was laughing at him. Actually laughing. It was weird, in a very good way. Nakaya shut his mouth with a snap. He turned away from Fuse quickly with a blush and suddenly realized they were in the same neighborhood as his apartment. He was confused for a brief second but he guessed that if Fuse had dropped his luggage at Nakaya's apartment, that meant he obviously knew where Nakaya lived.
His brain really wasn't working right now. It seemed to have taken a permanent vacation as soon as Fuse had appeared.
They walked in silence for a few minutes before Fuse slowly started to talk again, a bit of his usual dour mood showing through. "You've gotten better."
It took Nakaya a minute to realize Fuse was talking about his playing. "Thanks. I've been practicing a lot. You should come watch us some time. The team's really great."
"I did watch," Fuse pointed out. "The team works alright together, but there are still a few rough points that you need to work on. Your skating, for example. You could be a lot faster. Did you do the exercises I told you about?"
Nakaya pouted. "I have been! They don't do anything for me."
Fuse eyed Nakaya critically. "How long have you been doing them?"
He couldn't hide the guilty blush that crept across his face. "Only three weeks."
Fuse gave Nakaya a reproachful glare and nodded to himself. "Of course you haven't seen much improvement this early. Give it a few more weeks."
They fell into silence as they reached the stairs up to Nakaya's apartment. He hadn't really considered Fuse's bad knee when he'd moved in here. He hadn't ever really expected Fuse to see his apartment. Thankfully he was only on the second floor. Belatedly he worried if he'd left any dishes out or dirty laundry scattered around the place. It was still early in the week, so he hadn't had much time to really mess up the apartment since he'd cleaned it Sunday. Or at least he thought he hadn't.
Nakaya stared at his door nervously and fumbled for the keys.
Nakaya looked up as he inserted the key into the lock. "Huh?"
Fuse stared at him in complete seriousness. "I'm sorry for running away. I'm sorry for leaving you alone for so long."
Nakaya couldn't look at Fuse just then, so he stared at his hand, frozen at the lock. He'd thought about what he would say when- if Fuse returned. Sometimes he pictured himself yelling at Fuse, furious at being abandoned. Sometimes he cried, so happy to finally be with his love that he couldn't bring himself to speak. None of those scenarios seemed appropriate.
"It's alright," Nakaya said finally. "I understand. Or at least I do now. I didn't then. It hurt. But your letters helped and I understand why you had to leave." He turned the key, unlocking the door. His apartment – their apartment, now – opened up before him. He shifted closer to Fuse and placed a soft kiss on the older man's lips. "Welcome home," he said with a bright smile and knew it would be the first of many such greetings.