Title: Unsent Letters
Notes: named after the fabulous Machine Gun Fellatio song of the same name. If you can find the acoustic version anywhere, definitely download it!
Thursday nights always meant an empty apartment to Hiroki. The assistant professor closed the apartment door behind him and slipped off his shoes, placing his briefcase at the bureau. Rather than turn the main lights on, he used the streetlights coming through the window to light his path over to a tall, freestanding lamp.
The lamplight illuminated about fifty percent of the room, casting a comfortable yellow glow. To Hiroki, lighting up only half the room meant it seemed less empty. He always tried to either work late or find something else to do for a few hours after his regularly scheduled times, knowing Nowaki always had the night shift from 6pm until 6am.
He shuffled sock-clad feet over to the refrigerator and opened it. On the first shelf there was a premade bowl of noodles and vegetables with a plastic lid. Stuck to the lid was a yellow post-it note with a doodled heart. Alone in the apartment Hiroki allowed himself a small smile, reassuring himself there was no-one to see it, so there was no reason to feel embarrassed.
Hiroki sat on the couch, closest to the lamp. He folded his legs underneath him, balancing the bowl between his knees. One hand worked at the chopsticks, absently shovelling food into his mouth, the other turned pages in a book. Standard Thursday night practice.
When dinner was over, he carefully bookmarked his place in the novel and wandered over to the sink, washing his utensils and putting them away. A sense of anticipation began to creep up on him as he approached the favourite part of his Thursday night routine.
Hiroki walked calmly to the bedroom he and Nowaki shared. Again, his preferred form of illumination came from a lamp on his bedside. He pulled the covers back a little way and sat down. He then ducked down to reach his arms under the bed, pulling out a black shopping bag filled with envelopes. Not looking at the contents, he thrust his arm in up to the elbow and rummaged around.
Pulling a letter out of the throng, he deposited the bag back underneath the wooden mattress frame and flipped his feet onto bed, tucking them under blankets.
He studied the outside of the envelope first. His name was written in a familiar style, as well as his current address. Nowaki's name was on the back in kanji as well as English, and an address in New York. He noted that usually the sealed ones with the return addresses were those that had made it right to the mailboxes with every intention of being sent before Nowaki retracted them at the last minute.
Hiroki reached into the top drawer of his bedside table and pulled out a silver letter opener before settling himself amongst the pillows. With great care, he inserted the tip of the opener under the flap of the envelope, gently tugging until it began to rip neatly along its top crease.
Hiroki pulled the letter paper out slowly, unfolding it as a treasured gift. Nowaki knew him well enough not to write on any old piece of stationery; Hiroki believed in the art of letter writing and thusly expected the tools and materials to reflect that. The paper was not from a photocopier but from a proper letter pad. Thick, off-white, textured. Fingertips skimmed over the paper, feeling the delicate and subtle texture as Hiroki took a few moments to peruse the overall look of the letter with satisfaction. After a time, he concentrated specifically on Nowaki's distinct handwriting, which filled most of the page.
The weather is unseasonably warm right now, but the days are beautiful. It is Spring and everything seems to be thriving in the warmth.
My classes are going well. I have just completed a two-week stint in the paediatric ward of a big hospital here called Bellevue. No matter what country I am in, the language of children who need help is universal. They are so brave, no matter what circumstances befall them.
I went to a park on my day off and saw a cherry tree in bloom; it reminded me of that Spring we went to Ueno park to enjoy hanami*. We sat with our backs against the trunk of an ancient cherry tree and watched as stray blossoms were caught on the breeze and drifted away. I put my hand over yours where it rested between us and you were so entranced (also a little drunk, I think) that you didn't pull away. I don't care the reason, I am just glad for it.
As I write this I am staring at a few blossoms I picked from that tree in the park. I imagine they are from that beautiful tree in Ueno park, the one that I picked out from your hair when it floated down to rest there.
The blossoms remind me that Spring is ending and Summer is around the corner. Summer is the end of my time here and when I'll return to Japan, return to you.
I work six day weeks, with 18 hour days, and I keep my mind focussed on one thing: each hour of work, each second of effort I put into learning brings me closer to you.
I miss you so much. I look at the photograph I have of you every night, and I say goodnight to it, imagining that I am saying goodnight to you next to me. Soon I hope this will be reality, not mere fantasy that keeps me sane.
When I get back to Japan, I will be a man that you can be proud of, I promise.
Hiro-san, a thousand times, I love you.
PS. I have included a cherry blossom for you.
Hiroki didn't realise his vision had begun to blur until a drop of water fell on the paper. He cursed and shoved the heel of his hand into his eyes, not wishing one solitary word to smudge.
He held the letter reverently, as though it were an antique first edition of his favourite poet, before remembering something. Hiroki lifted the letter, looking at the bedcovers then down at the floor for something. Not finding it, he picked up the envelope resting on his knees and peered inside.
There, in the pocket of paper, was a tiny pink flower. As carefully as he could, Hiroki tipped the pressed flower out into his palm. Its five petals were still intact, and somehow the centre of the flower hadn't faded, still retaining its deep, pink shade. A few of the blossom's stamen stalks had come away, but they were still there.
Hiroki stared dumbly at the flower in his palm, unable to quell the pool of warmth that spiralled outwards from the centre of his chest.
"You ass," he muttered with a disturbing hiccup. "You should have posted this one."
More carefully than anyone who knew him would have believed possible, Hiroki slipped the flower back into its envelope. He glanced at the letter, before getting comfortable back against the pillows to read it again.
If he had to spend a night without Nowaki, this definitely wasn't the worst way to do it.
Nowaki let himself into the apartment as quietly as possible. It was almost 7am, and despite the fact that he should probably be up, it was likely that Hiroki was not. The medical student rubbed the kinks out of his neck and resolved to have a hot shower; but only after he and Hiroki had eaten breakfast together and the latter left for work.
Speaking of... Nowaki entered their bedroom, making a beeline for the mess of brown hair on the right side. Nowaki lowered himself gently to sit on the edge of the frame, getting a good look at Hiroki's sleeping face.
The perpetual frown was gone, brows not drawn together. And no-one would believe this if he told them -- and if he were being honest, he had absolutely no plans to tell anyone -- Hiroki's lips were turned up in a gentle smile. Nowaki brushed some errant strands of hair away from his partner's face and wondered just what Hiroki did every Thursday night that saw him sleep with a smile.
It was ultimately too hard to resist. Nowaki leant forward, brushing his lips against Hiroki's softly. Hiroki moved the angle of his head slightly, at first as though he were moving away from Nowaki's mouth, but then he just angled his head to the side to make the kiss deeper. Nowaki found it terribly hard to smile and kiss at the same time.
All too soon, brown eyes opened and two hands pushed Nowaki away by the shoulders.
"Good morning," he said cheerfully.
Hiroki sputtered in outrage before, much like a grade school boy, wiped the back of his and across his mouth. "You could at least brush your teeth before you kiss me," he griped.
Nowaki stood and walked backwards a few paces. "Well, your morning breath isn't exactly peppermint either, you know--" he commented, before dodging a pillow deftly. "Your aim is getting worse!"
"No, your dodging is getting better," Hiroki grumbled, sounding displeased. "There's nothing wrong with my aim; ask my students."
"Hiro-san... if I can ask...," Nowaki wasn't sure whether Hiroki would consider it impertinent for him to ask, "what do you do on Thursday night when I'm not here?"
Hiroki looked outraged. "Wh-what's it to you? None of your business! Why do you ask?"
"It's just a little thing," Nowaki said, "but whenever I come home on Friday your sleep always seems happy. And you smile a little."
Hiroki's hand flew to his mouth. "Why you-- I've told you about watching me when I sleep! It's really creepy! And I--" It started harsh, but he paused for a long time. "I do?"
Nowaki shrugged. "I don't mean to be rude or creepy, but it just looks like you do something wonderful that makes you happy, and I wondered what it was."
Jaw waggling, but with no sound coming out, Hiroki seemingly searched for an answer. Finally his voice began to work. "I just... I come home. And eat. And then I read. I read a lot. Then I go to bed."
"That's your routine?"
A small smile began at the corner of Nowaki's mouth, spreading right across his lips. "I should have known."
"Known what?" Hiroki looked guilty and worried, hands clutching at the bedsheets.
"Only books could make you smile in your sleep like that." Nowaki shook his head. "I can't believe I didn't think of it earlier."
Hiroki laughed far too loudly. "Hahaha, yeah, how stupid are you today? Did the shift last night affect your brain?"
"Maybe," Nowaki replied airily. "It was a big one. Anyway; I'll get breakfast started. Should be ready in fifteen minutes." He strode towards the bed once again and kissed Hiroki on the forehead before the assistant professor could protest. "Good morning, Hiro-san," he said cheekily, before being driven out of the room under fire from more pillows.
In beating his hasty exit, Nowaki missed Hiroki put his hands under the covers to retrieve an envelope, stashing it safely in the top drawer of his bedside.
*Hanami is the Japanese tradition of going out to enjoy the cherry blossoms that only bloom for a few short days. Parks, and any place there are cherry trees are good locations for this event, where fun is had and there's usually lots of drinking and merriment, as well as watching the flowers fall from the trees.