Disclaimer: Nothing has changed since the first chapter. Still a penniless student who is only lucky enough to own the brains to write like a monkey.
Notes:So I said it would happen and it's happening! Aren't you guys proud? …No? No one's even here anymore? Yeah, yeah, I know, I took forever on this. But the thing is: I had no idea where I wanted this story to go. I started on an impulse that quickly lost its fire a couple of weeks later. I didn't want the story to be boring but I didn't know where to go from where I started off. Good news is I finally know. Er, kind of. Let's talk about that some other time.
Unfortunately, this chapter doesn't feature much Seiji/Sono goodness. I'll try to make it up to you next chapter. And for those who aren't aware, I completely overhauled the first chapter! You should go take a look and tell me what you think of that as well!
I'll try not to keep you guys waiting half as long next time. I really am sorry for being a good-for-nothing. XD
Seiji wasn't sure what to make of all the new products in his medicine cabinet. He had had no idea Sono used so much stuff, to be honest. Then again, it did help explain how he managed to look so young still. There were all sorts of tubes and containers with different gels and creams for different things. Seiji had barely owned a toothbrush and shaving cream.
It was true Sono hadn't exactly said yes to living together. Instead he had suggested a sort of trial run to see how well they got along. He agreed to move only some of his things into Seiji's apartment and stay for a couple of weeks. If it went well, who knew? Maybe they'd make it official.
Seiji wondered if this was a precaution Sono had used before, or wish he had used before. Had he ever lived with anyone before?
Seiji took down another small jar of cream and began to read the label. So far it seemed to be going well, in his opinion. It had only been a few days but he was beginning to feel like they belonged this way. Sono belonged on his couch when he came home after a meeting with his publisher, belonged in his bed at night and in his shower in the morning. And, in return, Seiji showed that he was capable of letting Sono have time to work. Those were the boring times, of course, but he was able to do it.
Besides, he was-
"-what are you doing?"
Seiji yelped in surprise, dropping the jar he was holding into the sink and reaching out for the shelves of the cabinet to keep him from tumbling over. He took a minute to just breathe and collect him, but from behind he heard Sono laugh.
"I was just, uhhh…"
Seiji straightened up and sheepishly put Sono's belongings back and shut the mirror. In the reflection he was able to see Sono standing in the doorway looking very amused.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, sorry." Seiji felt more than a little embarrassed that he had been caught snooping and even managed to startle like a little girl. Sono didn't seem to mind, however.
"There's someone here to see you," he said.
Seiji turned around. "Someone for me?"
"Mm, he's waiting in the living room for you."
Seiji was a little surprised that he hadn't even heard a knock on the door. He had been far too deep in his own thoughts.
"You should hurry up and finish getting dressed so you can see him," Sono pointed out when he hadn't made a move yet.
"O-oh! Right!" It was then Seiji was reminded that he was standing there in a pair of slacks and wet hair. Sono handed him his towel and left him to get ready. As Seiji furiously rubbed his head with the towel, he tried to think who would show up at his door so early. He didn't have many visitors here anyway, aside from Sono who was now no longer a visitor… well, at least temporarily.
When he was finally ready, Seiji made his way into the living room and found his friend Yasuda flipping through channels on the television. For a minute, Seiji was both amused and impatient.
"Do you always just make yourself at home?" he asked, teasingly.
Yasuda looked up, not at all surprised by his entrance, and shrugged. "That roommate of yours told me I could, thank you very much. And since when did you get a roommate?"
Seiji glanced around and noticed Sono had slipped away into another room. Briefly he wondered if the other man was listening to the conversation. If he hadn't introduced himself, then it was probably for a good reason. Seiji knew from past experience the kind of negative reaction Sono's name could invoke. Sono was probably reluctant start any potential drama between Seiji and his friend.
So instead of starting on that so early in the morning still, Seiji sighed and skipped ahead. "What are you doing here?"
"Have you forgot? They need your pages at the printer today."
"I'm here to take them in for you. Just your friendly neighborhood editor and errand boy."
Suddenly Seiji was feeling a little guilty for neglecting his friend the way he had. It wasn't that often that they got to see each other anymore outside of work. Somehow, he felt he had to fix that. And if anyone deserved to be involved in his life, it was Yasuda.
"Here, I'll come with you," Seiji said.
"You sure?" Yasuda asked. "It's pretty cold out there!"
Seiji smiled as he went to his workspace to retrieve the folder with the manga pages. Before heading out, he slipped into his winter wear and called out to Sono, "I'm going out! I'll be right back!"
He waited only long enough to get Sono's brief response so that he knew he heard him. Then they were off.
Yasuda wasn't kidding when he said it was cold. Snow piled on the stairs and on the sidewalks down below. People were bundled under hats and scarves with mittens and long overcoats. But the sky was bright blue and the sun was out in full force. It was the wind that brought most of the chilliness. Every time it blew, Seiji turned his face away and shivered.
It only took a block before Yasuda started with the questions again.
"So who was that guy in your apartment?" he asked.
Seiji wasn't very surprised by the question. He realized he had been waiting for it. But what was he supposed to say?
He knew Yasuda meant well, and his opinion of Sono Hanazaki was only based on what he had heard. If he got to know Sono, he'd probably think differently. And if Seiji couldn't confide his relationship in his best friend, who could he confide in? Seiji was foolishly in love; someone had to know. Since he and Sono were living together now, it'd be even harder for Yasuda not to notice something was going on. He just had to figure out how to say it.
"He's… my boyfriend," Seiji said, starting off slowly. Even this simple statement seemed to catch Yasuda off guard. Suddenly they had stopped walking and Yasuda was blinking at him.
"Boyfriend? I didn't know you were like that!"
He seemed surprised but not at all disgusted or displeased. Seiji supposed now was as good a time as any to finish the next part.
"He's, ah, Sono Hanazaki."
For a long moment, Yasuda didn't seem to know if he was joking or serious. They stared at each other as other people passed by them on the sidewalk.
Finally, Yasuda said, "You mean…"
Somehow, Seiji anticipated everything Yasuda was about to say. He had experienced all before. "Yes."
"I thought Sono was…"
"So now you're both, uh…"
"Wow." Yasuda was quiet again and looked down at the pavement. He started to walk again, kicking up snow as they passed. Seiji figured it was best for him to explain the situation, or as much as he could, while they continued. He explained how he and Sono had met and his own surprise at finding out Sono wasn't, in fact, a woman. He talked about their falling out and their reconciliation, about how Sono felt and who he truly was as a person, on the inside. And then finished up to the point where he asked them to move in together. He didn't mention it was a trial of sorts.
"I can't believe you've been keeping all this from me," Yasuda said, finally, after a long thoughtful pause.
"Yeah, sorry, Yasuda."
"Wow," he said again, then both of them became quiet.
It wasn't until another block or so that Yasuda spoke up again, "I hope the media doesn't find out about this, you know."
Seiji looked over at him. "What do you mean?"
"I'm just one person. If reporters get a hold of this, they'll blow this up big time and make it a huge scandal for both you and Hanazaki. You can convince me otherwise but most people know Hanazaki to be a seedy pornographic manga artist who sleeps with anything that moves."
"And that's the story they'll paint to millions, some who weren't even aware of who Hanazaki was. He could then get even more famous for all the wrong reasons."
Seiji stopped, feeling the cold from his skin sink deep into his bones as he realized where Yasuda was going with this. Dread and fear suddenly made it hard for him to breathe in the winter air, so his next words came out in a whisper.
"They'll hurt him…"
All the local perverts would try to find him just to sleep with him, both for their own sick gratification and for the publicity. Sono would be accosted by everyone. There'd be little he could do to hide his face anymore after that. Seiji wasn't even sure if he could protect him. His fear gradually became frustration and then anger, anger at people he didn't even know or even existed at the time being.
It was then Yasuda seemed to notice how visibly upset Seiji had become. Seiji felt him put a comforting hand on his shoulder, attempting to at least get his attention and snap him out of it. The smile Yasuda offered him was a little regretful and unconvincing.
"Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you; I just… wanted you to be aware. It could be a big deal or people could just not care. I don't know."
Those words did little to diffuse his tension. So instead, Seiji just tried to keep walking, his hands buried deep in his coat pockets and his shoulders tensed around his ears. All he could think about was the helplessness he'd have to suffer as things spiraled out of control. It was scary, especially with everything Sono'd have to go through, after everything he'd already been through when he was relatively unknown as a person. It was the first time he began to wonder if moving in together had been such a good idea after all.
The two of them stayed silent the rest of the way. The last thing Yasuda said to him before they reached the company was, "Don't worry, Seiji. I'm not going to tell anyone."
Seiji was in a bit of a dark mood when he made it back home.
The TV had been turned off and everything was quiet except for the shuffling of chair legs against tiles from the kitchen. Seiji saw Sono appear in the doorway, looking happy at first but then concerned.
"Seiji, are you okay?"
Seiji nodded, not sure what else he could say.
Even with that little reassurance, Sono smiled again and said, "You left so suddenly without anything to eat. I made you something. Would you like to have it with me?"
Maybe he was being a little ridiculous about something that hadn't even happened. It had just struck him so suddenly and now he'd always be suspicious about being together with Sono in public. But for now, everything was fine and normal. Sono was happy to see him and he could go back to feeling happy too. At least for now. Coming home to Sono would always make him happy.
Seiji went to him and put his arms around his chest, pulling him close. Sono seemed surprised but didn't pull away.
"What did your friend have to say?" he asked, as if he already knew they had talked about him.
Seiji looked into his eyes and saw no regret or shame, no worries at all. He just saw himself reflected in the warm dark browns of his irises. He leaned in with powerful conviction and kissed Sono with as much passion as he could. Sono was taken aback and stumbled but Seiji kept him from falling. Their love would always remind him of what was important.
When he pulled away, Sono was reeling and they both were breathing heavily. Still, Seiji found enough of his voice to reply, "It doesn't matter."
And it didn't.