A/N Written overnight on a whim while sitting in a canal boat near Wales. As my first posted foray into this fandom, I'm pretty happy with it. Very drabble-esque just longer. Onwards! Lyrics and inspiration from 'If You Only Knew' by Shinedown
If you only knew
How many times I counted all the words that went wrong.
If you only knew
How I refuse to let you go even when you're gone.
As the clock on the bedside table clicked over to four in the morning, Hiroki cursed whichever vengeful god that was actually out there for creating an hour so miserable.
Too early to get up but too late to hope for a good night's sleep, the time seemed to exist for the sole purpose of pissing him off. The air was too cold, the sheets too thin and the clock too noisy. Somewhere in the city, some idiots were yelling and jeering with drunken enthusiasm. Hiroki had the suspicion that he was the only one awake to hear them which only made matters worse.
Rolling over, Hiroki shivered as a cold section of pillow brushed against his cheek and tried to curl into an even smaller ball. Even the damn bed was making him angry, the springs below him too firm. After deciding that the centre of the bed was not comfortable in the slightest, the brunette flung the covers away from him and scooted to the edge of the bed where his slippers and nightgown were waiting.
"Screw this," he muttered, climbing to his feet. He groped blearily for the light switch.
The bedroom, he decided, could go to hell.
Because not only was the air too cold, the sheets too thin, the clock too noisy, the youths too drunk and the springs too firm but the room was also too empty. Although he had been focussing on getting angry over all the little things, the core of the matter was that his bed was lacking its usual Nowaki and without the tall idiot snoring softly beside him, Hiroki couldn't sleep.
As the overhead light flared into life and chased the shadows away, this became all too evident. Hiroki glared at anything he laid eyes on, silently reprimanding each object for not being Nowaki. After a mumbled insult thrown at the mirror, the teacher padded out of the room. He didn't bother turning off the light. It wasn't as though it would be keeping anyone awake.
Nowaki had been gone since Wednesday morning, and Hiroki hadn't had a full night's sleep since he had left. It now being Friday night – Saturday morning, he realised bitterly – he was ready to give up trying and give in to worrying again. Nowaki was due back on Sunday and there was nothing Hiroki wanted less. He wasn't ready yet; his pride took more than a few days and a lot of alcohol to swallow.
Just thinking about it, Hiroki could feel angry and shameful heat rising in his cheeks. He rushed to the bathroom to try and counter this with a face full of cold water. The water succeeded in stinging his skin and eyes but otherwise only managed to rid him of the last few vestiges of sleepiness. The colour in his cheeks remained intact. With a sigh of defeat, he started running a bath and waited for the inevitable scenes to play through his head again.
"Hiro-san, I need to go to a conference next week."
"Oh?" was the only response, followed by the rustle of a page being turned.
"I'll be gone for four days, at least."
Further rustling was cut off midway, the page suspended in mid-turn. Silence.
"Will you be okay, Hiro-san?"
"Of course, idiot." The page was hurriedly turned and the book raised to hide his expression.
"We can take partners and families, but you said that you didn't want them to know that we-"
"Yeah, yeah, I get it. Have a good time."
Hiroki hadn't needed to look up to see the confusion and hurt in those puppy dog eyes and so hadn't bothered. That had been last Saturday and between then and Wednesday, Hiroki had barely spoken to Nowaki choosing instead to bury himself in books and papers to prepare himself for the separation and, more importantly, to make it seem as though he wasn't bothered. It was only four nights, right? A grown, successful man such as himself should be able to cope with that as naturally as breathing. Only simpering idiots like Nowaki thought it was a big deal. It was embarrassing, really...
...which hadn't stopped Hiroki from acquiescing to the good morning or good night kisses or from curling up against the warmth of Nowaki's skin at night.
But that was okay, right? Because this conference thing was no big deal. Everything was normal. Hiroki was just busy, that was all.
Right. If only Nowaki was as easy to fool as himself.
The bathroom was filled with steam by the time Hiroki finished running a bath and he caught himself staring into the mirror. Through the condensation, he was just a vague blur with extravagant bed-head. He swiped a hand across the glass revealing a pair of weary chocolate eyes, brow above creased into a frown.
There are some people that become more attractive when dishevelled. Hiroki cursed them all and climbed into the bath.
Although the water was blissfully hot, it did nothing to stop the scenes from picking up again as soon as he let his concentration waver. He stared at the ripples in the water and bit his lip as he remembered Wednesday morning.
For a start, it had been morning, another sadistic creation to amuse the gods, and Hiroki had been running late for work. He'd been so busy formulating a respectable way to say goodbye – working, he reminded himself – that the day had crept up on him. As he had been heading for the door, mumbling an incoherent goodbye, a large hand had grabbed his wrist.
That voice. He hadn't looked up.
"I'm leaving today."
"I'll be back on Sunday, although I might have to stay longer."
"Why do you...ah, don't worry. It's fine."
"Are you sure?"
He could hear it in Nowaki's voice – the tone that belied emotions far too embarrassing to express in words. The tone that had occasionally made him cry or rendered him speechless but which usually sent him into a fit of humiliated rage. He had finally looked up into those wide, dark eyes with a scowl, trying desperately to ignore the way tufts of Nowaki's black hair stuck up at odd angles and begged to be flattened down.
"Of course I am!" He hadn't meant to shout. "It's only four days!"
"I don't need you around me all the time! I'm perfectly able to look after myself!"
They could both hear it in his voice – the tone that meant he was speaking the exact opposite of the truth but was too proud and stubborn to go back. The tone that had never made Nowaki cry or rendered him speechless but which usually meant that Hiroki had screwed things up. Again.
"You don't need me?"
After a long moment of silence, Hiroki wiped the guilty look off of his face and wrenched himself free.
"Have a good trip."
The slamming of the front door had echoed off of the surrounding buildings.
The apartment had been empty ever since. Not one call or email had been sent in either direction and Hiroki had the vague idea that it had to be him who broke the silence this time. After the first night alone, he had been ready and willing to do it. Although he spent a lot of nights alone because of Nowaki's erratic shifts, Wednesday night had been awful. Nowaki not being there was radically different from knowing he was far away and not calling like usual and not coming back for days. The silence was excruciating.
Thursday morning, he had vowed to call Nowaki when he got home from the university. However, by the end of the day a combination of lazy, disrespectful students and the walking incompetence called Miyagi had fried his nerves. He had been shaking with rage when he arrived home, something that only intensified when it became clear that Nowaki hadn't tried to contact him. Too angry – but definitely not upset, despite the occasional tear – to even consider lowering his fragile defences and apologising, Hiroki had opened a bottle of something much too strong. The alcohol hadn't helped him sleep and so he had spent most of the night alternating between drunken despair and guilt.
Through the hangover haze of the next morning, Hiroki had vowed to call Nowaki and apologise if only so that he could complain about the falling standards of education and the sins of alcohol. This determination lasted most of the day as he filed each annoyance away mentally for recall later. In fact, he was halfway home before he was distracted.
"Hey, it's him!"
He had clenched his fists and hurried past, imagining the insults and jeering bouncing off of him as easily as the scrunched up bits of paper thrown in class. A group of youths, too stupid and violent to be any of his students, followed him for a few minutes. Their laughter cut through the quiet air of suburbia and he hurried towards the crimson sunset without looking back.
Once safely inside, he had stood with his back against the door. He hadn't cried. Bastards like that would never find themselves with a girlfriend as kind, caring and, well, good as Nowaki. But that didn't stop it hurting.
When he had checked to find no messages from the man for whom he bore the insults, the wrenching in his chest had been hard to ignore. He had gone to bed early, for all the good it did. Sleep seemed to have forgotten he existed.
You don't need me?
Now, on what was definitely the Saturday morning however he looked at it, Hiroki climbed out of the rapidly cooling bath and wrapped himself in the robe hanging on the back of the door. The material brushes just a little too low under his knees and with a start he realised he had thrown on Nowaki's instead. The idiot had forgotten it.
After a few moments, he pretended he hadn't noticed and shuffled with dejected footsteps into the living room.
Sinking down on the sofa –which was too large by far – he watched the first rays of light creep into the sky and wondered what he should do for the day. The university was shut so he didn't have to go to work. He could carry on with his research but after the disinterest of his students and Miyagi's laid back attitude he didn't really see the point. He considered going into town but didn't feel up to meeting anyone else who felt they had the right to judge his personal life decisions. In desperation, he even considered doing the Spring cleaning four months early but there was no point in doing that either when Nowaki wouldn't be back until tomorrow.
Tomorrow. Shit. He still hadn't apologised.
Just as a wave of mixed panic, anger and guilt washed over him the silence of the morning was broken by an almost obscenely loud vibration. Hiroki lowered his eyes and watched as his cellphone turned in a slow circle on the glass topped coffee table. The caller ID was hardly surprising – who else would call him at nearly five in the morning? –but his eyes still widened. In the back of his mind, Hiroki hadn't really been expecting a call. He didn't deserve one. His emotionally masochistic reflexes told him not to pick up. If he suffered a bit longer, maybe Nowaki would forgive him.
Before he'd finished forming this iea, he had already reached out and grabbed the phone.
"Hello?" His throat felt tight as he spoke.
"Hiro-san!" Even distorted by the signal which crackled with static, Nowaki's relief was infectious. "You answered!"
"Yeah," he said awkwardly, staring at the window but seeing nothing except the giant on the other end of the line.
"I tried calling an hour ago but you didn't answer," Nowaki began explaining in that breathlessly passionate way of his. "The valley here means I haven't had signal on my phone al all. It finally started working tonight so I've been ringing ever since. I thought you might be asleep but..."
Then why keep calling?
Nowaki's voice was entirely devoid of the anger or hurt that Hiroki had been expecting and so he held back his reflexive retort. Due to a lack of something better to say, he began babbling the truth. He hated the tremor in his voice as he knew Nowaki would understand. He always did.
"No, I was in the bath," he said. "I couldn't sleep. It's freezing here and some idiots are making a noise outside."
"You should rest today," Nowaki said instantly. "Catch up on your sleep while you can. How are things at home?"
"Uh...not great," Hiroki admitted, absently running a hand through his hair. To stop any questions he hurriedly added, "how is the conference?"
"Instructive," Nowaki replied, a model student to the end. Hiroki expected him to launch into an enthusiastic review which meant that Nowaki's next question took him by surprise. "Hiro-san? Are you okay? What's wrong at home?"
"Well..." he started, ready to start Thursday's planned tirade but finding he could remember none of the details. What was he supposed to say? The words came to him but he knew it was impossible to say them aloud.
Everything at home is wrong because you're not here and I didn't even kiss you goodbye. I can't sleep knowing that there's no chance you'll be next to me when I wake up. And I know it and you know it but we both know it doesn't mean anything unless I say it and I can't.
"I..." he started but faltered as his mind rambled on, brining colour flushing into his cheeks.
I'm not okay because while you're changing people's lives, no one cares about what I have to teach them. I'm not okay because my boss cares less about our work than he does about flirting with me. I know it isn't series but it makes me want you to hit him again. I'm not okay because no matter what romantic crap you spout and no matter how hard we work to make this last, there are some people who refuse to understand. They can say whatever they like to me but the thought of them saying it to you scares the shit out of me.
"I..." he tried again, pausing with his lips slightly parted.
I'm not okay because the only thing I still believe in is you...and right now, you're not here.
"I miss you."
There. At last. A way of clearing the air without his pride withering. Even then, his heart pounded in his chest.
He was answered by a long moment of silence. For a dreadful second, he thought he'd have to repeat himself but a small sound not unlike a – albeit affectionate – laugh told him that Nowaki had heard.
"I'm glad, Hiro-san. I was worried that you wouldn't. Stupid, huh?"
"Not really," Hiroki answered in a small voice.
"I'm worried about you," Nowaki said, admitting such a horribly sentimental thing with infuriating ease.
Before Hiroki had a chance to get angry and bluster at him, Nowaki spoke again. His tone this time was low.
"Do you need me, Hiro-san?"
It was at once one of the most humiliating, sentimental and embarrassingly sexual thing anyone had ever said to him. He began to stutter out an incomprehensible denial but before he could get the sounds out in the right order, his treacherous mind forced him to remember three things.
One was the time Miyagi had tried to kiss him. It was humiliating beyond belief, being stood up by one man and then taken advantage of by another like that. He had needed Nowaki then, to get him back on the right track.
The second were Nowaki's letters, the ones he had failed to send while in American. Hiroki liked to pretend that they didn't exist but they were actually packed tightly at the bottom of an old crate of books in the closet where Nowaki couldn't get to them. He couldn't get around the fact that keeping them was sickeningly sentimental. He had needed Nowaki to write those, to make it easier for him to give in to the part of him he tried to keep hidden.
The third was the first time they had made love. And sex was just that with Nowaki; making love. Always. Sometimes Hiroki wondered if the experience was so intense because he was never able to express himself through words. Their relationship seemed so physical that it frightened him at times although he would never deny Nowaki anything. He didn't want to. When the man put the passion he felt for everything else into making Hiroki do nothing but feel he was powerless to resist.
And he needed Nowaki for that, too. No one else had ever been able to make him let go like that. It had to be Nowaki.
"Hello?" Despite the long silence, Nowaki hadn't given up. "Can you still hear me?"
"Yeah," Hiroki said quietly. "When are you coming home?"
"I was asked to stay until Tuesday but-"
"I need you."
Once said, there was no taking the words back. For a moment, they hung in the air, unexpected but long wished for.
"I'll come home tomorrow," Nowaki said instantly. "My train will get in at five. Will you come meet me at the station?"
"Yeah," Hiroki replied without hesitation. It was then that he realised their 'fight' or whatever it had been didn't need apologising for. He had done something right at last, however clumsily he had managed it. "I'll see you then."
"I love you, Hiro-san." It was spoken so confidently and without fear of mockery that Hiroki felt his own lips moving in response.
"I love you too."
"Goodnight." Hiroki could hear the grin in Nowaki's voice.
After he had hung up, he glanced around the room. He took in the discarded books, notes and an empty bottle of whatever cheap drink he had imbibed. Eyes feeling heavy at last and lips set in a smile he was blissfully ignorant of, Hiroki shuffled back to the bedroom. He set an alarm for midday and flicked off the light before tumbling back into the bed. Wrapped in the robe that perpetually smelled like Nowaki's shampoo, his eyes soon closed.
As the clock ticked over to five in the morning, Hiroki silently thanked whichever higher power had blessed someone as undeserving as himself with someone like Nowaki. Before sleep claimed him, he vowed to find the words he always lacked as soon as he could.
But there was no rush. Nowaki might not be at home yet, but there was no reason to worry. Just like the letters hidden in the wardrobe, Nowaki wasn't going anywhere.
A/N Eh, the end could have been better methinks. If you want me to write more Junjou stuff, drop me a line! All reviews are much appreciated and will be replied to. 3 Thanks for reading!