I looked up from my laptop to see Yokozawa Takafumi coming towards me, holding a packet up. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Onodera Ritsu tense up but Yokozawa didn't give him a second glance. "I have the sales report for Yoshikawa Chiharu's latest chapter." He handed me the packet. "Her issue sold out in 48 hours."
"Arigato," I said politely. I flipped through the report, but didn't really read the information. "This will make her very pleased."
"Can you get this to her later on today?" Yokozawa asked me. "Even though her issue sold out so fast, we've gotten emails of complaints from readers because of the long wait for this chapter. I hope this will be an…incentive to her to be on time next time."
"I will certainly do that, Yokozawa-san." My face and voice betrayed nothing. I was calm and professional on the outside, while my insides twisted up painfully.
"That reminds me…TAKANO!" Yokozawa quickly rounded on Takano Masamune, my boss, who was calmly sitting at his desk. "Why did we run out of so many issues of Yoshikawa-sensei's latest chapter so fast? It's bad enough she made us wait so long, but now many readers across the country are going to have to wait for the reprint!"
"HEY!" Takano yelled back at him. "I told your boss to ready 230,000 copies! It's not MY fault he decided on 100,000!"
My cell phone buzzed in my pocket. While Takano and Yokozawa continued to yell at each other, I checked to see who sent me a text message.
"Please stop avoiding me. Come by my apartment later so that we can talk."
- Yoshino Chiaki
My fingers squeezed around my cell phone at this text message. After a moment, I closed my phone and tucked it into my pocket. Yoshino was usually so oblivious, but he was paying attention this time.
I was avoiding him. I hadn't been back to his apartment in over a week. I hadn't seen him or spoken to him. He rarely left his apartment, but he was constantly calling me and texting me. Whenever he tried to call, either my house phone or cell phone, I would just let it go to voicemail. It was painful to hear the messages he left for me, because he sounded so hurt and confused. But all of them had the same message.
'Please talk to me'.
I ducked my head and folded my hands on my desk. I was running away…pure and simple. It was confusing Yoshino because I wasn't telling him anything, but the whole situation made me so sick. I had gotten what I wanted. Yoshino Chiaki, the man I had loved for most of my life, was my boyfriend and he loved me back. Our love survived inference by Yanase Yuu, and even an old college friend of mine who had tried to seduce me. For all intensive purposes, we should've been happy.
But…how could we be happy? How could Yoshino be happy with me? I had ignored it for so long. Maybe a part of me felt like I had been absolved when Yoshino begged me to stay by his side. When he willingly gave himself to me to prove his feelings for me.
But I wasn't absolved. I'd committed a horrible crime against somebody I loved so much. No matter how much he consented to me now, I couldn't ignore the fact that the first time I took his body that it wasn't consensual.
I raped him. And yet he continued to see me as both a close friend and as a lover. It was almost as if the rape hadn't even happened.
But it did.
I looked at the sales report. Before this moment, it'd been easy for me to avoid Yoshino. We communicated only through fax and text messages, and it was mostly about work. He would still ask me to come to his apartment, but I would always refuse, stating I was too busy. He was so dense that I knew he would accept my excuses.
But the sales report…Yokozawa wanted me to deliver this in person to emphasize to Yoshino that he needed to turn in his manga on time. I couldn't just fax this over to Yoshino with a note stating he needed to haul ass next time because it would be easy for him to disregard it.
I had to face Yoshino.
The discomfort continued to grow. It was guilt and disgust with myself. I was supposed to be someone in total control, and yet I did such a thing. And I somehow had the right to call Yoshino my lover?
I don't have that right.
I left on time that day. I had no other paperwork to take care of and nothing else to do besides drop of Yoshino's sales report. Negative emotions hung inside of me all day, that I felt physically ill as I pressed the elevator button to go down.
I just want to get out of here. I sighed shortly. I deserve to feel this way, but I don't think I can handle more than this…
Of all the people I had to run into in the elevator, it just had to be Yanase Yuu!
He was leaning against the wall, arms folded over his chest. He looked smug as I climbed into the elevator. "Done for the day? It must be easy to be able to go home at five."
"What brings you here?" I asked, not bothering to hide the irritation from my voice. "As a freelance artist with no series of your own, there's really no point in coming to Marukawa is there?"
"Actually," Yanase said slowly, waving a manila envelope. "I'm running an errand for Ijuuin Kyo-sensei."
I looked at him in surprise. "Why would you be running an errand for Ijuuin-sensei?" Ijuuin Kyo was the author of The Kan, one of Marukawa's most popular manga series, and the most popular Shounen series. And Yanase was apparently running an errand for him?
Yanase shrugged. "I'm on his team temporarily. One of his artists has to have surgery done on his shoulder, so I'm his substitute until he gets better."
I looked away from him. "…That's nice."
"Huh," Yanase said. "I'm surprised you're not gloating."
"Why would I gloat over your career achievements?" I asked blandly. "Working with Ijuuin-sensei is going to add credence to your resume."
"Because since I'm going to be spending so much time on The Kan, I'm not going to have time to work with Chiaki on any of his projects!" Yanase sighed. "Ho…I was looking forward to renewing my efforts to steal him from you, but I've already been stolen from him!"
I locked my jaw as the elevator opened to the bottom floor. Without saying a word to Yanase, I stormed through the lobby towards the main doors.
"Hey—wait a minute!" Yanase called, running after me. "Where's your usual rage at me? Aren't you going to tell me to stay away from Chiaki?"
"Why would I, when he would've gotten rid of you if he wanted you gone?" I told him curtly, still walking. "I'm not going to interfere with Yoshino's choice of friends."
"Even if that friend's me?" Yanase asked me snidely. "Even when all I have to do is say one little thing, and it's enough for Chiaki to think the worst of you? How does that make you feel, knowing that he can jump to conclusions so easily like that?"
I stopped in my tracks and spun around. Yanase almost ran right into me and had to jump back.
"If that's how you feel," I hissed at him. "Then go ahead and take him!"
Yanase gaped at me, at a loss for words for a few moments. "W…What?"
I turned around and walked away from him. The irritation and that horrible guilt was festering inside of me. Because I knew it now. Yanase was a better pick for Yoshino. Yoshino wasn't so tense around him. He always laughed so easily around Yanase.
And…Yanase didn't rape Yoshino to prove his feelings to him.
"Wait a minute!" Yanase grabbed my arm roughly. "Now you hold on, Hatori! Don't drop such bombshells on me and expect you can just walk away! You'll have me believing you're serious!"
"I am serious," I snapped at him. I didn't care who happened to see our argument. "Go ahead and take him from me. He would be much better off, anyways!"
"W-What are you even talking about?" Yanase demanded. He yanked on my arm hard. "Chiaki loves you, Hatori!" he winced and made a face. "Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to say that?"
"Take him," I said more calmly. "I know you love him, and I know you would take care of him. It would be better this way."
Yanase shook his head and barked out a sarcastic laugh. "So, you've had your fill of him and want to throw him away to me? So I can show him what a better lover I am?"
"…If that's how you see it." I pulled my arm free. I had to do this. Everything I had with Yoshino was tainted by that horrible thing I did to him. No matter how much better things have gotten between us, and how much we've ignored it, it was still there. I still raped him, and I didn't deserve to have him.
"What…" Yanase suddenly looked very angry. He grabbed me by my collar. "What the fuck is with you, huh? You threaten me and pick fights with me in order to have him! You bite the bullet with all this bullshit, even when he goes on outings with me over you! Now you suddenly don't want him? You WON, you bastard!" he shook me violently. "Not because you have him now! You won because he loves you! He chose you over me when I gave him a chance to leave you! If you just give him to me, it's meaningless because he doesn't feel the same way! Maybe I could make him love me with time, but you'll always be there inside him!"
"Let me go," I growled into his face, grabbing him by his wrists and pushing him away from me.
Yanase was breathing heavily, and he was glaring at me. He stepped close to me and jabbed me hard in the sternum with his finger. "Look," he hissed. "I don't know what's going on between you two, but don't you use me to run away from your problems! At least try and fix whatever's going on with Chiaki! Shoving him off on me won't solve anything because it won't make any of us happy!"
I stared at him for a long moment. I had thought this was going to be easy. Yanase was so manipulative and selfish; I always knew that if things ended between Yoshino and me, he would immediately jump in to mend Yoshino's heart.
But he was refusing to do that? He wasn't going to jump at this opportunity, even though I was the one who offered it?
He really loves Yoshino.
"I'm late to meet Ijuuin-sensei," Yanase fumed, wringing a hand through his hair. "I'm going to forget this conversation ever happened, and I won't tell Chiaki about it. But." He pointed his finger at me again and glared at me. "If you ever pull this shit on me again, you'd better believe I'll steal him from you! I don't care what your reasons are!"
Yanase took off running, leaving me standing there. It occurred to me that our confrontation caused quite a scene, but I didn't care. I still felt like shit on the inside.
Because I still had to face Yoshino. And…we had to broach this subject we've been avoiding all this time.
I used the spare key to let myself in to Yoshino's apartment. The sun was setting on the Tokyo horizon. I saw Yoshino sitting on the…couch along the windows talking into his phone, as I set down the paperwork.
"Call me when you—TORI!" Yoshino shouted. He hung up his phone and tossed it onto the couch as he ran over to me. "Tori, is that really you?"
"Who else would it be?" I asked him. I knew he must have called my cell phone and left another voicemail, though my phone was turned off. He sounded excited and concerned to see me. Just to hear these emotions in his voice made my heart clench. "Are you hungry? I didn't bring groceries, but I can make you something quick."
Yoshino waved a dismissive hand. "I'm not hungry. Never mind that, Tori—" he grabbed my sleeve and looked up into my face. "I'm really glad to see you."
It was almost too much for me. I couldn't stand his sincerity. I didn't deserve it. "I-It's only been a week, Yoshino."
"But you haven't been by!" Yoshino pointed out, tugging on my sleeve. "You haven't come here, you won't answer my calls! We haven't spoken at all! What is going on with you?"
I wanted to broach the subject, but at the moment I desperately wanted to talk about something else. "I have your sales report." I gave the paperwork to him and looked at him fully for the first time. I tried very hard not to notice his small t-shirt, or his baggy pants. Casual house wear that made him look so appealing.
Enough! I bit down on my lower lip. I don't have the right to look at him like that!
"Wow, this is amazing!" Yoshino gushed, flipping through the report. "I can't believe my issue sold so—WAIT!" he shook his head and glared at me, throwing the report onto the table. "Why are you distracting me? I don't care about the sales report right now!"
"…All right," I conceded. I felt very uncomfortable, but I knew that this had to end. Things were so right between, but at the same time so wrong.
I slowly walked passed Yoshino and stood in front of the couch. I looked at the spot where I had done that horrible thing to Yoshino. "I can't believe you kept this," I said, motioning to the couch.
"Kept what?" Yoshino asked. He came over to stand beside me. "You mean my couch?" he folded his arms over his chest and made a face. "You always say stuff that doesn't make sense, Tori."
Was he truly this oblivious, or was he trying to make me feel better? I swallowed thickly and sat down on the couch. "I think…" I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I think you should go to Yanase."
"Yuu?" Yoshino quickly sat down beside me. "Why would I go to Yuu?"
"For a relationship," I clarified. "I think we should stop seeing each other, Chiaki."
Yoshino looked shocked and horrified by my statement. "W-What are you even talking about? You want to break up with me, Tori?"
"It would be better this way," I told him. "Yanase is a better partner for—"
"Why are you saying this?" Yoshino demanded. He grabbed me by my collar, the same thing Yanase did not even an hour ago. "Why do you want to go ahead and break up with me, huh? You told me you loved me, didn't you? Why confess to me if you were just going to change your mind?"
"I haven't changed my mind," I said. I took hold of his hands and uncoiled his fingers from my collar. "That's not the point, Chiaki."
"Then what is?" Yoshino and sounded so hurt. I could see that he was on the verge of crying. It reminded me of when I tried to quit being his editor, and he literally begged me to stay. I could hear the same desperation in his voice. "What did I do wrong, Tori?"
"It's not you—" I tried to explain.
"The hell it's not!" Yoshino snapped. He yanked his hands free. "You always clam up when I piss you off! You don't explain things to me, and when you do explain it you get so angry with me! You've been acting like this since that last time! You wanted to have sex with me, and then suddenly you went cold and left me here! You…" he shook his head and suddenly looked embarrassed. "I was worked up, Tori, and you left me like that! If you're not pissed at me, then why would you leave me like that and not contact me for a whole week?"
I looked away from him. My elbows were propped on my knees, and I leaned my face into his hands. "This isn't your fault, Chiaki." It was becoming difficult to speak. "You're not the one who did something wrong. It's me."
"…You?" Yoshino sounded surprised. I finally turned my head to see him and he looked confused. "What did you do wrong? Ah…" he rubbed a hand through his hair. "Are you cheating on me, Tori?"
"No," I almost snapped at him. "I'm not cheating on you. But I've hurt you, Chiaki, and I can't get passed it."
Yoshino swallowed thickly, and he looked uncomfortable. "What are you talking about?"
I couldn't believe it. Did he not remember what I did to him, or was he in denial over it? I couldn't let this go on any longer!
"Chiaki." I turned to face him, my hands clenching into fists on my legs. "Have you forgotten? I raped you! That's what I've done wrong!"
Yoshino's eyes went wide, and his mouth slacked open. My insides twisted up at this expression. I realized that he hadn't forgotten about it. He looked too uncomfortable—too horrified—for this to have been a forgotten event.
"Ah…" he tried very desperately to smile, even with his strained expression, and he raised a hand to his head. "O-O-Of course I haven't forgotten, Tori. But things are different—"
"Chiaki." It was a struggle to keep my tone calm, because my voice was straining. "I raped you right here." I jabbed my finger into the cushion. "I hurt you and betrayed your trust. And yet you can still let me touch you? You can be in a relationship with me and tell me you love me? When I did something so horrible to you?"
This was making him uncomfortable. I knew that he was satisfied going on with our relationship and not acknowledging what had happened here. I knew that it was because he loved me and he wanted to forget it ever happened.
But we couldn't just forget it. Not when ignoring it didn't solve anything…or excuse what I did.
"I-I know," Yoshino said finally. He wasn't looking at me and his expression was pained. "I know what you did. I was sick that day, you know? And what you did to me caused my fever to spike. But…" he shook his head and forced a smile. "I've already forgiven you, okay? You wanted to leave me because you felt guilty about it. I understand that. I knew you regretted it while you did it. That's enough for me."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He honestly forgave me, just like that? How can he simply do that when what I did to him was so horrible?
"Chiaki." I hesitated for a moment before I took his hands in mine. His skin didn't jump under mine. Not even his body, or subconscious, could recoil from me. That he could forgive me so wholeheartedly, when I'd done nothing to warrant his forgiveness, didn't make me feel better. I honestly felt worse because of it. "I can't just forget it."
"Why not?" he demanded. His fingers curled around my hands. "I just told you I forgave you. Isn't that enough?"
"It's not enough to redeem me," I admitted. My throat felt tight, and my eyes started to sting. I kept the tears at bay though, because I didn't deserve to cry. "You're the most important person to me, and yet I hurt you in such a vile way. I tied your hands behind your back with your own shirt and violated you, even when you begged and screamed at me to stop."
I could feel the tears spill out. Angry with myself, I tried to pull free from Yoshino to wipe them away, but he held onto my hands. It reminded me of when I tried to pull away from him during the fireworks and he refused to let go of my hand. He refused to let go of me now.
Because he wanted me near him.
"I'm trying to push you to Yanase," I stammered, feeling the rush of emotions affect my speech. "Because of what I did to you. I don't deserve your love, Chiaki, and I don't deserve to be in a relationship with you. It's meaningless to say it now, but…" I ducked my head, unable to look at him. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Chiaki."
Yoshino didn't say anything for a long time. I bit down hard on my lip so that I wouldn't start sobbing. I was so ashamed of myself, and the guilt was suffocating me. I knew that by bringing this up I was ripping open a wound that might ruin our relationship. But I felt like I didn't deserve it. I didn't deserve Yoshino's love when I raped him while we were still platonic friends!
Yoshino suddenly leaned forward. "I want you to tell me something." His breath moved my hair. "Why did you do it? Were you acting out your feelings, or were you trying to own me?"
My teeth relaxed against my lip and I sighed very quietly. "I-I could never own you, Chiaki. I-I just lost control…"
"Of your feelings?" he asked me. "What were you thinking that day?"
I finally looked up at him in horror. "A-Are you saying you want to hear my side of the story? What I was feeling doesn't matter! I could've stopped myself but I didn't!"
Yoshino didn't look upset anymore. This was the calmest I ever saw him. "Then tell me about it."
I shook my head. "I-I don't think you want to hear—"
"I'm asking you. You say you're remorseful over what happened, and I believe you. But I want to know all of your motives, Tori." He paused before he continued. "If you're really sorry, then I think you owe it to me to tell me."
He was right. On his end, what I did to him was so out of the blue, because up to that point he only had seen me as a childhood friend. "I…" I pulled my hands freely finally and wiped at my face with my sleeve. "I lost control of my feelings."
"What for?" Yoshino asked. He brought his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them. "Was it because of Yuu?"
"We…" I rubbed a hand over my face. "It's always been something between us. We both had feelings for you for years, and for a while we were content just waiting to see which one of us you would choose. But Yanase decided that you weren't going to come around. I knew this was the case, but then he decided to up the ante with his pursuit of you."
"Yuu always liked pulling some strings to get me rare books," Yoshino said thoughtfully. "But you were doing that for me anyways, Tori."
"It got to the point that Yanase would show up anytime I was with you to spend time with you," I said coldly. "I was under a lot of stress from work, and he would openly flaunt to me how much you two got along. You can laugh so easily around him, Chiaki, and you two get along so well."
"Of course we get along," Yoshino said defensively. "Yuu has been one of my best friends for years!"
"So have I," I reminded him. "But when we both feel the way we do for you, and you have no idea, we tried to get what time we could out of you. And Yanase loved to throw every moment he had with you in my face."
Yoshino was silent for a moment before he spoke. "I've always wondered something."
"What is it?"
"If Yuu and you don't get along, why did you kiss him in the rain?"
I stared at him stunned for a moment. "What are you talking about?"
"That one day!" Yoshino snapped at me. "I saw you two in an alley and I was about to call to you guys, but then you started screaming at Yuu! I'd never seen you like that before! Then you grabbed him by his collar and kissed him, Tori! If you have this much hate between you two, why did you kiss him?"
I rubbed a hand over my face. I raked over my memories to find what Yoshino was talking about, but I couldn't find it. "W…When did this happen?"
"Before you…" Yoshino waved a hand.
The memory came to me then. I sighed heavily. "Chiaki…I didn't kiss Yanase."
"Yes, you did!" he insisted. "I saw you two!"
"I was arguing with him," I said. I stared out across the room as I began reliving that day. I'd pulled an all-nighter at work and wanted to just go home and sleep after checking in at the office. But I'd wanted to check on Yoshino and see how he was doing. I'd wanted to cook dinner for him and spend time with him.
Then I saw Yanase. He looked so happy and so smug, and he didn't miss a beat to tell me about the wonderful day he spent with Yoshino, and all the work he got done. And…I remember the pleasure he took in telling me how Yoshino hesitated to call me about the preview cover he'd drawn, because he knew I would be upset with his indecisiveness. How the other artists had teased him about my "hold" over him and how he begged them not to call me.
I clenched my teeth at the memory. I hadn't been able to argue with him as Yanase listed off a bunch of things Yoshino had wanted to do, things I wasn't aware of. It made me so angry because I was trying so hard. I always worked so hard to make sure Yoshino was a success, and I worked just as hard to win him over. But Yoshino had been so oblivious to my feelings, and Yanase was with him more often than I was.
When Yanase declared he was finally going to make Yoshino his, I snapped.
"I grabbed him by his collar," I said, my hand reaching out as though for emphasis. "And yanked him nose-to-nose with me. He had thrown down a challenge to me, and I let him know I wasn't going to let him win. But I certainly didn't kiss him."
"Ah," Yoshino said, relaxing slightly. He rocked back and forth lightly. "That explains it. Your back was to me, Tori, so that's probably why it looked like a kiss. But…" he gave me a sideways glance. "Is that why you did what do you did? So you could beat Yuu to the punch?"
He didn't sound vindictive or accusatory about it, just childishly curious. He may as well have asked me if I stole one of his toys. "…I was tired and stressed," I said quietly. "I-I'm not trying to excuse myself, but I wasn't myself that week."
Yoshino was silent again before he spoke. "So…what were you thinking when you came here?"
I looked at him, and wanted to deny it, but I knew I had no right to. He had forgiven me, but he wanted an explanation. And I knew I had no right to deny him one. "I-I didn't come here thinking I was going to…" I shook my head and looked away again. "I arrived like normal, ready to cook some dinner for you. I-I'd had a tough day, and…well, remember when I asked you if Yanase had said anything?"
"Hai," Yoshino said.
"Well…that rainy day, he said he was going to make his move on you. When I asked you, you said no, but you sounded strange. I thought he had said something to you, and that hung over my head for the rest of the day.
"I came here, ready to go over your work and cook you dinner." I looked towards the front door. I could almost see myself on that day, stressed out, angry, and worried that Yanase had made his move and Yoshino was hiding it from me. "Then I saw you sleeping on the couch."
The light had been on, and Yoshino had been stretched out on his back. He looked so peaceful, so unguarded…his lips had been parted and he made such soft noises with each puff of air he took in. I'd seen him asleep so many times, and on other occasions I would simply throw a blanket over him and make him dinner.
That day though…I looked at him and I became scared. Because he'd been the only person I'd ever loved, and someone who was more extroverted than I was, and who was around him more, was also after him. When I watched him sleeping, all I kept thinking to myself was 'Why can't you love me?' and 'How do you not see my feelings?'
"I came over here." I motioned with my hand. "And turned off the light. I-I don't know what I was thinking, but I wanted to kiss you. A-And I thought, maybe, that if you woke up during the kiss and the room was dark that you might not see me…or think it was a dream."
"I woke up," Yoshino said quietly. "And you were kissing me. But you pulled back very quickly and you looked embarrassed. I'd thought you were in love with Yuu, so I was very confused why you kissed me…"
"Umm, I'll just…come out and ask, but…are you…gay?"
"Then…I snapped." I thought I was going to throw up just talking about it. "It's no excuse, but I didn't understand. I-I thought you were just dismissing me and my feelings. A-And I…" my body started shaking, and I didn't know why. Was I about to cry again? But I didn't feel any more tears. "I-I couldn't control myself any longer, and I…raped you." I buried my face into my hands. "You begged me to stop. You cried and you screamed, but I didn't stop. I kept thinking to myself 'What the fuck am I doing?', but I couldn't stop. I couldn't really think…I felt your body respond to me, and m-maybe I thought you really wanted me, but you kept screaming…And when I realized what I was doing to the man I loved I was so scared and horrified. But I still couldn't stop! And you looked at me and you looked so betrayed…but you also looked like you wanted to comfort me! You, the victim comforting his rapist! I…"
Yoshino abruptly threw his arms around me. It was such a shocking move. The words died in my throat and he hung on tightly to my neck and started to cry. The tears quickly grew into sobs and he began wailing, his face pressed into my head. He began to shake so violently that it shook my body. We both began to shake and I clung to him, feeling the emotions overwhelm me and I began to sob too.
We hung on together like that for a long time, just clinging to each other and crying. I couldn't cope with the scale of this. Was Yoshino trying to comfort me, or had he relived the horror of what I did to him? Why was he hugging me?
How could he love me when I raped him?
The tears stopped flowing for me first, probably because I had already cried before. When Yoshino's tears finally stopped he was left gasping for air.
But…he didn't let me go.
"Tori…" his voice was still shaking when he finally spoke. "Do…do you remember what you said to me?"
"What?" I asked numbly, wondering why he was still with me and touching me.
"You told me you were sorry."
It felt like a stab. When I realized what I was doing—and what I would do—I knew that I was going to hurt him. I knew it was going to change everything that existed between us.
But I still didn't stop.
"A-And," Yoshino continued. "Do you remember what you said at the end? Tell me what you said at the end."
I swallowed, my throat feeling tight but the memory was fresh. I closed my eyes and repeated the words to him. "I've always loved you."
"Hai. You said that to me, Tori. For whatever…reason, I understand that you love me. I know that you regret it, and if you had to take it back you would. Right?"
I nodded my head stiffly. "I can't dispel the memory. What I did to you was so foul…I don't know why you want me."
"Because I love you."
I gaped at him incredulously. His eyes were swollen from crying and he was still wiping tears from his face. "How can you love me?" I demanded. "I hurt you! I betrayed you and never gave you any room for protest! I've treated you like shit, always putting my feelings before yours!"
"What are you talking about?" Yoshino demanded. "You take care of me, Tori! You cook for me, you buy me stuff that makes me happy, and you set me straight if I'm not right! You even let me go on that onsen trip with Yuu, though you wanted to spend my birthday with me!"
Why was he defending me? How could he continue to stand up for me after everything I did to him?
"And you still want to break up with me?" Yoshino continued, his anger mounting. "You want me to run after Yuu and pretend I have feelings for him? If I wanted Yuu, I would've gone after him! Both of you gave me plenty of opportunities for it! O-Or…" he pointed at me. "Or I would've let that bastard friend of yours take you from me! But I didn't! Remember what I told him? You!" he poked me in the shoulder. "Are mine, Tori, and I won't let anyone have you! And I'm not going to let you dump me because of some guilt you have! If I was still angry with you about it, would I even BE WITH YOU?"
Yoshino shook his head and sighed sadly. "I'm trying to put it out of my mind forever, Tori. I don't want anything ruining our relationship. Why did you have to bring it up now?"
"…Chiaki," I said finally. "We've run away from it. We've basically pretended it didn't happen. But it did happen, and…I feel so guilty. I-I don't know to move passed other than letting you go. I don't deserve you."
Yoshino sat beside me in silence. Suddenly, he stood up and walked away. I thought for a moment he was running away from the conversation when he reached the light switch and flicked it off.
I blinked as the room shrouded into darkness, only lit by the nightlights of Tokyo. "W-What—"
Yoshino yanked his shirt off and stormed over to me. He stood in front of me and held his shirt out. "Tie my hands up."
I stared at the shirt in front of me and gaped at him. "What?"
"Here!" Yoshino shoved the shirt into my hands. "Tie my hands behind my back!"
"W-What are you talking about?" I asked numbly.
Yoshino sat back down on the couch, and faced away from me. He crossed his wrists behind his back. "Tie my hands up with my shirt, Tori."
"…Why?" I demanded.
"Just do it!" Yoshino snapped at me.
Not understanding him, I reluctantly followed his request. I twisted his shirt up and tied it around his wrists to bind him.
Yoshino yanked on the binds. He sighed irritably as his hands easily broke free. "That's too loose, Tori! Tie them up tighter!"
I picked the shirt up, and simply stared at Yoshino's back. A cold feeling started to crawl over me. "…I hope you're not suggesting what I think you are."
Yoshino glared at me over his shoulder. "Tie my hands up like you did that night. I'm not going to tell you again."
…Oh, my God. Was he serious? Did he…I didn't want to think about it, but it seemed like he wanted to recreate his own rape!
I was horrified. But my hands moved on their own. I wrapped the shirt around his wrists as tight as I could, securing his hands behind his back.
Yoshino yanked on the binds once again, but this time it didn't budge. He nodded in satisfaction. "Good."
"C-Chiaki—" I stammered.
He turned around so that he was facing me. He leaned in close so that his mouth was a breath away from mine. "Kiss me, Tori," he said quietly.
"What are you doing?" I demanded, grabbing Yoshino by his bare shoulders. "W-Why did you have me tie you up? And why do you want me to kiss you?"
Yoshino leaned back slightly so that he could look in my eyes. I've never seen him so serious before. "You told me you can't move passed what you did to me, right? No matter how much I tell you I love you or that I've forgiven you, it's not enough."
"Chiaki…" I let out a shaky breath. "I committed a crime against you. C-Can you really blame me for my feelings? The memory is so ugly…just having your forgiveness isn't enough to redeem me or cleanse me."
"Then we're going to replace it."
My jaw dropped and I gaped at him. "W-What?"
"We're going to replace that memory with a better one," Yoshino told me. "We're going to do everything similar to what happened that night. I'm tied up. I can't fight you or push you away, Tori. If you're really as barbaric as you say, then you could easily rape me again."
"But." Yoshino leaned close to me again. "If you love me, and are truly sorry for what you did to me, then you will take care of me. You will treat me like a lover. That way…when you look at my couch, or if you hold my hands down, you won't remember the rape. You'll remember this, and so will I." He gave me a quick kiss on the mouth. "Understand?"
"I-It's not as simple as that," I tried to reason with him. "If we recreate what I did to you down to the last detail, you might have a sudden flashback like I did!"
"Take care of me," he told me. "Hold me like a lover. You love me, right Tori?"
I swallowed thickly and looked at him. "Of course I do."
"Then let's move passed this and get on with our lives," Yoshino pleaded with me. "I only want you, Tori, and if you continue to let this hang between us, then we really will fall apart." He looked at me in the eyes again. "I trust you."
That simple statement was enough. I knew he loved me and didn't want anyone else, but he still trusted me? He honestly was going to trust me to take care of him?
I didn't know if this would erase that memory. It wouldn't erase my crime. But Yoshino was willing to move passed it. We both wanted to move passed it. And if this was the only way to do it…
I brushed my fingers over his cheeks and cupped his face in my palms. "I'll take care of you," I promised him, brushing my mouth lightly over his. "I'll make you feel unbelievable, Chiaki."
Yoshino closed his eyes and his body shivered. "I trust you, Tori."
I kissed him deeply, burying my hands into his hair. He groaned against my mouth as our tongues entwined with each other. I felt his arms strain slightly for a moment, as though he wanted to reach for me. I wanted to feel his touch, but I had bound his hands that night. Yoshino deliberately had me tie him up, and to release him would accomplish nothing.
I eased him onto his back, breaking the kiss so I could kiss his neck. His skin felt so smooth and tasted so sweet…I nipped at his shoulder and licked at the curve of his neck.
Yoshino moaned, and arched his neck back. "Tori…"
One hand slid over his sternum to rub at a nipple as I began to loosen my collar. "Ha…" Yoshino turned his head to the side, his body twitching from the sensations. His eyes opened partially, but then suddenly snapped open. "Stop."
I quickly pulled back, and raised my hands so he could see them. "I-I'm sorry."
Yoshino shook his head at me. "Why are you loosening your collar? You need to leave your clothes on."
I blinked very slowly. "Why would I leave my cloth—"
Realization dawned on me. "Ugh…" I pressed a hand over my mouth. That was it…I'd been fully clothed when I raped him. I hadn't even taken my work jacket off. Yoshino had been completely naked, whereas I still had on my work suit. "Chiaki…"
"I'm okay," Yoshino said irritably. "But you need to follow what had happened. That means leaving your clothes on."
"And you being naked," I said bitterly.
Yoshino nodded forcefully. "Hai."
I shook my head and fixed my collar. I wasn't so confident anymore that this would work, but this was what Yoshino wanted. I just hoped that this didn't make things worse.
If Yoshino found the circumstances unpleasant, he didn't show it. After our short conversation I kept my clothes on, but I took my time in removing his. I was uncomfortable to be touching him so freely, but his compliance to me was reassuring. And it was reassuring to see his reactions to my touch.
"Mmm…" Yoshino arched his head back when my hand dipped between his legs. "Ahn…that feels good, Tori…"
My heart gave a sharp lurch. Yoshino's screaming and begging had a lot to do with the guilt I felt over what I did, and to hear him openly tell me he wanted it, and wanted me…
I suddenly hugged him around his waist, and pressed my forehead against his chest. He looked down at me in confusion. "W-What's wrong now?"
I shook my head against him and forced a smile at him. "It's nothing, Chiaki."
Yoshino made a face. "You told me that before."
"I know." I reached up and brushed a hand against his cheek. "But I mean it now. I feel fine. Do you feel okay?"
Yoshino nodded. "I would tell you if I didn't."
Yes, he would and he has. I tried not to think about it as I dipped down to run my tongue along his navel as I undid his pants. He didn't hold his voice back, and his hips lifted off the couch to help me remove the rest of his clothes. I was careful, so careful…the surreal nature of this scene was very reminiscent of Yoshino's rape. And I remembered every disgusting detail. As his pants slid down his thighs, an ugly memory of how I ripped his clothes off flooded my mind. I yanked his pants off with his underwear, leaving him sputtering and sobbing in confusion and fear. Bile rose in my throat, even as I continued to pull his pants down. Even if I was successful in making him feel good, this simple act would hardly be enough to right my wrong.
His pants reached his knees, and Yoshino lifted one leg, easing it out of his pants. I felt tears sting my eyes at his compliance, and I looked at him. He stared back at me, not with scorn, but with want, and…love. Even if I wasn't sure this would erase that horrible memory, I wanted to make him feel amazing.
"AH!" Yoshino arched up slightly as I sucked his erection into my mouth. He panted and cried out, and I felt his arms strain against his minds once more. He wanted to touch me, but couldn't. I suddenly felt his foot rubbing my back, as though to replace the hands he couldn't use. He thrashed beneath me and groaned throatily as I sucked and licked at him. One arm wrapped around his thigh while my other hand gently rubbed and fondled his scrotum. "Ohhh…haaaaa…"
I worked on him fast, and felt his flesh swell inside my mouth. My own arousal climbed at hearing him exclaim his pleasure. His voice really was beautiful, and no one than it did in this moment.
"Tori…AH!" Yoshino stiffened and his body jerked as he reached his peak. He came hard into my mouth, but I sucked him dry, rubbing him so that the feeling was prolonged and so sweet for him.
As he relaxed against the couch, I sat up straight and wiped at my mouth. Yoshino's skin had turned pink from his arousal, and he looked out of breath. His fluid was sticky on my fingers, and I reached down to rub it over his tight entrance. His eyes snapped open, startled, and my heart gave another lurch to see him like that. I leaned over him and kissed his temple while my fingers continued to rub him. "It's okay. Just relax, Chiaki…"
"I-I know," he stammered, squirming slightly. "This always just…feels weird, is all."
I didn't know if preparing him genuinely embarrassed him, or if he'd had a flashback just then. I kissed him again and licked at his neck as my fingers slipped inside. Yoshino tensed, and he let out a small sound—it sounded like a mewling. Knowing that this made him uncomfortable, I tried to be quick with this, while at the same time trying not to hurt him. His breathing grew ragged and I kissed his ear, my fingers continuing to work. After a few moments I felt what I'd been seeking, and pushed on it hard. Yoshino yelped, his eyes going wide and his body tensed as shivers of arousal shook his being.
"Right here?" I knew it was the right spot, but I still spoke the question into his ear. "Does this feel good?" I pushed down on it again for emphasis.
"Tori, don't—AH!" Yoshino raised his hips, his eyes squeezing shut. "D-Don't talk like that!" he sputtered finally. "I-I can't…" he shivered again, and a low moan rumbled from his throat.
It was enough. It had to be, because I couldn't hold myself back. I knew that Yoshino's pleasure mattered more in this moment than anything, but I couldn't deny that I wanted him so much. I leaned back, and undid my belt. I spread his legs, hefting them over my arms. Another bad memory flashed before my vision, but I ignored it as I eased over his body. He wasn't telling me 'no' or 'stop it'. And despite everything, I still desired him so much…
Spreading him wide, I pressed into his opening and thrust completely into him.
"AH!" Yoshino's body jerked up, and tightened around me. I grabbed for his arousal, pumping it in my hand to make him feel good, and to help relaxing his body as I eased out of him and thrusted back in. Yoshino let out another sharp cry, and he tried to lift his body. But my full weight was on top of him, and he couldn't move.
My eyes squeezed shut, and my breathing was heavy. A sick feeling engulfed me. What was I even doing? I was literally recreating his rape! I was touching his body so intimately, as if I had a right to!
I hurt you, I thought to Yoshino, feeling tears behind my eyes once more. I hurt you, and no amount of apologies or care will ever change that.
My body moved against him again, and I suddenly heard Yoshino's screaming once more. I groaned sharply, my eyes still closed. I couldn't distinguish reality from that memory. It was almost the same moment. He was thrashing beneath me, and his voice called out so loud. I could see his pained, tearful face behind my eyes. Yoshino was so vulnerable and I loved him so much, but I…
I opened my eyes and looked at Yoshino. And my whole body stopped.
His eyes were closed, his face was flushed, and his mouth hung opened as he panted for breath. It was the same as he'd looked back then, but…but I didn't see any pain in his face. He wasn't crying. He wasn't begging me to stop. Uncertain, I pulled back and thrusted back into his body. He responded back with a guttural, exquisite moan of pleasure.
He was enjoying it.
Encouraged by his response, I began to move faster against him, leaning over his body and holding his legs in my hands. Yoshino responded with louder exclamations of pleasure. "Ha…uhn…ah!" he arched his head back and I kissed and sucked at his neck. He wasn't begging me to stop or telling me how much it hurt. From each little sound he made, I knew that he really wanted it…and it felt good. His body squirmed beneath me, but then I realized he wasn't trying to get away. He was trying to move with me, but his curled position wouldn't allow it. Beneath us, the couch squeaked from our actions as it had before, but the sound didn't seem so obscene.
"Tori…" then he leaned his head down and kissed me.
I couldn't hold back my tears anymore. I kissed him back feverishly as I continued to move. It was joy and relief…because I couldn't hear his screaming and I didn't see the images of that ugly act I committed. All I could see now was Yoshino as he was…enjoying every minute of our lovemaking.
I let go of one of his legs to pump him in my fist once more. He broke the kiss in time to cry out as he reached orgasm again. He tightened around me, and I couldn't stop my own sounds as my release came so sweetly.
I wanted to lie there on top of him and savor the moment, but I eased back. I helped him into a sitting position and reached around him. I tugged at his shirt and helped break his hands free, tossing his shirt onto the floor.
Yoshino reached for me and pulled me into a hug. "Tori…" he kissed my ear and then my cheek. "That was incredible. You kept your promise."
I turned his head and kissed him full on the mouth. When I pulled away, Yoshino was touching my cheek. "T-Tears? Tori…" he looked at me with fear. "Why are you crying?"
I felt myself smiling, and I leaned my forehead onto his shoulder. "I'm just…relieved," I said quietly.
"I hope this will help you," Yoshino said, hugging me to him. "I-I…it's been hard for me too, Tori, but for what it's worth, I'm glad we talked about it." he snuggled me closer to him. "You still want to stay with me, right?"
I didn't have the right to be in a position where Yoshino was the one asking to be in a relationship with me, but to hear him say it made me feel so much better. I hugged him tightly. "I love you, Chiaki."
"I know. I love you, too." Yoshino pushed me back so he could look at my face. "But do you still want to be with me?"
I almost laughed at him. "I don't know why you would want to be with me, but I don't want to be anywhere else."
Yoshino smiled at me. "So, you feel better?"
"…Somewhat. But better than I did before." I didn't deserve him, but since he only wanted me, I knew I had to do everything in my power to always make him happy.
"This is SO COOL!"
I let myself in to Yoshino's apartment just in time to see Yoshino gushing all over a piece of sketch paper in his hands. Yanase was standing beside him, looking quite pleased with himself. "…Hello," I said at length.
"Tori look!" Yoshino ran over to me and showed me the sketch. "Yuu got Ijuuin-sensei to draw me a personal picture of The Kan! And Sensei even signed it! Isn't that awesome?"
I stared at the personal sketch in the center of the page, and then looked at the top corner, seeing a message marked there. 'To Yoshino Chiaki, one of my biggest fans. For your continued loyalty to my series, arigato gozaimasu. – Ijuuin Kyo.'
My brow lifted and I looked at Yanase over Yoshino's shoulder. "This is a pretty personal autograph. You must have pulled a lot of strings with Ijuuin-sensei to get it."
Yanase laughed, and tossed his head. "Ijuuin-sensei recognizes amazing talent when he sees it, Hatori. He wanted to thank me for my hard working substituting one of his artists, and I simply asked him to make a drawing for my dearest friend!"
"This needs to be framed!" Yoshino continued to gush. "Let me see if I have an extra one!" he took off running down the hall towards his bedroom.
Left alone with Yanase, I regarded him with a cold glare. "Renewing your efforts, huh?"
Yanase snorted, and he glared smilingly at me. "Insecure, Hatori?"
"I was joking before," Yanase said evenly. "I have no interests pursuing a man who won't ever love me back. I've wasted too many years doing that already."
"…Joking," I said, completely unconvinced. "Then why do you continue to provoke me?"
"Why did you want to break up with Chiaki before?" Yanase shot back. "Why did you tell me to go after him?"
"It's none of your business," I told him curtly. "Things are fine between us now."
"Huh. That didn't take too long." Yanase shrugged before his smile faded. Now he looked very serious and angry. "But if you're going to throw around breakup ideas so easily, it's only going to hurt Chiaki. I don't want you screwing around with his or mine feelings and having me thinking I actually have a chance. I'm really trying here, and when you flip-flop about what you want from him, it really pisses me off."
"Forgive me," I said sarcastically, feeling my irritation flare once more. "I wasn't aware that I was supposed to show you any sympathy when you actively sought to break us up. You even convinced Yoshino at one point that I slept with a woman. So if I don't show enough remorse to your plight, I apologize."
Yanase snorted. "I didn't tell him anything. All I have to do is voice observations I make and he jumps to his own conclusions."
I turned my back on him and deposited the bag of groceries on the counter. "You've delivered your gift to Yoshino. Can't you leave now?"
"And miss seeing Ijuuin-sensei's artwork framed?" Yanase asked. I felt him come around and stand beside him. "Hey."
"What else do you want?" I almost snapped at him, taking the groceries out of the bag.
"I'm being serious," Yanase told me harshly. He yanked on my arm and I looked at him. "Why did you really want to break up with him, huh? You've been after him since middle school and then suddenly you don't want him? Then the next day you change your mind? Why did you tell me to go after him? I think I have a right to know, Hatori!"
Yanase wasn't teasing me; he sounded very serious. I wished that Yoshino would hurry up and find the frame so I wouldn't be alone with Yanase much longer.
"Tell me," he snapped when I didn't answer him. "We're supposed to be friends anyway, right? The only reason we aren't close is because of our feelings for Yoshino! Why did you want to break up with him?"
"I've told you," I said finally. "That it's none of your business." I turned away from him and sighed shortly. "But if it will make you quiet, it's because I'm not good enough for Yoshino."
"Well, I already knew that," Yanase said. "So that was enough that you were going to just give up on him?"
"It's resolved now," I said, finishing putting the groceries on the counter. "And that's all that matters."
Yes…for better or worse, we had overcome that hurdle. I didn't feel that I deserved Yoshino, but Yoshino wouldn't let me go. I still felt the guilt from it. I knew no matter how much Yoshino reassured me about it, that what I did to him was still heinous and it was always be with me.
But…but Yoshino helped me, as shocking as it was. He helped ease the pain of that memory with a more pleasant, beautiful one. That memory, and his love and forgiveness, would be enough to keep me sane. And to keep me by his side.
Yoshino startled us both. We turned and saw him standing there, holding a picture frame with the autographed sketch inside it. "I'm going to hang this right over my desk!"
"That's kind of you, Chiaki," Yanase said, smiling smugly.
"I'm just so happy that Sensei—AH!" Yoshino suddenly ran forward and looked at the groceries on the counter. He picked up the meat that was wrapped up. "Y-You got me pork again, Tori?"
"No," I said, shrugging my coat off. "That's beef."
"B…BEEF!" Yoshino cheered and ran and me, throwing his arms around me. "Thank you so much! It's been so long since I've had beef!" he released me and looked at the rest of the groceries. "I want sukiyaki, but if you don't have the right ingre—cellophane noodles!" he picked up the bag of noodles and gawked at the rest of the groceries. "Carrots, mushrooms, tofu, leeks…" Yoshino seemed to melt to the floor, his expression full of glee. "This is so awesome! I'm going to have sukiyaki!"
"I have to get going," Yanase said suddenly, pulling his coat off the chair. "Ijuuin-sensei is having a meeting of all his artists."
"B-But at least stay for sukiyaki, Yuu!" Yoshino said, standing back up.
Yanase shook his head. "Hatori over seasons everything. I'm not into that." He smiled at Yoshino, but I could see that it was strained. "I'm glad you like the drawing."
"I love it," Yoshino emphasized. "Arigato gozaimasu! I'll treasure it as I treasure you as a friend, Yuu!"
Seeing Yanase twitch uncomfortably was very satisfying for me. "You're welcome, Chiaki."
Yanase let himself out, and I set about organizing the groceries. "This might take awhile," I warned Yoshino. "But I should be able to whip up a big bowl of sukiyaki for you."
"I really appreciate it," Yoshino said, positively smiling at me. "Anything you cook for me is fantastic, Tori!"
Things seemed back to normal for us. It was incredibly relieving. I managed a small smile of my own and leaned down to unpack the beef.
I was startled when something brushed against my forehead. I looked up, startled. Yoshino had leaned across the counter and kissed me on the forehead.
His whole face turned bright red and he pulled back. "D-Don't forget!" he told me, pointing at me. "You're my boyfriend, Tori! And…n-no matter what, I don't want anyone else but you! I never will!"
I stared at him for a long moment. My smile grew. I couldn't help myself. When he reassured me like this, it made me feel so much better about everything. And about myself. "Understood, Chiaki."
Yoshino spun around and hurried to one of the couches. He grabbed a pillow and buried his face in it as he sat down. "N-Now, hurry with the food! I can't wait to have sukiyaki!"
I snorted, and pulled a knife from the drawer to slice the beef. "I know."
Somehow…it was enough. Maybe I could never be absolved for what I did to him, but he still loved me and he forgave me. Maybe with that…I could someday forgive myself, too.
Sorry if it was too angsty. I like writing more lighthearted fanfiction for Sekaiichi Hatsukoi. But I genuinely like Hatori's character and I was so shocked about what happened in the novels. I'm sorry if this was way OOC, but this was a way for me to have some closure on the subject.
Thanks for reading!