Days like those of my childhood have since then been few and far between- bright cloudless sapphire skies and a soft breeze blowing through the whole city as if to cool off a spoonful of hot soup for a crying, needy child. The air, though heated from Summer's glare, was soft and tender like a perfectly prepared beef roast from America, tempting all at the dinner table to devour it like carnivores.
As the pencil drew in it's last s, Oki felt a brief wave of relief. That was one paragraph down, only a few more to go.
He read over his accomplishment, and then proceeded to lose his determination. Who the hell was he kidding? He sucked at this.
He didn't even want to bother with it anymore. He put the notebook away in his shoulder bag, feeling defeated after the first paragraph as he disembarked the train. This whole idea of him writing a biography about himself was a joke, and he felt as if his publishers knew it and were laughing at him from that big scary building they all worked in, and printed in, and sipped coffee in and plotted people's deaths in.
Exaggeration? On days like these, he refused to think so.
Once out of the station and out into the city, his cell phone vibrated in his back pocket, the name of his skinny, tall editor with one of the highest voices he had heard on another human being flashing on the front screen. He answered it, though reluctantly. "Oki-sensei. Good after-"
He didn't even bother with a hello. "I've tried to start this thing a million times." he confessed nervously. "I can't get any creative juices flowing. All my similes and metaphors somehow, someway revert back to food."
"Th-that's okay, Oki-sensei! You are a chef, after all-"
"But that doesn't mean it makes sense! It's almost laughable." he sighed, miserable.
"B-but… I-I promised our publisher that you would try to make an autobiography!"
"I write about how to prepare food, not about… me." he looked downward for a moment and tried not to holler in frustration before resuming his trek through the crowded city streets. "My life isn't interesting!"
"Oki-sensei! Don't say that! You have a very interesting life!"
"I like food and I played baseball in high school. That's it." He passed a familiar donut shop and it reminded him that he was here to sightsee and enjoy himself, not listen to his nagging editor. "No one wants to read about that, Yusa. But look, I have to go-"
"Try to make something interesting, Oki-sensei! Try! For me! For you!"
Oki groaned at the sound of his editor's panicked whining. Though inwardly he wanted to curse to the high heavens for this wretched assignment, he outwardly said that fine, he'd try again, so he could please Yusa and hang up the phone.
Oki didn't want to write about himself. He was a Japanese chef famous for his culinary writings, but had denied all public appearances and refused to be seen on television. To the public he was the mysterious cookbook author that no one had any pictures of to share all over the internet. An autobiography on the near anonymous culinary genius would have sold tons, his publishers had said. In honest reality he just was shy and uncomfortable with his talents, even in his adulthood, so he played the hermit route of it all and just sold cookbooks by the hundred thousands while he comfortably sat at home, alone, with his cooking utensils and his reality TV and Jesus Christ there was Yusa again!
"Uh, yes Yusa?"
"Sorry, as your editor and friend I forgot to ask about your safety, location, and health, Oki-sensei."
Oki blushed. He didn't necessarily care for people trying to be held accountable for him, that's what his parents were for. "I'm fine I guess. And I'm in Saitama."
"Do you feel okay, Oki-sensei?"
"You guess this, you guess that. I'll see you in a week, yeesh."
Many times had Yusa grown impatient with Oki's lack of conversational skills. She wasn't the only one who had complaints, but what the hell was Oki supposed to do about it? Change personalities over night or something?
But, that was done and done, for now- the blasted notebook was gone, the editor and the cell phone were silenced, and all that was left was Oki to smile warmly at the sight of his old home base- ah, the beautiful Saitama.
After high school, he and Sakaeguchi both wanted to pursue college up north, Oki for culinary school and Sakaeguchi for a business degree. They ran a restaurant together for a short time before Oki's old teammate began to get exceedingly home sick (and, though he was reluctant to admit it, he had really started to miss Suyama) and Oki warmly told him that he understood, that Sakaeguchi should go home and find work there. They stayed in touch, but other then the light brunette, Oki hadn't really made contact with any of his other baseball friends. Not that he didn't want to, he was just afraid he may bother them, or that they weren't interested in staying in touch.
Saitama hadn't changed a bit. It was still bustling and upbeat, yet maintaining a slight level of ease. It was just happening enough to keep people interested and just peaceful enough to allow it's residents a little relaxation. Why had he ever left?
Oh. Culinary schools and nagging editors. Of course.
Oki lived alone back at his apartment up north, his friends being his pasta strainer and Yusa Sakagami, his whiney but faithful editor that towered six inches above him in her favorite heels. He had acquaintances with some of the guys at the publishing company that took care of getting his books out to the shelves, but most found him snobbish for not wanting to associate himself with the public.
Some days he missed the high school adventures he participated in as a baseball player. Mihashi's stuttering, Tajima's adventurous attitude, Izumi's eye-rolling- he remembered them all as if they had never parted. Why he had been too much of a loner to keep up with any of them, he didn't know. He was starting to regret it, and wondered who was still around and who had hauled ass and gotten to work on their dreams.
He passed a not-so-populated part of Saitama, a much more quiet area then the bustling city around the train station. A familiar sign caught his eye, a bar that had been there since he was a kid. He had never stuck around long enough to be of age for legal drinking, so he never had the opportunity to have some manly fun with his friends before he boarded the next train up north to go learn about cooking. It sounded really lame when he thought about it.
Next door was a little mom and pop sushi shop, run by the same people, that was more family oriented and focused on tea and snacks rather then alcohol. After the long train ride and Yusa's whining, he considered himself deserving of a quick bite to eat and dropped in. He made his way to a bar to place an order with menus taped down on the counter. A man with a bulky build and bald head walked up and smiled warmly at him. "Hey, buddy."
The place was moderately filled, one guy sipping tea alone while reading a newspaper, a couple sharing some soup, a few women gossiping and giggling in the back and a young man and his tiny son having a messy lunch.
"Hi. Can I just get a bottled water and-"
"Woah, woah woah!" the server stopped him, causing Oki to flinch and clam up, worried that he had done something wrong. "I know you! You played for Nishiura back in the day, didn't you?"
The brute had a massive smile on his face, and his outburst had grabbed the immediate attention of the guy sitting with his child. Shocked, but somewhat flattered, Oki nodded quickly, trying not to look as if the guy had just scared him to bits. "Y-yeah, I played first base…"
"No way! I thought so! I watched you guys all the time back in the day!" he looked in the direction of the father-son diners. "Hey, Nishi-sensei! You know this guy?"
"Woah! Oki!" he heard to the right of him. The chef blinked and turned rapidly in his direction, where a young man slightly taller then Oki with dark brown hair and smiling eyes was yelling at him in overjoyed greeting. "Hey, man!"
"Nishi-Nishihiro!" Oki stammered out, feeling a wide smile grow on his face. He recognized the skinny reserve player almost immediately. They greeted each other with a man-hug of epic proportions before Nishihiro asked for Oki to sit with him.
Oki glanced quickly at the confused little boy on the other side of the table, his eyes big and green, completely different from his adult counterpart's small dark ones. "I- I hate to ruin any time you're spending with… him!" Oki said, not knowing if guessing he was Nishihiro's son by default was the right thing to do or not.
But his old teammate just chuckled. "No way, man! You're not bothering anything." he looked down and smiled at the kid, who just stared blankly while he chewed on his sushi. "Ryota, can you say hello?"
Not wanting to take time away from his precious meal (and Oki couldn't say he blamed him) Ryota waved in lieu of vocalizing a greeting. Oki waved back, much more shyly then his much younger new acquaintance did, before he realized that he had the ability to speak. "Hey, Ryota."
Nishihiro urged him to sit with them, which Oki did just in time for the brute who called him out earlier to bring him his water and a sushi sampler. "On the house." the big guy and said with a grin, and before Oki had a chance to protest Nishihiro was talking it up with him again.
"So what's been up with you?" he asked with a smile, the excitement of seeing his old friend still bright in his eyes, "You here on business?"
Oki cleared his throat and tried to find the place to begin. "Well," he uncapped his water out of parched desperation. "I'm writing culinary books."
"So it is you!" Nishihiro said with a grin. "I always thought that famous chef who wrote that simply was credited as "K.O." was you! Kazutoshi Oki. All the girls from the hospital talk about your stuff."
Oki sighed and nodded. Hospital. He thought. Of course. "Yeah. I'm not one for publicity, though."
Nishihiro smiled understandingly at him. "I know you aren't. Which is why I always thought it was you." He picked up a napkin to wipe a smidge off of Ryota's face. Good God, Nishihiro had a kid now, and probably a wife- it didn't hit Oki until he saw the parental gesture of cleaning off the young boy's face. The young cookbook author didn't know if he wanted to continue with his stories or not. "But you're living up north, right? Are you and Sakaeguchi still living up there?"
"Sakaeguchi moved back here after he got done with college, I mean we ran a restaurant up there for a while." he took a sip of his water and relished it. "But he wanted to move back home and I didn't like dealing with the guy that handled our rent for the place, so we kinda gave it up and I decided to try and publish a cookbook, and the rest is history." He purposefully left out the part about the tearful call to Suyama Sakaeguchi had made which had set his decision in stone. Nishihiro was without a doubt smart enough to figure out that Suyama played a huge part in anything Sakaeguchi did without Oki laying down the drama for him.
Ryota reached for another piece of Sushi and Nishihiro cut it up for him, all the while listening intently. "That's so cool. I'm jealous that you got to travel…Ryo-chan, chew, for God's sake… Why are you back down here?"
Oki smiled at the young boy for a second before he answered Nishihiro. "Just here to chill out, get away from everything. I mean I don't know a lot of people up there, but it gets stale after awhile. I missed Saitama." when he noticed he was smiling a lot more then he should've been at the family scene, he blushed and toned it down. "I'm on vacation, I guess. Have you been here since high school?"
"Yep!" he finally got to a place where he could stop supervising Ryota's eating to continue in the conversation. "I started on my degree, and now I'm finishing up Med school. I thought about studying in America for a little while, but, well, this happened." "This" apparently being Ryota, apparent by Nishihiro running his hand lovingly through the tiny glutton's soft brown hair. Oki couldn't fight another smile.
"What about you? Any family yet?"
Oki groaned. He saw this coming, but it still made him cringe. "No. No time." Just the thought of him having to raise a child through all of this garbage with his publishers and Yusa… He didn't even want to think about what Nishihiro was having to go through, raising a child while trying to get his MD or PhD or whatever it was. "I don't know how you find time."
"I said that too, but it's different when they actually come along. It's not about 'do I have time', it's about 'does everything else have time'." He smiled at Ryota, who was listening intently now. "Am I right?"
The boy shrugged and returned to his sushi. Oki chuckled. "He's a little carnivore."
Nishihiro sighed. "He tries." he eyed Oki's full sampler plate. "Oh, I've been talking my ass off. You haven't even had a chance to eat. Sorry, man."
Oki's eyes widened as he looked down at his plate. "What? No! I-I was enjoying- I'm sorry, It wasn't you, really."
Nishihiro looked at him with a worried smile, a smile Oki had found comfort in so many years ago. "You're still the same."
"Yeah, you too." Oki said teasingly before taking a bite out of his sushi.
Ryota spoke up. "Papa, gimme some soda." Nishihiro followed suit and handed Ryota his cup so that the toddler could get something to drink. Papa Nishihiro. Oki felt sick. What the fuck had he been doing with his life while Nishihiro was becoming a doctor and raising a family?
"How old is he?" Oki asked between the last bite of one salmon roll and the first bite of another.
Oki nodded. He assumed as much. Which meant that Nishihiro must've been pretty young still when Ryota was born. "Where are you staying for your trip down here?" Nishihiro asked him, eyeing Ryota to make sure he didn't spill his drink all over himself.
Oki scoffed. "Not a clue." he said flatly before it hit him that oh God, he didn't have a place to stay. Shit, he was supposed to arrange that when he got here. He and his editor had been looking and looking for a place until Oki finally said that he'd take care of it himself. Yusa was not going to be pleased.
"You didn't reserve somewhere?"
"I was going to do that when I got here. I thought that surely I could just make arrangements on the spot. It's not like I'm coming through a holiday season or anything." he took another sip of water. "It's no big deal, I'll just do that when I leave here."
"Well, I mean…" Nishihiro shook his head. "Why pay for somewhere when you could stay with us for free?"
Oki looked up, wide eyed at him. He almost considered it, but bit it back. "No, dude, I won't do that to you so unannounced."
Nishihiro chuckled. "Oh come on! I haven't had guests in awhile." Oki could see in his eyes that his offer was genuine and not just out of politeness. "You can stay in the guest room. It hasn't been used for awhile, so it's clean."
Oki sighed. "I really don't know, Nishi. I just feel like I'm obtruding on you guys." The chef smiled and scratched his head nervously. "I wouldn't want it to be a shock on the lady of the house." He didn't know if he should go with "wife" or "girlfriend" or if it were safe to make an assumption at all, so he went with that, thinking it was the most polite move.
He saw Nishihiro's eyes fall and immediately knew he had made a mistake. "That's nothing to worry about." he replied, forcing a sad smile. Shit.
"Oh." Oki wasn't very hungry after that. He felt guilt reach up in him and try to choke him. How could he have been so stupid? If she were still around, she would be there with them, eating. Oh God, Nishihiro was divorced. Suddenly Oki loathed himself. "Sorry."
"No, no." Nishihiro smiled at Ryota. "Go get my friend a takeout box, please?" his son nodded and jumped from his spot to walk to the counter, and peeked up at the brute that came to greet him.
With Ryota out of earshot, Nishihiro sighed, and then started. "When I was still studying undergrad, I had to do a bunch of labs and intern work." he looked downward at a bright blue, worn string he had tied around his wrist. "During one of these visits, I met a girl named Ryoko. She was really sick, and had a disease transferred from malpractice. I held one two minute conversation with her and fell helplessly in love." he looked over to make sure Ryota wasn't on his way back, and was relieved to see that his son was still making conversation with the laughing, frightening server behind the counter. "I made her my special project. Every minute of studying I did was devoted to helping her. Every new thing I learned, I tried to connect it back to her health and how it could affect her. I spent every waking moment in that hospital, seeing her, treating her, falling deeper and deeper in love with every visit." There was passion and adoration glimmering in his eyes. It made Oki light headed to think that those feelings that Nishihiro were describing actually existed within people and not just in trashy grocery store novels.
"For a while, it seemed as if she was gonna get better. And she did. I was foolish to think that it was the end, but we cant help but be optimists when we're in love I guess." He smiled at nothing in particular. "She moved in with me. We were unstoppable together, the perfect couple. I was crazy about her and she was joined to me at the hip. One day she came home stupidly excited from one of her visits- not only was she getting better and better every day, but she was also pregnant." Oki didn't know if he wanted to hear the rest of this story.
"Two months before he's due, her health starts declining again." Oki's heart sunk. Suddenly he predicted the story's ending and regretted ever walking in here. The taller of the two men bit his bottom lip. He sighed deeply and checked on Ryota again before continuing. "Her pregnancy was what was killing her. She needed those nutrients for herself, but she was having to share them with the child growing within her. Her doctor urged her to get rid of him, but she didn't even consider budging." They locked eyes for the slightest of moments, and Oki felt as if his heart might explode. "He was born and everything was… okay. She was hanging on, but she was still here." Then Nishihiro looked downward at his bracelet again, his brow furrowed. Oki knew this was where things were going to get messy with his emotions. "It took us one week to decide on what we wanted his name to be. She said Ryota, because that was her grandfather's name. Within two hours of having an officially named child, I lost her."
With those last few words out of his old teammate's mouth, wild emotion unlike anything he had ever experienced in his life threatened to tear Oki in two. He felt as if his heart was a heavy boulder about to drag him into darkness. He wanted to say something, anything. Like he was sorry. But nothing he could've said would have brought her back, made it any less real. He couldn't feel his fingertips. Finally he forced himself to speak. "Fuck." was his choked response.
Nishihiro looked at him wide eyed, never seeing Oki so emotional before. There were no tears, but that was all that was missing from the picture of misery in front of him. "I'm sorry… I shouldn't have… this wasn't the place-"
"No!" Oki interrupted. "I'm the one… that said that thing about-"
Oki shook his head. "No, it's not, I-"
"Please, Oki. It's okay."
When he saw Ryota come near them in the corner of his eye, he got the hint.
"Ryo-chan, this is my friend Oki. He's gonna stay with us for a little while, is that okay?"
The green-eyed toddler grinned a toothy grin at him. "Only if he plays pirates with me."
Oki sighed, trying to get his heart under control. Looking into the eyes of the one thing that took Nishihiro's love away from him was difficult. He wondered how Nishihiro did it every day.
"I've never played before, you'll have to teach me." And he allowed that to be his official acceptance of Nishihiro's offer.
Ryota grabbed his sleeve, urging him to get up while Nishihiro packed up the remainder of Oki's uneaten sushi. "I'm the captain, you play everyone else. Like my swabbies, and my first mate, and my girlfriend Charlotte."
Nishihiro snorted. "I can't wait to see this."
Why Charlotte? Oki didn't even bother.
The two men shared a bottle of weak Sake in the kitchen while Ryota was passed out in his room after a successful play date with his father and the newly acquainted "Kii-chan". Oki was rubbing his tired eyes while Nishihiro chuckled at the sight of his worn out ex-teammate.
"I don't ever want to be a pirate again." Oki groaned. "Ever."
"He's wild." Nishihiro sighed. "I tried to warn you. But you said you needed the exercise." He poured Oki a refill after the chef downed his first cup expertly. "Sorry, this stuff isn't all that impressive."
"Hey, it's something." Oki eyed Nishihiro for a moment before he took a sip of his second round. "I don't know how you handle Ryota and med school. I mean I know you said that its totally different, and maybe I won't understand till I've got some of my own, but-" he sighed, not knowing how to finish. "I guess you're used to rough situations by now. I cant really compare your situation to anyone else's."
Nishihiro shrugged. "I don't know about anyone else, all I know is that I love my son and I want what's best for him. That's what keeps me going every day. That's when kept me going when I lost her."
Oki felt emotions rile up again. His heartbreak was slowly starting to pain back up, like a wound being reopened. "I wish… you would've called us… you're baseball friends, I mean. We could've been there for you, man." he sighed. So this was where he was truly in the wrong for not staying in touch. "We should've been there for you. We should've helped you through this."
Nishihiro shook his head. "N-no, Oki, I chose the loner route myself. I deserved going through that on my own, and I'm glad I did. It made me stronger."
Oki wondered if he were in the same situation, if he would've felt the same. Nishihiro was insanely intelligent and strong willed at the same time. It was as if he was the strongest out of the whole team despite playing in a game maybe a few times. Oki couldn't help but silently admire him to high heavens for all the shit he had been through.
"You know," Nishihiro said before taking a sip of his drink. "It's just a part of life."
Oki looked up at him, their eyes locked and shared a silent communication consisting of respect and closeness.
"Does he know about her?" Oki asked shyly.
Nishihiro nodded. "Any detail he's able to comprehend, he knows." He drank the rest of his own beverage before taking a big, deep breath. "I just dread the day he's able to understand that he's what killed her."
Oki started to ask yet another question, but closed his mouth and drank instead.
But Nishihiro's eyes of genius caught him. "Go ahead."
Oki shook his head. "No, I don't think- I just can't."
"It's all right, really." he smiled. "I haven't had anyone I could talk about it with in depth. My parents don't like to discuss it because they didn't approve of me having a child out of wedlock to begin with."
Oki knew he wasn't going to get out of it if he tried. "Do you… blame him?"
Nishihiro didn't even hesitate. "No." he sighed and looked into his cup. "I love him way too much to see any wrong in him, including that." Oki kept his tired eyes on him. "I just worry that when he has to go through something similar, he wont have anyone to help him."
Oki shook his head. "You wont have to worry about that any more." he bit his lip and with shuddering breath he exhaled deeply. "I promise."
You won't go through something like that alone again.
"Moving back. Turns out I missed this place a lot more then I thought I did." he struggled with Ryota's tennis shoes for a while before he spoke again. "I met up with an old friend and stayed with him for a few weeks, and now I can't really find a good enough reason to go back home."
And it was the truth. It had been three weeks since he took up Nishihiro's offer to stay with him during his visit, and after a long conversation with his roommate and the occasional "Yeah!" from Ryota, Oki decided to give in and move in permanently.
"Oki-sensei, that's crazy!"
Oki was aware of that, too. "For me to just board the train and go back to my life of solitude and occasionally cooking things when I'm happier then I've ever been here would be crazy too."
"Kii-chan, tie my shoooelacess!"
"Wh-Who is that?"
Oki grinned. "Ryo-chan, this little monster." as he said it he flicked Ryota's nose lightly.
Yusa freaked out and Oki felt pain in the ear he was holding the phone in. Again, as expected.
"You have a son, Oki-sensei?"
He chuckled gleefully. "No, Yusa. My new roommate has a son." Ryota's shoes successfully tied, he jumped up and grabbed his backpack from beside him, grinning widely up at Oki with tiny but frightening teeth. "He kind of stole my heart from the first day I met him."
"I…" Yusa was silent for once in her damn career as Oki's editor. "I want to protest, but you sound insanely happy, Oki-sensei." She sighed, and Oki thought, for once, he just might win. "I'm… I'm happy for you."
Oki relished in sweet victory for a short moment before Ryota grabbed him and drug him to the door. He promised to continue the conversation on a later date and bade Yusa farewell. "It's school time!" he called out excitedly, with his "evil laugh" right behind it. "I'm gonna scare everyone!"
Oki grinned and ruffled his hair. "If you do that, no one will want to play pirates with you." He had a deep feeling that wouldn't change anything.
"That's what I have Kii-chan for!" he hollered affectionately. Oki smiled at the warm feeling in his chest and thanked whatever powers that be that he met Nishihiro in that sushi resturaunt.
Because if being Ryota's pirate girlfriend was the only purpose he ever served in life, he honestly believed he could die happy, which was more then he ever dreamed he could've said back in his former lifestyle.
A whole four months living with Nishihiro and Oki's attempts to persuade Ryota to simply call him "Oki" or "Kazutoshi" changed absolutely nothing, so Oki took the nickname with pride.
Ryota pounced into the kitchen with his back bent and his fingers representing claws, his face covered by a paper mask of a red-crayon drawn dragon, two eyeholes popped out and the teeth having poorly drawn blood stains on them. Typical. He roared at Oki accordingly.
The ex first baseman growled back. "What are you wearing, you little tyrant?"
Ryota giggled behind his cartoonish dragon face. "We had crafts today! We made a bunch of things." He sat at the kitchen table and pointed at Oki. "The dragon king wants left over pork from dinner!"
Another thing that connected the strange toddler and Oki so well- Oki was indeed a chef and Ryota liked to eat. If this wasn't a match made in heaven, Oki didn't know what was. He sighed in feigned exhaustion. "But why?" he asked with a pout. "What has the dragon king ever done for poor Kii-chan?"
"I play with you every day!" he said, as if that were done as a favor to Oki. The older of the two smiled at him. "What else did you make today?" he asked as he walked toward the fridge.
He expected some childish answer or another order, but instead Ryota suspiciously scanned the room and the doorways. Oki watched him in curiosity. "What are you doing?"
"Is papa here yet?" he whispered. Oki shook his head. "No, Ryo-chan, papa doesn't get off for another hour." he raised an eyebrow. "But you know that. You've known that for a long time."
"I was just checking!" he said as a child would, reassuringly irritated. He jumped from the table and sprinted for the living room. Oki was about to follow him before he called back "Stay there! This is a surprise! And it's our secret!"
The day that Ryota failed to surprise him would be the day Saitama has a whole would fall on it's side.
Oki bit his bottom lip as he waited. He didn't like the idea of keeping a secret from Nishihiro, certainly not a secret that he shared with his son. He kept reassuring himself that Ryota was just a kid and that this was probably just a little craft or something he wanted to give him, but he also knew that the little green-eyed energy ball was anything but predictable.
The boy walked in, mask still intact, his hands behind his back. "Kii-chan?" he voice was suddenly soft, sweet, almost embarrassed. Oki felt worried, as this was the first time he had ever heard Ryota use any kind of tone other then one of a frightening, growling young child.
Oki squatted down to meet his gaze a little better. He smiled at Ryota reassuringly and the masked child looked a bit downward. "Don't make fun of me."
Oki smiled softly and very lightly tapped the boy's chin with his knuckles. "I would never make fun of you, Ryota." he said softly.
The little dragon before him took a deep breath, like he was preparing for a speech. With bringing his hands out from behind him he revealed a tin can, with poorly drawn hearts and smiley faces and other pictures cut from notebook paper and taped all over it, and standing out among the art was a dark headed man with a wide nose. Oki didn't have to guess twice that that was him.
Ryota looked downward at it in disappointment. "Everyone else's was better then mine." he said sadly. Oki was about to say something but Ryota cut him off. "Today, we did crafts in honor of holidays." he pointed to his mask with one hand while one loosely held the tin can. "We made this for New Years, even though it's a while aways, and we made sakura flowers on green pipe cleaner and Christmas things." He looked downward at his tin can, deep in thought. "The last thing we made was this. It's supposed to hold your pencils, and your pens, and your highlighters and your crayons." Oki bit back a chuckle, wanting Ryota to finish his story. "It was for a holiday that's going on soon in America."
Oki watched him carefully, hearing his voice get more and more sad. "My teacher said that today was a day dedicated to moms in America. That it was Mother's Day."
Oki's heart sank to his stomach. He continued to listen, though sadly. He tried to put himself in the young boy's shoes during that specific part of the class, and found that he couldn't without tears threatening to drown him.
"I asked my teacher what I was supposed to do if we didn't have a mother. She looked at me funny and told me to just make something for my papa, or whatever was closest to a mother to me."
He held out the little tin can timidly, as if what he was doing was making him a weaker person. "I know it's ugly." Oki could feel his pulse ramming out of his chest, his heart ready to explode into a million pieces. "I almost asked a girl to draw it for me, because they're better at this stuff. But I wanted to draw you on it and I didn't think any of them could do it right."
Oki couldn't fight it any more. Tears stung his eyes like sparks off of flames. When Ryota finally looked up at him, he tensed at seeing his personal chef and playmate misty-eyed. "Kii-chan?"
Oki took the can and then quickly and tightly embraced the child, his heart not daring to allow him to hesitate. He felt so much, too much, all at one time- he felt his hands shake and knew he was probably upsetting Ryota like this, but he couldn't help it- this was the most emotion he had ever felt in his entire life.
"It's perfect. You are perfect." he mumbled before kissing the boy's hair. "Thank you, Ryo-chan." tears fell down and onto the child's shoulder, and Oki released him for a short moment to accept his gift. Ryota was staring worriedly at him, and Oki met his gaze softly, smiling.
"Why are you crying?"
Oki shook his head. "I don't know." he sighed and lifted the child into his arms, standing, Ryota's face close to his, his wide, frightened eyes peeking through the mask. "Kii-chan cries a lot. You'll have to forgive him." he held the can in one hand, the other supporting the child he was holding… the one thing that could make Oki both laugh, cry, and everything in between. "Kii-chan also loves you very, very much."
Ryota's eyes widened in happiness, his mood transitioning swiftly and cleanly. "I love Kii-chan too!" he replied gleefully. "I want Kii-chan to stay forever, and make me dinner forever, and play pirates forever, and keep Papa company forever!"
Oki laughed warmly. "I would like that, too."
The dragon-faced toddler giggled. "And maybe Kii-chan and Papa can even get married!"
Oki walked out of the restaurant and into the cold night, the stars and street lamps the only things still bright at one in the morning on this specific part of town. Despite it being the weekend, the quiet portion of Saitama that Oki lived in tried to keep it simple and roll up the streets around midnight. That was one of the biggest money-making strategies of Oki's current place of employment, that it was the only thing open late on the weekends for teenagers and young adults and night owls to come enjoy themselves.
As he turned the key in the lock to shut the place tight for the night, he heard steps behind him. "Hey." a familiar voice said softly. Oki didn't even have to turn to see who it was.
"Why are you out and about?" Oki inquired of his roommate as put the keys in his faithful shoulder bag.
When he faced his friend, the taller man smiled at him. His brown scarf and large coat made him look a bit bigger, and that frightened Oki a little. Not enough to stay away from his best friend, for sure, but Nishihiro had grown a little in size. He was working out and probably being forced to stay healthy for a doctor, not to mention he was a grown man now… but still, where was the skinny reserve player for Nishiura Oki had known long ago?
"I left Ryota with my mom. She called bitching about not getting to see him and asked if she could have him for the night."
Oki growled under his breath in distaste. Nishihiro chuckled. "I know, I know, but she's his grandmother and she loves him just as much as you do."
"Was he upset?"
"No, he's not that kind of kid, you know that." Nishihiro said reassuringly, very much aware that Oki didn't like the idea of an upset Ryota. "And even if he was a little bit, that would be something he'd have to deal with, don't you think?"
Oki didn't like to hear that. "Well if he doesn't want to see her, then he doesn't want to see her." he replied a bit bitterly.
His best friend sighed. "If you spoil him anymore, things will get out of hand." He nodded in the opposite direction of their home. "Care to join me for the rest of my walk? Just to the park, and then we'll go home."
Oki was tired as all get out but didn't necessarily find rejecting Nishihiro all that likable either. "Yeah."
Once they started walking, it was just like one of their late night conversations at the kitchen table that they had on occasion. "Happy weekend." Nishihiro told him.
"Thanks, you too." Oki mumbled sarcastically. "Fucking late hours. If they didn't give me tomorrow off I'd probably kill someone."
The doctor grinned. "If they didn't give you tomorrow off I'd probably kill someone." They both faced outward onto the street as they walked, both with tired eyes after long days at work. "But I'm glad you finally found work though. I knew you couldn't play housewife to Ryota for long without losing your mind."
Oki scoffed. "No, I would have done that for the rest of my life if I could've. But I wasn't about to be a free loader."
"Free loader? Oki, you're basically a mother to my son."
That put a patch of softness in Oki's heart, hearing Nishihiro say that. "I feel that way sometimes too. I'm just glad he accepted me so quickly."
The taller of the two nodded. "He's not one to be rude to people. He's just loud and rambunctious so he gives off the wrong vibe sometimes. But he really does love you."
Oki sighed, knowing this to be true. "You know… I promised I wouldn't tell you this, so don't tell him that I said anything, but…"
"He wanted to keep a secret from me?"
"Yeah, but let me finish." he bit his lip, hoping he wouldn't get emotional like he did when Ryota gave him the little tin can. "He gave me a mothers day present."
"Oh, that." Nishihiro laughed. "Yeah, he told me. That was sweet."
"He said that Kii-chan cried for no reason and that it bothered him, so he didn't know if he wanted to give you presents anymore."
Oki's head snapped in Nishihiro's direction, eyes wide with worry. "Did I scare him? I didn't mean to scare him. I just kind of let it out and-"
But the father laughed it off. "No, you worried him. To worry Ryota is a simple task. To frighten him takes one hell of an effort."
Oki was well aware of the latter statement. "It was a really emotional moment for me." he confessed quietly. "This time six months ago, I was waking up in the mornings without a reason to. I was living for me and me alone." He sighed as he saw the entrance to the park in the horizon. He couldn't believe they still kept the lights on at this hour. "And now I've finally found a purpose for being here. And he's not even my son… But it sort of feels like he is."
Nishihiro laughed quietly. "Well, it feels that way to me, too. And to him. So he might as well be yours." If Oki relished on that statement too much he knew he'd cry again, so he didn't respond. "God, six months since you showed up. What's up with that?"
Oki shrugged. "I don't know. It doesn't feel like six months."
"I know, more like six days." Oki tightened his coat around himself as he felt a soft wind pick up. The doctor did the same, saying "It's not even winter yet, and the temperature is all ready dropping to hell."
He shorter of the two men groaned. "I know, it sucks."
They proceeded to discuss the chilly winds until the park came into view and they stepped within the property. Sidewalks within the park itself were empty albeit the two men, and When Oki and Nishihiro were forced to walk closer together to share the strips of cement the former felt a light blush on his face.
The walk would be brief- it had to be if Oki was expected to wake up anywhere before noon- but deep within, Oki felt himself wishing that it wouldn't be. Because ever since Ryota's childish, meaningless comment…
"And maybe Kii-chan and Papa can even get married!"
…Oki felt himself wanting to elongate his time with Nishihiro often. A little too often.
It was never something Oki had considered before. Never in his life did Oki ever think he'd enter a relationship with another man, and certainly not his team mate from his high school baseball team, and certainly not Nishihiro. Not because he wasn't attractive, he was, and not because he wasn't funny or smart, again, he was both of those things… but because he was a man. And Oki didn't consider himself attracted to men.
What he was attracted to was intelligence, and kindness, and selflessness… and his roommate, his best friend, the father of the child that Oki had committed his life to- was every single one of these things, and he failed to realize it until a toddler made a meaningless comment. And he just so happened to have the body of a man.
But it was a tall man, with dark hair and a beautiful face, and a smile that made Oki's heart melt.
Ok, maybe Oki considered himself attracted to some men.
"Hey, let's sit for a while. I know you're exhausted."
Did Oki mention "compassionate" in that list of "perfect man" qualities?
The two men followed suit and plopped down on the nearest bench- their sides making slight contact, which of course made Oki blush like a teenage girl. The chef threw his head back and sighed in exhaustion, causing Nishihiro to smile worriedly in his direction. "I'm sorry, we should have just went home."
"No," Oki replied before yawning. "I'm glad we're here. We never get to just chat anymore."
Nishihiro nodded, looking up into the night sky. "I know. I'm glad you got a job and all, but it get's lonely every now and then." Oki bit his lip, a tinge of guilt poking his heart. "I miss you these days."
At that, Oki couldn't help but blush a little. He looked away and sighed, trying to take the color from his cheeks.
Fuck, everything was going so well. He had found deeper meaning in life, he could wake up in the mornings with something to look forward to- but now he was hopelessly in love. Not only with his new life and the little toddler that he had devoted his life to after such a short time of knowing him, but now he was head over heels for another man.
And what a perfect man he was- but that didn't change the fact that he was a straight man. He had a son, for God's sake.
"I miss you too." He mumbled. The silence that followed was tangible.
"Hey," Nishihiro said suddenly and quietly, breaking the silence. Oki looked at him to see his eyes a bit downcast. Worried, Oki lightly touched his elbow.
"Hey." Oki replied softly, worry evident in his response. "Something wrong?"
Nishihiro sighed. "This is a really stupid question that's typically reserved for paranoid teenagers," he shook his head, blushing. "But are you mad at me?"
The chef's eyes widened. He felt his heart slam against his rib cage. "Oh, God, no!" He told him, the light touch turning into a grip on his arm. "Why would you think that? I could never… I mean… whatever I did to make you think… I'm so sorry, Nishihiro, whatever I did-"
The doctor laughed, interrupting Oki's chaotic stuttering and causing slight relief to fill Oki's heart. Nishihiro smiled warmly at him. "I knew you would freak out. You didn't do anything in particular, you've just been acting strange lately." He reached up and gently tussled his friend's hair, causing Oki to blush yet again. "It's nice to know that you care enough to worry about it, though."
Oki fought through the raging feelings within him to mutter a response. "H-how have I been…?"
Nishihiro rolled his eyes, smiling. "It's stupid, maybe I'm just paranoid. I can't help but feel as if you get jumpy or scared whenever I'm around. Like you have to be on your toes all the time." He dropped his hand from Oki's hair and onto the shorter man's knee. "Again, that may be just me."
His touch burned into Oki, his smile and his eyes made the chef light-headed. God, if this wasn't love, Oki was too scared to know what was. "I… I'm sorry." he whispered. "I don't know what you're talking about."
The doctor sighed. "It may be just me, then. I'm weird like that."
Oki shook his head violently. "No, you're not weird. You're incredibly intelligent." Nishihiro blushed at the compliment, but Oki kept going. "You just notice things about me that I can't even notice about myself. That's… that's something that no one's been able to do before." Every word was hushed and void of reluctance. After the sentence was out, Oki found himself tearing up.
"Look at me," he said, laughing sadly as he wiped his tears away with his fingers. "I'm so damn happy to be where I am that I cry every time I think about what kind of mark you and your son have done for me."
Nishihiro stared wide-eyed, not knowing what else needed to be done. "Oh, Oki…" he whispered, lifting a hand to help rid of the shorter man's tears. "I didn't mean to upset you."
But the chef shook his head rapidly again, looking into Nishihiro's eyes. "No!" he cried desperately. "I'm happy! I'm not upset! You take the time to notice things about the way I carry out myself, and ask me about them." he looked downward and grabbed Nishihiro's hand that rested on his knee and held it tightly in his own. "Before I got back in touch with you, I was so empty. I thought I could live without anyone to lift me up, and I could, but not happily. I didn't know fulfillment until I saw your and Ryota's smile."
He smiled through his tears and Nishihiro smiled back. "I'm happy to be here."
The taller of the two felt his own tears swell in his eyes. "I'm happy you're here too." He squeezed Oki's hand. "You've filled a dark emptiness that Ryoko left when she passed. For both me and my son."
Oki shook his head, his smile faltering. "I could never fill that. I would never ask you to even relatively allow me to take her place."
Nishihiro chuckled. "Let me explain."
Oki sighed, feeling a gorgeous light illuminate his soul. He couldn't believe he was having this moment with someone- that he could actually cry and smile and laugh with someone so freely, without feeling the need to hide what he was feeling or feel ashamed.
Nishihiro gently wiped another tear away from Oki's cheek before speaking. "Listen, I…" he sighed blissfully. "I don't know how to say this."
Oki shrugged. "You can just put it bluntly."
Nishihiro laughed at him and distanced himself, no longer making physical contact with the chef, causing Oki to feel nervous. The doctor took a deep breath and began.
"When I first met you… a long ass time ago at Nishiura, you were one of the only ones that I really hung out with." His eyes lit up with memories, and Oki struggled not to blush at reminiscing on some of the stupid things they did as teens. "We were best friends, and, to be honest, you were the first person I thought of when I considered calling someone after I lost my girlfriend."
Oki shook his head. "I wish you would have."
"I mean… I just remembered the conversations we would have, and that goofy grin you had sometimes. It brought me peace, you know? Remembering what we had."
The shorter of the two continued to blush. He couldn't believe Nishihiro had thought that fondly of him, even before he made a more permanent mark in the doctor's life.
"And then, boom! Like the Gods had seen me thinking about you all the time, in you come to that little restaurant while I'm eating lunch with Ryota. I couldn't believe it."
Thinking about you all the time… If Oki was fucking dreaming, he was going to kill something when he woke up.
"Seeing how life went from there- you taking care of Ryota as much as you did, loving him as if he were your own… Watching the bond you built with him reminded me of why it was I was so drawn to you when we were younger. You really are an amazing person to me."
Oki couldn't feel his face. It may have been from the cold, but he couldn't feel his fingertips either. Or his toes. Or his entire body. All that came to his senses was the rapid pounding of his heart in his chest. He looked downward, mentally trying to still his erratic heartbeat. "I'm nothing special, Nishihiro."
"To me, you are." It was almost a whisper, but still had depth to the tone. Oki looked up to see Nishihiro staring at him, and their eyes locked in an almost passionate stare. "That's what I wanted to tell you tonight… that… you're something to me. That you're family to me. You and my son… are everything, Oki."
The dark-headed man couldn't tear his gaze away. Tears returned on cue, and Oki made no attempt to stop them. His heart was ramming. His head was swimming. His lungs rioted in his body, telling him that if he didn't tell Nishihiro how he felt now, as in right now, he never would, or could.
"I love you." Oki whispered through his tears. He saw Nishihiro's eyes widen to an almost impossible size. "I can't lie to myself anymore and if I don't tell you now, then I don't think I ever will."
He didn't know if it were a good time to be relieved or afraid. He had finally gotten it off of his chest, and while he was grateful to have that load off of him, it was then that the possible consequences all came to his head at the same moment- Nishihiro finding it revolting and kicking Oki out and God forbid, Oki never seeing he or Ryota again. He suddenly regret ever coming to the park- Nishihiro's eyes were still wide as saucers and his mouth was slightly open. Oki looked down in embarassment… perhaps that was the wrong time to-
"You mean… as a lover?" Nishihiro exhaled heavily. "Not as family or as a friend, but as in-"
"Yes." Oki mumbled miserably. "I know it's strange, and I know you don't like men. But I had to tell you-"
Nishihiro cut him off with a strange sound ripped from his throat. Oki looked up at him confused, to see his best friend holding back a massive laugh. The chef's eyebrows folded into an offended shape as Nishihiro burst into uncontrollable laughter.
Oki stared at him for a small moment, not knowing how to react. He was glad that Nishihiro wasn't sickened or offended by his confession, but at the same time- he was laughing at him! Oki had just spilled his heart out, tears and all, and now the love of his life was cracking up, doubled over in near-hysterics.
He surfaced, sitting up straight, tears of laughter evident in his eyes, trying to catch his breath. Without hesitation, and before he could fully realize what it was he was doing, Oki pulled back his fist and hit him hard in the back of the head.
Shocked at himself, the chef panicked. "I-I'm sor-" No… Oki wasn't going to apologize! Nishihiro was making fun of him! "No, I'm not sorry! G-grow up!"
Nishihiro stroked his wound on the back of his head while muttering profanities in the midst of his pain for a moment, then looked up at Oki and giggled slightly.
Oki groaned. "Come on, this whole conversation is embarrassing enough, what the hell is so funny? Why are you laughing?"
The taller of the two men sighed deeply to calm himself before he gently and lovingly pulled Oki into a warm embrace. Confused but nonetheless overjoyed, Oki began to stutter again. "N-Nishi-"
"I'm laughing because… because my life is turning into a teenage romance novel." He sighed in Oki's ear and Oki felt his face heat up. "I'm laughing because I never, ever thought something this ridiculous and fictitious could ever happen to someone like me. I'm laughing because… this shit isn't supposed to happen in real life, and certainly not with your best friend from high school."
Nishihiro brought himself face to face with Oki, both of their gazes locked on the other's. "I'm laughing because… I'm so fucking happy, I don't know what else to do."
In that second, as his best friend, roommate, ex-teammate and loved one softly told him that he not only accepted Oki's feelings, but was happy with them, the world faded away. Anything that had ever come into his life before, anything that ever made him unhappy, in that moment did not exist. All that was, was Nishihiro. Unable to control himself, Oki kissed him, loudly and harshly, never wanting to leave his embrace.
He literally crawled into the taller man's lap, his tongue desperately stroking the innards of Nishihiro's willing mouth and swollen lips- the doctor held him tightly, lovingly, as if the two had loved each other and known about it for decades. There, on a bench in a park late into the silent hours of the night, with stars hovering over them, Oki allowed himself to fall, and to be caught- and to relish in something that he wanted, hell, he needed to feel. He didn't hold back and he didn't feel ashamed, because where he was, and what he was feeling, was making him happy and whole, and he'd be damned if he was going to be embarrassed by that.
He softly, reluctantly released Nishihiro's lips long enough for them to exchange eye contact one more time before they resumed their affectionate touches and kisses and whispers.
It was late, and dark, and they were in public, but they couldn't bring themselves to care. They had been waiting their entire lives for a moment like this- where they could want the same thing that wanted them.
Oki closed his eyes and basked in Nishihiro's scent- he made a mental note to thank Ryota for his meaningless comments later.
"…and I might be in town that week if you want to grab lunch or something, Oki-sensei…"
"You know, I'm not your boss anymore, Yusa." Oki replied, wrist deep in dish water as he scrubbed Ryota's favorite cup clean, his cell phone held between his shoulder and right ear. "I haven't been for a year and a half now. You can stop calling me sensei."
"Sorry. It's a habit, Kazutoshi."
"My point exactly. How's married life?"
Oki finished up on washing the dishes, scoffing. "As if." he replied sassily, drying his hands off. "I think I've got a while before that happens."
Ryota sprinted into the kitchen, backpack and t-shirt in a messy yet charming disarray. He saw his Kii-chan on the phone and refrained from speaking, instead simply throwing his arms up for a hug before he would head off to school. Oki smiled warmly as he kneeled to embrace the young child.
"I got the picture you emailed me- the boy looks just like his Father with bigger eyes." Yusa said as Oki kissed the top of Ryota's head. The child ran off outside, excited and energetic as usual, his father struggling with a tie as he entered the kitchen.
"And as for your friend… you did well, Oki-sensei."
Oki chuckled. "Thanks." He reached up to help his lover with his tie, earning a thankful grin from the taller man. The two exchanged a quick kiss and farewellsbefore Nishihiro, too, was out the door.
Oki carried on brief converation with his ex-employee for a while before bidding her farewell and pouring himself a well-deserved cup of hot tea. With his lover and what he supposed was his adoptive son gone, the house was silent- too silent. It reminded him of the overbearingly quiet days before he had been reunited with Saitama, and he was tempted to call Yusa back just so he wouldn't feel alone.
But in his heart he knew that this was much different then what his life used to be. This time, he could look forward to that quiet being broken with a loving family. He could look forward to warm kisses and elementary school crafts and intimacy. He could go to bed at night next to the person he loved and that person be holding him when he woke up.
He felt guilty, all of the sudden, for comparing his life now to what his life was. This was the present; the beautiful present that Oki had never seen coming.
He went to the bedroom that he used to stay in before he and Nishihiro shared the master as a couple. He set his tea down on an end table and sighed at the sight of it. It was literally a place for transition from dull, grey life to colorful days of romance and passion. He appreciated it- it was here that he would get to know Ryota, it was here that he was free from his lonely days up north and it was here that he talked on the phone with Yusa day by day about everything and nothing.
On a whim, Oki started going through his old things- cookbooks, an old address book full of his publishers' contact information, and a spiral notebook that was blank except for the first few pages. He flipped it open to see the first few sentences of an autobiography that never was. Laughter came, but he repressed it, remembering how embarrassed and how miserable he was at the idea of trying to put how lame and lifeless his history was on paper.
And if the assignment had been moved to now- now he could write about Ryota, the little gluttonous tyrant that ran around growling at everything, including the family cat that he had brought home one afternoon, yet regardless of his chaotic nature was still loved endlessly by Oki. He could've written about Nishihiro, the wonderful father and ex-teammate that made Oki's heart swim, the only person in the entire world that could make Oki feel as if he were royalty.
At this, the chef sighed.
He took the old notebook, the address book, and the cookbooks and tossed them all in the garbage.
He had moved on from all that bull shit. Now, he had hope. Now, he had a reason. He had happiness and he had peace.
He had family.
And if he never had anything else to his name for the rest of his life besides that, he honestly thought he could continue to be the happiest man on this earth.
EIGHTEEN FUCKING PAGES IN MICROSOFT WORD.
Nyaww, that's okay though. It had a happy ending for everyone involved.
NishiOki literally has NOTHING. I encourage all fans of the pairing to use their beautiful talents and show this couple some love.
Oofuri as a writing fan base is small in number in general- so let's make it a big big deal by putting our ideas out there, by showing the world our love for gaysball.
Cause furreal furreal, the Oofuri fan base is like one big happy family. We respect each other's opinions, we love every character, and we support the art side of the whole thing.
Also, MizuIzu day is coming up SOON. JULY 8, WE DINE LIKE KINGS!
(Series OTP in case you haven't noticed. AND YOU HAD ALL BETTER BE ON TUMBLR FOR THE PARTY.)
Anynoodle. Thanks for reading this LONG ASS FUCKING ONE-SHOT and show the love with some reviews!