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Time after time

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It’s been a year since his confession to Kouhei. One year filled with happiness, uncertainty, and cooking.

Kouhei didn’t change much during this year. He was still teaching at school, but he seemed much calmer and happier than he did before. Now Tsumugi, Yagi, Iida and Kojika weren’t the only people in his life, they had other friends, which made Kouhei’s life brighter. But it was visible that spending time with Tsumugi always made Kouhei the happiest.

Tsumugi has grown quite a bit, and she was as fixated on food and eating as ever. She started helping more with cooking pretty quickly, and now she even made her own simple dishes, which made Kouhei and Iida really proud. If she keeps it up she will probably end up being as good a cook as her mother was, maybe even better.

She was also really smart, Yagi was occasionally tutoring her and helping with her homework while she was at his place. She caught on on everything in an instant, which was great because he wasn’t sure whether his explanations were any good. He was never really the type that studied diligently, the knowledge sort of always stuck in his memory whether he wanted it or not, and that was probably the only good quality about him.

But despite everything Tsumugi was still a child and sometimes she got really curious and questioned him about simple things, and didn’t let him rest till he told her everything he knew. Sometimes she just wanted to watch the TV or took a nap.

She was spending less time at his place these days as she had many friends now and visited them pretty often. At times he caught himself feeling a bit lonely without her constant chatter, but it was ok, he was busy with work anyway. For the past year he has been exploring foreign cuisine and learning new techniques to incorporate in his dishes. He was especially fond of French pastries and desserts, which he brought over to Kouhei at times.

His life has been good till now. It took him some time to get over his heartbreak, and maybe during this period he has been a bit gloomy and got lost in thoughts at times, but the change was very subtle. In the past Kouhei wouldn’t have probably noticed it, but considering what’s happened between them Kouhei immediately knew what was going on, Yagi could tell by just taking a one look at his worried eyes. He didn’t want to cause any problems for Kouhei, but it turns out heartbreaks affect people in a way that can’t be ignored.

Yagi was feeling off for two weeks, although he didn’t let Tsumugi notice, and put extra effort to follow on the conversations with her as usual - his problems weren’t supposed to reflect on her.

He needed this time to deal with his feelings, and he was grateful that Kouhei didn’t ask questions or pushed him for answers, but instead treated him as warmly as ever. Thanks to that he had an opportunity to calm down and try to adjust to the constant ache he felt in his chest. He should have been prepared as he was waiting for this to come for years, but there was no use, despite knowing better it still hurt, and he couldn’t do anything about it.

After that episode their lives stabilized and they went back to how they used to be, maybe even became a bit closer.

Now he had the job he liked and he was close to the people he loved, there was really nothing to complain about. But at times he felt a bit uneasy because he saw the longing in Tsumugi’s eyes when she was seeing other children with their mothers. She definitely missed Tae but, more importantly, she was getting older and mother’s care was something that couldn’t be replaced, and he was painfully aware of that. To boot Kouhei was still young and he deserved to find someone who would fill the hole in his heart that was left after Tae has passed away. She would have wanted for Kouhei to fall in love again and for Tsumugi to have a mother.

It was a simple truth, and that’s why he couldn’t be so selfish as to interfere in this family’s happiness. His feelings were not important, he has already said what he wanted to. He knew from the beginning that he had little chances of having his love returned.

The day when Kouhei will find the second love of his life will definitely come, although he wasn’t sure whether he was ready to see him with a new lover just yet, he probably never will. And this time it will hurt more than it did with Tae. But both Kouhei and Tsumugi deserved to be happy.

The days went by and he was now used to his routine of going between his work, Iida’s and Kouhei’s places, and working on new recipes. The life wasn’t always easy as he had to cope with difficult clients at times, but it was good nevertheless, and he was glad for everything he had.

However it quickly turned out that, once again, Yagi wasn’t prepared for what life had in store.

One day he noticed that Kouhei’s behavior was weird. Sometimes he was staring into the distance his expression blank, and was pretty forgetful, which maybe wasn’t so untypical of him, but it definitely didn’t happen so often before. Not to mention, at times, he looked troubled as if he was considering some important matter and hasn’t decided what to do about it yet.

His behavior was puzzling, until Yagi realized that Kouhei behaved similarly when he was thinking about dating Tae. He couldn’t say he was 100% sure about this, but Kouhei had this very thoughtful expression when Tsumugi was talking about her friends’ mothers, and that had never happened before.

It was good, he would be less worried if there was someone taking care of Kouhei and Tsumugi. But, nevertheless, it bothered him a bit that his friend was still keeping silent about it. It’s not like he promised anything to Yagi, so he didn’t have to be secretive about it, he won’t be so easily hurt, not more than he had already been.

“Is everything alright?” he finally asked Kouhei one day, when he saw that his friend has been lost in thoughts once again.

“Oh, yes. Thank you for worrying,” was the answer. Then Kouhei smiled warmly at him, and before Yagi could prompt him to say something more, Tsumugi came in and they changed the topic.

Usually Kouhei told him about everything, yet he didn’t come to Yagi this time to talk about the thing that was bothering him. It was the first time he felt as if Kouhei was hiding something from him, or more like Yagi wasn’t reliable enough for Kouhei to share this particular secret with him. He was aware that such thoughts weren’t true, and he was probably exaggerating as he was too emotionally involved, but he was at a loss. On the one hand he wanted for Kouhei to rely on him as they were friends, on the other he knew that Kouhei had to live his own life and needed his space as well.

He was torn between those feelings and didn’t know what to do. So from that day on he made sure to pay more attention to Kouhei’s behavior without taking any action yet, especially while Tsumugi noticed something was off about her dad and started asking questions. If Kouhei felt as if he had to deal with something on his own so be it, he would support him in any way he could even if it meant just watching from afar.

This situation lasted for a month, and by this time it made Yagi a bit worried. He hasn’t seen Kouhei in such a state since a long time. Although he was smiling and living his everyday life normally, Yagi could see that there was constantly something at the back of his mind. It was visible in small gestures like blank stares, hands suspended mid-air for a few seconds while chopping vegetables, tapping of his fingers on the table.

Tsumugi felt that, despite her dad assuring her that everything was perfectly fine, something was off, so she tried to cheer him up as best as she could handing Kouhei her drawings and behaving herself during their cooking sessions.

Unexpectedly the answer to all his questions came up during one of their usual visits at Iida’s place while they were all preparing a dinner together.

“Sensei,” Iida started, leaning closer so Tsumugi, who was preparing rice balls with Kojika in the adjacent room, couldn’t hear her. “I am sorry for asking such questions out of the blue, but have you considered remarrying?”

Kouhei held his breath but continued chopping carrots not letting others notice that their conversation caught his attention.

There was a short pause and then, “Oh, where did it come from?”

Kouhei sounded a bit surprised but not as much as Yagi would expect him to be, which probably meant he has already been asked this question before.

“Sorry, sensei, it’s just…” Iida trailed off for a bit. “Tsumugi has told me in secret that your family will get bigger soon, and so I just... It’s not like I want to meddle, and it’s not like you have to tell me anything!” Iida started stumbling over her words, clearly embarrassed about the whole situation.

But the thing she said…

He took a deep breath bracing himself for the worst, and listened carefully while preparing vegetables, which then he added to the bullion. He chanced a look at Kouhei who abandoned his work of seasoning the meat, and tried to stop the stream of words falling from Iida’s mouth.

When Iida finally calmed down, Kouhei scratched his chin looking to the side and searching for the right answer.

“I didn’t expect Tsumugi to go around saying such things,” he started, a bit embarrassed.

“Sorry, sensei, she probably meant something different and I just interpreted it wrongly,” she quickly replied, although she still looked rather curious.

Kouhei took a deep breath and for a moment looked conflicted.

“I should have known that Tsumugi won’t keep it to herself.” He scratched his neck and then added, “Lately she has been asking me about getting a pet.”

Iida smiled in delighted at that – she loved animals.

“I told her that I will think about it, but I didn’t promise anything. Really, she jumps to conclusions so quickly.”

“That’s fantastic!” Iida exclaimed. “Tsumugi would be such a good owner! I can already see her ridding on a back of a big dog.” Iida’s eyes almost sparkled.

Kouhei looked troubled and sighed once more.

“That’s the problem. I asked our landlord but he said he doesn’t allow animals in our building, so I will have to tell her that her wish won’t come true. She will be so disappointed.”

“Oh,” Iida’s enthusiasm immediately faded away. “I am so sorry, sensei. Isn’t there anything that can be done?”

“Hmm, there is a way out…” Kouhei trailed off.

“But?”

“We could buy a small animal like mouse or a fish, but I don’t know whether Tsumugi would be happy about it.”

Yagi listened carefully to the whole conversation his mood jumping from anxious to relieved within second depending on Kouhei’s words.

He started wondering whether this could be the thing that was on Kouhei’s mind all this time, but quickly dismissed the idea coming to the conclusion that it wasn’t a problem his friend hasn’t faced before.

“Why don’t you just ask her?” he finally said to Kouhei and Iida, who were considering the best solution to the whole situation. “Tsumugi will be probably happy with any pet she gets as long as she will be able to name it and hug it.”

“You think so?” Kouhei asked hopefully. “When I mentioned it last time, she immediately refused the idea.”

“Sure, just take her to the pet shop, she will definitely fall in love with a hamster or something like that, case closed.”

Kouhei smiled at him and nodded.

“It seems like a great idea, thank you.”

“So in the end your family will get bigger,” Iida added overjoyed.

Even he smiled at that. Tsumugi will be delighted with having a pet of her own.

“Oooh, sensei so you did agree on going to the omiai?” Kojika interrupted, upon entering the room. Tsumugi was nowhere to be seen. “I didn’t think you will propose so quickly!”

Yagi for a moment forgot about the whole world and was just staring, absolutely stunned, at Kojika. It was the first time he was hearing about this.

“Omiai?” the question escaped from his mouth before he even realized he was saying it out loud.

“Where did you hear about it?” Kouhei asked, visibly embarrassed. His cheeks has gotten a little red and he started fumbling with his fingers.

So it was true.

“I happened to go by the teacher’s longue when I heard your conversation with Akane sensei,” Kojika shrugged.

“Shinobu! You shouldn’t be eavesdropping!” Iida reprimanded her friend, but he didn’t care. He was now looking intensely at Kouhei, trying to take in all his gestures and words to read the situation.

“You should say sorry to sensei.”

“It’s ok,” Kouhei finally said, stopping the argument. “It’s true that I got an offer to go to omiai.” Iida gasped, and Koujika murmured something along the lines, “I told you.”

Yagi felt cold shiver running down his back. This was the moment he dreaded the most, but it actually explained the past few weeks. Kouhei was probably unsure whether he should go to omiai because of Tsumugi. She was most important to Kouhei and if she didn’t like the idea of her dad having another wife or got angry at him for even suggesting such option, then it would lead to an argument, which Kouhei would certainly like to avoid.

He also understood why his friend didn’t seek help from him in regard to this matter. Knowing Kouhei he didn’t want to further hurt Yagi’s feelings, but if he had a say in this, he would rather have his feelings hurt again than be excluded from Kouhei and Tsumugi’s lives like that.

He wasn’t sure how he was feeling right now, so he went back to cooking and only now noticed that he had burned the bullion that was simmering on the stove. He cursed internally and reduced the flame under the pot.

Because of this he has missed part of the conversation and when he started paying attention again he heard Kouhei saying, “My coworkers even brought me albums with pictures of candidates, it was so embarrassing. I didn’t know people were still doing it in this time and age.”

The girls laughed.

“So sensei, did you choose your bride?” Shinobu teased.

Yagi didn’t want to listen to this conversation, but he knew it was probably better for him to hear it now, and remind himself that no matter what Kouhei deserved to be happy. If being happy meant new relationship then he will support his friend as best as he could.

“What are you talking about?” they suddenly heard a high pitched voice as Tsumugi entered the kitchen.

“Nothing special, we were… we were just talking about cooking!” Iida supplied, smiling at the little girl.

“Ok. What are you doing right now?” Tsumugi continued, climbing on one of the chairs and looking at the ingredients displayed on the counter.

“Ah, I forgot about the meat,” Kouhei suddenly said, remembering that they were in the middle of cooking. “Koujika-san, can you check what other ingredients do we need?”

“Sure thing!”

Everyone went back to their assigned tasks and quickly forgot about the conversation that took place just a minute ago. Everyone except Yagi, who was still mulling over it.

He understood something the moment the word omiai came up – he was definitely not ready to see Kouhei with someone else, but he had to get over it. If he keeps bottling all those feelings inside, he will never be able to move forward.

He squeezed tightly the spoon in his hand.

He couldn’t believe that after a year since he has been turned down he was still hopelessly in love with Kouhei.

“Something smells bad. Kya! Yagi-chan burned the bullion!” Tsumugi exclaimed unexpectedly, pointing at the pot, which contents changed the colour to dark brown, and then laughed. “If you want I can teach you how to cook!” she added, proudly puffing out her chest.

“You are twenty years too early to try to teach me how to cook.” He put a hand on Tsumugi’s head and tousled her hair making it into disheveled mess to her utter horror.

After that Tsumugi changed places with Kouhei, so Yagi couldn’t reach her, and then stuck her tongue at him.

“I will add peppers in your portion if you don’t behave,” he warned her, pulling his brows together to look more menacing.

She gasped.

“You wouldn’t!”

“I will if you don’t help your dad,” he added, turning his eyes at Kouhei who was smiling at them both.

Yagi quickly averted his eyes, pretending that he was concerned about the bullion. After a moment he decided to redo it from the scratch as it would probably spoil the whole dish. He didn’t remember when was the last time he had burned such a simple thing.  

The rest of the day went smoothly. They finished cooking and then ate the dinner talking about the events of the past week and so on.

He really liked this joyous atmosphere, but the thought about Kouhei dating someone was still at the back of his mind, and he couldn’t enjoy himself as much as usual.

Yagi accompanied Kouhei and Tsumugi on their way home and right after he waved his goodbye, to his surprise, Tsumugi run back to him.

“Yagi-chan, are you sad?” she asked, tipping her head to the left and looking at him with her big, innocent eyes. “Don’t worry, daddy will make you happy!”

Then she hugged him tightly.

“Um, ok?” he answered, a little stunned at this display of affection, and only then she went back to her dad who was waiting for her few meters away.

What was that about?

Yagi came back to his flat, but after half an hour he still couldn’t find a place for himself. He tried to clean a bit, then he went to the kitchen and opened the new cooking book he just bought, but he somehow didn’t feel like making anything right now.

Resigned, he came back to the main room and turned on the TV. He didn’t really pay attention to what was happening on the screen as his thoughts were still filled with the events that took place during today’s dinner.

“Omiai.”

This sounded serious. They weren’t really able to hear Kouhei’s reply since Tsumugi interrupted their conversation, but no matter whether it was omiai or a normal date, sooner or later Kouhei will find someone.

He sighed and lit the cigarette. He usually didn’t smoke at home, but today he didn’t had the strength to go on the balcony.

It was still hard for him to admit that, during all these years, he still kept hopelessly clinging to his feelings for Kouhei. After he was turned down over a year ago, he really did try to forget about Kouhei and move on with his life, but every guy he has met at the bar always had some flaws that turned him off, and they never went further than flirting.

At the beginning he was sure it was because he wasn’t used to this, but later on he realized that he was subconsciously comparing those guys to Kouhei all along. When he found the source of his failed attempts at dating, he stopped trying altogether. No matter what he did he would probably always choose a partner who is similar to Kouhei and it would cause even more suffering if his partner found out. That would end up in a pretty big mess and he didn’t want to involve Kouhei and Tsumugi in his personal matters. Besides, it would be unfair towards the other person, he didn’t want to ruin someone’s life because he was looking for distraction.

He has been single all this time and he didn’t really mind. As long as he could lead his peaceful life he was content, although the longing he felt at times at the memory of Kouhei was hard to get over so easily.

Yagi sighed and rubbed his temple.

He was definitely too old for all of this.

* * *

Later that week, Kouhei called Yagi and invited him over for a supper and beer. He agreed, after checking his working schedule, it wasn’t often they could spend a peaceful evening together just the three of them. Yagi worked in shifts and Tsumugi had homework to do, not to mention her friends came over pretty often, so even if they met during the day they were usually surrounded by a bunch of kids.

Evenings were thus special, they watched movies or played games and then he and Kouhei were left alone after Tsumugi went to bed.

If he had to choose he would say that these moments were his favourite. He loved cooking with Kouhei and Tsumugi at Iida’s place, but right here, when they were alone, just the three of them, he could truly relax and just enjoy their company.

When he knocked at the door he was feeling pretty relaxed, until Kouhei opened up to let him in. Suddenly Yagi felt a knot in his stomach tightening unpleasantly, and he realised he might have been lying to himself all along about him being ok with the whole omiai thing.

He entered the room and Tsumugi immediately hugged him and then started pulling him by the hand.

“Yagi-chan, Yagi-chan, you have to see Mr Fluff!” she chirped enthusiastically.

“Mr Fluff?” he asked, and looked at Kouhei who had a really strange expression on his face - it was quite funny.

He let Tsumugi lead the way to her room, listening to her constant chatter.

“Daddy bought me a pet!” she exclaimed proudly, and pointed to the aquarium filled with small brunches and leaves. Under the lamp, on one of the stones, there was lying a small lizard.

“A lizard?” he asked, stunned. It wasn’t moving, but when he knocked on the glass with his finger, the lizard stuck its tongue out of its mouth and quickly hid it back.

“It’s a gecko! Isn’t Mr Fluff pretty? He looks so weird, but he is cute!”

A lizard called Mr Fluff. The absurd of this situation was getting way beyond his imagination.

He turned to Kouhei who was standing in the entrance to the room with a sour expression on his face.

Yagi snorted and then covered him mouth with his hand, trying to stifle the laughter.

“A lizard,” he repeated, absolutely amused.

Kouhei sighed and rubbed his neck.

“We went to the pet shop, but she was so mesmerized with the gecko that she didn’t even want to hear about a hamster.”

“Geckos are awesome! You have to feed them bugs and crickets!” Tsumugi supplied, and Yagi started shaking from holding back laughter, because the face Kouhei made when Tsumugi came up to him to show him the cricket moving in her palm, was priceless. Kouhei was never good with insects but he could tolerate them as long as they didn’t come near him. Right now he looked as if he wanted to run away as far as he could.

“I believe we should let Mr Fluff rest for the day. He has to get used to his new home, so put the cricket back to the box and make sure they won’t escape.”

“Yes!” Tsumugi replied. Her eyes were sparkling. When she put the cricket away, despite her dad’s words, she settled in front of the aquarium and pulled faces at the lizard, which seemed unmoved by her actions.

Yagi was still shaking with laughter. He went to his friend and put a hand on his shoulder whispering, “Good luck with the bugs,” to Kouhei’s utter horror.

After that he helped with making a supper and finally the three of them settled down. Tsumugi couldn’t hold her excitement and was going on and on about her new pet to the point when he and Kouhei couldn’t stand it anymore and tried to distract her with other things.

“Now, be a good girl and go to bed,” Kouhei said after two hours, putting the cards aside and stretching his back.

It was 8pm and it was already past the bedtime for Tsumugi, but she was so full of energy that they tried to tire her first, but to no avail.

“But I am not sleepy,” Tsumugi complained, puffing out her cheeks. She wasn’t happy at all about this situation.

“Mr Fluff will be lonely,” he said, giving Kouhei a look, which he instantly understood.

“Yes, if you won’t go to sleep, Mr Fluff will be all alone in your room and he will be sad,” Kouhei continued, putting on his sad expression. Tsumugi seemed to have believed him.

“Ah!” she clasped her tiny hands over her mouth. “I can’t leave Mr Fluff alone!” She then quickly went to wash her face and almost run back to her room.

Kouhei followed suit and tacked her in bed, giving her her usual kiss on the forehead.

Yagi didn’t have to see this scene to know how it looked like. He used to accompany Kouhei while he was putting Tsumugi to sleep, especially after Tae passed away. Now, as he didn’t want to disturb their precious time together, he was tagging along only from time to time, but usually he just waited in the other room for Kouhei to come back.

“Here.” He handed Kouhei a can of beer when he returned – he took it with a smile, visibly tired.

“Thanks,” came the soft reply. They both settled on the floor in front of the low table. “It was all pretty unexpected.”

Yagi chuckled.

“Yeah, I can imagine. Tsumugi truly is Tae’s daughter, only she would end up buying a lizard of all things.”

Kouhei smiled warmly at that, Yagi liked seeing this expression on his face.

Kouhei was fiddling with the can in his hands, but then put it down on the table not opening it just yet.

“At this rate I will die of heart attack,” Kouhei added. Yagi could almost imagine all the worst scenarios involving crickets forming in his friend’s head and he laughed.

“It’s not a laughing matter!”

“Sorry, but it’s just too funny. Tsumugi doesn’t realise yet, how much power she possesses. You should be careful or else she will wrap you around her little finger in the future.”

Kouhei made an incoherent noise and raised his eyes to the ceiling as if looking for the strength to handle all the future responsibilities.

“So, did you decide to go to omiai?” he asked suddenly.

He didn’t know what made him ask the question, it somehow emerged on its own. He only realised just now that the lack of transparent answer was probably the thing that kept him on edge for the past few days. He was worried about Kouhei’s and Tsumugi’s future, and so if Kouhei decided to start a new family, he wanted to support him as best as he could.

“I refused all of them,” Kouhei replied in his usual tone, looking back at Yagi, as if this revelation wasn’t anything special.

To him it certainly was.

“Why? Weren’t you lately thinking about going back to dating?”

Well, there was no reason anymore to pretend he didn’t know. While they were on the topic he could as well just confront Kouhei about it directly.

He itched for a cigarette. Lately he promised himself he will smoke less, but at times like this he regretted his decision.

“Did I looked like that to you?” Kouhei asked surprised.

Yagi just shrugged in his usual manner and tapped fingers on the table.

“You seemed really thoughtful lately, it wasn’t hard to add two to two.”

Kouhei chuckled.

“Sometimes I forget how perceptive you are,” he said with a smile. “Yes, I was thinking about finding someone.”

There it was, the thing he dreaded to hear all this time. He couldn’t take a breath for a second, but then came back to his senses and tried to stay focused - Kouhei’s and Tsumugi’s happiness was most important.

“That’s good. Did you already talk about it with Tsumugi?”

“Yes, we had a little chat about this,” Kouhei trailed off, adjusting his glasses out of a habit. “Surprisingly she warmed up to the idea pretty quickly, but wanted me to promise that I will never forget about Tae.”

Once again Tsumugi proved that, at times, she was way more mature for her age than he gave her credit for.

But it was fantastic news. He was worried that Tsumugi may throw a tantrum about it, he was relieved to hear otherwise.

“She is really something special,” he commented. “But it’s good to see that she is ok with changes. Tsumugi needs a mother.” He looked at Kouhei and smiled, trying to suppress the pain he felt in his chest. “Knowing you, you will find someone similarly wonderful to Tae who will love you and Tsumugi with all her hea-”

“Will you go out with me?”

Yagi stopped in his tracks and blinked twice. Kouhei was looking straight at him, with a small smile tugging at his lips.

“Hah, I haven’t asked this question in so many years, it feels almost as if I am back in school,” Kouhei continued in a light tone, but it was visible he was slightly nervous.

Yagi’s mouth has been hanging half open all this time.

He must have misheard something.

There is no way that Kouhei…

“I’ve been thinking about what I have and what I want to do with my life,” Kouhei looked down at his intertwined fingers and then back at him. “Your confession back then really surprised me, but when our lives stabilized and I started thinking about it, your feelings seemed so apparent. I still can’t believe I haven’t noticed earlier. It was probably a bit cruel.”

Yagi came back to his senses at that.

“Don’t blame yourself, I made it so you wouldn’t notice.”

Kouhei nodded.

“And I am still a bit mad about it,” his friend admitted.

“Mad?” Yagi expected many things, but this certainly wasn’t one of them.

Kouhei only smiled.

“At first sight you seem like the type who just goes with the flow, but you tend to supress your feelings, which isn’t good for you. I was always worried that you are carrying all the burden by yourself despite me and Tae being by your side.” Kouhei scratched his neck, the tips of his ears were red. “And you are doing so much for me and Tsumugi, I also want to support you in any way I can.”

“Wait, I am not following, what are you trying to say?” he asked, genuinely confused.

He never knew that Kouhei and Tae were so worried about him. Yes, Tae got a little protective of him when he started living alone, but he never thought it went beyond that.

But how did it connect to that question?

His friend took a deep breath and started from the scratch.

“I was never good with words, Tae was way better in that matter.” They both smiled. Yes, Tae was the soul of the party and despite her clumsiness she always knew what to say at the right time. “I thought about the past, and I realised that there were only two people in my life I felt so strong about.”

His breath hitched at that, and he squeezed his hand into a fist, trying to calm down. He didn’t want to jump to conclusions, he didn’t want to feel disappointed and have his heart broken again.

“I imagined scenario where you took the opportunity and confessed before I have met Tae, and the only answer I could give you was ‘yes’, because you were always important to me.”

“Being important doesn’t mean having feelings for the other person,” he said, furrowing his brows. If there was one thing he couldn’t do it was to let Kouhei confuse those two things. If they…If Kouhei started a relationship with anyone based on misinterpreted feelings, sooner or later it would end up in a disaster.

“Yes, but I do have them for you.”
“Are you sure you are not just grateful for all those years?” Yagi started. He had to make sure that Kouhei was fully aware of what he was asking for. Feelings were complicated, and they were together for such a long time it wouldn’t be difficult to misinterpret something. “It’s easy to mistake such feelings for love.”

Kouhei sighed loudly.

“Why are you always assuming the worst scenario? It’s one of your bad habits.”

Yagi tried to smile but his muscles didn’t want to cooperate, so he just kept on looking at Kouhei with a neutral expression.

“I see why you are sceptical about this, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have fallen for you.” Yagi’s heart skipped a bit, and he felt faint all of a sudden. “I’ve been wondering all this time whether you still feel the same way, it has already been a year...” Kouhei made a short pause, but then continued. “I know I am late, but I would like to start a relationship with you. I mean, only if you are still interested.”

Kouhei, despite looking confident, was pretty nervous, Yagi could tell. They knew each other for too long for him not to notice. He still couldn’t believe that these past few weeks Kouhei was behaving strangely because he was wondering whether Yagi was still in love with him.

Kouhei kept on earnestly looking at Yagi, waiting for his answer, and it was like a dream. He felt the urge to pinch himself to check if this wasn’t just a hallucination.

“A-are you for real?” he finally stuttered, after what felt like eternity, not trusting his voice to speak louder than in a whisper.

“I am.”

“You are aware that I am a man, right?” he asked. He knew he was pushing Kouhei away, but he had to at least try and convince him that being in a relationship with a man was not a trivial matter.

“Of course I do, we had P.E. classes together at school, remember? We used to take showers together.”

“Please, stop,” he quickly said, feeling his cheeks getting warmer at the memory. It was absolutely embarrassing to hear it now in this situation.

He leaned on one hand, trying to hide his expression.

“What if I agreed?” he whispered, only after a moment taking a look at Kouhei who visibly relaxed.

“It would make me really happy,” his friend simply replied, and flashed a warm smile at him, which melted his uncertainty a little, but only a little.

He didn’t know what to do.

He dreamed about this moment for so many years now, that he was actually afraid of it becoming reality. What if this doesn’t turn out well, and they end up hating each other? He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to risk their friendship. And yet, when Kouhei was looking at him so hopefully, he couldn’t bring himself to say no, no matter the consequences.

Yagi energetically ruffled his hair with one hand and straightened a bit.

“I want to be with you,” he said. By now he was probably bright red, but he didn’t care, because Kouhei was smiling and looking at him with so much affection that Yagi felt overwhelmed. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Kouhei replied. “Thank you for waiting for me.”

Yagi felt something cracking inside of him, maybe it was his self-control or maybe the walls he had built around his heart for all these years, he couldn’t tell.

Now he couldn’t do anything but stare as though hypnotised at Kouhei who moved and sat right beside him.

Now they were so close he could smell the aftershave oil Kouhei used.

He felt the touch of smooth fingers on his own, and he felt brave enough to return the little squeeze that Kouhei gave him.

“May I?”

Yagi’s lips quivered dangerously, as if he was about to laugh. He couldn’t believe that after all that happened Kouhei still asked this question.

“You don’t have to ask,” he replied breathlessly.

It was a bit awkward at first, but then Kouhei slowly leaned closer, their eyes still locked till the last second, and then he felt a soft and warm touch of the lips pressed against his.

He felt relieved, he felt lost, and overjoyed. It was just a kiss, but it turned his whole world upside down within a second.

When they parted, he looked mesmerised at Kouhei whose expression changed to one he has never seen before. He instinctively reached to Kouhei but stopped midway, still not sure whether it was really alright for him to do this.

Kouhei took his hand and placed it on his cheek.

He swallowed loudly, feeling under fingers the spots on Kouhei’s skin, he missed during shaving.

“How will we explain this to Tsumugi?” he asked quietly, feeling the knot in his stomach tightening again.

“I already talked about it with her. She said that if it’s Yagi-chan she is ok with it. She seemed pretty excited about getting a new family member, especially while you are already like her second father.”

Kouhei was unbelievable. He was about to lecture him that telling Tsumugi about her dad wanting to be in a relationship with another man wasn’t a good idea, but instead he fell silent for a moment and combed fingers through his hair as the sudden thought occurred to him.

“She never asked for a pet, did she?” he finally asked, after realising the thing that should have been obvious to him from the start.

Kouhei shook his head.

“No, I made it up to hide the truth till I confessed,” Kouhei replied, a bit embarrassed. “And now I am stuck with a gecko.”

After a moment they both started laughing.

It was just so ridiculous.

They kept on laughing till Yagi felt his throat tightening and his breath hitching. The tears quickly overflowed and started running down his cheeks, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.

He started quietly sobbing, feeling the pain crushing his lungs and taking his breath away. He has been waiting for so many years – he was so relieved.

“I am sorry,” he heard Kouhei’s voice, and then felt arms tightening around him, pulling him into a warm embrace.

He couldn’t stop crying because it was real, it was real and his feelings have been finally accepted and returned.

At last, even he got his chance at being happy with the person he loved.