Spending Christmas with the Akagi family wasn’t his plan.
With his mother visiting relatives in Russia and Kiyoharu himself preferring to stay and spend a quiet New Year’s here in Japan, it just sort of fell into place. Hyoudou honestly wouldn’t have minded the time alone, but Gaju insisted, claiming this time of year isn’t meant to be spent that way.
Once Mako chimed in with agreement, Kiyoharu couldn’t back out even if he tried.
Gunma prefecture is picturesque and a lot quieter than Tokyo. Disappearing into a crowd is more difficult up here—Kiyoharu can’t decide if he likes it or not. It’s certainly a lot colder, more biting than what he’s used to, but it’s not unbearable. And while he won't admit it outright, the company he keeps more than makes up for it.
Still, it wouldn't hurt for things to be far less spaced out here in the country.
The nearest grocery store to the Akagi household is three kilometers one way on foot. Kiyoharu accompanies Gaju to the grocery store to pick up some ingredients for Mako, who insisted on baking her own Christmas cake instead of competing with the vultures at the bakery for one. A noble effort, sure, but after several blocks of clomping through snow, he’s not sure if it’s even worth it anymore.
Along the way, Gaju plays tourguide, more than happy to point out a few sites of interest and personal relevance, even if Kiyoharu pays only half attention. This isn’t new; Gaju’s always been talkative and proud of where he’s from so naturally he jumps at the chance to combine both. But his company’s always been there and unchanging, so Kiyoharu quietly appreciates it.
Kiyoharu says nothing, only looking up when Gaju blurts out a confused, “huh, that’s new.”
It’s an outdoor ice-skating rink. New, from the looks of it, and practically empty with only half a dozen or so skaters braving it. A row of shiny new rental skates lay on display up front by the entrance.
Gaju looks at them then nudges Kiyoharu with a knowing look, his eyes shining.
“No,” Kiyoharu says, defiant. Definitely not, he wants to add.
“Oh, c’mon!” Gaju insists, tugging at his sleeve. “Just for a few minutes. It’ll be fun.”
Kiyoharu looks around them for any and all possible routes of escape. Somehow, Gaju managed to position him between the entryway and the slushy streets. And just as well, because Kiyoharu doesn’t remember the way back to the house or the train station.
Still. He frowns beneath the folds of his scarf. “Absolutely not.”
“Alright, you ready?”
Gaju’s managed to convince him, somehow. He’s making a habit of that lately.
Kiyoharu keeps his gaze focused down on the several knots he’s tied into the laces of his rented ice skates. The fit is tight enough, and yet he’s unsure if they’d support him properly…
“Ki-yo-ha-ru.” Gaju slides into place in front of him, prompting his gaze to flick upwards. He holds his hand out.
Kiyoharu sighs and takes Gaju’s offered hand, hoping his grip isn’t tight or desperate enough to be detected through his gloves.
Gaju reaches down and takes Kiyoharu’s other hand then lets himself—and Kiyoharu, in tandem—glide back on the ice, away from the safety of the bench. “Don’t worry, I know you can’t skate.”
He’s right. Kiyoharu can’t skate. He fails to see how that’s supposed to make a difference, especially when his knees wobble and he, like the trained dancer that he is, reflexively digs his heels into the floor for stability. Except the floor isn’t hardwood and it isn’t staying put and he’s sliding and losing balance and oh god…
A group of girls giggling nearby snaps Kiyoharu out of it and brings a scowl to his face. They’re around his age, maybe a year or two younger, all in colorful patterned scarves and earmuffs and skirts. Just the type of girls Gaju would drool over.
Only now, Gaju doesn’t seem to even notice them. He’s too busy looking at Kiyoharu. And laughing—boisterous and hearty, like he means it, like it feels good for him to just let it out. His nose is bright red to match his cheeks.
He’s cute like this, Kiyoharu realizes with a surprisingly minimal amount of panic. He abruptly looks down at the swirls and track lines on the rink’s surface, but every once in a while, he finds himself sneaking a glance up at the other redhead.
If only to avoid being caught staring, Kiyoharu focuses on his feet and on moving properly, gets the hang of it rather quickly, and soon he’s able to slide along the ice with next to no help. A little wobbly and a lot less graceful than when he’s on the dancefloor, sure, but he’s moving on his own, which is miles beyond the quivering and clumsy fawn he was prior.
Gaju moves ahead of him, gradually relinquishing his grip on Kiyoharu’s arm until he’s barely grazing his fingertips. “Alright, I’m gonna let you go. You ready?”
No, Kiyoharu isn’t, but Gaju lets him go anyway.
There’s some unattractive flailing and Kiyoharu thinks he may have made some awkward, throaty noise in protest, but he does skate on entirely on his own for all of a few seconds before he realizes one, he didn’t learn to properly stop on skates, and two, he’s going to crash right into Gaju.
It’s not quite a crash, and he’s unscathed and still on two feet when he bumps into Gaju’s awaiting embrace.
Those girls are likely giggling and squealing at them. But all Kiyoharu can hear is his heart pounding in his ears; all he can think of is how close he and Gaju are.
Even when they practiced dancing together over the years, they’ve never been so close to where he can sniff out the faint traces of Gaju’s cologne.
Gaju laughs and it’s not that big of his—it’s a low laugh that rumbles deep in his chest that Kiyoharu can swear he feels. And for the first time since Kiyoharu’s known him, it’s music to his ears.
“Havin’ fun?” Gaju asks, his voice low and warm and close.
Feeling his face burn, Kiyoharu swallows thickly and pulls away. “Mako’s waiting for us.”
The grin fades from Gaju’s face. “Oh. Yeah.”
Back at Gaju’s house, they gorge themselves on a dinner of fried chicken and the Christmas cake that Mako baked for them. It’s delicious and unhealthy for dancers in training but for once, Kiyoharu doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about it.
As payment for the meal, Kiyoharu and Gaju clean the kitchen and wash dishes after whisking her away to a friend’s house.
“Havin’ fun?” quips Gaju while handing over a freshly rinsed plate to dry.
Kiyoharu pauses. Gaju had proposed that question earlier at the ice rink. Right when they’d collided and Kiyoharu began to realize certain things about himself he would have been better off not knowing.
Out the corner of his eye, he watches Gaju as he works, takes in the sharpness of his jawline and how everything else seems so soft in comparison. His long eyelashes, the slope of his slender nose, the curl of his hair along his neck, the natural pout of his lips…
Inexplicably, or perhaps not, saliva rushes into Kiyoharu’s mouth and he swallows it down, wipes madly at the wet plate before depositing it onto the dishrack. “That’s the second time you asked,” he remarks.
“You didn’t answer before,” Gaju says.
It’s quiet for a moment, then the water shuts off with a squeak. Gaju tears away from the sink, an annoyed frown marring his face. “Forget it,” he mutters before Kiyoharu can think to say anything.
Kiyoharu remains where he is, wordlessly staring after Gaju as he stomps over to the kotatsu and slumps, every range of his movement short and hard and lacking his typical dancer’s grace. Even the simple act of taking a mikan from the top of the table into his hands and peeling the skin carries with it an unmistakable layer of annoyance.
Kiyoharu follows him, decidedly more reserved, and sits right beside him. He says nothing, just stares, knowing his silence is more needling than saying anything outright.
Sure enough, Gaju huffs. “What?”
“You asked,” Kiyoharu says, simply.
“Yeah. I did.”
“And you didn’t let me answer.”
“You mean you didn’t answer,” Gaju points out, his voice unusually soft which makes it all the more biting. “And you ain’t gotta say nothin’ to say a lot, trust me. Actions speak louder’n words and all that.”
Point there, Kiyoharu thinks. So he doesn’t say anything for a while, aside from a thoughtful hum, until he moves and tugs at the sleeve of Gaju’s shirt—to capture his attention or to throw it off, he can’t say. He just knows that when the other dancer’s distinct brows lift, it’s his call to action. Leaning forward, Kiyoharu presses his mouth against Gaju’s. A brief, soft contact that he breaks almost as quickly as he’d initiated it.
For the first time since he’s ever known him, Gaju is utterly speechless. Eyes shocked wide, jaw slacked agape and quivering with all the things he wants to say but can’t.
He’s never looked cuter.
Kiyoharu reaches over, lets his fingers trace over that strong jaw, and pulls Gaju in close—so close, he can see his Adam’s apple bobbing when he swallows—and feels his own mouth stretch into a grin.
“I’m glad I’m here with you,” he says.
Gaju lets out a snort, and it’s as incongruent to what’s going on yet so distinctly him, that Kiyoharu can’t get upset. “Yeah, but are you havin’ fun?” he says in what’s presumably a teasing voice. He sounds kind of dopey.
Kiyoharu reaches down, laces his fingers in between Gaju’s own, and coaxes him into standing. Their grip is tentative and warm from Gaju’s sweat; Kiyoharu tightens it to reassure him.
“Ask me that later,” he says, then carefully nudges him in the direction of the bedroom.