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Wiser

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When they were twenty, Tomoya kissed Chuukichi during a particularly rough Christmas night.

The kissed lasted about seven seconds, and has had Chuukichi went through about a million kind of emotions from pure shocked to intense curiosity that may or may not have had him closed his eyes and let Tomoya leaned on him a bit more. But it had meant nothing as Tomoya woke up the very next day with zero memory of the night before and Chuukichi reasoning that the kiss hadn't count — because they were both guys, and men kissing men are just not acceptable in the society.

When they were twenty-one, one of their close friends from college, Miyagi-kun, came out to them.

Chuukichi had accepted it with nothing more than a simple congratulation, masking well of his surprise, while Tomoya celebrated by exclaiming how it's wonderful with no trace of hesitation in his expression. Chuukichi didn't acknowledge that he had always envied this about Tomoya: the ability to be so refreshing and naturally brilliant around people. Miyagi-kun cried a little, rubbed at his eyes, and invited the both of them for a group lunch with a bunch of other friends.

They met Miyagi-kun's boyfriend three days later, and Chuukichi found that nothing much has changed about their whole interaction. The only thing that was a bit odd was that two men were holding hand under the table quite comfortably while the rest chatted like nothing's amiss, even if they all could clearly see the affection between Miyagi-kun and Yuuki-kun. Chuukichi remembered looking at Tomoya's lean, long fingers and wondered how did two guys can even do that.

A month later, Chuukichi found himself smiling at the girl behind the counter in a bookstore — and she smiled back.

When they were twenty-two, Tomoya was offered a chance to study abroad and accepted it.

Chuukichi spent whatever hours after class till the break of dawn when Tomoya has to finally walk pass immigration staying by his side. The hotel Tomoya rented just before his flight is way too small (familiar) but classy. It's also conveniently very near the airport, and Chuukichi, despite his stubborness, fell asleep quite deeply after Tomoya switched the tv on and they've ran out of things to talk about.

At four a.m. Chuukichi was awoken by the vibration of his phone coming from Sakura-chan (the girl from the bookstore) but his attention fell quickly instead to Tomoya who was by the floor and zipping up his many bags. When Tomoya noticed that Chuukichi was up, he smiled in the darkness, and Chuukichi feels irritated because he knew Tomoya have only turned the television on with the full intention of coaxing him, who was never really attracted into watching mindless shows nor movies, to sleep. "You were tired." Was all Tomoya had to offer, his smile somehow blinding even in the dimmed lightings, and Chuukichi got up to help him with the luggage.

When Chuukichi wondered later how he always questioned why he was friends with Tomoya, he didn't quite have an answer. He just knew that the hug he gave Tomoya was long and tight, but when he let go — it still didn't feel like it was enough.

When they were twenty-three, Chuukichi was already in a twenty-months relationship with Sakura-chan. 

They've met each other's family a countless of times, and Sakura-chan really got along well with his siblings even better than Chuukichi can ever hope. So he wondered why when mother asked Chuukichi if he's ever thought about marriage, he didn't quite have an answer. He reasoned that, of course, he liked Sakura: when she smiled, she was really pretty. And every time they've cooked together, it was really pleasant. But...

That's just it, there's a but.

He though that maybe he was just busy. After all, he did just get a really wonderful job at a really amazing company. It's a desk job, in the marketing department, but Chuukichi knew he's good at his job. Reliable, constant, independent — was just some of the things his employer had been associating him with. He knew he can go somewhere with it. And the money could really help a lot. Dad's health hadn't been so well lately, and mother — with almost all of his siblings still living in that old house — could at least have the worry for the rent lessened.

Maybe it was the job, or the focus, or the uncertainty, or everything together and mixing up, that when one day Sakura-chan and him got into a particularly huge fight, Chuukichi wasn't that surprised.

How he ended up spending the night face-timing Tomoya was a little unexpected.

"You'll get through the fight. Sakura-chan's a really nice girl. She'll come around for sure." Tomoya smiled into the screen, his wallpaper behind his head is bright with the sunny day outside. Chuukichi wondered, for a moment, how it would've felt if he can just walk over to wherever Tomoya might be right now. To just... be there. With him. Chuukichi's stomach squirmed, and when he looked down, Tomoya must've mistaken it for him being dejected over Sakura-chan. Chuukichi didn't bother correcting how Tomoya's wrong, and instead asked:

"When will you be back home?"

Tomoya paused, smiled, and chirped, "Next year. Before my birthday. Wait for me." 

Chuukichi refused to admit that the smile on his face is a mirrored image of Tomoya's beaming gaze.

When they were twenty-four, Chuukichi broke up with Sakura — finally — after realising that, in her effort to try gaining his love back, had ended up cheated on him instead and knew that, for once, it was really over. Chuukichi, knowing that she deserved better, didn't fight back. She cried, he got slapped, and when Chuukichi trudged back home to where his siblings are instead of his own lonesome apartment, Kyoko made him a very warm tea and his brothers all cajoled him into finally smiling.

After dawn, out of habit, Chuukichi woke up and found mother by the verandah and was trying to hang the clothes. Again, out of habit, Chuukichi offered his help.

Mother smiled and kissed Chuukichi's head, despite him towering over her for years now, and murmured how she was so very proud of him. Chuukichi realised that he didn't really feel all that bad anymore. It still sucked, and he thought he missed Sakura a lot, but it was for the best.

"Tomoya-kun is coming back very soon, isn't he, Chuukichi?"

If Chuukuchi's heart leaps, he doesn't admit to it. He stammered a quick reply instead — yes — and a nod to his head. Mother seemed pleased.

While hanging what Chuukichi recognised as Sueki's shirt, he stared at it, quite intently, and found himself blurting out, "Mother. How do you feel about men loving men?"

Chuukichi's stomach was suddenly drenched in an epic coldness, and he froze so hard and so long with mother's silence that he's surprised when he came to, the whole area hadn't frozen over. Chuukichi didn't know why he asked that. He felt like he could puke or run or just plunge himself into some pit and never come out. How can he be so foolish to ask her that? He must apologise.

And he's about to, until Chuukichi felt a hand on his arm, and he shakily turned back to see mother smiling kindly — sadly — at him.

"I don't think badly of them. Why?"

"Isn't it — isn't it a sin?"

"Maybe." Mother looked a little wistful for a second, nostalgic. She touched a hand to her lips and sighed. "But it can't be helped. When you love someone, you just do, I suppose." Mother made Chuukichi turned to her, and, at the dawning sun, tip toed and kissed her second son's forehead again. Chuukichi felt like he could cry. "Either way, I know I won't stop loving my children because of it. I love you, my Chuukichi."

Tomoya returned two weeks later, and when they hugged in front of the whole Nezu-clan and Tomoya's remaining family and their college friends, Chuukichi found that it wasn't so hard to breathe. In fact, with Tomoya by his side again, it was really, really easy.

When they were twenty-five, Chuukichi said, "We should date." in front of the karoake bar where the mixer they attended consisted of nothing but Chuukichi forcing out half-smiles and Tomoya entertaining about three girls at one time while they all giggled and fussed over him.

Tomoya didn't respond for a very long amount of time.

When he finally did, he had his two gloved hands pressed against his eyes, head tilted upwards and it took Chuukichi a full one minute to realise Tomoya wasn't sniffling from the cold, he was crying. Chuuki was going to apologise — because what the hell, because of course it's disgusting, because why is he so dramatic? and why do I like his ass so much because of it? — and the words were already coming out, "Hey. I'm sor—"

When—

"I thought you wanted me to forget."

Chuukichi was startled. "What."

"When we were twenty. Remember? I kissed you?"

"Wait, what—"

"But you pushed me." Tomoya began to smile through his tears and it's foolish how Chuukichi can recognise the redness splotching across his face as a flush of embarrassment mixed with cold and probably his effort to not sob. What a nerd. "I thought that was it."

"Wait, you were making advances at me? You perve—"

"No. Not really." Tomoya admitted around a small chuckle, eyes trailing down. Chuukichi didn't even remember they were at a mixer until the sliding glass door to the karaoke bar opened and spat out some of the customers. They all reminded him of the girls inside. The ones who giggled too much. Chuukichi just wanted to hold his hand. Tomoya's. Stupid. "It's true I kissed you because it was, erm, an accident. But — I also, kind of. Want to do it again. Sober."

Oh. Oh.

Chuukichi felt his chest thumped. He remembered the smile Tomoya gave in the darkness back in the hotel.

"I wanted you to rest," he'd said — and that's it, wasn't it. The moment I knew I fell for him.

"But you didn't look like you wanted to acknowledge it, and, for the sake of our friendship, I was fine with pretending as though I've forgotten about it." Tomoya was quite for a second, and he pressed his one hand against an eye again, and confessed, rather brokenly how, "Man, I really wanted to try again, though. Kissing you."

Chuukichi's heart leaped.

And when they ditched the mixer because Chuukichi was dragging Tomoya to his apartment to have their first kiss, the heart-leaping didn't let up.

It was annoying, but — like Tomoya — Chuukichi's sure he'll get used to it within time.