It was downright ridiculous to Kei that so much money had been thrown away until now by having him and Yamaguchi live in separate apartments after moving to Tokyo. Their parents had cited the reason being that they had to learn independence during university life, which Kei appreciated the thought, and hadn’t thought anything wrong of it at first.
It wasn’t until after the first week of living on his own that he realized Yamaguchi was still occupying just as much space as he always did. They lived basically the same distance apart as they had in Miyagi, so they’d kept the same routine as they’d had in high school. Kei’s apartment was closer to the station than Yamaguchi’s, so on late nights he often just stayed over rather than having to take a longer journey to class the next day.
Conversely, on the weekends, the pair spent the days at Yamaguchi’s apartment, because he was closer to the city center of Tokyo. His block was right next to an amazing market with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, anything your stomach could ever ask for. So for conveniences’ sake, because they wanted to spend time with each other doing things, Kei stayed over at Yamaguchi’s overnight.
Their first trip back to Miyagi, Kei immediately grumbled to his mother that the separate spaces weren’t necessary.
“Hmm, but you might appreciate having the privacy,” she just said in a sing-songy voice. “You never know when someone special will come into your life, and you’ll be grateful to have your own place without Tadashi-kun.”
Kei found that to be ridiculous. He had brought plenty of classmates over to his apartment since starting school. It was easier to make friends in college, for both him and Yamaguchi, and it had never stopped either of their own enjoyment having the other also occupying the same space at the same time. They didn’t need privacy from each other at this point in their lives. His mother had no idea, clearly. But it was her money wasted, so he kept up with the farce.
On the train ride back to Tokyo, Kei sat next to a pouting Yamaguchi. “Otousan said I was not going to be allowed to alter my lease for at least a year,” he complained, staring dramatically out the window. “Sorry, Tsukki.”
“No luck on my front either,” Kei responded. “Whatever. I don’t mind it so much.”
Kei didn’t mind the extra train it took to get from school to Yamaguchi’s place. That was little to no effort on his part.
Around the time of the renewal of his lease, he’d had a few friends over from the intramural volleyball team. Yamaguchi was bogged down with work, back to back to back shifts that Kei knew he was going to sleep for twenty hours after. So he wasn’t able to join them, but Kei wasn’t too disappointed. He knew, though it was a lot of work, how much Yamaguchi enjoyed his job.
“Living with this guy again next year!” Hatsuo said, linking an arm around Junji’s neck and pulling him into an awkward strangulation hug. “Just re-upped the lease. Wish I could afford my own place, though.”
“Hey!” Junji shouted, affronted, wrestling himself out of the choke-hold.
“No offence!” Hatsuo was quick to respond, hands in the air. He turned to Kei. “But seriously, it must be so nice to have your own apartment to come home to.”
“It’s often not empty,” Kei responded flatly, giving him a pointed look.
Hatsuo shrugged, uncaring that he sometimes mooched. “Even still, to have the option to lock out the rest of the world. Or just be with your girlfriend alone and have some special time,” he wiggled his eyebrows for emphasis. “Mi-chan and I never get the chance to be alone unless one of us had enough couch change for a love hotel.”
Kei tried to keep his blush at bay, his brain reminding him of the conversation he’d had with his mother all those months ago about wanting privacy. So that was what she was implying.
Kei started thinking about how the idea of a girlfriend had never even occurred to him. Sure he had friends who were girls, and it was clear a few had attempted to flirt with him, but he’d never been interested in pursuing any of those feelings.
He didn’t really need a special someone in his life. He’d already found Yamaguchi.
And that. That was an odd thought, wasn’t it?
“I’m sorry, my parents made me keep the lease another year,” Kei lied to Yamaguchi the next time he saw him. He felt it in his chest when the man’s happy smile fell, replaced with a real pout.
“Oh. Oh, okay. I should probably talk to my landlord then, huh?” Yamaguchi said with a laugh that wasn’t joyful.
“I’m sorry,” Kei repeated, meaning it.
“It’s not your fault, Tsukki,” Yamaguchi chirped, a smile back on his face. “We haven’t lost anything, We’re still good!”
Kei swallowed thickly. “Yeah.”
Suddenly hit with the realization that he may be harboring certain feelings for his best friend had forced Kei to lie and retreat back into his shell. He could not live with Yamaguchi, not with the half-assed feelings and thoughts he was having right now. He needed to figure it out, before he made any decisions like living together. Cohabitation.
Their routine stayed the same throughout their second year, but their classes got more intense. They weren’t spending as much time at each other’s apartments at first, too bogged down with work. But Yamaguchi got tired of that quickly and started just going home with Tsukishima every day of the week, only going home on the weekends to get new clothes. Then they would switch it up, and Kei’s apartment would be empty most days of the week. It became normal that there was a drawer full of each other’s clothes at both apartments. Kei tried not to read too much into it, but it was hard not to.
Yamaguchi was naturally a loving, caring, kind guy. Kei knew this. But when Yamaguchi stole glances at him when he didn’t think he could see, it tripped his heart up a little, and he started to wonder.
As the months continued to pass by, it was obvious that this routine would not work out. They were both losing sleep trying to make time for each other as well as their own friends, on top of working and classes. More than once Kei had just walked Yamaguchi back to the station and forced him to just go home because otherwise neither of them would get any sleep. Kei knew what the best outcome would be. He just hoped his heart was ready.
In March, Kei sat Yamaguchi down with an apartment-hunting booklet, and asked him of what he thought of a few 2LDK places. Yamaguchi’s bright eyes told him this was the right decision, but Kei was still wary.
Kei’s mother came to Tokyo to visit right after he and Yamaguchi had signed a new lease together. She insisted she wanted to help her son move as well as deem the new place worthy, because she hadn’t been involved in the selection process. She was a bit of a control freak, but she meant well.
Kei showed her into the two-bedroom apartment, stepping around boxes. “We’re two stops away form the university and we’re a block away from our favorite dinner spot, so it’s the best location for the both of us,” Kei assured her as they walked through the mostly-empty building.
His mother was oddly silent throughout the whole tour, which put Kei on edge.
“Do you approve?” he finally had to ask, because the silence was stifling.
Before she could respond, though, Yamaguchi entered the apartment trying to carry three boxes at once. Kei abandoned his mother to help the stupid man carry them into Yamaguchi’s bedroom (they did rock-paper-scissors for the room with the window; Kei lost).
“Tsukishima-san!” Yamaguchi greeted once they reemerged from the room, hugging her briefly. “You look great! It’s been so long. How has Tokyo been treating you? How has Tsukki been treating you—oww!” Kei pulled his elbow back out of Yamaguchi’s side.
Kei knew his mother adored Yamaguchi, saw him as his saving grace in middle school. She smiled warmly at Yamaguchi and squeezed his hands. “You look wonderful,” she complimented. “This place…is a good choice?” she asked rather than stated.
Yamaguchi nodded vigorously. “Absolutely. My old apartment is literally right next door, so It’s been a very easy move for me. Tsukki got the bad end of the stick there.”
“Don’t apologize, Yamaguchi,” Kei ordered immediately. “It’s not a problem, we both said yes to this place. And it was my favorite.”
Yamaguchi smiled at him, and it was one of those smiles that stopped his heart and flooded his body with heat. He was gone on this man. And he could only wish that Yamaguchi felt the same.
“Thank you, Tsukishima-san, for supporting us this year. This will make all of us, and our wallets, much happier,” Yamaguchi teased.
“This year?” his mother asked, and Kei immediately changed the subject.
“Okasan, we should get something to eat.”
Yamaguchi clapped his hands together. “Yes! Let’s go down to Nagamasa. Tsukishima-san, that’s my favorite restaurant here in Tokyo. It’s small, but very homey. Reminds me of Miyagi.”
Kei’s mother gave him a sharp look, and he averted his eyes.
“Don’t go without me, but there’s a couple more boxes I want to bring over. No!” Yamaguchi immediately shot down Kei’s pre-verbal offer to help. “Stay here with your mom, I’ll be ten minutes at most.”
When Kei and his mother were left alone again, he shuffled his feet and prayed to the gods that his mother was oblivious.
“Your first apartment together,” she said after a moment.
“First?” Kei asked with an arched eyebrow.
Her mother just gave him a smile that told him he wasn’t as secretive had he’d hoped he was being with his feelings. “Yes. But no more moving as a student. It’s not good to uproot your life constantly. Students need balance.”
Having experienced all the back and forth from his apartment to Yamaguchi’s over the last two years, Kei couldn’t agree more.
“Are you happy, Kei?”
Kei didn’t hesitate to nod. “Yes.”
“Are we having red bean rice for dinner?”
Kei glared at her and tried not to blush. He didn’t think he succeeded. “We’ll have whatever you want.”
She patted his cheek gently. “That’s the right answer.”