Lovely, lovely, lovely is what Kise thinks each morning when he wakes up to a mop of messy black hair beneath his nose.
Love, love, love is what he thinks when he looks down and sees closed eyelids and parted lips breathing softly down his neck.
There can never be any other happier feeling blooming within his soul, unspoken words with love so pure tumbling out of his lips and seeping into pale skin as he shifts their bodies close and their hearts closer before going back to sleep with a smile on his face.
that is what love is, I joked, and you laughed.
The world is crazy to think that boxes don’t have eyes, Kise grumbles silently as he frowns at one staring right back at him from the dining table - a tiny, black velvet box with a single evil eye encompassing all of cyclop’s repulsive ugliness that sends people reeling in nausea and disgust. And sweaty-palms-inducing, let’s not forget that.
The current Kise Ryouta sitting in the dining room is suffering from severe overactive sweat glands watering his palms, and it doesn’t help that the sweat loosens his grip on the fountain pen spinning between his fingers. It wouldn’t do to accidentally drop the pen or send it propelling right into the trash bin on the other side of the room where numerous balled-up crumpled paper have been tossed accurately into the heart of the container itself. No, this pen was a gift to him for his twenty-first birthday. By Kasamatsu himself. And it means so much more when Kise remembers that it was their fourth anniversary together they spent snuggling at home watching another rerun of those tragic korean dramas that all sadistic obasans seem to enjoy.
Ah, he thinks, momentarily taken over by nostalgia, just how many years have passed since then?
Time is cruel, Kise has shot past the prime of his youth (or at least, what he considers the prime of his youth to be) and is well on his way to hitting his late twenties, so maybe it’s time to finally bid a life of haute couture afterparties goodbye, settle down for a bit and spend the rest of his life by Kasamatsu’s side.
And maybe it’ll work - this whole cheesy idea of being together - if Kasamatsu doesn’t get sick of babysitting him all the time. There are so many maybes and possibilities ahead of them that Kise thinks if the velvet box in front of him really has eyes, maybe it will show them the way to their future where one chapter of his life ends and another happy one of theirs begin.
They moved in together the instant Kasamatsu graduated from university and found a job and Kise from a local small-fish-in-the-pond model to full-time international supermodel. By virtue of some miracle, Kise manages to take some time off to go apartment hunting with Kasamatsu. He knows it’s an important moment for the raven-haired man because it has been his lifelong dream to live independently without his parents’ financial assistance. And it’s important for Kise himself too because this is the home they would live in together probably for the rest of their lives. Besides, Kise is extremely eager to give his own opinion on what their living quarters should look like.
“God Kise, just go home. Why are you even here anyway?” Kasamatsu groans when the blond shows up in front of the Kasamatsu family residence with a (branded) cap to hide his blond hair and expensive shades Kasamatsu could never afford even with a year’s worth of salary.
“But senpai,” Kise whines, pouting a little, “I want to spend time with you. We haven’t seen each other for more than a week! Don’t you miss me?”
Kasamatsu’s ears turn slightly pink, and Kise knows he’s won this round. Smirking internally, he leans forward and pecks an embarrassed Kasamatsu on the cheek as his reward.
It’s good to know that some things never change.
As expected, Kasamatsu’s already done his homework, columns and columns of classified ads on the newspaper circled in glaring red so all Kise has to do is escort his boyfriend from apartment to apartment and dutifully stand by his side while negotiations with the landlord take place. So far they have gone through four unsatisfactory units and seen a million ugly personality traits in five landlords (the couple one was the worst). With each passing unit, Kasamatsu’s shoulders slump forward a little more and the newspaper cutting in his hands crumple a little more until they turn into a ball of heavy frustration.
“They say fifth time’s the charm, senpai.” Kise encourages cheerfully as they step into the elevator that will take them to the seventh floor where their next landlord awaits.
“Yeah?” Kasamatsu grumbles like the grumpy young man he is. The cheerfulness has been sucked out of him by the previous horrible people, and it is very depressing for Kise to watch his senpai shuffle his feet along the dimly-lit corridor in defeat. It’s not entirely close to the times they failed to bag the championships during the winter cup and inter high, but the glum feeling is there twisting Kise’s heart into tight, suffocating knots. Kasamatsu doesn’t deserve this, so it is up to Kise to ensure that the next apartment they visit will be the one.
And by the sheer force of his will (and a sprinkle of luck), it is. The present landlord has a bit of a mean streak (nobody ever calls Kasamatsu ‘shortstuff’ or ‘shaved-brows’ unless they have a death wish), but beneath that layer of snarky comments and verbal jabbings is an old woman with a kind soul. Kasamatsu steps into the kitchenette impressed, and by the time he gets to the bedroom his heart is sold to the creamy pastel walls and smooth white tiles, completely enamoured with the way everything comes together to form something so perfect he could call home. There is no furniture at all in the whole apartment, but beyond these walls lies a castle of undiscovered dreams and hope.
Kise would like to live here too, in this apartment that has no pool view or windy balcony or walk-in closet he always wanted since young. Hell, it’s not even close to the cheapest penthouse he’s ever seen. But he wants to live here anyway, because it would make Kasamatsu happy. When the latter turns around to look at him and ask of his opinion, Kise needs no other confirmation than the excitement twinkling in his stormy grey eyes.
“We’ll take it,” Kise uses his most cheerful smile and persuasive voice and to talk prices with the old lady noticeably taken with his charm, “how much?”
The price exceeds their budget by a mile, being an apartment situated near the city center, but Kise is willing to fight tooth and nail to keep that smile on Kasamatsu’s face for as long as he can, even if it means he has to use a bit of emotional manipulation to get what he wants.
Three weeks later, Momoi settles the legal papers and has them both sign the memorandum of transfer. And then, little by little, the once-empty apartment fills up with boxes of their belongings and the promise of a bright future.
Living with Kasamatsu is like perfecting a new basketball move in just one go - simple and easy. He only gets angry when Kise forgets to line up his shoes properly on the rack or wash the dishes after every meal, but maybe it’s because Kasamatsu’s been so used to his presence since high school he snaps at Kise’s quirks and habits lesser than the latter expected him to.
But the lack of interaction is also partly due to Kise’s upgraded status to Supermodel on the modelling status quo. Sometimes he finds himself away from home four days a week, and if the agency is cruel enough, six excluding time spent flying back from the States or some faraway tropical island for the annual summerwear photoshoot. Time trickles away like fine sand seeping through fingers that are more than sufficient to count the number of hours they’ve spent together for the past few weeks.
“Senpai?” Kise calls quietly when he finally makes it through the front door a few minutes past midnight. He’s just flown back from Europe and is waiting for the jetlag to hit the bay and tear his bones apart.
As expected, Kise receives no response. But what he doesn’t expect is that on his way to the bedroom, in the silence of the apartment, he notices Kasamatsu sitting on the couch, head lolling above his right shoulder, eyes closed and lips parted slightly. In front of the slumbering man, the television screen plays on, lighting up his face in a soft glow.
The scene brings comfort to Kise. Kasamatsu waited for him even though he didn’t have to. The thought is enough to chase away the cold lingering in his heart, and more than enough for him to turn off the TV and gently scoop his boyfriend up in his arms and carry him back to bed.
“Kise?” Kasamatsu stirs when the blond tucks him in and buries that kawaii sleepy face into his own shoulder where it rightfully belongs.
“Shh,” he hushes, “sweet dreams, senpai.”
To combat this problem, they sit down one day and devise a new system of communication through pasting StickNotes on the insanely large bathroom mirror (courtesy of Kise and his narcissistic need to see at least the upper half of his body) everyday after their baths. That day, Kasamatsu comes home after work with two stacks of StickNotes in hand, each a different colour.
“Here.” he says, handing a very confused Kise a small stack of square self-adhesive yellow paper.
“Yellow for you, grey for me.” Kasamatsu continues vaguely because yes, colour identification would certainly help explain all the confusion currently swimming in Kise’s mind.
“Okay, but what for?”
Kasamatsu mumbles something unintelligible before ducking into the bedroom, but Kise is fast enough to block his path and wait patiently until the older man finally plucks the courage to crawl out of his little tsun hole and express his sentiments properly.
“You know how we don’t really get to see each other anymore sometimes?” his eyes look at anywhere but Kise’s, offending the latter slightly because just which part of the floor looks better than this handsome face?! “I just thought maybe we could… you know… yeah.”
Then, Kise smiles, having matched the puzzle pieces together. He likes where this is going. He also likes the way Kasamatsu is subconsciously twiddling his fingers together like a cute shoujo manga protagonist
waiting to be devoured in bed.
“Could?” he probes further, and then Kasamatsu lifts his madly blushing face to glare at him.
“You know it already, so shut it. Now let me through, I need my sleep.”
“You’re so cute, senpai.” Kise grins and leans forward to kiss him affectionately. Kasamatsu frowns in response, but it is only a matter of time before he is swept away into Kise’s embrace and melts into a soft pile of marshmallows in those arms.
The next morning, when Kise wakes up at an ungodly hour to prepare for his photoshoot at sunrise, he trudges groggily into the bathroom and turns on the shower. While brushing his teeth, he catches sight of the yellow StickNotes lying by the lonely corner of the counter, and in a moment of delirium and spontaneity fills the first sheet with tiny hearts and smiley faces greeting his senpai a very good morning before he pastes it on the left end of the mirror.
The bright yellow stands out in stark contrast to its dull surroundings, kind of a lonely sight, but by the time Kise reaches home late night again after a gruelling day posing for cameras, a grey StickNote has appeared beneath the yellow one.
How can you be so chipper in the morning? istg you’re not human.
The corners of Kise’s lips tilt upwards as the blond scribbles his answer on yellow paper and pastes it below the grey one.
if im not human then im an angel filled w/ senpai’s love!! im senpai’s angel~~
There are times when Kise feels like teasing a bit though, because it’s fun to annoy Kasamatsu for laughs and watch them cute brows scrunch up into squishy caterpillars. It’s like remembering those high school days, a tribute to those glorious times where they used to jog around the field and practice basketball together.
You idiot. Stop pasting your StickNotes all over mine for god’s sake. You’re disrupting the system here.
But it’s fun :3 which reminds me senpai, are you free this weekend? let’s go catch a movie!!!!
And then there were those that carried and conveyed sadder messages. Kise remembers the lowest he’s ever hit, the worst he’s ever experienced. It had been a bad day, has been for a while, with the overwhelming press and baseless rumours stemming from a sudden burst of fame in the industry. The photoshoot had gone wrong, camera batteries dying flat left and right, directors and stylists dropping hints about his weight and appearance and security spiralling out of control the instant he exited the photoshoot location. It’s suffocating enough to be sandwiched by fangirls screaming his name left right and everywhere, but clawing, sharp nails and skin contact that the less sane ones initiate was going too far. By the time he reached the SUV, his hair was an entire mess, clothes ragged and disheveled and basically, everything felt like shit.
He remembers standing by the bathroom sink back home alone, ballpen tip scraping through the smooth yellow surface of the note sluggishly before he tore it away and stuck it on the lowest right-hand corner of the mirror, away from visible first sight. Paranoia fueled him to shut all windows and bound all curtains together lest the obsessed fans discover his living quarters. It was the worst day he had in a while. Nothing ever went right, and coming back to an empty, cold house had severely dampened his already sea bed-low spirits.
I miss you.
It’s kind of hard to bear the thought of pouring his sorrows on poor Kasamatsu who has other things to worry about, like more-than-difficult-to-deal bosses and his pending job promotion, but at that very moment Kise wished Kasamatsu could be by his side, holding his hand as they braved hurricane storms and earthquake tsunamis together against the world.
How can someone feel so empty yet sad at the same time?
The unspoken rule in the house dictates that one has to wait for the other to come home so they can go to bed together, but Kise finds that he simply cannot find the energy in himself to stay up that night until Kasamatsu’s night shift ends. As an apology, he leaves a pot of warm milk by the kitchen counter so at least there is something waiting for the older man when he gets home.
And later, deep in the night when Kise has long fallen asleep after shedding quiet tears beneath thin cotton covers, he feels the bed dip slightly under an extra weight. Gentle fingers pry the blanket away from his death grip before he suffocates himself to death, and then they sift through his blond locks soothingly as if they could take away the sadness in him.
They do, they can; Kasamatsu’s fingers are miracles. To Kise, Kasamatsu is a miracle himself. His arms are home that Kise could easily slip into and stay for an eternity, they form the strongest barricade, dispel all harm and relieve the pain and frustration accumulated in him throughout the years. When calloused fingers caress his damp sunken cheeks lovingly, it reopens the floodgates and soon the tension bleeds out of him along with his tears.
“It’s okay,” Kasamatsu soothes him, voice soft yet so clear amidst the quiet sobs echoing across space and time.
The claw scars on his neck and arms burn bright in the dark of the night. Kise Ryouta doesn’t feel like Kise Ryouta anymore.
“I miss you too.”
I love you.
“I hope you’re ready to clear off a week’s schedule of work,” Kasamatsu mentions gruffly two days later after the breakdown, “because we’re gonna take a break and go on vacation.”
Pictures of Bali are sprawled across the dining table. The sandy white beaches and deep blue sea stare back at him, but instead of exotic tourist destinations all Kise can imagine at the back of his mind is just some peaceful and quiet time shared with his companion and no one else. Just the two of them, with Kasamatsu reading his books or brewing his tea while Kise catches up on his soaps and sleep.
From the sink, Kasamatsu steals not-so-secretive glances at Kise who scrutinizes the travelling flyers like a specimen for his biology experiment. The latter knows his partner is expecting some kind of verbal response to the suggestion, so he tries to put on an interested face, flipping through the brochure flaps and browsing which location guarantees the best sunset and offers the best seafood, but then he figures it’s not right to lead his senpai on a trail of false hope thinking that this is what Kise wants when in fact, all the latter wants is some quality getaway time for the both of them, far far away from the suffocating polluted metropolitan air.
“S-So? Do you want to go or not? I can get a staff discount for flight tickets if you’re interested.” Kasamatsu fiddles with the hem of his sweater nervously.
Kise smiles with stinging tears brimming around the corner of his eyes, beyond touched by his companion’s sincere concern. He crosses the space between them and envelops an embarrassed Kasamatsu in a tight embrace.
“Thank you, senpai.”
Two weeks later, they both come back from Miyajima with a nice vacation afterglow lingering across their slightly tanned skins, and three days after that, Kise finally hands in his resignation letter and pulls out of the modelling industry before it consumes his sanity and swallows him whole again.
There was a phase when Kasamatsu went crazy over photography. Well, in retrospection, crazy seems to be an exaggerated (and Kise-ish) way of putting it. Ever since Kobori stole his senpai away to a three-hour photography class, Kasamatsu came home a different man and holed himself in their bathroom almost every night, trying out different exposure effects and all that photography jargon Kise couldn’t be bothered to know.
The effects are disastrous. It eats up their together time, and sometimes deprives a horny Kise of the romantic nights he’s planned in mind after a long day of lazing around in the couch and dozing off to reruns of k-dramas first aired ten years ago.
“Senpaaaaaaaiiiii!!” Kise wails, crouching outside the spare bathroom in the house instead of barging in because lord, the last time he did that, he experienced the worst punishment of his life - sex deprivation and torturous silent treatment for one whole week (something about no lights allowed when developing film or something like that. Kise really couldn’t care less).
It’s unusually quiet over the other side of the room now. Kise is tempted to barge in and check if Kasamatsu’s passed out from an overdose of toxic chemicals inhalation. The idea is very tempting, he could even resuscitate him back to life! It’s been a while since they had any mouth-to-mouth activity.
“Senpai, if you’re not answering me in five seconds I’m coming in to check if you’re dead.”
5- 4- 3- 2-
“Shut up brat, I’m busy.”
Kise pouts even though Kasamatsu can’t see it and fakes a loud sobs.
“I just wanted a hug.” Kise mumbles dejectedly before crawling back into bed to dwell in his blanket of sorrow and self-pity for the rest of the lonely night.
And the thing about the raven-haired man is that he is extremely secretive about the photographs he snaps and absolutely, flat-out refuses to let Kise even take a peek of what he develops each night, much less watch how he enlarges tiny 135 film into big-ass-sized prints. Kise will not stand by excuses such as ‘I am entitled to a bit- no scratch that a whole life of privacy’ and ‘Mind your own business you little shit’ constantly thrown in his face whenever he inquires about his boyfriend’s new hobby out of concern. What Kise wants to know, Kise will. So he drags his senpai from the darkroom over to the couch one evening and sits him down like a child to commence the Spanish Inquisition: Kise Style.
“Kise what the hell-”
“Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth?” Kise holds out a thick yoga manual because there was simply no legal textbook at home for Kasamatsu to recite his oath upon. Yoga manuals will have to do.
“You’re supposed to put your hand on the book and say yes senpai!”
“What sort of stupid cross-examination is this?!” Kise pouts, but grabs the older’s hand and places it on the book nevertheless. But what he didn’t count on is the latter snatching the book away and smacking him with 120% force that sends him flying across the entire room.
“OW! Senpai is so violent!”
“Violent your ass,” Kasamatsu crosses his arms, towering over the blond while radiating murderous vibes that put Akashi to shame, “you needed that slap to wake your stupid ass up anyway. What on earth were you doing?!”
“I just wanted to know what you’ve been working on lately,” Kise sniffs, “you never tell me anything!! How am I supposed know whether you’re taking pictures of women out there and having an affair behind- OW! SENPAI STOP KICKING ME IT HURTS!!”
“SHUT UP YOU IGNORANT BRAT. THE ONLY PERSON WHO WOULD EVEN HAVE AN AFFAIR IN THIS RELATIONSHIP WOULD BE YOU.”
“HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT SENPAI?! I WOULD NEVER-”
“HOW DARE YOU TALK BACK TO YOUR SENPAI. YOU GOT SOME NERVE YOU STUPID FRESHMAN BRAT. NOW IF YOU'LL EXCUSE ME, I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN LAZE AROUND LIKE YOU ALL DAY. GET A NEW JOB ALREADY, YOU ASS.”
“But I’m not a freshman anymore,” Kise whines as Kasamatsu gives him one last kick and heads for his stupid evil photography lair, “and I’m on ‘house arrest’ as my (ex-)agent puts it until the whole media forgets about me and preys on other unsuspecting model celebrities again!”
“Wait senpai! Does this mean you’re not having an affair?”
Kasamatsu gives him his most unimpressed stare before slamming the bathroom door shut without a single reply.
But Kise is Kise, the copy prodigy never gives up even if it costs him his life! So the next day when Kasamatsu heads out to buy dinner for the both of them, he tiptoes to the spare bathroom, waits impatiently for five minutes (or less than that) in case Kasamatsu returns grumbling about forgotten change or bad traffic (it could happen) before he twists the doorknob open and steps into the darkroom Kasamatsu’s been isolating himself in for weeks.
He makes sure to open the door as little as possible before shutting it closed immediately. The room smells heavily of silver chloride and a tinge of Kasamatsu’s minty scent, and it’s completely pitch black so it takes Kise a few minutes for his eyes to adjust to the darkness before he manages to make out the figure of a light bulb hanging precariously on his left. Careful to not knock anything over (it would definitely cost him his limbs, or dick, or worse, his life), he reaches for the switch and watches as the lights come on and bring the room back to life.
The scene before him is breathlessly amazing - rows and rows of photographs clipped onto strings that stretch across the entire room and almost every single one of them is nothing but them, them, them.
The first row illustrates the day Kasamatsu bought his very first SLR, and Kise hadn’t noticed at all that the former had been secretly taking pictures of him on the train home. The subsequent rows are an exhibition of their daily lives, depicting the little things they like doing with and for each other, and as Kise moves on from row to row, marvelling at standard 4” x 6” prints hanging onto old rusty nylon strings taken from Kasamatsu’s old guitar, the photographs seem to become more and more recent. But as the timeline advances, there are less pictures of them together in the same frame, and suddenly Kise is thrown back to the darker days when he felt so empty, so isolated from the world even though Kasamatsu has always been there for the both of them.
And finally, when he reaches to the last one furthest away from the light, something sour lodges in his throat and sucks all the air out of him. Kise knows this was just taken a week after he walked out of the modelling industry, and he remembers this particular moment as the very first real smile he cracked on his ghostly thin, pale face in a long, long time.
The picture is so full of love it hurts.
“What are you crying for?”
Kise’s head whips around faster than lightning to the voice coming from the door where Kasamatsu stands. He is so lost in this garden of memories he doesn’t even register these hot droplets rolling down his cheeks one after the other. Slowly and calmly, Kasamatsu comes to pull him away from the dark, out of the darkroom and into the hall where there is light.
It’s always been like that, Kise notes as Kasamatsu’s fingers curl around his and tug him closer, their relationship pivots around the push-and-pull theory, Kasamatsu always pulling him forward while Kise pulls and resists and slows them down to a more reasonable pace whenever the former advances far too quickly in a rush. This is what keeps the balance in their relationship, yin and yang, each of them on opposite ends of the spectrum yet always, always there for one another when they need the support.
“Goddamn it Kise, stop crying,” Kasamatsu mutters, thumbs wiping away the tears that can’t seem to stop falling.
“You’re such an idiot.”
Under the dim lights of the hallway, Kasamatsu’s eyes are like fading stars shimmering in the lost depths of the galaxy. He says this but Kise hears the affection in his voice all the same.
“I told you not to go in.”
Something is pounding against the walls of his ribcage, something so overwhelming it takes his body over by force and storm. Yet, it feels so natural to lean forward, closer and closer until the space between them disappears along with the cracks and doubts in his heart. Like shooting stars, they are sprinting past vast boundaries, flying across endless blue skies, leaping through valleys of depression and oceans of hardship until they come together at the heart of the universe and fall in love with each other all over again.
When soft lips brush gently against one another, fireworks explode. Behind closed eyelids, all Kise can see is Kasamatsu, them, and a world bursting into flames full of love, love, love.
It’s always the little things that make Kise fall deeper in love time and time again. Looking back, Kise thinks life without Kasamatsu is simply impossible now. They’ve come so far and gotten past so many hurdles life has thrown in their way, and the best thing is that they always overcome it together.
Absentmindedly, he picks up the little velvet box from the table and flips it open. It’s just shining carbon held in the middle of silk, yet it signifies something so much greater than that. It will be the one to bind the ties and spark a future for two people to live in.
“Does Kise-kun know why wedding rings are round?” Kuroko asks him the day they went to pick out the tiny round band that would eventually end up in a velvet box on his dining table.
“Hmm,” the blond frowns, “never really thought about it. Why?”
Kuroko, in his default impassive expression (yet to Kise, he seems so far away, like he is lost in a dream), says-
“Because there is no beginning and there is no end.”
Cute little Lilo once said ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind. Kasamatsu practically is family already, he always cares so much for Kise. So, Kise wants to give back that sort of fierce, unconditional love to Kasamatsu as much as he can, to care for him because Kasamatsu never has enough time for himself, all spent on Kise, and Kise wants love him forever even after the end of time.
Which is why when he hears a set of keys jingling outside the hallway and the sound of the door creaking open, Kise stumbles out his seat, tiny velvet box left forgotten on the table as he rushes forward to sweep a nearly disheveled Kasamatsu into his arms and shower him with peppery kisses and bundles and bundles of love.
“Welcome back, senpai.”