“Rohan? Kishibe!? I thought you hated that guy! ” Koichi couldn’t believe what he had just heard come out of Josuke’s mouth. Was he nonchalantly insinuating that Koichi should really open up to Rohan about- wait. Suddenly, something clicked right into place. Could this really have been the perfect suggestion after all?
“Okay, okay, I’m not saying it’s a favorable option, but like, how many other people do we even know? Hazamada sure as hell doesn’t have a license and I hate that kid more than I do the mangaka!” Josuke continued to defend his recommendation, not knowing that Koichi already figured it would be a suitable course of action. “Ugh… he and I will never get along, but he likes you quite a bit, isn’t that right? Knowing that snide rat- I mean uh, you might as well just-”
“I’ll ask him.” Koichi interrupted to Josuke’s surprise. Over time Koichi has become a bit more brazen; but it is still rare for him to be so bold in these sorts of situations, let alone cut Josuke off mid sentence. Considering the past few days it would make sense for Koichi to be depersonalized enough to act this way, but in this moment, Koichi spoke exactly how he intended. Then more than ever, he needed to be sure of himself. A part of him tried to sneak in doubt, but Koichi refused to let his anxiety take a hold of him at a time like this.
The boys walked in silence for a bit, and it wasn’t the least bit awkward. Although the lot had noisy tendencies, it’s not as if they didn’t have times of comfortable wordlessness as well. Right then, they all figured there wasn’t much to say. Sure they could’ve brought up whacky school occurrences, or trouble they got into outside of class, but none of it really fit the mood. In all honesty, there wasn’t a perfect way to explain it, though they all knew somehow.
Eventually Josuke and Okuyasu began having a quiet conversation of their own. Koichi was too absorbed in his own thoughts to pay it much mind. They were thoughts of the upcoming week, and of his friends. His friends who cared enough to find a solution, and share it. There were also thoughts about Rohan. Koichi had looked up to Rohan as a mangaka, as still did even after the… occurrences that put tension between the two. As different as they were, Koichi couldn’t help but admire Rohan. He was truly someone that stood up for their ideals, and wasn’t afraid to voice them to the world. If only Koichi could find it in himself to be so brash. Perhaps it wasn’t a good thing, but part of Koichi yearned to know what it’s like. He wondered if it felt as freeing as he imagined it would.
Koichi’s thoughts of Rohan went on, and soon branched into a state of reverie in which he pondered on many different things. What snapped Koichi out of his trance, was a laugh that came from Josuke. After only a few seconds, he and Okuyasu resumed their banter. Koichi hadn’t noticed when their chatter had reached a normal volume, but now that he was no longer daydreaming, Koichi was very aware of his surroundings. After learning about his friends’ relationship, their conversations often had a whole new light to them. All of a sudden their occasional stares turned into ogling; and the way Josuke was so endeared by Okuyasu’s...moments, made much more sense. Koichi knew they were nearing Josuke’s house, so he slowed his walking pace, though not by a lot since he knew he’d have to walk faster than his gargantuan friends in order to keep up.
Koichi was stopped in his tracks at the sight before him. Now, he wasn’t wasn’t one to get caught off guard after all of the events he’s faced in his teen years, but Koichi’s cheeks grew flushed rather quickly from the embarrassment of watching as Okuyasu’s lips met Josuke’s. It was so sudden, and the contentment on their faces made Koichi feel even more bashful about what he had just witnessed. They were dating; and of course it’s normal for people in relationships to kiss. It’s not as if Koichi had never seen two guys kiss before either, it’s just that… well he wasn’t sure. Maybe it was because the image of his two best friends smooching was so new, but Koichi started to wonder what… other things they had done together. That definitely did not help with the furious blush that consumed him.
Okuyasu rubbed the nape of his neck anxiously, and directed his gaze towards Koichi, who was spiritually evaporating from embarrassment. Koichi was frantically contemplating what he should say, but in the end he hadn’t needed to say a word. Okuyasu chuckled, which was also definitely out of the norm, considering his typical hearty laughter. After his near-giggle faded away, Okuyasu spoke up. “Hey I uh, didn- didn’t mean to freak you out, bro haha.” The boy who, despite being the first to speak after the goodbye kiss, fidgeted with his fingers anxiously as he awaited a response.
“Man, you need to chill! Josuke’s yer boyfriend isn’t he? I’m not sure who you think’s ‘freaked out’ but from over here it looks like you lol.” Koichi convincingly (enough) replied to his surprisingly shy friend.
Ew did I just say lol out loud?
Koichi genuinely hadn’t expected Okuyasu to be so bashful when it came to his relationship with Josuke. Upon further inspection, it’s not as if it didn’t make sense. Okuyasu grew up in Japan, with an abusive father and brother no less! Keicho surely didn’t strike him as the progressive type, and it was honestly saddening to remember how strongly Okuyasu loved him even after the treatment he faced. Taking all of that into consideration, Koichi settled on the possibility that Okuyasu may have struggled with internalized homophobia… which wasn’t something anyone should have to face. In the end, though, after everything had settled, they were happy. Whatever problems either of them may have been facing, Koichi was sure they’d help each other through it all. Koichi looked up at the blushing couple, who had stood back next to each other, and smiled to himself. They really deserved each other.
I didn’t deserve Yukako. I didn’t make her happy. I made her miserable. In fact, I probably make everyone just miserable. Fuck, what is wrong with me?
Koichi tried to stay positive like people have told him to, he really did. He tried to stop the thoughts from sneaking their way into the front of his mind. Apparently they could be a lot stealthier than he initially thought. Koichi would tell himself to be rational: if Josuke and Okuyasu hated him they wouldn’t hide it. They were both very open with their feelings, and Koichi knew they wouldn’t lie to him like that.
What if I don’t know them well after all? Even if I did, they would still get hurt by me. I swore at my own mother, who’s never wronged me. I broke the heart of the only girl I’ve ever loved. Who’s to say I won’t fuck up my friends along the way? If I haven’t already.
What got to him the most, was how selfish his thoughts made him feel. He hated being the center of his own thoughts. His father was a narcissist, and the fear that Koichi might take after the man always attacked him. In his brain, Koichi knew he didn’t have NPD, but it didn’t eradicate his anxieties, as much as he wished all rationality could. Sometimes, like the situation he was currently in, all he could do was try his best to focus on what was in front of him. Apparently Josuke and Okuyasu had been chattering about something while Koichi was lost in his far too frequent spiralling.
“Hey so, like, I better head on over to Rohan’s and get this shit over with. You two loverboys have fun racing each other or… whatever it is you two do when I’m not here supervising.” Koichi proclaimed with a sigh of irony to finish. The “shit” he was about to get done and over with, was actually a huge deal. To Koichi at least. It had occurred to him that he had never come out to so many people in such a short span of time before. Koichi couldn’t help chuckling a bit from the strangeness of it. Despite how anxious it made him, Koichi did have a plan. And, it was a good one. Better than he ever could have known at the time.
After the boys said their final (retorts) goodbyes, Koichi made his way down the streets of Morioh to a very familiar green-roofed house. As he approached the steps, the doubts crept back on in. Koichi knew what he needed to do. Just knock. But how long had it been since he visited Rohan? The man clearly viewed Koichi in high regard, but would that be ruined by him coming here only to request a favor? He sure as hell hoped not, and rapped at the door thrice before stepping back, and waiting.
The time spent standing there seemed to stretch on for ages. As he stood there humming quietly, Koichi became a bit more conscious of small things. The sticky air had made him sweatier than usual, and his socks clung to his toes uncomfortably. Why was he getting embarrassed over this? It’s not like he smelled, but Koichi still couldn’t prevent himself from worrying if Rohan would notice. He was surely very perceptive, but Koichi doubted he would care about such trivial things. Koichi was torn away from his stewing, as he was faced by an opening door. He who emerged from behind it was none other than the person anyone would have expected.
Looking posh and composed as always, stood the infamous Rohan Kishibe in all his glory. Koichi would be lying if he didn’t admit that he fully understood the snootiness Josuke would often refer to in regards to Rohan, but it didn’t bother him too much. Sure he wasn’t the easiest guy to hang around, but who in this town was? Koichi loved Yukako, but knew very well how batshit insane the girl really was. Rohan’s… tinge of crazy didn’t really put him off after everything was said and done. Now all that was left for Koichi to overcome was, well, standing right in front of him.
“...Hey.” Koichi lamely uttered out. Off to a great start already! Rohan gave him a moment to internally facepalm before smirking and with an albeit snarky,
“Hey yourself. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Rohan leaned against the doorframe for a moment, before noticing the other’s hesitance. He pushed himself off the frame with an arm, and ushered for Koichi to come inside and make himself at home. Koichi hadn’t needed to answer Rohan’s question, as his offer for them to make their way indoors interrupted the initial small talk. Koichi remained sitting on one of Rohan’s couches in silence as he waited for the other guy to join him in the living room. When Rohan emerged through the entryway, it was with a cup of tea in each hand, and a smile on his face.
What in the world is he so happy about?
“I’m uh- Well, sorry, for you know, showing up unexpectedly?” Koichi was never sure how to handle these types of conversations. Ones where he was the one bringing up something awkward or uncomfortable to handle. When it was other people coming to him with their situations, he could handle everything so well. Why the hell was it so different when his own problems joined the mix? “Actually um it’s… I was kind of, no I was just wondering if you could,” Fuck this was awful. Koichi could feel his head spinning as the smell of lavender tea made its way to his senses. He picked up the ceramic cup and took a sip as to be polite. The drink was scalding hot against his tongue, but tried his best to barely react, despite knowing Rohan would obviously notice anyways. How humiliating.
“If I could…?” Rohan trailed off in anticipation. It was like he already knew something was up? How did he do that? How could he sit there with one leg thrown over the other, sipping hot tea so casually while Koichi struggled to find all the right words? It wasn’t offensive by any means, though Koichi truly could not comprehend it. In fact, it was part of what made him admire the Kishibe fella so much. Rohan really had his own way of showing respect, and it helped calm Koichi down a bit to know he was being listened to. Actually listened to.
“To be honest, I have something I’d like to ask you, an-and something I have to tell you in order for that to be- to be possible. I’m not- As you can see, I’m not very good at what I, um, came here to do I guess.” Koichi averted his gaze to the floor beneath his feet, and willed himself to continue before somehow making things even more awkward. “I’m so, so sorry if this is rude to ask, but,”
Inhale. Just breathe.
“Could you, maybe, use Heaven’s Door?”
There it was. There was the silence. Koichi was prepared for it to elongate into a mental eternity as it had at the front door. He wasn’t sure what he would do if he exposed his deepest secrets, only for Rohan to not be able to help at all. Or worse, what if he was revolted? Koichi wasn’t sure why, or since when, he cared so much about how he was seen in the eyes of a certain Rohan Kishibe, but he certainly did. He was simply terrified. After all this overthinking, would Rohan even use his stand after all? Hah. Now what if-
“What?” That was all he could say.
“Let’s do it. It was your idea, so don’t seem so surprised!” Rohan did that thing where he closes his eyes, and laughs an interpretable laugh, and Koichi wasn’t sure if he should be relieved, or nervous after all. He didn’t want to disrespect Rohan by assuming he would be transphobic, but it wasn’t uncommon where they lived; so the idea was certainly not far-fetched. But this was his genius plan, and he had no reason not to try out the best bet he had at the moment.
“Yeah. Why not?” Koichi exhaled a resigned laugh-scoff of disbelief at himself, and what he was going through with. Since when had he been brave enough for this? And, it was actually happening. Not going to happen; it wasn’t some event he went there to plan or schedule. It was happening right then. It felt unreal up to the moment when Rohan had summoned his precious Heaven’s Door. Rohan removed his legs from their crossed position, and switched to leaning forward with his elbows on his thighs.
“If you came here just to ask me for this, I’m assuming you’re sure about the whole ordeal,”
False, but continue.
“So just help me out here a bit, okay?,” He didn’t pause for a response. “Just think about what it is you want me to know, and ask. That way, it will be at the forefront of your mind, and I won’t have to snoop around too much.”
Sounds straightforward enough.
Koichi nodded curtly, and closed his eyes. His shoulders sunk down as he attempted to relax, if even by just a bit. The air shifted a bit, and Koichi could tell exactly why. The idea of opening his eyes was tempting as the pages of his face were peeled back, slowly, one by one. Koichi tried not to be flustered once he noticed the feeling of Rohan’s breath on his face. Ignoring the intimate feeling of the situation, Koichi focused on what mattered.
Hear my secret, Rohan. Hear it, and listen.
He thought about his upcoming surgery. About telling his friends, and their being unable to help. He contemplated on how he had planned to ask Rohan after Josuke’s suggestion, and headed right over. Koichi began to think quite a bit about coming out. Without much thoughtful intention, Koichi began to recall when he first came out to his family in junior high. Ayana teased a lot at first; and it took a while for his mom to understand enough to get her daughter to cut it out. He didn’t exactly tell his dad, but that wasn’t something Koichi ever wanted to think about. Sometimes unwelcome thoughts would make their way in without permission, however. That’s how he found himself thinking more about sharing the secret of his identity. He remembered the look on Yukako’s face once she knew.
Rohan wasn’t supposed to know so much. But this wasn’t his fault. It was Koichi’s idea, and besides, he probably didn’t see it all! Koichi tried to remain his… optimistic self, but was rudely disrupted by the sudden realization: Rohan’s long-awaited response.
Fuck. Fuck. F u c k. This was a terrible idea. WHY did I think this was a good idea!?
“So, does eight thirty sound good?” Again, what? How was it that Rohan always managed to surprise him like this? When they first met, the surprises were unpleasant more often than not. Though once all preconceived notions of the mangaka’s nature were thrown aside, the surprises were pleasant.
“I- wow, uh, yeah!” It may have felt awkward, but Koichi was beaming despite it. It turned out he didn’t have to worry any more, about any of it. Rohan hadn’t said anything hurtful, and now the no-ride debacle was solved! Things really did have a way of working themselves out, huh? Perhaps it was just this once, but who knows. It felt good to have a moment of relief, and yet, Koichi was going to revel in it. In retrospect, his fears seemed so damn silly. Except he was a little confused. “Wait so, like, your place or mine?”
“Oh I guess I forgot to account for that, haha! I guess I figured you would come here, though I don’t have a problem with driving to your house?” Rohan worded his inquiry in a fashion that forced Koichi to choose. Though any normal person would simply view it as having the decision graciously left up to them. Seriously, fuck anxiety.
“I’d- I’d actually really appreciate that, actually.” Koichi really wished he could just talk like he knew what he was saying half of the time. For some reason, though, the fates cursed him to only speak eloquently to Okuyasu. Koichi may as well be revered for having the most pointless skill to ever be had.
Yet, there he stood. Face to face with not only Rohan, but victory. This night was a success, and he could finally rest easy. Koichi was so engrossed in basking in the solace of everything he had just gotten out of. He was simply intent on getting home and relaxing. There was no way he could’ve had any idea what he had just gotten himself into.