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Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

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        Koichi knew this conversation was bound to come up. In all honesty, he had no clue how it hadn’t happened sooner...it had been two years, after all.

        He knew Yukako deserved to know, but it was her that obsessed over him years ago with no regard for his feelings, let alone if he would ever meet her expectations. No matter how much Koichi wanted to be her idea of a perfect man, he couldn’t change some things. Neither could he change her reaction. 

       “Koichi...what do you mean?”

         What does THAT mean?

        He’d never been good at reading people, but now of all times it’s a trait Koichi loathed not possessing. 

        “I-“

        What words are supposed to be said, to that? After all, what he meant was already said.

        “NO- Stop. I mean, you can’t be serious...are you??” Yukako demanded with a pained accent. How could she not tell how serious he was right then? Was it just the denial that’s forced her to think that, or does Yukako really think Koichi has such little dignity to pull such a prank? Either way, it’s too much. Koichi felt the sweat pooling at his neck and back, and wondered if it was nearly as noticeable to her as it was to him. Despite Koichi’s resolve for everything strengthening over his years of being a stand user, anxiety still had an overwhelming grip on his mind and body at times like this. Even after forming a response within his mind, the teenager barely managed to choke out a few syllables at a time. There was no going back now, though, and he knew this.

 

        “Yu..Yukako, It’s- how could,, how could I make some-something like this....how could I make it up?” Koichi couldn't understand, but he wanted to, so desperately. The young woman’s expression wasn’t close to comprehensible. Angry? Disappointed? Disgusted?? All possible feelings circulated through Koichi’s head, but it would be years before he could put his finger on it. He must know, she had to tell him or else they’d go nowhere at all. With a shaky breath, the words slipped out seamlessly. “I’m transgender, Yukako. I wasn’t always who I am now...When I was born, well, I already told you.. Please say something, I’m begging you.” He barely breathed out the last two words as a whisper; but there wasn’t a chance she missed it, as she opened her mouth to respond, only to huff out a breath of frustration. Perhaps it was tinted with anger, but Koichi couldn’t tell, and could only wait for her words. 

         Words...why are they the only things I know?

        “I can’t fucking believe this! I can’t- WHY didn’t you tell me!?? If- if you told me this when I first confessed I would have taken it back immediately , if I knew you were actually a GIRL!! ” The strength of the last word felt like a sharp slap in the face. Koichi could have sworn he was suffocating. Act Two couldn’t make someone feel this heavy if it tried. The funny part is, Koichi thought, she never mentioned how it made her feel. 

        It wasn’t the breeze that made the boy so suddenly cold, but it sure didn’t help. Koichi almost couldn’t remember what it was like to not have all of the muscles in his body be excruciatingly tense. The sweat running down his torso had gone cold, and he wanted nothing but to be in silence. Far away from the gusting wind, where there’s no cars or students riding their bikes home late. Somewhere void of bustle and nature, where the only sound is that of his own breath. A place away from the voice of someone he trusted. Someone that felt just as betrayed.

        Yukako opened her mouth to speak one last time, and just like that, it was all over.

 

         The sun is all there is. That, and a hand pulling me along. I wonder, will we be there soon?   

         “WAKE UP ALREADYYY!!” Koichi hit the floor with a thump, and looked up after rubbing his eyes, to see Ayana towering over him menacingly. 

        “What the hell was that for?" Koichi groaned, dragging his hands down his groggy face. Koichi stood up, and stretched, feeling stiffer than ever after the events of last evening. Luckily his sister hadn’t seemed to notice that he was crying last night, based on her response.

        “What a blockhead...” she mumbled. “You’re going to be late for school!" Pointing outside with the face of a school teacher shunning a student, Koichi’s big sis probably thought she’s intimidating him. 

        “Yeah, okay. Says the one that had to repeat a year and still lives at home...” He murmured the last part but was forced to dash out the door before getting snatched by Ayana and surely earning a smack on the head. 

    

        Koichi worried for a minute that he was in too much of a hurry, before looking down and realizing that he fell asleep in his uniform. 

         Hopefully nobody notices what a mess I am..

        The school day went surprisingly normally, meaning boring; but at least for lunch he’d be in the company of his good friends. Honestly though, Koichi couldn’t decide if that’s something he wanted at the moment. Of course they would be of comfort, but at the same time it’s difficult for him to show that vulnerable side without it turning into a situation. Today the boys decided to bring their lunch out to the hillside, where the other students rarely hung around anymore. Koichi sat next to Josuke who lie with his arms propping his head up, and ate an apple left in his bag from yesterday; since he mistakenly left his wallet and any other food he could have brought at home.  

        As Okuyasu sat on the other side of Josuke, scarfing down some well-preserved left overs from Trattoria Trussardi, Koichi took one last bite and tossed the core of his apple down into the grass. Looking into the sky, Koichi almost instinctively covered his face with his hand to block the sun, but instead just closed his eyes. 

        “Yukako dumped me.”

         “eEHHH!?!?” Okuyasu screamed after coughing up the pasta he was choking on, but Josuke remained silent; and only sat up to look worriedly at the other one of them. The words just came out like they wanted to be said, even if Koichi didn’t want them to come out.

         If only it was like this during yesterday's conversation, huh?

        Koichi was expecting Okuyasu to blurt out two dozen questions in the next thirty seconds, but surprisingly Josuke spoke up first. 

        “When did it… happen?" He pried cautiously enough. Josuke was typically a very considerate person, but really had no subtle way to ask such a question. Koichi wasn’t about to leave them wondering, though, despite not being all too ready to continue the topic at hand. It helped that he was pretty out of it.

        “Well… yesterday. After school, when she found out that I’m t-" Koichi’s heart was beating arrhythmically at a staggering pace once he had caught himself. Part of him wanted to finish the sentence, but after the previous reaction, he wasn’t about to risk his friendship with two more of the only people in his life whose existence meant anything. This time it was Okuyasu’s turn to speak up.

        “You’re what?” He inquired, unknowing of the question's weight.

        “I don’t… know if I should say. You might not see me the same.” His concern didn't come out as breathy as it felt, but that didn’t necessarily mean neither of the other boys picked up the meaning behind it. Koichi really felt like he should be tearing up about now, but apparently there wasn’t anything left after he got it all out last night. 

        “Come on, you know you can tell us anything. You can trust us right? Besides, knowing you, it prolly won’t be that bad anyways!” Okuyasu chuckled at the end of his statement, but Koichi internally shuddered at the question amidst his sentiment. Did he trust them? He had no reason not to. After all, these were people that have put their lives on the line for him, and that Koichi has done the same for; and he still would. So why in the world was he uncertain about trust between them?

        “It’s well… not really normal. It should be, but I don’t want you guys to be put off…” He trailed off and averted his gaze, but while Okuyasu was about to say more, Josuke sat up with a grunt, and exchanged a look with him. Josuke cleared his throat and looked towards Koichi. 

        “I might be completely off here, but I think I might have an idea of where you’re going with this. So um, I think you should know something too.” He declared with a sort of shyness to it. “If this is about what I think it is, and again please don’t feel too awkward if I’m way wrong but, you see, Okuyasu and I we-“ He cut off to look over at the other for an approval of sorts, but before he could finish what he was about to say, Okuyasu’s eyes went wide as he caught on to what Josuke was trying to tell Koichi. “We are-“

         “Boyfriends!!” Okuyasu said with a huge smile on his face, unbefitting the conversation’s tone up to this point. Koichi looked up sharply at the word though, unsure of what he was actually expecting to hear. The hue of Josuke’s face reddened instantly, but Okuyasu was just glad to hopefully be of consolation to Koichi. 

        “Wait,” Koichi started, “really?” Not that this was an especially surprising fact upon deeper contemplation, but Koichi was mostly wondering how Josuke could tell what this was about. Then again, not everyone else needed words. Okuyasu on the other hand, was eager to speak as much – if not more – than Koichi needed to hear. 

        “Yeah!! We love each other lots! I just don’t go around bragging because people might pick on Josu for it… Wait are you also?” Okuyasu seemed to have had a revelation, but it was only a reminder to Koichi that they really had no clue after all. He had to start somewhere though.

        “Well, I am bisexual, but that’s not why she broke up with me. To be honest… I thought that was old news.” Koichi responded with a nervous chuckle. It was true, though, and surprising to him that not everyone already knew. However, the look of revelation Okuyasu had borne, turned to that of both delight and confusion. 

        “Oh, okay, but then… why?”

         Is this okay?

        Somehow Koichi felt like he might actually have been deceiving them. Will they see it as having been lied to like Yukako had? What if they are disgusted? They will surely start seeing me differently. Those were the thoughts that raced through Koichi’s mind, but Okuyasu and Josuke had been so open with him. It was only right to be the same. 

        “I wasn’t...born male.”

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        Everything seemed to freeze in that moment, like time was stopped for just the three of them. Koichi couldn’t focus on his breath, or pulse, he could only feel the buzzing silence of no reply. It’s Josuke that finally let time resume.

         “I-I’m sorry, but I’m not really sure I,” He paused. “Not sure I get it…" Koichi hated having to explain this part of himself two days in a row. And if he’s being honest with himself, it’s less that he didn’t want his friends to know, and more of a disdain towards the reminder. 

         “What I- What I mean is that, well… Okay this is a bit tricky to explain haha." Koichi sputtered out, feeling extremely sick, but being more focused on finding the correct words. “So um, what I’m trying to tell you is that, me, my body, it’s- I was born in a female body” Koichi hesitated a bit before deciding to continue. “And I’m getting medical help to well, to change into how I should be… Is what I mean." He couldn’t bear to see the looks on their faces. Would they not take him seriously like his former girlfriend? What if they saw him as a girl henceforth? If Koichi had anything aside from an apple left in his stomach, he might have vomited. However, before the high schooler’s stomach could make any plans, Koichi’s attention was suddenly brought to his back. As he was avoiding looking in his friends’ direction, the boy hadn’t noticed Okuyasu move to sit on his other side until receiving a solid slap on the back, which nearly hurled him down the hill. 

         “Listen man, nothin like that’s gonna change the fact that we’re best bros!" Okuyasu said with a disgustingly sweet, toothy smile spread from cheek to cheek. “Ah!” He startled, before hopping to his feet, “Oi, Josuke! Whaddaya say we pay Tonio a visit with Koichi here to help him cheer up a lil!?” Koichi chuckled as Josuke groaned at Okuyasu’s obsession with the Italian man’s restaurant. Strangely enough, the idea seemed nice; and Koichi genuinely liked the thought of meeting Oku’s idol before leaving the next week. 

        As Koichi exhaled a sigh of amusement, he couldn't help but feel a coldness in his chest. If it weren’t too cliche, he’d compare it to feeling heavy once again. Koichi watched as Okuyasu tried so hard to make him feel better, and Josuke barely protested (despite being opposed to visiting the restaurant for an unknown reason, and a bit… jealous ?) Either way, there’s no way he was about to spoil the mood, right after they had worked so hard at raising it. With a huff and grunt, Koichi stood up and stretched out his arms with a grin, collecting the attention of his fellow stand users. 

         “You know what? I don’t think ma will mind too much if I get supper out today.” The face of surprise on Josuke was great, but not nearly as great as the ecstatic look Okuyasu made, preceding his smug ‘hah I won!’ gestures towards his boyfriend. Josuke could only shake his head, but still went along with the plans, protest-free.

        After walking a few blocks, they reached an oddly shaped and placed building near a graveyard. The green sign above the main entrance reads: “Trattoria Trussardi.” Koichi gave his friend, who was still celebrating his success at “convincing” them to go to dinner here, a nudge. “So this is it, huh? Do you think I’m ready to meet your beloved Tonio?” Koichi said with a jokingly suggestive chuckle, secretly trying to get a rise out of their other friend. 

         “Yeah! You’re gonna love him, I swear!” Okuyasu was clearly oblivious, but still got a ‘hmph’ from Josuke for not objecting to the suggestion that the chef was ‘beloved’ to him. Koichi loves to tease...but even he knew not to go too far. 

         “But will he love me is the question!” Okuyasu, however? Endless teasing opportunities. The others truly had trouble deciding if it was good or bad that he never catches on. It did make for some entertaining conversation, that’s for sure! 

         “What’s not to love?” Okuyasu asked, but it definitely sounded like more of a proclamation than anything. Koichi figured it was time to stop, though he also grinned when catching sight of the pouty look Josuke wore. Koichi was the one that quickly climbed the steps first; and as he turned the door handle and stepped inside, a man wearing a chef’s uniform stood there, as if he had been waiting.

         “Ah! Oku~ yasu !” The man said in the thickest Italian accent Koichi had ever witnessed face-to-face. “You brought a new friend with you this-a time! Would it be right to assume this one has a stand too?” Stumbling a bit, Koichi caught himself, before processing the situation from what had just been said. Is that why the food was so good in his friend’s experience? Or was Tonio being a stand user simply just another reason to visit, aside from the amazing food? Food. Koichi could practically taste it in the air, and hoped the rumbles of his stomach were not audible. Whether it was from that or not, Tonio seemed to show them to a table right on cue. As he walked the trio over to one of the tables – the small selection would have been strange if not for the fact that he’s a stand user – Okuyasu responded excitedly, not acknowledging that the question caught Koichi off guard. 

         “You’re spot on! This guy is a lot tougher than ya’d think~” Since the conversation so far has been about him, Koichi spoke up to feel more involved, earning a smirk from the handsome chef. 

         “So, uh, what’s on the menu? Haha..” Koichi awkwardly mumbled out, in a desperate attempt to be included, but also to get something in that stomach of his. As Tonio’s grin was just about to open, Okuyasu decided he was more than happy to answer that question for him. 

         r/notopbutok

        “Oh sweet Koichi, tsk tsk! Didn’t I tell you before? I totally did...unless I didn’t. But yeah no menus, Tonio here already knows what you’ll want!” While Okuyasu seemed highly confident in that statement, it didn’t change the fact that he wasn’t always the best source of explanation. Koichi looked over to the brunette, whom he could only assume to be in his early thirties (though very good looking for his age), and whispered to him requesting elaboration, as Okuyasu was preoccupied with explaining to Josuke why this wasn’t a bad idea. 

        After hearing from the hunk of a- Tonio, about how his stand Pearl Jam makes the best cuisine imaginable, Koichi had become more eager than anything to see how good it actually was. Though at first concerned by the personalization aspect, Koichi couldn’t help but be intrigued by such a gentle looking- 

         What am I THINKING about!? God...Yukako broke up with me not even 24 hours ago, and I’m already crushing on an older man?  

        Koichi was snapped out of his trance by the sight of Tonio reaching around to set each person’s meals in front of them. As Tonio lifted the metal covers away from Koichi’s dish, the aroma seemed to flow right to his nose; and there was no way to resist digging in as soon as humanly possible. Though Koichi didn’t know the name of the dish, he was too focused to even contemplate asking. With each bite, a new sensation was experienced, each one causing him to take back ever thinking that a meal could have too many textures. With each crunch, slurp, or smack of his lips, Koichi felt more and more rejuvenated. Letting his teeth seep in once more, there was no way to foresee what happened next. Suddenly, Koichi found himself wishing he had taken the time to inquire about Josuke's resistance...

Chapter Text

         

           What was this sensation? Koichi had never felt something like this in his life, and wasn’t currently in a position to speculate. Rather than being focused on why it was happening, Koichi was more concerned with what was actually going on. Were his muscles… opening up!? It didn’t take long for the panicked boy to accept that he had no explanation for this phenomenon, and Koichi’s mind began racing, grasping for answers.

 

            Is this the ability of Pearl Jam? Why do I feel so relaxed even though I felt under attack seconds ago? I don’t understand…

 

           Since Koichi’s back isn’t within his range of vision, he could only wait for whatever was happening to come to an end. Though he planned to immediately demand for the event to be explained, Koichi was finding himself to be too… calm? Despite curiously wondering how that was even possible, Koichi only managed to exhale a grand “wow.” 

 

           “S-So, is that the true power of Pearl Jam?” Koichi investigated with awe. He was definitely starting to see where Okuyasu’s immense respect for the man came from. The grin upon Tonio’s face widened, and sent chills down the links of Koichi’s spine, like a chain reaction. It’s a wonder that he couldn't feel his pulse ricocheting around his skull. After all, none of them had been in such a nerve wracking stand-related situation in what felt like ages. As the chef approached the group, Koichi remembered that he had asked the man a question. 

 

          “Indeed it is!” Tonio remarked proudly in response to the awe-struck customer. “My-a Pearl Jam combined with a knowledge of food will have you re-a-juvinated!” While his accent was almost comical, Koichi was truly enamoured by this Trussardi fella. Who would have thought a stand user could do what they love, and help others in such a way?

 

           wow indeed…



          The boys ended up leaving with no left-overs, which would have been to Okuyasu’s dismay, if Tonio had not offered extra to take home. What an experience… That may have been the first, but it certainly would not be Koichi’s last trip to Trattoria Trussardi. Speaking of trips…

 

           No, I’ll worry about that when I get home.

 

    When they reached Josuke’s house, the boys said their goodbyes, and parted ways for the night. Things going better than expected almost made up for the day prior. Almost. Honestly, Koichi felt like it should have made things alright. After all, his two best friends supporting him and being gay for each other? It still felt a bit unreal. Yukako probably felt like it was unreal, too. Fuck, Koichi thought. How long would it take him to get over his first love?

 

Koichi finally arrived back at his own home, and was more than ready to slip out of his shoes and school attire. In fact, he might’ve seemed eager if it weren’t for the teen’s utter lack of energy. Tonio’s food left him feeling rejuvenated beyond belief, but as the thoughts of Yukako seeped back in, mental exhaustion was quick to follow. 

 

    She’s gone, and she isn’t coming back. I shouldn’t miss her, but that’s not the point. I love her. I fucking love her and she tossed me aside the moment she knew the truth. The truth. Haha… was she lying about loving me, or am I just so fucking faulty that it doesn’t matter? 

 

As distressing thoughts raced through his head, Koichi began to choke back tears. As he made his way to the bedroom, the boy stopped only once to contemplate whether he was about to throw up or not. As it was, the Trussardi meals are not ones to be rejected by the body. Sliding inelegantly onto the mattress, Koichi couldn’t contain himself any longer. The tears wouldn’t wait any longer; and they began to stream out, like a dam about to burst through the cracks. At this point, Koichi couldn’t even bother considering if his family would hear him, as the hiccuping cries struggled their way out of his control. This cry wasn’t a bawl, nor was it the type that originated from disappointment, or sadness. His sobs were gentle, yet rough, as his voice repeatedly hitched. With uneven breathing, he was in a state of almost… calm panic. His body cried out from fear, and loss. He was shutting down because of love. 

 

Koichi was always one to rise with the sun. He could sleep all day, if the blinds were closed, but awaken easily after only hours, if nature saw fit. Though he skipped dinner the night before, and passed out after running his eyes dry, food was the last thing on Koichi’s mind. Koichi’s body had habits, and not only good ones. If stress got to him, his stomach would either beg for constant food, or want none at all; and Koichi never got to take his pick. 

 

Strangely enough, Yukako wasn’t at the front of his mind either. After all, an important event is coming up… one that he was going to think about when he got home. What’s done was done, however, and he still had some morning left to plan a bit. Most of the planning was already out of the way, since the date had been set plenty of months in advance, but top surgery was a big thing, and Koichi wasn’t about to fuck it up by forgetting something. After assuring all of the necessities were checked off, and organized in a suitcase ahead of time, Koichi was ready to start the day. 

 

Gathering his school bag, and slipping back into his green uniform, Koichi made his way out of his room to go to school; though only to get stopped by his mother halfway to the front door. Her usually energetic face looked worried now as she wore a sad, yet gentle smile. Though Koichi gathered nothing from her expression, he definitely noted her lack of typical enthusiasm in the morning. Mrs. Hirose rested a hand on her son’s shoulder and glanced away for a moment before asking him to wait a bit before leaving.

 

“You don’t have to leave just yet… you won’t be late, just- we have to talk about something.” She said, while making her way to the nearest set of chairs, only removing her hand once he sat. “Koichi… you know I’d do anything for you...within my power, right?” She asked, almost pleadingly. 

 

“Ye-yeah, I know that mom. I’d do the same for you, also.” Koichi responded honestly. He would do anything for his mom, whether it was saving, or fighting for, or dying. His father? Not a chance, but his mom? He cherished her more than he knew how to put into words; and that’s extremely rare. His mom right now though, was a bit concerning to him. Koichi couldn’t possibly fathom a reason as to why she was sitting him down for a talk right as he was about to leave for school. 

 

“Well, about your surgery coming up… I won’t be able to take you.” Her voice was strained as it clearly pained her to say, but she quickly followed with explanation. “I’m sorry, I am so, so sorry, dear; but your father got in an accident on his business trip, and needs me to get there as soon as I can. You’ll have to ask one of your friends to bring you instead… that Josuke perhaps? He seems very reliable.” The words poured out in a rush, as if she didn’t want to hear herself say them, but Koichi knew she was simply discombobulated by the position she was in right now. Koichi’s mother had always been very supportive, despite it taking time for her to truly understand everything. Koichi was at a loss.

 

“Mom… what the hell?” He asked, to his own surprise. She gasped a bit, as he sparsely sweared in her presence, let alone towards her. Koichi couldn’t help it, though. At this point his emotions were so out of whack, that he couldn’t even restrain himself against his own mother. It wasn’t her fault, but his father’s. Why the hell did he always have to ruin everything? Besides, there’s no way his mom should have to go there to be with him. She didn’t mention anything about it being life threatening, and there’s obviously nurses to take care of him. It’s all just a bunch of bullshit, and Koichi knew it. As Koichi reached his limit, he stood up brazenly, and suddenly, just sighed. His mom didn’t deserve to be yelled at for being unreliable. One of her worst flaws was that she saw making commitments, and abandoning them (though she won’t refer to it as such) to help someone else, as being nice to everyone. The problem was, that she is a nice person, just one that made unhelpful choices without knowing. As Koichi stood there, his mother remained silent, though she looked nearly about to say something, twice. Finally,  Koichi continued. 

 

“I’ll figure it out then… “ Koichi said bitterly, but also desperately hoping she would change her mind, and be consistent in the end. To his dismay, she wouldn’t come through, and he already knew that. And now, he was going to be late to school on top of it. Without another word, Koichi slung his school bag over his arm and made his way out the door with a slight hurry to his steps. When he arrived at school, he turned out to be just in the nick of time; and Okuyasu and Josuke both decided to tease him about it after the fact. The school day went by fine, but Koichi avoided the others at lunch, and his “alibi” was going to the infirmary for headache medicine. Which would be true, if not for Koichi knowing not to take OTCs on an empty stomach. Which, ironically enough, was the headache’s primary cause. 

 

After school, he met his friends at the gate, and explained to them where he was, but not why he almost actually went. He was aware that if his friends found out about his lack of appetite, they would force feed him; and wished that fact was a joke. Koichi made it a point to explain that he no longer had a headache, which is mostly true since he drank some water… the ultimate cure; and they ended up in some random conversation as they always did. Koichi then realized with a bit of distress, that there would never be a better time to ask his friends if they could lend him a hand. 

 

“Hey, so I was wondering if either of you are maybe not busy on Sunday?” He interjected, looking between them. The boys looked at each other, and then down to Koichi, with smiles on their faces. 

 

“You’re finally not busy for once?!” Josuke shouted with a smile going from ear to ear. Not yet understanding why Koichi asked, he proceeded in his excitement. “Bro, you have to come take turns playing against me and Okuyasu on Mario Kart!” Before Josuke could go any farther, Koichi interrupted.

 

“No, Josuke- I mean, I’m glad you aren’t busy, but I just, I was wondering if you have a driver’s license… by any chance?” Josuke then realized the intent in such curiosity. Josuke sadly explained that he did not, in fact, have a license, nor Okuyasu. Both of them tried defending the matter by saying that you could walk everywhere in Morioh, and they were too busy with school and stand-related occurrences to bother. And despite Koichi’s attempts to reassure them that he was okay finding someone else to help him, the boys were not convinced. 

 

“What is it you need a car for anyways?” Okuyasu inquired, not realizing what telling them meant to Koichi. This question caused Koichi’s heart to skip a beat, and swallow thickly. He nervously rubbed the back of his neck and forced himself to think that there’s no shame in telling them. Not that he wouldn’t feel ashamed, but just felt that he should honor his trust in his friends. So he did. 

 

“I’m getting surgery…” Koichi said, shyly, but at a normal volume. Now, they all knew Okuyasu wasn’t the brightest, but both of the others could only internally facepalm when he responded with,

 

“What?! Are you okay? Whattaya need surgery for?!” So innocently ignorant. Josuke just shook his head, and turned his boyfriend around to whisper in his ear probably what he suspected the surgery is related to, earning an “Ah!” from the boy. They inconspicuously turned around while wearing the faces of two young men about to suggest something truly… bizarre. To Koichi’s amazement, contrary to the anticipated suggestions of stealing a car, or even just to ask his sister - who was busy with college exams - to drive him, they suggested something even crazier. It’s actually Josuke who proposed the idea. 

 

“So… this is a wild thought but, I bet Rohan knows how to drive.”

Chapter Text

        “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-

 

        “Why not.” 

 

        Wait.

 

        “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. 

 

        Shit.  

 

        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.