The first time they met was also the first time Sho touched Ohno. His mother scolded him for doodling over the newly furnished wooden table. As punishment, Ohno was banned from eating sweets for a week. He considered it too much, in comparison to the gravity of the mistake he did; and thus, he decided to throw a tantrum, as testament of his disagreement to his mother. He stormed out of their house and dashed off in a far distance. His feet only went into a complete stop when he could not recognize anymore of his surroundings. His eyes tried to find a familiar object or landmark. There was none.
Feeling hopeless about his current situation, little Satoshi curled up near a lamppost. He was lonely and afraid. Around him, there was only darkness and silence. The moonlight barely made the roads visible. There were few passerbys; however, Ohno’s small figure did not catch their attention at all. Tears slowly formed in his eyes as he repeatedly called out his mother’s name.
Not long after, he heard footsteps. The sounds gradually got louder and louder, moving towards the direction he was in. Goosebumps ran all over his body — he heard tales from his mother about goblins that appear in front of naughty children like him. Ohno shuddered in fear. The last thing he wanted was to get eaten by any supernatural being.
As the silhouette became more and more recognizable, he noticed big brown eyes, staring at him directly. Standing in front of him was no goblin, it was small kid, just like him.
Ohno perked up when the boy, suddenly, opened his mouth and asked him a question, “Are you lost?”
He nodded while snuffling.
“I’m lost too. Our moms must be worried, already”, and the boy stretched his arms, holding out his hand for Ohno to take.
He might be popularly known as a rule-breaker kid; but there was one lesson that his mother taught him and would always follow and that was to be wary of strangers. He showed a hesitant look. This brat, in front of him, just came out of nowhere. Ohno's afraid that once he gave his trust, the kid, who at first acted like a hero, would turn out to be something evil or bad.
The little boy remained still, with his hand patiently waiting for Ohno’s. There was a determined look on him. His gaze never faltered. No words, no explanations uttered. It was the boy’s big mesmerizing eyes that almost spoke to Ohno, drawing him, telling him that it’s okay to trust him. A small smile peeked over Ohno’s face as he finally gave in and placed his hand above the little boy’s.
Ohno was pulled up from his position and with hands clasped together, they trudged along the dark streets. Their little footsteps echoed through the silence of the night. Ohno’s mind was taken off from his previous predicament and by now was focused on the gentle hand that was holding his. It was small, chubby, soft; but, deceptively strong. The strong grip made Ohno feel secured. It eased his loneliness, just a little bit. Feeling happy about his situation, he squeezed the kid's hand even tighter, as a sign of gratitude.
They were midway in their walk when they heard someone calling Ohno’s name. “Satoshi!”
Recognizing it, Ohno replied back with his tiny high-pitched loud voice, “Mama!” He quickly turned towards the little boy and beamed. “We found my mom!” Full of excitement, he dragged the little boy towards the source of the voice.
Ohno finally caught sight of his Mom and he waved his other free hand with enthusiasm. As if forgetting that he was the one who started this chaos, he nonchalantly approached his mother and greeted her, “I’m back!”
He was expecting a scolding; but instead, he received a hug from his mother. And, as she stroked his thick fluffy hair, she whispered to him, “Don’t do that again.”
Ohno realized the stress his mother had gone through. As he nodded in reply, he promised to himself not to make his mother worried, again. It’s not worth it, in exchange for the little happiness that he would get just by eating a piece of chocolate cake or strawberry shortcake.
His mom, later on, realized that Ohno was not alone. She narrowed her eyes, examining the kid’s face. Then, she smiled — seemingly, recognizing the face of the kid, Ohno’s with.
“Aren’t you Sho?”
The little boy nodded and the kid’s grip on Ohno’s hands got tighter.
“Good boy, you helped my son." And, she ruffled Sho's hair. "I’ll accompany you to your mom. It's late and she might be panicking, right now."
Ohno's mom tried to grab hold of Sho's hand, hoping that the little kid would go and join her. Even so, Sho would not let go of Ohno’s hands. Ohno's mother insisted repeatedly that she would be the only one accompanying him. Sho remained steadfast. In the end, Ohno went along with both Sho and his mother and walked him back to their house. Ohno found out that this Sho, kid, was their next door neighbor.
Once Sho saw his mom, he quickly released his hold and rushed off towards his mom and hugged her. Sho must have missed her so much.
Ohno, together with his mom, were left standing outside of the gates, witnessing the scene unfold. He gazed down at his hands and pondered, for a second, the slight uncomfortable feeling he had when Sho pulled away from him.
“Next time, you will surely be chosen”, Sho assured his friend.
Ohno continuously flipped page-by-page the latest volume of Shounen Jump. He submitted a copy of his original comic in last month's contest with the hopes that he would win; at least, a spread in one of the most popular manga anthology magazine. It bummed him so much when he saw a different piece printed on what supposed to be the place for his comic. Once again, he could not prove to his mother that he have a big chance of being mangaka. What’s even worst was that he stayed up until midnight for almost a week just to finish up all of that -- he even neglected his studies. For him, it was a waste of effort.
“There’s always next time”, Sho continued to give him assurance.
Despite Sho’s consistent attempts to cheer Ohno up with his words, it only fell into deaf ears.
Ohno was gazing idly at the cover of the Shounen Jump when he felt a hand resting over his back and stroking him gently. Puzzled, he looked at Sho and saw him smiling at him.
“Oh! You finally noticed me.”
The once chubby fingers has already turned into a slender, muscular one. But, the feeling was still the same — it was soothing and calming.
He chuckled over how Sho’s touch, simple as it may seem, could cause a huge impact on him. Looks like, it doesn’t take much to cheer him up or... maybe, it was the effect of Sho's hands.
“What are you laughing about?”, Sho asked.
Ohno shook his head. “Nothing…" and, he smiled. "You’re right! There’s still next time.”
“Who gets a cold during this summer heat?”
It has always been a habit of theirs to go to school, at the same time. They have always attended the same nursery, kindergarten, elementary and now, high school. Based on their normal time schedule, Ohno should have been ready by now. Except, today, he was curled up in his bed with a severe headache and runny nose.
“It’s the change of weather!”, Ohno replied in a hushed voice. In actuality, the true culprit here is Ohno, himself. He was stubborn enough to stay up all night — not to study — but to finish a comic that he dared with his friends. It’s not helping that he forgot to close his windows before sleeping.
“You sure you’re not faking it?”, Sho teased more as he sat by Ohno’s side, right at the edge of the bed. He gazed down and saw the flush on Ohno’s cheeks. His skin is glistening due to the perspiration and his lips were entirely puffed out. Sho heaved a sigh — to think that his friend was still being difficult after all this time.
“Then, just to make sure” and Sho brought his hands right up onto Ohno’s forehead.
The sudden gesture caused Ohno’s eyes to widen. Sho’s hand was cold, really cold. But, Ohno did not mind. His touch was light and affectionate. His fingers swept through his sweaty bangs, exposing more of his forehead. He closed his eyes and breath deeply. He loved every second of it. Sho’s hand, then traveled gently from his forehead down to his cheeks. And, Ohno, unconsciously, leaned on the touch and let out a satisfied sound.
Not a second passed by when Sho quickly withdraw his hand away. Surprised, Ohno fluttered his eyes open. He witnessed Sho hurriedly standing up and saying in a loud voice, “I— gotta go!”
As Ohno drifted off to sleep, he looked back on the time Sho rushed out of his room. He wondered if it was only in his imagination that he saw a hint of flush on Sho’s ears.
It has been a tradition for both of their families to celebrate Christmas together. Both of their mothers and fathers are close friends and it became natural for them to commemorate this kind of special occasions jointly.
A customary event in their party was Secret Santa. A week before Christmas eve, they would draw lots and find out who’s the person they will give a gift to. With a stroke of luck, Ohno picked Sho’s name and he knew exactly what to get for him.
He had seen him looked at some mechanical pencils in a certain bookstore on the way home. He heard him praising it and how nice it would be to own it. And from what Ohno was aware of, Sho hadn’t bought that set yet. Thus, he decided that it would be his Christmas gift to his best friend.
Ohno wrapped it beautifully in a red gift sack and when the time of Secret Santa revealing came. He proudly gave it to Sho. His friend removed the packaging carefully and as he brought out the box containing the mechanical pencil, Sho’s eyes glimmered with delight. He haven’t seen the item yet; but he already knew what it was. He opened the box and saw the mechanical pencil that he had always wanted with a gold letter S.S. engraved in it.
Sho placed the gift down on the sofa and with his emotions running high, he wrapped his arms around Ohno and hugged him really tight. Ohno tensed up, not expecting this kind of gesture from his friend. But, he slowly relaxed and squeezed him back. He sunk further into his embrace as he brought his hands onto Sho’s back and gently rubbed it. Appreciative hugs should not be that long but they stuck close to each other for more than a minute.
Their moment was suddenly interrupted when they heard someone coughing. Within seconds they pulled away and a red flush started peeking out on each of their cheeks. Everyone was staring at them and in the corner of Ohno's eye, he caught his and Sho's mom smirking. Ohno blushed even more. As he returned back to his original position, there was a smile forming in his mouth.
Movie night was a common past time for Ohno and Sho’s group of friends. It was Nino who insisted that they should do it once a month. They use the janken game in order to select the venue of their movie marathon and tonight, Ohno was the unlucky house that was chosen.
So now, the five of them were cramped up inside of Ohno’s room. Jun was setting up the dvd player; meanwhile, Nino and Aiba were checking out the new game that was released by Nintendo in their phones. Sho and Ohno were waiting patiently for the movie to start, sitting next to each other and sharing a soft, fluffy blanket.
Ohno noticed their closeness and he tried his hardest not to fidget or show any signs of nervousness. It was warm underneath; but for him, Sho felt warmer. He’s tempted to lean in and succumbed to what he’s feeling right now. Yet, he can’t.
Their hands were inches — no, centimeters, away from each other. Their pinky fingers almost touching. Ohno held his breath and struggled to maintain his composure every time their fingers meet. His heart was pounding, his palms were sweating. It was kind of stupid for him to be feeling this way.
When Jun moved out of his position, Ohno noticed that the movie’s already starting and the opening credits was now being played. Nino and Aiba brought down their phones and moved their attention towards the TV screen.
It should be the same for Ohno. What he did not expect was Sho reaching out and grabbing his hand. He almost made a yelp. Fortunately, he did not. It would be weird — knowing that his other three friends were there.
He didn't dare to give a glance; he was totally, utterly embarrassed. Though deep inside, he was curious on what Sho’s expression was like. It was his timidness, lack of courage that prevented him from turning to his side and look at Sho directly. Instead, he buried his head onto the soft blanket, hiding the building flush on his cheeks. He nuzzled his face — trying to contain the budding happiness.
Nino was the one who noticed Ohno's weird movements and he teased him, “Ohchan! Getting sleepy already.”
Sho grasped his hand even more and Ohno’s heartbeat spiked up. It was the worst — he cannot even pay attention to the movie. But at the same time, it was the best feeling he ever had. The only reply he could give to Nino was a muffled “yes” which left his friend wondering what’s wrong with him.
They were having their lunch at the school’s rooftop when, suddenly, Sho asked a question, “Have you considered dating, anyone?”
That caused Ohno to almost choke on his ham sandwich. He quickly grabbed his water bottle and drank from it. In rush, some of the water spilled and he brushed it off with his arms. He managed to reply back while panting, “Why, you asked?”
Sho thought for a moment before saying, “I— Someone just confessed to me.”
The water jug nearly fell on his lap. With his eyes still in fix contact with Sho, he gently brought the bottle down. Inside, he was panicking. Ohno knew that it would happen sooner or later. He already did several simulations on how to deal with it. But, it’s no surprise that facing the situation in reality was 100x harder.
Keeping a straight face, he tried to continue the conversation, “Who?”
Ohno knew her. She was one of the most popular students in their school. Once, the boys in their class did a mock ranking to decide who’s the most beautiful girl in their school, and it was a big surprise to him that Sho voted for her. It was his first time to hear Sho compliment a girl, a lot. Mikako is not only pretty; but also smart. She participated in many math and science contests. This made her the object of everyone’s affection.
It was a big blow for Ohno to learn that the perfect girl in the planet had confessed to his best friend. His mind was coming up with different words to say — “That’s great!”, “Wow, you’re the first one in our group!”, “Lucky!” — there were thousands of sentences he could give. All he needed to do was to hide his feelings.
A forced smile appeared in his face and it took almost all of his energy just to say, “You’ll look good together.”
Ohno caught the flash of disappointment in Sho’s face. And right after, he heard him chuckling. Ohno furrowed his brow, wondering if he said something funny. Then, Sho looked at him with a visible sadness in his eyes, “You’re right! I’ll reply to her later.”
He stretched out his arms and ruffled Ohno’s hair, “I’m glad I told you this”
Sho’s hand remained on his hair stroking and playing with it, as if telling Ohno that he was such a good friend. Ohno tried to convince himself that he liked what Sho was doing right now. Ohno should be because he had always loved it. However, he wasn’t able to fool himself. This time Sho’s touch was the one thing he wanted to be away the most.
It was weird…
It should be the other way around. But, tonight, it was Sho who was procrastinating in his studies. Ohno gazed at the empty notepad that Sho had been looking at for hours now. Not to mention, Sho hasn’t moved an inch ever since he grabbed his pen out of his pencil case.
Sho’s daze was interrupted once he heard his name being called out. He was quick to look at Ohno. The man, himself, was ignorant of what he had been doing or exactly "not doing" earlier that he managed to pose a sarcastic question, “What?”
Sho’s clearly behaving differently tonight. He, for one, never failed to finish his homework in an hour mark. Ohno was sure that his best friend was bothered by something and even though, he’s the least person who could give a proper advice, he still wants to help him out.
“Do you have any problems?”
Sho blinked fast before bringing his pen down. As he sighed, he laid down his face atop of his notes with his eyes fixed on Ohno.
“I heard something about you…”
Ohno tilted his head. “What?”
“That— Sa— Satomi confessed to you.”
Sho was right with his news. Satomi mailed Ohno earlier to meet up with her in a café near their University. He initially thought it was a meeting about their homework in Classical Art. Turns out, she was there to confess.
“I rejected her.”
Sho raised up from his position, in surprise. His eyes were wide-open, not believing in the words spoken by Ohno. Seeing Sho’s reaction, he nodded in confirmation.
“Why?? Eh— Why??”
Ohno shrugged his shoulders. “Because I’m not in love with her”
Silence followed and Ohno felt Sho’s gaze on him. He gulped, feeling the awkwardness. His eyes remained on the sketch that he’s doing. But, his consciousness was not. Bothered by Sho’s stares, a blush started forming on his cheeks and ears.
He hummed in response without looking back at Sho.
“Do you have someone you like, right now?”
And, Ohno’s hand that was tracing earlier, stopped. His heart pounded hard, his eyes were dilating wildly. He tried to think of a good response; somehow, he couldn’t. His lips remained mum and he only gave Sho a silent response.
Sho was not that oblivious. He had an inkling but he never mentioned it --- afraid that what he was assuming was wrong. It was his ego that held him up in questioning Ohno. This night, finally, gave him a chance to let out what has been in his mind, ever since.
Sho slides a hand over Ohno’s. His fingers drawing small circles; until, Ohno opened up his hand and allowed Sho's fingers to intertwine with his. Ohno inhaled sharply. It was entirely different from before — not the assuring ones he give whenever he’s down, not the friendly ones he receives whenever they are excited — this was all new. Or at least, he had recalled. Sho might had already did this but he was too busy overthinking, that he failed to recognize.
Slowly, carefully, he turned his head around. It has been long over due, finally, he faced Sho properly. And, as if on impulse, Sho brought his hands on Ohno's cheeks, softly caressing it.
Every touch of Sho on his face was something that he had always desired. When Ohno felt Sho’s thumb grazing over his lips, all of his senses stopped. No words were needed and he let himself be pulled by the man, in front of him.
Ohno wondered when Sho’s touch became special. Was it during the time when he comforted him, when he lost in some manga contest or maybe even before that? Ohno was not sure because it became the most natural thing in his life. Sho holding his hand, patting his shoulder, hugging him, ruffling his hair — everything was an everyday occurrence to him.
He thought that something would change between them as they became lovers; but, it was still the same. The only difference was that cuddling was added into their daily skinship. Romantic embrace, also; whenever the mood inside their living space was appropriate. What Ohno found out recently was that it was completely relaxing to snuggle up his face into the crook of Sho’s neck. Whenever he’s stressed out by the dozens of drafts he needed to submit, he would snuggle right up into his favorite spot. Sho would sometimes be tickled by this gesture and in return, Ohno would surely tease him and nuzzle his face even further. Sho, once, questioned him about this particular behavior and he only replied with a simple, “I feel calm doing it” and Ohno earned a gentle smile from Sho.
It was during the night that Sho’s touches became intense. It’s not only on his face, his shoulders or his chest. Sho’s hands were all over him, it’s as if he was trying to explore everything, searching something on Ohno’s body. Sometimes it was painful, sometimes it was gentle — both he loved. Ohno returned back all what Sho did and when his partner let out a satisfied sound with his name being called out, he knew Sho liked his touch, as well.
Ohno assumed that the night they make love was the best touch that Sho could give. However, Sho proved him wrong, once again. It was that trembling hands that placed the ring on his finger that replaced all his favorite touches. And as Ohno replied back with “I do”, he hugged his former-lover-now-turned-husband. And, for Sho, that one was the most treasured one that Ohno gave to him.