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One Year of Faith

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At this point, it was less than routine. Just mindless tensions and releases, powered by muscle memory. There was not a trace of a thought in Noya’s head as he grabbed a paper cup and pumped in the peppermint sirup. Or rather, there was. He contemplated whether he had enough cash to buy some tacos for Kelly and himself on his way home. His host was generous enough to let him crash on her couch for free, so Noya felt obliged to treat her to dinner or get some groceries once in a while. And he had, like, seventeen dollars. Eighteen? Almost eighteen. That was enough for a few tacos, and Noya needed a few, because he was starving.

Noya picked up the bottle of Fireball whiskey. The very illegal Fireball whiskey, since The Tired Parrots was only a coffee shop and did certainly not have a license for selling alcohol. Thing was that ever since the dawn of December when they had started selling their Christmas drinks, the shop was packed to bursting with customers. People basically splintered their doors when they ran in, demanding to be served a Grinch. In Noya’s opinion, the Grinch was a disgusting concoction masquerading as a latte with peppermint sirup and „enriched“ with cinnamon whiskey. The general public seemed to disagree, since that shit flew off their shelves.

Fine by him. Honestly, Noya didn’t care what he served those customers as long as they kept buying it. He needed that money. Not desperately, but he was planning to head back to Asia in spring, and flights were hella expensive.

Noya tipped the bottle in his hand and whoopsie daisies, that had definitely been more than a shot of whiskey. He peeked at the customer waiting at the counter. „Gary“, according to the cup. He didn’t really look like he was pregaming, but he also looked tired as fuck. He’d probably appreciate the extra boost.

Noya yelled, „Grinch for Gary!“ The shouting was the best part about this job, hands down.

„Gary“ took his drink, mumbled his thanks. He staggered into the direction of the door, which was already held open by Noya’s trusty colleague Manuel. There were some goodbyes, a quiet chuckle when Manuel did his bowing routine for the last customer of the day. Then Manuel closed and locked the door. Time for the shitty Christmas music to be replaced by their much more enjoyable speed metal. With a guitar solo backing up his work, Noya finished mopping the floor in seven minutes. He loaded the dishwasher and wiped the counter while Manuel belted out The Number of the Beast and still somehow counted the register while doing so.

Two minutes before the end of their shift, they clocked out. Their hipster owner would probably tell them off, but Noya could care less about this job. He would be gone in like two months, anyway. Noya waved goodbye to Manuel and headed to the nearest Chipotle.

Fifteen minutes later, his arms laden with Mexican takeout, Noya fell through Kelly’s door. „Hello!“ he shouted into the apartment.

No greeting from Kelly. So she was probably at her boyfriend’s. Well, her taco would hold until tomorrow if he kept it in the fridge. Hopefully.

After he’d gobbled down his own food, Noya checked his phone. A little after ten pm. So that meant… two pm in Tokio? No, three. So Asahi would still be in the studio. With some luck, Noya could be catching him on his coffee break. What a joy that was, the grainy image of Asahi cradling a tiny espresso cup in his large hands on his phone. A sight for dead eyes.

Noya pressed the button for video call, crammed the ear buds in and waited. It took a few moments for the connection to be established, during which Noya of course did not drum his fingers against his thigh in impatience.

But then there he was, tugging his hair behind his ear before pushing his headphones in. There was so much care and grace in that gesture alone. Noya wasn’t sure why it had taken him about four years to realize that Asahi could be elegant. It probably had something to do with witnessing Asahi mainly as a flinching, sweaty mess during his high school years. But would you look at him now! Hair so long and swept to the side, pouring down his shoulder with the hint of a curl in it. Glasses so incredibly adorable on his stupidly perfect nose, shirt collar poking out over his sweater so crisp Noya would probably cut a finger on the edges.

Asahi smiled at his phone. It almost obliterated Noya right there on the sofa.

„Hello Noya,“ Asahi said, voice tinny but warm.

That same warmth spread in Noya’s chest, and he couldn’t help but grin. One of the nicest things about graduating had been that they’d almost instantly dropped the honorifics. „Hey Asahi! What’s up?“

„Oh, not much. Glad that it’s Friday. If I never hear the word ‚warp knitting’ again, it’s going to be too soon.“ He took a sip of his espresso mug, and Noya’s chest was on fire. „And you?“

„Slaved away for money like usual. Did like hundreds of Grinches today, I was so over it. Served the last customer like five shots of Fireball.“

Asahi coughed on his coffee. „How… generous of you,“ he commented.

„Yeah, the spirit of Christmas totally got me whipped. Speaking of which, any plans for Judas’s birthday?“

Asahi peered into his cup. „Wasn’t that Jesus?“ he asked.

„Huh?“

„Isn’t Christmas… Jesus’s birthday?“

„I don’t know, man, I’m not Lady Gaga.“

Noya grinned at the sound of Asahi’s laughter. Success.

„No,“ Asahi agreed, still giggling a little, „You certainly don’t look like her.“

Noya snickered. „Glad to know. So got any plans for some Christian saint’s birthday?“

„Not really, no. I’ll probably just work, go home for New Year’s at some point,“ Asahi replied. He tugged another minuscule strand behind his ear before asking, „Will you come home for that? For New Year’s?“

Good question. Noya had been known to wander homewards and spend New Year’s in Miyagi, which also happened to be where Asahi could be found during that time of year. He liked to think that Asahi asked because he wanted to see Noya on his birthday. To meet up at the shrine, make their wishes and chase away the cold with hot sake. But Noya never could be sure of what Asahi was thinking.

„Don’t know yet,“ he answered, „I don’t really have the money for a ticket back home, but my sisters have been known to gang up and bring me home for the express purpose of torturing me, so. Maybe.“

Asahi chuckled a little in response. There was a short lull in the conversation, so Noya followed his usual recipe for avoiding awkward stops. Say whatever popped into his head.

„Maybe I’ll just stay here so I can get a cute Christmas present from you in the mail again.“

Noya smiled, but there was nothing from Asahi. Only a blank-eyed stare.

„What?“ he finally asked.

„Your present. With the card? It was so fucking adorable!“

Asahi stared at him through his phone, mouth slightly agape.

Honestly, though, how could Asahi not know what he meant? It must take him hours to create those cards.

Noya was willing to admit that he was biased as hell, but honestly? They were the most incredible thing anyone had ever created and would ever create. Drawn in pencil, colored in crayon, written with ink. Completely handmade from cover to cover. Like, there was even transparent paper separating the pages. How much more attention to detail could you even have?

And then the cartoons. Never in his life would Noya get over those. Asahi had this weird, elongated drawing style influenced by his design sketching that made everything look massively out of proportion. The depictions of Noya always ended up looking like a bean next to Asahi, which Noya barely managed not to get offended at. But holy moly, were those cartoons cute. Noya was particularly fond of the one capturing the day when they had angered a pack of cats that had chased them back into the gym.

Every one of those recaptured memories was accompanied by a message at the end of the card. Detailing how Asahi had hated these moments, laughed at them, enjoyed them. How he missed Noya and wished that he was here with him, that he should stay healthy and take care of himself, that he should remain in one piece for the next time they would see each other again.

And, like, could anybody blame Noya for still carrying a blazing torch for the guy even after all these years? After receiving that almost each year?

And, and last year. A whole fucking picture book. Well, not really, but a thick card with several pages. Filled with images about their fight in his Second Year. The words they had said to each other, etched onto the pages, scratching at an old scar deep within him. But then there had also been Asahi’s words of regret, of joy at their rekindling friendship. Telling him how much it had meant that Noya had never given up on him.

With picture perfect clarity, he remembered turning the last page, shaking fingers and all, telling himself that it was stupid to hope that there could be a carefully penned I love you waiting for him.

But instead, the last sentence had read You are the most important person on this earth for me.

And Noya had bawled. Unashamed, open-mouthed cried right there in his drafty room in Zurich. Countless times he’d picked up his phone to call or type, but all his words had seemed empty, devoid of meaning compared to the ones echoing around in his head from the pages of the card.

From Asahi, there had been nothing. No text, no question. Nothing to indicate that he was desperately waiting for Noya’s reply to… something. So it wasn’t that, right? It wasn’t an I love you. It was an I like you a lot, and you’re really important to me. And that was nice, but. Not what Noya wanted. Not what he’d expected.

They stared at each other through their phones.

„Uh, okay,“ Asahi finally muttered, messing with his hair again.

Noya snorted. „Are you embarrassed?“ he teased, „I told you that shit is super cute. I mean, I guess usually it’s more something kids do? But the gesture is nice.“

Okay, he was being a little mean, but teasing Asahi happened to be his favorite pastime. What could be better than winding him up until he was a stuttering, blushing mess? It wasn’t like Asahi wasn’t used to it, either, after years of being exposed to Noya’s humor.

So… well. So that look on Asahi’s face as if Noya had just reached through the phone and slapped him across the cheek was a little odd.

Asahi drew a short breath. „I, I don’t understand why you have to throw it back in my face like that.“

„Uhm. Okay? Sorry if I offended you?“

„You did, actually.“

Just… what? Noya’s mouth opened and snapped close.

„I mean, what, what do you mean with ‚something kids do‘?“ Asahi continued, „Like, that doesn’t make it valid? Is that what you mean?“

„I, no? I mean, of course not, it’s just that this craft stuff is more something children do for friends and family and shit.“

„So you think it was childish.“

What the fuck was even going on? „No, I think it’s cute, like I said.“

Asahi’s breathing was so loud that Noya could hear it through his ear buds. „Cute,“ he huffed, „Fucking cute. You, you don’t say anything about it, not one word, and then you tell me it’s fucking cute.“

„Yes, it is,“ Noya replied, confused beyond measure, „It’s also really sweet and thoughtful?“

Why did Asahi look shocked? „That’s it?“ he asked.

Ticked off, Noya blurted, „I mean, what do you want? Applause for making cute Christmas shit?“

Asahi basically combusted. „I don’t want any fucking applause! What the fuck is wrong with you?!“

„What is wrong with you? I don’t even understand what you’re getting all pissy about!“

He was something missing here. There Asahi was on the other end of the call, staring down at his mug again, face twisted like somebody had gutted his dog, and Noya was just completely clueless as to why.

„So that’s it,“ Asahi said, words jagged, „You, you just didn’t take it seriously. I, I don’t know, I thought you were trying to be respectful in some weird way, but, so. Because I did it with a card? Was, that was why?“

Noya had never been at such a loss in his life.

He opened his mouth and said, „Honestly, Asahi, I… I don’t fucking get it.“

On his screen, Asahi’s face didn’t change. And then it was gone.

Noya stared at a blank display and listened to the repetitive beeping sound of the ended call. His lock screen appeared, the sound died, but Noya kept on staring.

This… This had been…

What in the ever loving fuck even happened?

With swipes of his thumb, Noya unlocked his phone and opened their chat. His fingers flew over the keyboard.

Asahi what is even going on
I dont understand why youre angry

Asahi read the messages almost immediately. Noya waited, but there was no response. Lip trapped between his teeth, he continued,

I feel like I offended you but I don’t know how?
pls explain
Im sorry I hurt your feelings?

After a second, he added, without the ?

Asahi was online, but… then he wasn’t? He hadn’t read Noya’s messages, apparently.

Noya bit his lip harder. His finger hovered over the call button. Maybe it was kinda selfish to call now? Asahi was still at work, and normally nobody cared if he went and had a coffee while talking to Noya, but they probably wouldn’t appreciate it two times in a row.

Noya saw Asahi’s face again. That look of shock, of hurt. Of betrayal, for some obscure reason.

He tapped the call button. Even after letting it ring for like a minute, there was no answer. His blood started pounding in his lip, so Noya eased up on the biting.

okay I know youre working rn sorry but could you call me later?
Ill be up so you can just call
like whenever I mean

Asahi didn’t see his messages. It was weird. Like, it wasn’t as if Asahi was glued to his phone, but as long as Noya’s texts didn’t end up reaching Asahi in the dead of night, he was actually pretty good at replying. So Asahi was ignoring him. Or he’d blocked Noya.

But no, Asahi didn’t do blocking. He hated it. He thought it was stupid and childish to just deny people the chance to communicate. Asahi just, Asahi just didn’t do the whole blocking thing.

The awful truth of it was that five minutes later, after googling how to tell whether somebody had blocked you on Line, Noya tried sending a stupid sticker to Asahi as a gift and… it didn’t work.

But. But Asahi hated blocking. He fucking hated it. Clear as day he could remember how Asahi had scoffed at Noya’s roommate in Naples, who had blocked him for breaking a plate. Asahi hated blocking, he wouldn’t do that, although also clearly he did, because. He’d blocked Noya. Just now, Asahi had blocked Noya.

He just sat there, flabbergasted. Why, why would Asahi do that? That was so not like him. But then again, it was also unlike him to blow up at Noya for telling him his Christmas cards were cute. Not just blowing up, actually, being offended at his words. Being hurt by them. Because Noya had said it was kid’s stuff? Was, had that been so bad? He’d not even used the word childish; he’d said cute, adorable! Why would Asahi get pissed at that?

The tacos sat in Noya’s stomach like stones. Obviously, there had been some kind of misunderstanding. It was nothing that couldn’t be cleared up, though. He’d give Asahi a few days to come around, and then they could talk, and Noya could explain that he hadn’t meant any offense, that he really, really liked receiving those cards, that they were literally the only thing he looked forward to during Christmas season.

Despite being on the verge of death after so many hours running around and mixing hot drinks, Noya stayed awake until three am. Any moment, Asahi could pick up his phone and reply to his messages. The restlessness in his stomach and in his head wouldn’t let Noya miss that.

But Asahi never did respond to his texts, and Noya fell asleep with his fingers clutched around his phone.

 

 

The next day, Noya broke one of the many rules at his workplace. He went out on the floor with his phone squirreled away in his apron pocket. Seeing that Asahi had failed to reply to his texts, Noya had obviously had no choice. Of course he’d had to set a vibration alert for their chat and keep his phone on his person at all times just in case Asahi replied.

But he didn’t. In the whole eleven hours between Noya waking up, going to work and returning to Kelly’s apartment, Asahi hadn’t sent him one text. On his lunch break, Noya had even risked an outrageously expensive international phone call. Since Asahi had apparently fucking blocked him, he couldn’t call him over Line and exploit The Tired Parrot’s Wi-Fi. Asahi hadn’t deigned to pick that one up, either.

Noya fluctuated between feeling anxious and bitter. Did Asahi seriously have to be such an asshole about it? To the point that he couldn’t even explain himself to Noya? He’d made it quite obvious that he had no fucking idea why their conversation had derailed like a rogue train. And still Asahi preferred to fucking block him instead of talking to him? Noya’d been under the impression that Asahi had done some growing up since walking out on their team, but clearly he’d been wrong about that.

At least preparing their fake Italian dinner with Kelly was fun. In all honesty, it was more Noya that did the cooking while Kelly took a ton of pictures and posted them in her Insta story. It was no surprise, really. Kelly was an aspiring make-up artist trying to cultivate a following on social media and a long-time follower of Noya’s chaotically updated travel account. When he’d made a post about staying in San Francisco for the winter, she’d instantly offered him her place to stay at. She was a kind, fun-loving woman, and Noya appreciated her help greatly. Also her surprisingly soft couch.

During dinner, they had pleasant, but halting small talk. Noya’s heart just wasn’t in it. He’d cycled back to feeling trashy about wounding Asahi in some nebulous way. Amazing Kelly could apparently tell, since she kept trying to distract Noya by reading out some of the comments she’d received on their stories and posts.

It hit Noya like lightning. Asahi had Instagram. He updated even less frequently than Noya. A picture of some fabric he adored, a small story of birds chasing each other in the park. But he used the app regularly, if the likes and comments on Noya’s posts were to be believed.

With less than half an ear, Noya listened to Kelly’s recitals while he thumbed into his own app. A quick look at his stories confirmed that Asahi hadn’t posted anything new. He tapped into the search and typed in Asahi’s account. The app found nothing.

Noya stared at his phone. He didn’t need to check the spelling, he knew that was Asahi’s account. And yet he couldn’t find him?

Already, the pasta started to sink heavily in Noya’s stomach. A Google search confirmed his suspicion. If the app couldn’t find Asahi’s account, it was likely that Noya was blocked.

Seriously? Fucking seriously? On stupid Instagram? Which Asahi used like every three months?

Noya smacked his phone down on the table, felt a little guilty for it when Kelly looked up at him in surprise.

„Everything okay?“ she asked.

„Yeah, yeah. Just. Friend being weird,“ Noya replied.

„Oh, okay.“ After a beat, „Anything I can help with?“

Noya shook his head. „Nah, I don’t think so. I’ll just clean up our stuff and… go be on the couch for a bit, if that’s okay.“

Kelly smiled. „Yeah, sure!“

So Noya washed their dishes and pots inwardly fuming about childish friends and their stupid fucking habits they apparently couldn’t break.

Half an hour later, Noya slouched on Kelly’s couch and listened to the most depressing music on his playlist. It was almost funny how fast he’d run out of steam again. All it had taken was scrolling through his Insta profile and stumbling over the gazillions of shots he’d posted during Asahi’s visit in Paris. So far it had been the only time their locations and schedules had synced up for them to meet outside of Japan. Asahi had been chosen for some kind of couture workshop while Noya had been bumming around in Belgium. Really, it had only been logical to meet up. Any free time Asahi’d had, they’d spent waltzing through Paris glued at the hips. Almost every evening, they’d gotten tipsy on some other French wine and fallen asleep entangled on the couch or the bed.

Noya couldn’t even count the times he’d been close to hurling his feelings at Asahi. In the end, they’d parted with soft eyes and no words. There was time. They could meet again, drift closer and closer until they finally couldn’t separate anymore.

But that never happened. Whenever Noya visited Japan, there were family members, other friends to visit. There were things to sort out, passports to renew. Last year, there could have been a chance when Asahi had visited London for some kind of Christmas fashion thing, but Noya had been stuck penniless in Zurich. Asahi’s work schedule hadn’t allowed him to take a small detour, and so Noya had received nothing but that heart wrenching card.

He traced the trimmed edges of it now. Over the past year, he’d opened and closed the card so many times that the folding in the back had transformed into a ridge. His eyes swept over the panels. They were just drawings of Asahi, alone in the classroom, alone on his lunch break, alone in his bedroom. No words accompanying the pictures. The tones of grey and vast spaces separating them didn’t need any more words.

Maybe Asahi felt that same loneliness now. Cut off again from Noya’s friendship, even if it had been of his own doing. Maybe he was suffering again like that. And this time, Noya didn’t even know why.

He sighed, deep and weary. This was stupid. They were so incurably stupid. Just behaving like they’d always done, hurting each other and not even fully understanding it.

Noya tapped out of his music app and into his contact list. He found it quickly, under S. He copied the number in his contacts and looked for it in Line, even got a match. From the generic profile picture, it was difficult to tell whether that was actually Daichi. There was every chance that he’d changed his number at some point, but Noya could at least try.

He thought way too long and hard about what to write. In the end, he decided to just be straightforward about it. Daichi would appreciate that more than any meaningless pleasantries.

After he sent off the message, Noya dragged himself into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He checked his phone before going to bed, but it was like Saturday afternoon in Miyagi. Daichi probably had other stuff to do than to answer nervous texts from former teammates.

Back in the living room, Noya fell onto the couch like a log and was asleep in seconds.

 

 

Saturday was Noya’s off day, so he was free to check his phone every three minutes. Which was honestly pretty dumb, because it was the middle of the night in Miyagi when he woke up. Nothing happened until well into the afternoon. He’d set his phone to emit a shrill ping when Daichi would send him a text, so he almost fell out of the kitchen chair when his phone sounded the alarm.

Noya practically ran back to the couch where he’d tossed his phone earlier. It was Daichi. Immediately, he swiped into the chat.

Hey Nishinoya! It’s nice to hear from you, I’m glad you’re doing okay. I’m not too shabby myself, thanks.
I have been in contact with Asahi recently, yes. He mentioned that you had a fight, but quite honestly, I’m not sure whether I can be of help in this. From what he described, I’m confused on what you’re not clear on. I mean I know that that was just his side of the story, but I think your reaction was pretty callous considering what happened between you. I think maybe you misjudged how much it meant to him?

There was a thickening in Noya’s throat, a sinking feeling in his gut. He was so missing something here, something important from the sound of it, but what in the shit was it?

His fingertips jumped over the keys, not caring how jumbled his words became.

Daichi hey thank you so much for answering!!
but Daichi I sam telling you I have no idea what were seven fighting about
liek iam so lost
completely lost like I feel I’’m missing some vital information to understand why ASahi is even Upset
if you know anything please PLEASE telme whats going on

Noya was laying on his stomach, but his breathing still rattled through his lungs. He watched Daichi type for like a minute. Then he stopped, started again. Another two minutes. He stopped, and then, of course, because something powerful had a grudge against Noya, he went offline.

With clenched teeth, Noya wrote, Daichi ocme on I needyor help
Please Im nt trying to be an asshole or soming
I have notate hint of an idea of why Asahi is mad
I literally just want him to talkt me again

A few seconds later, Daichi responded.

Do you have time for a call maybe?

YES, Noya answered, already smashing the button on his phone.

It rang. And rang, and rang, and maybe Daichi wasn’t going to pick up, shit, maybe Noya had scared him off, but-

„Hello Nishinoya?“

Oh thank God. „Daichi-San! Hey, thank you so much for answering!“

Daichi chuckled mutely. „Sorry for taking so long, I was in the middle of washing the dishes.“

„No problem,“ Noya said.

There was a scraping sound on the other end of the line, like a chair being dragged over the floor. „So,“ Daichi began.

„I have absolutely no clue what’s going on,“ Noya blurted, „We were talking about the card that Asahi sends me every year, and he got super upset for some reason, and then I got upset, but I don’t even know what we’re fighting about?“

Daichi snorted. „I find that hard to believe, Nishinoya. I mean, you received his gift last year, right?“

Noya glanced at the card poking out from a flap in his backpack. „Yeah,“ he answered.

„And you don’t see how saying that it was cute would kind of hurt Asahi?“

Why would that… „No?“ Noya guessed.

„Well,“ Daichi started, stopped. Then he sighed and continued, „I don’t think I’d have to tell you this, but he made that shirt himself. He put a lot of work in it. I know what I’m talking about, he wouldn’t stop sending me pictures of it at like two in the morning to ask for my opinion.“

Noya’s mind was blank. „Uh, what?“

But Daichi was apparently gaining momentum and just went on, „He’s such a dumb bastard, he waited at that lake for almost three hours. I told him to leave after one, but of course he didn’t. You know how stubborn he can get, I think he almost got frostbite. You could have at least told him you’re not coming, you know.“

„Daichi-San, what do you mean, what lake, just… what.“

He sounded exasperated as he answered, „The one in Zurich. Is there more than one?“

Noya stopped breathing for a second, swallowed that nothingness in his mouth down. „Asahi was in Zurich?“ he muttered.

„Well, yes,“ Daichi responded, „Like he said he would.“

„When was he there?“

Daichi huffed, „Nishinoya, why are you even asking. It was in that card.“

„No, there, there was nothing in that card, nothing about him coming to-“

„Yes, there was,“ Daichi said, something like anger in his voice, „In that small one, together with the shirt.“

„Daichi-San, there was just the card, there was no shirt, how could there have been-“

„There was one, in the package.“

„But there was no package!“

Not a single sound came from the other end of the line.

Slowly, Daichi said, „You signed for it, though. Asahi always sends that stuff with a return receipt, and you signed it when you got it.“

„I don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you,“ Noya said, close to whining, „I got the card, I signed something when I received it, but there was no package.“

„Oh,“ Daichi said softly.

Noya wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but it wasn’t hearing a muffled „oh my God,“ and then extremely loud and directly in his ear, „Oh my God!

That definitely wasn’t Daichi. „Sugawa-“ he tried to say, but got immediately interrupted by said Sugawara.

„Oh my God, Nishinoya, I’m so sorry! I thought you were such an asshole for not even saying anything, I cursed you out so many times, and you didn’t even get that stupid shirt! I’m so sorry!“

„I, okay, I, that’s fine, Sugawara-San, could you just tell me, I mean, about that package-“

There was the sound of the mic being moved. It gave Noya a vivid image of Daichi wrenching his phone out of Sugawara’s clutches.

„Yes, so there was a package Asahi sent with the card. Inside was a shirt he made for you, uh, I think he mentioned some exhibition you two saw in Paris?“

Noya’s thoughts raced through his head. They’d went to several museums in Paris, but only one of them had hosted an exhibition on clothing. Old costumes used in Noh performances with geometric patterns among bursts of color. Noya remembered saying that it was a shame that these fabrics never got used anymore, and he remembered the gleam in Asahi’s eyes.

„Yeah, I… I think I know which one it was,“ Noya said, barely above a whisper.

„Okay, so. He sent you that plus a card. I think it had a meeting place and time on there. Christmas Day, at the lake.“

„But, but Asahi was in London,“ Noya stammered, „That fashion show, it was this holiday thing in London.“

„That was actually before Christmas. He told you the wrong time for that, because he wanted to surprise you in Switzerland. I told him it wasn’t much of a surprise, I mean if you send a card to somebody telling them to meet you somewhere it’s not going to knock them off their feet to see you there, but, well. Asahi insisted it was a surprise.“

The thickening in Noya’s throat grew heavier. „So he, he wanted to meet me in Zurich. Just like, a surprise Christmas visit?“

A few seconds of silence ticked by.

Then Daichi answered, „Well, he wanted to tell you something.“

„What… what did he…“ Noya barely pressed out of his throat.

Another moment of silence, before Sugawara’s voice rang through the speaker, „This is too fucking painful to listen to. What do you think he wanted to tell you?“

Oh.

Fuck.

„Oh my fucking God,“ he breathed.

„Basically,“ Daichi agreed.

Noya put his phone down, buried his face in his hands. Rubbed his fingers over his eyes until he saw spots.

Fuck. Fucking fuck.

His face was numb when he picked up his phone again, tiny pin pricks of pain where he’d pushed his nails into his eye sockets. With the realization came a constriction in his chest. Convulsions to the rhythm of his accelerating heartbeat.

Daichi’s voice drifted through the speaker. „Nishinoya?“

„Yeah, I, I’m still there,“ he rasped into the mic.

„Nishinoya, I’m sorry for springing this on you.“

„No, no, it’s fine, I asked, I mean I wanted to know. Uh, thanks…“

Asahi had… He’d wanted to meet with Noya to… to confess…

A laugh burst out of Noya, shrill and dry. Daichi cursed on the other end of the line, but Noya didn’t even let him finish. „So he, he wanted to be with me, and I turned him down, but I didn’t even know.“

Sugawara had apparently wrestled the phone back again, since it was his voice that came through. „Noya, that’s not your fault, though. Just, shitty postal services messing up international shipments, it happens all the time.“

„But he was still there,“ Noya countered, „He was there. And I wasn’t, but he thought I would be, I mean… what, what did he think when I didn’t show up?“

He already knew that this silence didn’t bode well for him.

„Well,“ Daichi finally responded, „Like you said. He thought that was your way of rejecting him.“

„Really? He thought that I’d really do that? Just, just stand him up like that, like, not even give him the courtesy of turning him down in fucking person?“

Was Asahi’s opinion of him seriously that low?

Suga’s voice came as a muffled hiss, „I fucking told him that,“ and then much louder in Noya’s ear, „That’s exactly what I told him!“

Some more moving around of the mic before Daichi replied, „Noya, I don’t know what to tell you. We didn’t hear anything from him for three days and kind of assumed that you two were busy dating each other. When Asahi told us that you didn’t show up, he was already back in Japan. At this point he’d already pretty much convinced himself that this was your way of saying no without damaging your friendship.“

Noya scrubbed his free hand over his face and into his hair, pulled on his flat bangs.

Daichi continued, „I guess it was better than the alternative.“

„The alternative?“

„Thinking that you didn’t care enough to show up.“

Noya tore on his hair so hard he almost ripped it out. The pain made him whimper a little.

„Nishinoya? Are you alright?“ Daichi asked.

„No,“ he groaned, „No, I’m not fucking alright.“

Nothing from Suga’s and Daichi’s side, so Noya just blabbered on, „I thought we had time in Paris, like, I thought there would be another point where we’d just… come closer, and… I don’t know, but I fucking missed it. I missed that point. Asahi was there, and he was ready, and I… didn’t fucking show up, because I didn’t even know, like…“

That laughter returned, empty and disbelieving. A raw scream in response to the unfairness and irony of the universe.

„Noya,“ Daichi simply said.

„Yeah?“ he responded.

„Maybe. Maybe you can try talking to him. Tell him what you told us.“

Noya scrubbed a hand through his hair. „He’s got me blocked on all social media, doesn’t even pick up his phone when I call. I, I don’t know, I mean even if he did, would he listen to me?“

They were both quiet on the other end of the line, and Noya’s heart burst. Sometimes you only knew that all hope was gone when even the last smidgen of it was crushed.

„I think I’m gonna go,“ Noya mumbled, „Thanks. For, for letting me know.“

„Noya. I actually… I was pretty pissed at you when Asahi told us that you didn’t show up. Even if what he did was kind of ridiculous and dramatic, I didn’t think he deserved to be turned down like that. But… I guess I should have known that you don’t treat people like that, especially friends. You’re better than that. I’m sorry for thinking otherwise.“

Before Noya could even say anything, Suga’s voice piped through the speaker. „Me, too!“

He smiled weakly. „Thanks. I’ll talk to you guys later, probably.“

„Yes. Whenever you want-„ „Or need!“ „Koushi, just- Okay, yes, whenever you need. Bye, Nishinoya.“

He ended the call and stared at his phone. For a short moment, he thought about smashing it. Just flinging it against the floor with all the strength he could muster. But the impulse vanished as quickly as it had come, leaving just that monumental disbelief behind.

He could already feel what would come after. Anger, most definitely. Bitterness, fucking misery at the blatant injustice of it all. Fuck. Fuck.

Phone still clutched in his hand, Noya stood up and walked over to the fridge. He still had some beer in there from weeks ago. The bottle cap flew somewhere when he opened it, but Noya didn’t really give a shit. Sips turned into gulps and suddenly, half the bottle was gone.

Breathing heavily, Noya looked down at himself in his ratty sweat pants and undershirt. He hadn’t taken a shower yet and probably smelled like death. A quick sniff under his armpit confirmed his suspicion.

Kelly wasn’t here, so he could have a shower. Or a bath. With water so hot it was close to scalding and a lot of disgusting bubbles in true Western fashion.

Noya started the bathwater and grabbed some new clothes. Another beer from the fridge. His phone, although he wasn’t sure what he’d need it for. He tipped way too much bubble bath in the water. The smell of artificial roses drenched the room in seconds.

Naked, with the sweating beer bottle in hand, he stared at the rising and collapsing clouds of foam, tested the temperature with one hand. It was cold from the beer, so the pain came slowly. Just warmth first, until it heated up rapidly to pins and needles jamming into his skin as if he'd routed in a nettle shrub. Noya tried holding his hand there for a few seconds, just enduring it. And a few seconds more. But then he had to snatch his hand back and turn the water to cold. He wasn't that much of a masochist.

The temperature was barely acceptable when he climbed in. His feet turned to fire, his legs to coals. After ten seconds, it hurt so bad that Noya probably should have climbed out again, but that would have meant admitting defeat. He felt weird having a bath without showering first. Mindlessly, he forced the rest of his beer down his throat before opening his second and taking a few gulps of that one, too. Head finally a little woozy, he fumbled around for his phone.

His chat with Daichi was still open. Without really knowing what he planned on doing, Noya thumbed out of it and into his chat with Asahi. He scrolled up to the messages exchanged before his pathetic attempts at reconciliation. There was a picture of Asahi on the balcony of his tiny apartment, taken from above. Because Noya had dared him to go greet the first snow of the season with his bare feet. So he'd gone out in his pajamas and snapped a picture, showcasing his naked feet buried in snow and that universal shocked expression of "shit, that's cold" on his face. He was also smiling. In fondness, Noya had thought at the time. Because he liked Noya and his weird ideas, liked going along with them as long as they were unlikely to end in injury, liked making him laugh.

But was that even true now? Noya had experienced their friendship under completely wrong assumptions. He didn't even know what Asahi thought of him. Although, he did. Asahi thought he was a fucking asshole. That sharing his feelings with Noya had meant so little to him that he'd had no qualms about shoving it back into Asahi's face. That he didn't even care enough to show up and reject him in person. And that wasn't even fucking true, Noya wouldn't have done that at all, he, he’d have hugged Asahi as tight as he could and probably kissed him, taking Asahi's freezing cheeks into his hands like he'd always wanted to, burying his nose into his neck, breathing him in deeply. Just like that, just like Asahi was in that moment, until every one of Noya’s cells was saturated with his scent.

That wasn’t what had happened, though. Noya didn’t even fucking know what really happened. What, what had he even been doing on that day?

Sinking deeper into the hot water, he scrolled further up, slowed down when he reached the beginning of the year. A vague memory came to him. He hadn’t heard from Asahi in something like two months, and he’d started to get a little worried. It wasn’t unusual for him to get sucked up into his work. At the same time, Noya’s life was usually eaten up by whatever job he was currently working or by climbing a mountain or some shit. But no message, no call in like two whole months, that had been… ah, there it was.

yo Asahi how are you doing
do you have time for a call or something? haven’t heard from you in forever!! also check out this snake!!!!

He’d hoped to goad Asahi a little with that rattlesnake, but it had still taken him a few hours to reply.

Hey Noya
I mean yes, if you want

Yeah of course man why wouldn’t I
like you are literally one of my best friends
ain’t no snake gonna keep me from calling you

Yes sure
I’m glad you feel that way, Noya

He stared at that last line. Glad. That Noya thought of him as a best friend. After thinking that said friend had robbed him of a chance to reveal his feelings to him.

It was a little further up, just before Noya’s message. December 25, the year before. At about nine pm.

Hey Noya. Where are you?

He’d been out that night. With some other backpackers from a hostel nearby that hadn’t wanted to spend a holiday alone just like him. Drinking and eating, having fun. He’d snapped a picture of his cheese fondue and sent it to Asahi.

At a restaurant that sells incredibly overpriced cheese fondue. Pretty good though!!

Oh
So you’re not coming?

It twisted in deep, gutted him right there in the bathtub.

Just… fucking why. And, and he hadn’t even seen the message, only the next day he’d answered some stupid shit about having been too drunk to reply and what had Asahi meant with that? But Asahi hadn’t responded, at all, and Noya… he’d just forgotten about it. Went on with his life. Didn’t even know that this thing he’d been longing for for fucking years had been right there. A chance to be with Asahi. In the way he’d always craved to. Become the person in Asahi’s life that was more important than anyone else, somebody cherished by him. Somebody loved by him.

His eyes traced over the characters. So you’re not coming?

Noya saw him there. At the promenade, sitting on a bench where the tourists feed the swans in summer. With his nose buried in his scarf against the cold, hands in his coat pockets. Nobody there. Only Asahi, waiting and waiting.

His phone clattered to the floor as Noya dropped it over the edge of the bath tub. With open eyes, he sank into the hot water. There was only white foam above him, drifts of snow. His eyes stung, but he kept them open.

 

 

The next day, Noya stumbled into work twenty minutes late. Manuel got ready to lay into him for making him prepare the wraps on his own, but his face changed as soon as he looked at Noya. Instead of a reprimand, he got a muffin and five minutes to get his hair under control.

He started counting the register and had to redo it five times, because he kept getting distracted by images of Asahi alone in the cold.

Once the first customers broke down their doors, Noya staggered to the bar to prepare their drinks. He had enough presence of mind not to mess up their orders entirely. He did drop a bottle of Fireball and spilled the milk on every surface he could reach, though. It stressed Manuel out so much he begged Noya to take his break an hour early.

Whatever. Noya could literally care less about this job. He threw a sandwich for himself together in the kitchen, went into the empty shoebox of an office to eat it. The sandwich fell apart in his hands as he tried to stuff it in his mouth, so he gave up after five bites and took out his phone.

After unlocking it, he just stared at the screen. There was nothing Noya felt like doing. No stupid video to watch for the gazillionth time, no feed to get lost in. The screen dimmed after a while. Noya tapped into his browser just so it would stay lit.

For a few seconds, he stared at the Google search bar. Then he typed in „flights san francisco tokio“.

He clenched his teeth as he read the results. The ones that weren’t about 30 hours long or had five stops were around $1700. Shit. There was no way he’d be able to pay that. Even with his last paycheck as support. He had no place to stay in Tokio, either.

And anyway. Noya was probably about the last person that Asahi wanted to see now. So this was pretty dumb.

It really was. It was colossally stupid, so Noya was confused as to why he thumbed into his chat with his sisters and wrote, guys I need your help

Twenty minutes later, Noya was ¥180.000 richer. Despite his sisters’ numerous encouragements to „go get his man“, his finger hesitated over the booking button. It was selfish, wasn’t it. Forcing Asahi to see him although he very much didn’t want to. But… But Noya wasn’t going to confess his undying love for the man. That ship had sailed and sunk. He was going because he owed it to Asahi, owed him an explanation and an apology, even if it wasn’t his fault. Asahi deserved at least that much. He deserved to know why.

Noya confirmed the booking with a tap of his thumb. A smile broke out on his face. He was going to Tokio, to see Asahi. He had no idea how yet, but he would.

Even when he returned to work, Noya could still feel the ghost of that smile on his lips. He’d see Asahi. They would talk, maybe even laugh. Maybe he could touch Asahi’s hand. Just for emphasis, when Noya would explain everything to him.

He would see Asahi. Just the thought made him feel lighter than he had in days.

Back at the bar, the amount of spillage he created was even worse than before, but Noya had officially run out of fucks to give. Apparently, so did Manuel, since he didn’t even spare a glance at the puddles of milk and sirup on the counter. Win win.

 

 

Hours later, Noya pushed the door of Kelly’s apartment open. He’d gotten some pasta on his way back, but the icy temperatures outside had cooled it down enough that he had to stick it into the microwave before eating.

While his messy pasta plate spun in the device, Noya scrolled through the couch surfing app on his phone. There weren’t that many people interested in hosting somebody over Christmas. No surprise there. If he wanted to find a place, he’d probably have to look for a B’n’B. Maybe his last paycheck would cover that one.

He had shoveled down half the pasta by the time Kelly arrived home.

„Hello!“ she greeted him from the doorway.

„Kelly! I’ll be gone in ten days!“

Some shuffling from the entrance until her head poked around the corner. „You are?“ she asked with wide eyes.

Noya grinned. „Yeah. I’m going to Tokio over Christmas. Also home to Karasuno, maybe.“

„Oh,“ she said. Noya felt a little touched at the sad look on her face. „Didn’t you want to stay until spring? And then maybe go to India or something?“

„Yeah. I just want to take care of something in Tokio.“

„Oh yeah, that designer friend of yours?“

For a moment, Noya lost grasp of his facial features. When had he even told her about Asahi?

Kelly continued, putting her pizza carton on the table, „You need to take care of something with him?“

„Uhm, no,“ Noya answered, „I just need to clarify something and apologize, I guess.“

Kelly stared at him. „And you need to fly all the way to Japan to do that? Doesn’t he own a phone?“

„Well, it’s, it’s not really something I can do over the phone. It’s complicated,“ he replied.

„Oh!“ Kelly repeated louder than before. She threw him a knowing glance. „I get it, I mean what better time to do that than on Christmas, huh? All the lights, the nice smells, the cheeriness. Clever you!“

Noya shook his head rapidly. „No, that, that’s not what I’m visiting him for.“

The look on her face matched the one on the faces of his sisters to a T. „Okay, yeah, whatever you say,“ she chirped.

They munched on their respective dinners while Kelly helped him locate a suitable bed and breakfast. She found one in Itabashi City. An apartment no bigger than a sock drawer, almost ¥40.000 for five nights. Noya would be leaving on the 23rd, so he’d stay there until the 30th. He could go visit his family over New Year’s and live off of his parents for a while. Or maybe he could stay in Tokio with Asahi. Although he really shouldn’t expect for that to be a possibility. It was just that the thought was… nice.

Noya high-fived Kelly for her nice find and booked the sock drawer apartment.

After dinner, he took a shower and threw himself on Kelly’s couch. He dug out his phone, thumbed into the chat with Daichi. After their devastating call, Daichi and also apparently Suga had kept quiet, probably to give him some space to process. But Noya never needed a lot of time to get over anything. He quickly fired off a text asking them to let him know what Asahi was doing on the 25th.

Afterwards, he put his phone in his backpack. A corner of the card, kept in its usual flap, grazed his underarm. Of course, Noya couldn’t resist. He pinched it between his fingers, pulled at it. Exactly that corner was a little frayed and bent. Used from how many times he’d tugged the card out of his backpack.

Carefully, he turned the card around and opened it from the back. His fingertip traced over the characters inked into the cardboard.

You are the most important person on this earth for me.

Noya felt the same throat constricting cocktail of emotions he usually felt when reading that sentence. This time, they carved even deeper into him. Because he knew now that it had meant exactly what he’d wanted it to mean. A confession. How much it must have fucking torn Asahi for him not to show up in Zurich. Noya knew how Asahi got when he was really hurting. Quiet and withdrawn, not sharing himself with anybody, letting his pain fester and gnaw at him.

The thought was almost unbearable. But now there was also something new. A glimmer. Noya didn’t want to look too closely at it, but it was there somewhere in him. Warming him. Making him smile wobbly at the card.

For the first time in a long time, Noya went to sleep with the card hidden under his pillow.

 

 

The next day, Noya sat in The Tired Parrot’s tiny office again. His boss sat next to him on his laptop, fuming into his beard. Noya’s notice had not gone over well with him. Despite the sour mood, Noya had absolutely no qualms about spending his break sitting one meter away from him.

He typed quietly away on his phone, early in the morning of the 25
I thought maybe to go see him in the evening once I’ve slept

Okay, Daichi replied,
Well. I won’t stop you doing what you’re obviously very set on doing
But I would ask you to consider that this basically didn’t work out for Asahi either when he did it

it’s okay I’m not gonan do that
I just wanna meet and talk with him
explain that I actually didnt reject him and stuff
salvage this burning wreck of a friendhsip

That actually hurt a little, because it was true, wasn’t it? Their friendship was pretty much a dumpster fire at this point. He gulped down half his sandwich while Daichi typed his reply.

Okay. As long as you’re sure
I’ll find out what he’s up to on that day for you and let you know
But I won’t rope him into some kind of fake meeting for you to show up
Just fyi

Well, that was good enough. Thank you my Captain!!!

Noya put his phone down and polished away the rest of his sandwich. Okay, so that was a go. Daichi would get him the info, it was on him to figure out the rest. What exactly that rest entailed, Noya wasn’t even sure about. But he’d get there. The most important thing was traveling to Tokio and tell Asahi the truth. Everything else was secondary.

 

 

Noya spent his last nine days in San Francisco pretty much the same way he’d spent the first 55. Working and walking around. Since they now knew their days together were numbered, Kelly and him made an effort to do some of that walking together. They went to the Golden Gate Park late at night. It was kind of a letdown, although Noya probably should have expected that considering the time of year. One Saturday, they visited Alcatraz Island. They booked a tour with a ranger who would not shut up about this one movie that had been shot at the prison. That same evening, they watched that movie and were kind of unimpressed.

And of course, all of that was fun. Noya really appreciated Kelly’s resolution to show him more of the city, but his mind was more focused on the future. On that one day, that one meeting. Daichi had informed him that Asahi intended to attend a Christmas get-together with his colleagues. Some bar in Shibuya, he’d even found out which one.

So far, Noya’s plan consisted of showing up at some point. He felt that intercepting Asahi before he could enter the bar was kind of rude. He didn’t want to keep him from having some downtime with his colleagues. The thought of popping up and whisking Asahi away appealed much more to him. Although he didn’t know whether any whisking away would be happening. That depended on Asahi. Whatever his choice would be, Noya would accept it, obviously.

On the 23rd, he enjoyed one last dinner with Kelly. They took a ton of selfies and promised to see each other again at some fateful point in the future. When Kelly went to bed, Noya had just finished packing. His flight was at 2am, which was not enough time to try to sleep, but not so little that he’d have to leave now. He busied himself by looking up his train connection in Tokio and buying Kelly a voucher for an online make-up class for her help.

For the first time in forever, Noya’s heart was pounding as he entered the airport. It felt a little nostalgic. Like all those years ago, when he’d left Japan. The sheer excitement coursing through him, lifting his heart along with the corners of his mouth. This time, there was a face attached to that exaltation. A name.

Noya carried it with him to the gate, on the plane, all the way to Tokio. Down into the subway and up to Itabashi City, into the matchbox apartment and onto its tiny bed. He fell asleep with the name falling from his lips down into the feathery pillow.

 

 

Noya rose from the dead at about three pm. Perfect time, actually. Enough to have something to eat, have a shower, buy himself a much needed winter coat. Get in gear for the evening.

After breakfast, he walked out of the apartment and into a convenience store literally twenty meters away. He’d seen a second-hand shop nearby as well, so after he got as much instant ramen as could fit in his backpack, Noya went looking for a coat. This was where his luck ran out, though. All the ones in his size were godawful. He couldn’t even wear them ironically, because no amount of humor could cover that hideousness. So he had to settle for a larger coat. The sleeves hung over the tips of his fingers like limp spaghetti, the hood swallowed his face completely when he flicked it over his head. Apparently, he’d have to rock the oversized look. Nothing made Noya feel less attractive than looking even smaller than he was. But well, he wasn’t here to impress Asahi or anything. He was here to sort out a misunderstanding and steer their friendship back on track. If he looked like a snow midget while doing it, then so be it.

To complete the look, Noya purchased a sweater with a penguin on it, some woolen socks and a headband. He staggered back to the apartment under the weight of his shopping and dropped everything as soon as he reached the genkan. Food was a priority, so he slurped down his ramen first. Then he had a long, long shower, texted Daichi that he’d arrived in Tokio, messaged his family.

All the time, his thoughts strayed to Asahi. He wondered what Asahi looked like. Of course, Noya knew what Asahi looked like. He’d demanded a steady stream of selfies at every hour, studied them enough to know that Asahi’s hair fell below his shoulders now, that his beard was a little thicker, his cheekbones a little more striking. But what would he look like tonight? Since it was a bit of a professional gig, maybe he’d have his hair up in a knot. All sleek and neat. Maybe a dress shirt to go with it. Although Asahi was also known to indulge in some corny Christmas sweaters. God, he always looked so stupid and adorable in them.

Noya found himself smiling again when his phone pinged. A text from Daichi.

Glad you’re safe and sound
So you’re going to see him tonight?

yeah I am!!
the hub right?

Yes that’s what he said
Good luck Nishinoya. Write to me if you need anything
Don’t scare him too much

Noya grinned at that. awwww you know me! he replied and checked the time on his phone. Almost seven. Enough time to have one last bowl of ramen before he’d start messing with his hair. If he left at about eight, he’d arrive at the bar almost an hour after Asahi was supposed to get there.

At seven thirty, Noya was dressed and ready to go. He scrutinized himself in the small mirror next to the genkan. When he closed the coat and put on the headband, he looked about 15 years old. Rolling up the sleeves of the coat didn’t help much. Noya sighed. He probably looked cute, though. Wasn’t really anything he wanted to go for, but if cute was all he could channel, he’d channel the fuck out of it.

After applying some lip balm against the cold, Noya soared out of the door.

He’d been too out of it to pay much attention before, but Tokio went all. Out. With the Christmas lights. Not so much around Itabashi Station, but during his change at Ikebukuro Noya was already blinded. Blue and white lights rose up high to create the silhouette of a Christmas tree. Quite honestly, Noya wasn’t a big fan. Blue and white was much too cold, but Hachiko Square in Shibuya was a different story. The branches and twigs of the leafless trees were lined with amber lights, and somebody had even slipped a Santa hat on faithful Hachiko. Dignity in death, he supposed.

Still, it was nice. The lights radiated a warmth that you couldn’t quite feel on your skin, but still spread through your chest. Noya watched snowflakes and stars, hearts and candy canes twinkle at Tokio’s inhabitants from high and low. Colorful bursts of light glittered on hair, glimmered in eyes. It might have been a bit overkill, but it still made Noya smile.

He reached The Hub after ten minutes of walking. It was a modern bar with a large glass front, dark tables, gold lighting, all that jazz. Noya laughed a little as he shouldered the door open. Smack dab in the middle of the bar stood a gargantuan display of poinsettia. Arranged in the shape of a heart. Funny, Noya always forgot how much closer to Valentine’s Day Christmas celebrations in Japan were until he saw shit like that.

His own heart speeding a little in his chest, Noya sat down at the bar. His fingers fumbled with the buttons of his coat. The place was pretty crowded. Kinda difficult to make out Asahi among all the people in fancy dress or ugly Christmas jumpers. How could that be a problem even, Asahi was ridiculously tall and drew attention wherever he went, he had a beard.

Noya’s eyes skidded over dresses and pants, polished fingernails and gelled back hair. Did, did he get the time wrong? Did Daichi get the time wrong? Asahi should be with a bit of a crowd, not huge but a group of maybe five people. So they should be sitting in the back with the larger seating areas, but Asahi was sorely missing from there.

„Welcome to The Hub,“ greeted a pleasant voice behind the bar, „What would you like to drink?“

„N-Nothing!“ Noya screeched, because there! Right there! „I, I don’t know yet, I don’t know.“

He was being rude to the bartender, but who fucking cared, because Asahi wore one of those Norwegian Christmas sweaters with reindeer and snowflakes and a fucking Santa face that said ho ho ho. How stupid was that! His, his hair was down, smooth and glossy, and he even wore his glasses. Noya hadn’t dared to hope, afraid of jinxing himself somehow, but the glasses perched right on Asahi’s straight nose. He looked like such a nerd! A nerd kissed by the spirit of Christmas. Noya’s Christmas nerd, right there, in the flesh.

God, when was even the last time Noya had seen Asahi? Somewhere other than the screen of his phone or his laptop? Actual Asahi, with his hair and his skin and his eyes, just right there.

Noya huffed a breathless laugh. Asahi was right there. It was unbelievable, a thing from a dream.

There was a hand on his sleeve. Noya’s eyes followed that hand to an arm, extending over the cramped table Asahi was sitting on. He looked at the person facing Asahi. Weird, was that the only guy there? Had the other colleagues already left? Unlikely, considering that the thing started half an hour ago. Kinda rude to show up so late.

But then Noya watched as that hand slid down Asahi’s underarm and settled, casual as anything, over Asahi’s hand.

Noya’s eyes flicked up. The man smiled at Asahi, didn’t look away from Asahi’s face as he said something. Asahi laughed, and the guy grinned, still holding Asahi’s hand. Asahi tilted his head. The guy watched Asahi’s hair graze against his cheek like he’d been waiting all day for exactly that. He held Asahi’s hand, and Asahi didn’t pull away.

Noya stared at the date unfolding in front of him. Because that’s what that was, a date. Not some fucking colleague get-together for Christmas bullshit. A date.

Noya’s hand shook as he wrenched his phone out of his coat pocket. He tapped on the wrong contact four times, because he couldn’t look away from what was happening right in front of him. The guy stroked his thumb over the back of Asahi’s hand. Noya pressed the call button so hard his screen creaked.

Daichi picked up after two rings, but Noya didn’t even let him say hello. „Asahi’s on a date.“

„Uh, what. With his four colleagues?“ Daichi asked.

„No, there are no fucking colleagues, just a fucking guy that’s holding his fucking hand right in this fucking bar.“

„Okay, Noya, stop cursing-“

„You’re not my fucking dad.“ Instantly, Noya regretted that. „Okay, you’re right, I’m sorry, but Asahi. I mean, he, he’s on a date. What the fuck is going on?“

„I don’t know, Noya. He said he’d be at a Christmas thing-“ Some rustling. „Hey Noya,“ Suga said, „So there’s nobody else, and Asahi is there with some guy?“

Noya watched the man nudge his drink towards Asahi, watched Asahi take a timid sip. For some reason, that hit Noya in the chest like a freight train.

„Yeah,“ he choked out.

„That’s not what he told me, though. He said he was going to meet the other designers, not some dude. Like, he would have told me, I ask him literally all the time about-“

„Yeah, and that’s the problem, Koushi.“

„I, what do you even-“

„How many times has he told you to stop bugging him about his dating life? I told you you were being invasive, but do you ever listen?“

A gasp from Suga. „Lies, infamous lies, Noya, do not believe-“

Noya took a deep breath and cut through the bickering. „So what you’re saying is, is that Asahi made up this work-related Christmas thing, because he didn’t want to tell you he was on a date?“

„I, well,“ Suga sputtered, „I mean, maybe?“

Not one sound could squeeze itself past the suffocating feeling in Noya’s throat. It was hopeless. Had been hopeless right from the start.

Suga pressed on, „But that’s not going to stop you. I mean, you just wanted to explain yourself to him, right? You can still do that. I mean, there is apparently some guy you don’t know, but I’m sure he’ll give you some privacy when you tell him it’s important. You can just go over and talk to him!“

„No, I can’t,“ Noya replied.

His friends were silent. He didn’t need to explain himself. They’d known, of course. Like Kelly, like his fucking sisters. Like he himself even. He’d squeezed his eyes shut against it, letting himself get caught up in the excitement without questions. But seriously, what else had he come here to do if not to sweep Asahi off of his feet? Snatch him out of his loneliness and into the night, confess his everlasting love to him and experience the joy of having his feelings reciprocated. See Asahi laugh at the irony, watch him smile at how cleverly Noya had turned last year’s depressing debacle into a moment filled with laughter and hope. Have him look at Noya like he’d done years ago. A look filled to the brim with adoration and wonder.

It seemed so fucking selfish now. Asahi had every reason to move on from that. From having his heart stomped on in the cold. Noya would be a fucking asshole of a friend if he’d go over there now and ruin what seemed to be a perfectly nice date for him.

It didn’t stop him from wanting to slam his fist in the guy’s face, though. Noya almost laughed, because it was stupid to feel so betrayed. Asahi hadn’t done anything wrong, but couldn’t he have waited? Just, just waited? Just for Noya to finally get there, just a little longer? He felt like a whiny asshole for it, but fuck. Just a few more months, for Noya to get his fucking act together and take Asahi’s outstretched hand.

Only a few meters away, Asahi picked up his glass and took a sip of his wine. His lips smiled around the rim of the glass. Noya couldn’t count how many times he’d recalled that exact same expression, gleaming at him over a flickering candle in a bar in Montmartre.

The ache in his chest cut itself in deeper, and Noya should probably laugh at the absurdity of it, but he didn’t. Instead, he said into his phone, „I’ll get going,“ and hung up.

Noya hopped back onto his feet, buttoned his coat. The bar had become even more crowded. He weaved and duck around bags and jackets. Nobody cared when they shoved their backpacks into Noya’s face, and neither did he. His entire focus was on getting the fuck out of this place. Get out and go to his bed and breakfast and get so ridiculously plastered that this night was washed right out of his memory. This pathetic attempt that came much too late. Why couldn’t they ever get the timing right? They’d been in fucking France together, fallen asleep on the same goddamn couch, and not once did Noya just, just do anything.

A sharp pain lanced through his foot. He gave a strangled yell, grasped after a tray that sailed past him, but it was already too far away and crashed onto the floor. Glasses burst and sloshed their liquids over the ground, on people’s shoes. With a smarting foot, Noya blinked at the waitress that had just stepped on him. She already knelt on the floor. Collecting the glass shards with her bare hands, she blurted apology after apology. Noya tried for a smile.

„It, it’s fine, I’m sorry, just, let me…“ he trailed off, joining the waitress on the floor. His hands shook as he picked up pieces of broken glass and put them on the tray.

The waitress snatched away one shard after the other, still rattling off apologies. She looked like she was about to burst into stress tears. Noya blurted a joke, not even knowing what exactly left his mouth. The waitress looked at him, and her face transformed into a look of horror. But she wasn’t actually looking at Noya, just at something above him. Her lips already shaped a panicked apology.

„Noya.“

Asahi’s voice cut through all the noise around him and punched Noya right in the face.

Noya stared at him. At the man towering over him on the edge of the crash scene. All the heat in Noya’s body rose to his head and pooled in his cheeks. His heart drummed against his sternum. He should run. Yes, he should run, bolt the fuck out of this place or maybe he should throw himself into Asahi’s arms and dig his face into that cheesy sweater. Or maybe he should cry, he felt a bit like crying.

Noya didn’t do anything. Just looked up at Asahi from where he crouched on the floor among puddles of alcohol.

„I, I thought that was you,“ Asahi blurted, „But I had to come and. And see.“

His eyes skittered over the scene. Hurriedly, he dropped to his knees and started to pick up pieces of broken glass. The waitress, who had apparently thought that she was about to get her ass handed to her from a customer, alternated between muttering apologies and thanks. Noya choked on his own breath. He swallowed rapidly, tried to keep himself together enough not to cry. His hands trembled harder as he continued collecting glass shards. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Asahi barely payed attention to what his own hands were doing, but instead stared at Noya like he could vanish into thin air at any moment.

Once they had picked up as much broken glass as they could, the waitress gave them another deep bow and went off with her tray to get a broom. Noya just stood there. He looked at the pool of alcohol around his feet. His face was too hot and his hands too shaky and his heart too loud. He, he couldn’t look at Asahi for some weird reason, it was impossible.

Until Asahi said, „Noya.“ And then Noya had to look, he just had to.

Asahi looked like he’d seen a ghost. Like he was still seeing that ghost, tried to make sense of it but couldn’t. Like Noya was an impossibility defying all natural laws.

It was a look that he’d sometimes received from Asahi in high school. Noya felt weirdly flattered by it.

„Noya,“ Asahi repeated, „You. Why, what are you doing here? In Japan, I mean. But also here, in this. Here.“

Noya blinked at him, shifted his feet in the alcohol. The liquid splashed around his soles. There was no answer to this question. Not one that would explain everything away and make it magically okay for Noya to be here.

So Noya said nothing. Looked up at Asahi and said nothing.

There was a flash of light, a wave of heat spreading along Noya’s left side. He glanced at the source.

The poinsettia heart was on fire. Flames ate their way with impressive speed up the green and red leaves, which were apparently made from the most flammable plastic ever created. Up until that point, they had looked incredibly real. Now, the smell of burnt synthetics singed Noya’s nostril hair.

As the flames blazed higher over the plastic heart, Asahi mumbled a quiet „Oh.“

Dumbfounded as he was, Noya simply couldn’t look away. How had the display even caught fire? Was this even really happening?

The answer was yes. Indeed it was really happening, because the fire flared up even harder, melted the cord of a lamp and caused a small explosion. Sparks sprayed from the ceiling, the lamp careened down and smashed into the bar.

The lights shut off, and the screaming started.

A surge rippled through the guests. From one second to the next, every single person inside the bar scrambled for the exits. Several people shoved into Noya from behind. He hardly caught his balance before he was pushed again and hit in the head with an elbow so hard he saw a few stars in the darkness. His mouth moved, but nothing emerged. A hand grabbed his arm, wrenched him forward. Noya stumbled into somebody. He tried to get his mouth to actually articulate some insults, but only choked out gasps.

He was in a bar, and that bar was on fire, and there were too many people to move, and he couldn’t really breathe, so obviously, this was how he was going to go down, right, not falling down a cliff in the Himalayas or getting chomped by a shark in South Africa, he was going to fucking burn to death in Japan, why-

The body he staggered into moved. An arm wound around his shoulders, pressing him against a chest and steering him towards the exit. Unfortunately, he was the perfect height to receive blows from other people’s body parts, but Asahi got him covered. Because of course it was Asahi who was holding him, shielding him from pointy elbows and broad shoulders. Raising his other arm to protect Noya’s head from further jabs while relentlessly pressing their way out of this hellhole.

Squeezed against Asahi’s chest, the smell of his cologne wafted through the burn of the plastic. Noya got the intense urge to laugh and cry at the same time, but did neither.

After an eternity of shuffling through the dark in which the blazing display was the only beacon to light their way, they reached the exit. It was a tight squish. So tight in fact that the breath got squeezed out of Noya’s lungs for a few seconds. He wasn’t sure if Asahi could tell what was happening to him, but a heartbeat later he carved them a brutal path with the help of his huge shoulders through the crowd while muttering, „Sorry, I’m so sorry, just, sorry-“

Their shuffling became tripping became walking. Right out into the open street they walked, but all the cars had stopped anyway to witness the spectacle of the burning plastic heart.

Asahi’s arm around Noya’s shoulders loosened, then turned him around. „Are you alright?“ Asahi asked in one fast breath.

Noya was. A few bruises on his biceps and head, but otherwise functioning. He still didn’t want to stop walking. Because right there was Asahi’s stupid fucking date, only a few steps behind them craning his neck around to spot Asahi, and it was dumb, but Noya wanted to keep walking away from this cursed place with Asahi right beside him, leave this shit show to be forgotten forever.

So he did.

Swiftly, he grasped Asahi’s hand and started running. There was only a halting „Wha- wha-“ behind Noya before Asahi fell into step with him. Noya wove past gaping passengers and idling cars towards the sidewalk, and then just kept running, Asahi hot on his heels.

The shop lights twinkling over the street were a blur, the countless pedestrians had no recognizable features. The cold air burnt Noya’s lungs. It left his mouth in bursts of condensation. He started to sweat, Asahi’s hand clasped in his became moist, but Noya didn’t let go.

There was a small alley opening. Noya didn’t know why, but he dove into it just as Asahi dug his heels in.

„Wait, wait,“ Asahi panted.

Noya skidded to a stop, took a breath to say something, but just coughed violently. Wheezing, Asahi crowded him against a wall and took his hands. Asahi’s fingers were freezing, but his palms were hot as coals.

„Just, just breathe,“ he instructed Noya in gasps, „Try, slowly, breathe, like, like that.“

He sucked in a breath and held it. Without thinking, Noya did the same. They released it after a few seconds. Asahi nodded, squeezed his hands, took another breath. Noya did as well. He suddenly realized that this wasn’t the first time Asahi demonstrated this to him. After that movie in France, when Asahi had said that there were much gentler ways than to slap somebody across the face to calm them down.

Asahi thought he was having a panic attack. Maybe Noya was, he honestly didn’t know, but his heart was definitely about to break through his ribs, and he was shaking, so yeah, maybe Noya was.

Asahi kept holding Noya’s hands while his voice went quieter and deeper, his own breathing slowing down in time with Noya’s. He stared up at him. Couldn’t tear his eyes from Asahi’s mouth drawing in breaths and blowing them out, smiling at Noya when he complied.

He wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that. Some minutes, at least. Just breathing and looking at each other. Eventually, Asahi broke their silence.

„Noya, are you okay?“ he asked.

„Yeah, I, I think so,“ Noya answered, „And you?“

Asahi nodded. His eyes drifted downwards, to their entwined hands. He stared at them and said almost wonderingly, „Did, I, I’m sorry, did that really just happen? Did those flowers just catch on fire and basically burn down the whole building we were in?“

Before Noya could answer to any of those questions, Asahi shouted, „Fuck! My coat, it, it was on my chair, and there were my keys, and my wallet, and-“

The Moon Prism Power Make Up song suddenly rang through the air. Noya watched, felt a smile spread on his face upon realizing that it was Asahi’s ringtone. Despite everything, the thought that Asahi was so very gay still warmed his heart.

The man before him fumbled his phone out of his pants. His eyes widened almost comically as he read the name on the screen and picked up the call.

„Takehiko-San!“ he said into the mic, „Are you alright?!“

The warmth in Noya’s heart was instantly snuffed out.

„Yes, yes, we’re fine, just some streets away… Oh my God, you did?!“

Noya gnawed at his lips. He didn’t want to go back there. They couldn’t go back there, Asahi had to stay with him, they had to talk and, and Noya couldn’t do that if there was some other fucking guy sucking up all of Asahi’s attention.

His eyes swept over everything they could reach, casting for some kind distraction. They got caught by lights glinting at the other end of the alley.

„Okay, thank you, yes, see you soon,“ Asahi stumbled and ended the call.

He smiled at Noya in palpable relief. „Can you believe it, Takehiko saved my coat from a fiery death, so I’m not homeless for tonight. He, he’s at the bar, apparently they already put the fire out. Let’s go back and meet up with him.“

Immediately, Noya blurted, „Can we not?“

Asahi stared at him with his mouth open.

„I mean, uh, you, you must be cold.“

„Yeah, that’s… why I want to get my coat.“

Noya’s voice climbed higher with nerves. „I think they sell mulled wine over there. Can, can we have some mulled wine before we go back? It will warm you up, and maybe it’ll take the edge off. Just a bit, okay, just one mug.“

Asahi continued to stare at Noya. He didn’t feel cold, actually, but his teeth were chattering for some reason. It appeared to convince Asahi that Noya was in desperate need of a drink, because he simply nodded his head.

In silence, they walked through the narrow alley. A gust of icy wind nipped at Noya’s nose and had Asahi cross his arms in front of his chest to preserve some warmth. Noya walked faster.

To his relief, he’d read the lights exactly right. A tiny Christmas market spread out before them. Pine tree garlands lined the roofs of the huts, red and gold Christmas baubles hung from the ceilings, a blinking light in the shape of a steaming mug showed them the way. They wound through a bunch of excessively decorated trees to the booth with the fuming kettles.

„Uhm,“ Asahi muttered, „Could, could you… I mean, I don’t have my wallet-“

Noya waved him off before turning to the woman behind the counter. „Two glühwein, please. And could you put in some rum, too?“

„Certainly, I could!“ she replied cheerfully and grabbed two mugs.

Noya glanced at Asahi. God, he was trembling so much he was about to vibrate through the ground. Noya shook his coat off and pressed it against Asahi’s chest.

„But, but you-“ Asahi started to protest, but Noya just butted right in. „You definitely need it more. We can share it, if it makes you feel better.“ Which Noya had no intention of doing, but with a bit of luck Asahi would just forget he said that and keep wearing the coat.

Asahi nodded, mumbled a quiet, „Thank you.“

The saleslady clonked their drinks on the counter. Noya paid for them and handed Asahi his mug before shuffling to the side. The owners had created a small, secluded area bordered by the insanely decorated Christmas trees. They blinked and glittered at them in all the colors of the rainbow. Noya was so busy marveling at the garishness of it all that he almost swallowed his tongue when he glanced back at Asahi. He’d slipped into the coat and popped up the hood. It was a little too small for him, but the fur hemmed hood framed Asahi’s face perfectly with his long hair grazing against his jaw and spilling down his throat. The fairy lights glistened on his cheeks, his glasses, the tips of his hair. He was so heart-wrenchingly attractive that Noya needed to look away.

Hastily, he bumped his mug against Asahi’s. „To Judas,“ he toasted before scalding his tongue on the wine. God-fucking-dammit was it boiling hot!

Asahi huffed a surprised giggle. The sound warmed Noya more than the wine ever could.

Obviously, Asahi was of sounder mind than Noya, since he just sipped on his drink carefully. He looked up at Asahi, saw the words in Asahi’s eyes even before they left his mouth.

„Noya,“ he asked quietly, „Why are you here?“

So this was it, wasn’t it? For all the planning Noya had done, he’d never actually thought about what he wanted to say to Asahi, although he’d had plenty of fantasies about Asahi’s reaction. He was a bit dumb that way, it seemed.

Noya studied Asahi’s face. He looked guarded, like he was debating what Noya was out to get. He couldn’t remember the last time Asahi hadn’t looked at him with a sort of perpetual amusement and fondness. It brought Noya all the way back to the beginning of high school, when who he firmly believed to be their future Ace would just stare at him in suspicion as Noya showered him with compliments.

So they were back to square one. Noya truly had nothing to lose and everything to gain at this point.

Asahi watched in silence as Noya took another gulp from the infernal wine. Then Noya said, „I wanted to see you.“

He waited for a reaction, but Asahi didn’t even blink.

„Because, I mean, I tried to text you,“ Noya continued, „But you, well. You blocked me, so I contacted Daichi, and by extension also Suga, I guess.“

Asahi opened his lips, but what came out wasn’t really what Noya expected. „Why?“

„To ask. About what was going on, because I seriously didn’t get it, like, I was so confused after our call-“

You don’t get it? I don’t fucking get it,“ Asahi burst out, „I mean, what you said to me. That it was a kid’s thing, and. I mean, just seriously? Did you really think that was an acceptable thing to say to me? After, after… that?“

Noya’s heart picked up speed again. He took a step towards Asahi, saw how Asahi took a step backwards. That scared him, that fucking scared him so hard that he basically lunged at Asahi. Which was a shit idea, quite honestly, what with the hot drinks they were holding. Only a little bit spilled on Noya’s jumper, though, so it was all good, except for the fact that he apparently got scared of the possibility of Asahi leaving, and, and that… That needed to be examined at another time, frankly.

„No, no, Asahi, I literally didn’t know what I was saying to you,“ Noya said, pressed against Asahi’s chest again, „I mean, I didn’t know what I, like, how you’d understand it, I guess, I-“

„What do you even mean?“

„I never got that shirt.“

This time, Asahi did blink.

„I never received it, and they told me about it. Daichi and Suga, I mean, if they hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have known.“

„You didn’t receive it,“ Asahi repeated flatly.

Noya shook his head. „No, I mean, I got the card, the big one, the one I texted you about, but that was it. They said there was a package with-“

„You think I’m that fucking stupid?“ Asahi hissed, „You received it thirteen days before Christmas. I don’t have the email anymore, but I know that.“

„Asahi, I didn’t. I swear I didn’t, I never got it. So I, I never got the card, Daichi and Suga-“

„I, I can’t believe it. You’re seriously gonna lie to me like that?“

Oh fuck. Oh fuck fuck fuck fuck-

„I’m not lying, Asahi,“ he promised, voice too high, too fast again, but he didn’t care enough to stop it, “I fucking swear, I’m not lying, there was the card, but there was no package.“

Asahi’s face was a wall of stone, and that fucking hurt, Noya wasn’t prepared for this, for any of it, so he just kept pleading, face already screwing up, „I, I didn’t even get to see what you made for me, like, like they said that it was from that exhibition of that Noh stuff, and I loved that exhibition, and I loved being there with you, and I know the shirt was magnificent, but it got fucking lost, I never got to fucking see, I mean, just, and I, I’m so sorry, it wasn’t my fault, but I’m so fucking sorry, you were waiting for me, and I had fucking cheese fondue, and you were waiting, I’m sorry-"

„Okay, Noya, okay,“ Asahi said, eyes panicked, „Just, just don’t cry, I don’t care about the cheese fondue, don’t cry, Noya, please.“

„I’m not, I’m not,“ he answered, wiping away the drops of tears clinging to his lashes.

Asahi started to shrug off his coat, but Noya caught it by the lapels.

„You need it more than me,“ Asahi urged.

Noya shook his head. „Don’t want you to be cold.“

„Come on, Noya-“

They started an awkward but brief game of tug-of-war with the collar. It ended abruptly when Noya slid his free arm under the coat, hugged Asahi around the middle and just hung on. He pressed his face against Asahi’s chest. There, now he couldn’t even see it if Noya bawled his fucking eyes out.

Asahi was as stiff as a board against him, and that hurt, too, somehow.

„Don’t cry, Noya, just, stop crying,“ Asahi begged, apparently at a complete loss.

„I’m not.“

„Of course you are, I can feel it soaking through the-“

„Well, it makes me sad, okay?“ he said, lips smearing against Asahi’s Christmas sweater, „To think that you were waiting for me at that ugly lake for fucking hours, and I didn’t even know, like you were right there, I could have seen you and touched you, like, it fucking breaks my heart.“

For a moment, that seemed to rob Asahi of his speech. Then he cleared his throat. „Yeah, that. It was pretty sad.“

They stayed like that. Noya not-crying into Asahi’s jumper and Asahi just standing there. The mugs of mulled wine trapped between them burnt through the fabric of Noya’s sweater, but he couldn’t give up his hold on Asahi.

„So. You never even saw the shirt.“

Noya rubbed his head in negation against Asahi’s chest.

„And you never saw the note that went with it.“

More head rubbing.

Asahi barked a laugh. A broken burst, short and bitter. „How stupid is that,“ he muttered.

Noya rubbed his head in agreement now. It was all he could do, the lump in his throat would have turned his voice into a whimper. He didn’t want to lose the shred of dignity he had still left.

What a fuck up this was. From start to finish.

„Noya,“ Asahi started to say, voice soft now, but he never finished his sentence. Instead, he wound his arm around Noya’s shoulder and hugged him.

The lump loosened a little as Noya rubbed his face into Asahi’s chest again. This time, he just wanted to be close. And he’d always adored Asahi’s tits, so, yeah.

He could feel Asahi’s nose part his hair at the top of his head. Some of Asahi’s own strands slipped forward as he bowed his head a little to reach Noya’s. They brushed against Noya’s cheek, his neck. A feather soft curtain, separating him from everything else, framed by a hood of fake fur. Asahi moved his head a little. Noya could feel his mouth and part of his cheek press against his hair. The tips of Asahi’s hair tickled his nape.

It was dark and warm there. Hidden by Asahi’s hair and the fabric of the hood. Noya didn’t want to disturb that fragility between them, but his face started to hurt a little bit from squishing it so hard into Asahi’s chest. He turned his head. Asahi did the same, of course he did, but Noya still didn’t want him to, he wanted to feel Asahi’s lips on him, even if it was just in the vaguest of touches.

Asahi pressed his cheek, the corner of his glasses against Noya as he squeezed him around the middle. Full of something that he didn’t want to look at, Noya dug his nails into Asahi’s sweater. His face was hot where Noya’d flattened it against Asahi.

Voice low, Asahi breathed, „We should drink our wine, Noya.“

He nodded his head, debated whether it would be acceptable for him to keep his fingers hooked in Asahi’s jumper. Better not push his luck.

Noya unraveled himself from Asahi, but stayed close. Almost too close, considering the fact that he left just enough space for them to lift their mugs. Back in the cold air Noya suddenly realized that the steam of the mulled wine had made his sweater kind of moist. Not to mention the wet spot where he’d spilled their drinks earlier. Well, at least Asahi’s jumper didn’t look much better.

The wine’s fume rose up into his nose. The smell of warm spices and strong rum mixed with the scent of Asahi’s cologne. Noya looked up at him. Asahi wasn’t quite smiling as he raised his mug, but there was something on his face. Something Noya wanted to grow and spread and take over.

That something vanished as the alcohol washed over Asahi’s tongue. „God,“ he muttered, „Was the rum really necessary?“

Noya’s cackle sounded a little hysterical to his ears, but Asahi just continued peering into his wine. „Well, it’s supposed to warm you up and stuff,“ he replied.

„As well as get you completely sloshed, I guess.“

Okay, so the absolute last thing Noya wanted was for Asahi to think he wanted to get him tanked. „The only way to enjoy Christmas is drunk,“ he babbled.

Asahi sized him up. „Is that a piece of wisdom you picked up in Switzerland?“

„I think that’s actually universal to Christianity.“

Asahi snorted. „You could have just soup instead of hot wine. If it’s to get you warm, I mean,“ he suggested.

„Oh fuck yes,“ Noya gasped, stomach growling at the exact right moment, „I had instant shit before, but I’ll go for an actual bowl any time of the day. Plus, I’m in fucking Tokio, I should take advantage of that and get some soup into me at every hour.“

„There’s a soba shop right over there.“

Noya glanced up. Asahi was looking somewhere through the tress dripping in Christmas decorations. He wiggled around a little bit to spot the soba shop, which was surprisingly easy. The trees actually provided less cover than he’d thought, so exactly how many people had witnessed his emotional breakdown? Okay, whatever, Noya didn’t care.

He saw the shop only a few meters away from the market, crammed between an electronics and a book store. Its red noren announced „buckwheat noodles“ to everyone who was willing to read it.

„Yeah, you’re right, so it is,“ Noya said neutrally. Did that mean that Asahi, that he would be willing, well, it could be that Noya was getting ahead of himself, but Asahi, well, he’d pointed out-

„We could go and have some. After we’re done with the wine.“

Noya’s head whipped around, almost smashing against Asahi’s mug.

Asahi shrugged his shoulders. „Everybody on this street could probably hear your stomach crying for food.“

Noya watched a tiny blush creep over Asahi’s cheeks. The weird something in Noya grew warmer at the sight.

Before Noya could open his mouth, Asahi blurted with a frown, „Oh, but you’d have to pay.“

And Noya was broke, so very broke. But it would be fine, he’d just live off the instant ramen and his family’s generosity for the time being.

„I can afford some noodle bowls, don’t worry, Rich Fashion Designer-San.“

Asahi snorted again, blowing some of the mulled wine up on his nose. Noya giggled again, and this time it just sounded relieved to him.

In record time, they gulped down their hot drinks, and yeah, maybe Asahi had a point about that rum. It settled in Noya’s head like a cloud, made him feel a little weightless. He bit his cheek. Was that actually a good thing now? He didn’t want to get drunk with Asahi, he, well. He just wanted to be with him, as much as Asahi would allow him to, and he wanted to be present for all of it.

Totally in control of their bodies, they staggered over to the soba shop. It was a standing soba shop, but actually an impostor one, because it had bar stools. Noya climbed on top of one. Next to him, Asahi let himself fall gracefully on his seat without looking like a kitten trying to clamber up its litter box.

A grim-looking man wielding a ladle wandered over and took their orders. Noya watched intently as he put together his kitsune soba, which he still solely ordered because of the name. He could barely wait until Asahi had his own bowl before smothering his food in sliced onions and digging in.

God, it tasted fucking amazing. The broth was salty, so scorching hot it scalded Noya’s tongue again. This time, he welcomed it. A burnt tongue was just part of the overall soba soup experience in his opinion.

„So how was San Francisco?“ Asahi asked.

Noya looked at him. He was bent over his bowl, the steam reddening his nose and cheeks, making his eyes wet and glisten. He’d removed his glasses, gathered his hair to slide over one shoulder, the tips hidden in the collar of his sweater to keep them from dipping into the soup.

He was still so fucking beautiful. It hurt again, but this time there was only a small drop of heartache instead of that whole knife-cutting business. Was, was that okay? Noya didn’t want to hope. He couldn’t afford to hope that there was meaning to any of this, but of course he fucking did. Because he was a smitten fool. An undignified idiot, crying into Asahi’s sweater like a big baby.

He studied the small smile gracing Asahi’s lips, remembered the hurtful twist on his face during their call. If it took Noya crying for Asahi to smile at him again, he’d blubber his heart out every day.

„Uh, it was nice!“ Noya finally replied, „I went to Alcatraz.“

Seeing Asahi’s blank look, he explained, „A high-security prison on an island in front of the city’s coast.“ The blankness on Asahi’s face turned into shock, so Noya quickly added, „A closed prison! It’s like a museum now, just rangers and birds and no prisoners.“

Asahi nodded slowly, slurped down his noodles.

„It’s famous, because it was supposed to be escape-proof. If they made it out of the prison and off the island, they usually drowned in the high currents surrounding the place. But there were a few people that escaped in the sixties making, like, dummy heads of themselves and putting them in their cots? They even made a movie out of that one.“

Asahi stared at him. „That seriously worked? Dummy heads? I mean, what did they even make them from?“

„Toothpaste and toilet paper and stuff like that. They took hair from the barber shop, too, to make them look more realistic.“

„But, that worked?“ Asahi repeated, „I mean, were the guards blind?“

Noya grinned. „Okay, hold on a second.“

He fished out his phone and searched for Escape from Alcatraz on YouTube. Somebody had uploaded the entire stupid movie. They watched a few scenes quietly, shoulders touching and chopsticks rooting.

By the end of it, Asahi looked unimpressed. „I still can’t believe that five-minutes craft stuff is supposed to have worked.“

„Well, why don’t you tell the audience how you would bust out from a high-security prison?“ Noya challenged.

„I wouldn’t,“ Asahi corrected with a familiar smile, „I would serve my sentence with dignity.“

„Oh, would you now? Huh, that’s weird, I kind of have a feeling you would remain in your cell and cry in your pillow every day, because you’re scared of getting shanked to death.“

Asahi’s smile grew into a smirk. „That’s where you’re wrong, because I’d just seek out the most powerful inmate.“

Noya stared at him, but nothing more was forthcoming. „And…?“

Which was of course when Asahi gave him the dirtiest fucking grin.

Noya laughed so hard he spit his tofu all over everything while Asahi giggled into his bowl next to him. Moments like these were gasoline on Noya’s torch, because he knew that Asahi dared to voice these jokes only with Noya.

His chest on fire, Noya wiped his mouth with a napkin as Asahi conceded, „Okay, well. I think we both know it’s more likely I’d just go ahead and throw myself down a staircase before I did that.“

Noya wanted to say it was fine, if Asahi went to prison, he’d obviously go along with him and protect him, and then Asahi could be his prison bitch. For obvious reasons, Noya kept that thought to himself.

That’s when Asahi’s phone tootled its Sailor Moon ringtone again. Noya’s face fell a little. He’d forgotten all about Asahi’s date. As had Asahi, if the look of panicked guilt that immediately took over his features was any indication. Hastily, he excused himself, dug out his phone and accepted the call.

„Takehiko-San, hi,“ he said.

Noya returned his attention to slurping down the rest of his soup. He tried to maintain an air of polite indifference while greedily sucking down every word that left Asahi’s mouth.

„Yes, I, are you alright? Okay, yes, yes, I’m so sorry, uhm, something came up with, with the friend I saw before, and…“ Noya was both relieved and pathetically disappointed to hear him use the word friend. „Y-yes, I’m sorry, thank you so much for taking care of that! Uh, you could… yeah, it is, so… Okay, yes, yes, I’ll give you my address. Yes, see you tomorrow! Thank you so much!“

Noya’s heart sank together with his face, but he tried to lift it up enough for Asahi not to pick up on it.

„Sorry about that,“ he stammered, „I, I kind of forgot that we, uhm. Were supposed to meet up with Takehiko. But he’s going to go home now, and we’ll meet up tomorrow at my place, so he can. Give me my coat. That he saved from the fire.“

„Oh, that’s nice of him,“ was all Noya was going to say on the matter.

„Yeah, it is.“

Asahi was quiet while Noya fiddled with his chopsticks. Only when he heard Asahi chuckle did he turn around.

„I honestly, totally forgot about Takehiko.“

Noya gave a lopsided smile. „I’m sure he understands, though. I mean it was kind of a clusterfuck situation. It’s normal to be a little off the rails after that.“

„If by ‚off the rails‘ you mean going out to have some mulled wine and soba, then yeah. I’m so off the rails.“

„Well, I could totally call him and tell him how it was my fault for being hungry and treating you to hot soup like some asshole,“ Noya offered.

„I have a feeling he wouldn’t have a lot of sympathy for us.“

After glancing at Noya’s empty bowl, Asahi asked, „Are you still hungry?“

„No, I’m good.“ Also completely broke, so no, there was no room for any leftover hunger.

„You want to head home, then?“

Noya’s mouth shut itself with a click. He didn’t. He didn’t want to go to that matchbox apartment. He didn’t want to be without Asahi, because he wasn’t sure where they stood, like, it felt okay right now, but… that didn’t mean that Asahi wouldn’t wake up in the morning and let Noya know that he was rethinking this whole friendship.

But if Asahi decided that, then Noya couldn’t stop him. If Asahi wanted to let their friendship, this unmentionable tangle of feelings between them just fizzle out, then there was nothing that Noya could do.

So he said, „Yeah, let’s go,“ and headed out the door with Asahi.

It had gotten even colder, so Asahi insisted with all the persuasiveness he possessed that Noya wear the coat now. Reluctantly, he complied. Their feet carried them towards Shibuya Station. What should have been a ten-minute walk took them almost half an hour, interrupted by the thousands of pictures Noya absolutely had to show Asahi. Pictures of his co-workers at The Tired Parrots, of Kelly, of San Diego and the beaches in Malibu. It flattered him a little that Asahi took great interest in seeing him in his barista uniform. That got destroyed pretty quickly when Asahi questioned his sense of sight after seeing him in his swimwear at Zuma Beach, though.

Fortunately for Noya, his day ticket he’d bought at the airport was still in effect. He waltzed through the ticket barrier after Asahi, stood next to him on the platform as they waited for Ginza Line. He checked his connection on the phone. Nice, he could drive about ten minutes with Asahi and then change at Toranomon Station for Mita Line.

Their train hurtled into the station, and they got on. It was by no means deserted, but empty enough for them to squeeze themselves on two adjacent seats. Instantly, Noya bullied Asahi into showing him his latest work. He knew for a fact that Asahi had a habit of taking pictures of his tailoring process and exploited that knowledge mercilessly.

They just debated what kind of toggles would best fit on the duffle coats when Noya’s stop was announced. He stood up, held on to the pole next to his seat. Asahi looked at him curiously.

„The station is just coming up,“ Noya explained.

„No, uhm, there’s actually no change on the way to… Taito…“

He saw the realization dawn on Asahi’s face as he felt it dawn on himself. Asahi had totally expected that Noya was going back with him to his place. Right? As in, hadn’t even considered the fact that Noya probably had a place to stay in Tokio. Had apparently been a-okay with Noya just coming over devoid of any clothes at all just to crash at his apartment.

Noya’s heart drummed a little louder in his chest. This was good. Great even. Right? Because Asahi apparently didn’t want Noya to leave, and Noya so very much didn’t want to leave, either. Okay wait, that didn’t have to mean anything. Just because Asahi expected Noya to stay with him didn’t have to mean that he wanted Noya to stay with him. God, this whole stuff was giving Noya an emotional headache of epic proportions.

Meanwhile, Asahi’s face glowed like an izakaya’s lantern. „Uh, I’m sorry, it’s just, you stay at mine usually when you’re here, and I mean, you don’t even have a suitcase with you, so I don’t even know… why I assumed you’d, well…“ He gave an awkward laugh. The expression on his face made it clear that he was spinning out of control internally.

„No worries. Maybe, maybe we can meet up some time. I’ll be here for the next few days, so. Yeah.“

But Noya wanted to stay. Should he stay? He could ask. If it was fine with Asahi, he could stay with him. It didn’t even have to be the whole night, just a little while longer.

„Yes, yeah, that, that sounds good, yeah,“ Asahi stumbled.

The train slowed. They stared at each other, caught in a stand-off with none of them knowing what they were actually waiting for.

„I, I see you soon, then,“ Noya muttered.

Asahi nodded. They kept looking at each other.

The train doors opened, and Noya twitched, but Asahi caught him in place with his gaze alone. Nothing else, just his eyes, looking at Noya.

He didn’t breathe. Waited for Asahi to say something, do something, but nothing happened.

The train doors closed.

Noya still stared at Asahi as the wheels screeched and turned, hauling the train to its next destination.

Slowly, he sat back down, looked at his knees. His heart tumbled in his chest like it was going through a drier. So apparently… he was staying?

„Just for some tea,“ Asahi suddenly blurted, „I have some really good one from India, we can have some tea. At my place, it’s really good, I’m sure you’ll love it, just, we’ll just have some tea.“

„I’d like that!“ Noya yelled back and died a little.

For the rest of the ride, they pretty much ignored what had just transpired, although Noya’s fingertips were flitting all over the place with nerves. The slight blush dusting Asahi’s cheeks was the only visible testament to the occurrence.

At Ueno Ameyoko, they hopped off the train. It was an increasingly freezing, but short walk to Asahi’s apartment. Noya’d remembered the way based on the shops lining the street corners. 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Milk Crown Nail Salon, Hitachi Language School, and the crown jewel of the collection, A&L Oracle Gate, the fortune telling business Asahi lived above. The owner of the business happened to be Asahi’s landlady as well. Several times, she had predicted Asahi’s imminent marriage with a beautiful woman that would turn out to be his soulmate. Noya had secretly always suspected that she meant herself. They walked past the shop’s front and waved at the bored receptionist before rounding the building’s corner.

Asahi’s apartment was one among four on the second floor. It took Noya about five seconds just standing in front of Asahi’s door to realize that… they were just standing there? Noya peered up at him to catch the horror-stricken look in Asahi’s eyes.

„I don’t have my keys.“

Oh.

„Yeah, I remember,“ Noya said, „Those were in your coat.“ And that coat was with Take-whatshisface. Whoops.

Asahi groaned, burying his face in his hands, „Now I have to call Takehiko and ask him to come over and bring us my fucking coat. What’s with this day?“

Hm, maybe they didn’t have to see Take-ratface. Not over Noya’s dead body, anyway. „Did you lock your door when you left?“ he asked.

Asahi was apparently too caught up in a maelstrom of despair to answer. „We, we should have just gone to meet up with him before. We should have never had that stupid wine.“

„Hey, I’m taking offense to that,“ Noya said, fumbled out his credit card and bent it a little out of shape.

Asahi had the decency to look a little sheepish. Noya used the pause to repeat, „So about that door?“

„I, I was kind of in a hurry, so… maybe… Uh, what are you…?“

Noya knelt down in front of the door and tried to peer into the crack. Like he could have expected, he saw absolutely nothing. Hoping that it seemed like he kind of knew what he was doing, he poked around in the crack with his credit card until he met a resistance. Aha! Pressing his lips together, Noya pushed the card against the lock striker plate and just… tried to jam it fucking in there. First he used too much pressure, then too little, but then the metal squeaked, jerked and snapped back.

Noya pressed down the door handle, and it swung open.

„Tadaaa!“ he exclaimed, jumping to his feet.

Asahi stared at him like he saw Noya for the first time. Grinning, Noya blew on the edge of his horribly bent credit card as if it was a smoking gun.

„You just broke into my apartment,“ Asahi mumbled while Noya pulled him through the open door.

„With your consent.“

„You didn’t ask me, though. You… just broke in. How many times have you done this-“ Asahi gasped. „Is, is this how you finance your traveling-“

Noya groaned, „Can’t you just be glad about these amazing skills I picked up?“ He kicked off his shoes in the genkan, waited until Asahi had his wits together enough to do the same. „And if you need to know, I googled this shit after I locked myself out of a hotel room for like the tenth time. That’s how I know.“

„So… Nothing illegal.“

Noya rolled his eyes, tried to hide his smile. „You’re just worried your neighbors will call the police on you for ‚suspicious activities‘.“

„Wouldn’t be the first time,“ Asahi grumbled as they made their way into the kitchen.

Asahi walked over to the stove and put on a kettle while Noya sank into one of the chairs at the kitchen table. Shamelessly, he took in the whole apartment. It hadn’t changed that much since the last time he’d been here, actually. The curtains were different, but Noya had been introduced to them already when Asahi had hung them up. He rather liked that oak leave and acorn theme they had going on. Asahi had also switched out his stylish TV board for a shelving unit that housed most of the fabric he possessed. The rest were spilled all over his kotatsu.

This was Asahi’s apartment. Which, yeah, of course, he walked all the way here, just… He was here, about to drink tea. With Asahi. Who, who seemed to want to spend more time with Noya. He took a breath that felt more like a gasp.

Entirely too soon, Asahi set a steaming mug in front of Noya’s seat. He gave him a smile, gentle, small. One of those that Noya had always secretly hoped were just for him.

For the second time that night, Noya held his nose into the fumes of a hot drink. „Smells spicy,“ he commented.

Asahi removed his glasses before taking a whiff himself. „Yeah, it’s with cinnamon and gloves and… other spices. Kind of like mulled wine without the wine part?“

Noya grinned. „Where’s the fun in that?“

„Okay, then, Drunkard-San, should I get the rum for you?“

„I’m not a drunk,“ Noya corrected him, „Just… a connoisseur of the finer things in life.“

Asahi quirked an eyebrow. „A connoisseur in getting plastered, you mean,“ he revised.

Noya gasped, „The slander.“ He took a sip to get his bearings, then continued, „What are you basing these accusations on?“

Asahi shrugged. „Just an observation based on your post history. You tend to shit post a lot when you’re drunk. Also, you literally begged me to have a drink with you not only two, three hours ago.“

„Pfffht, that was just, like, liquid courage.“

„For what?“ Asahi asked. And there it was.

„Well,“ Noya said, stopped. At Asahi’s entirely open expression, he pressed on, „For talking to you.“

A few seconds of silence. Then Asahi nodded his head a little, a quiet sign for Noya to continue.

He cleared his throat. „Well, I. I mean I wasn’t sure how you’d react. I was worried you wouldn’t believe me, but I actually only realized that when you… didn’t believe me? And. There were things I wanted. Out of that conversation, so I was nervous, and. Yeah.“

„Things you wanted?“ Asahi asked softly.

„Like… Your forgiveness,“ Noya confessed, „For leaving you alone, out there.“

Saying that felt good, but also a little like his insides were tearing themselves into shreds.

Asahi looked down into his mug as if it was telling him his future. „Well,“ he mumbled, „As it turned out, there was nothing really to forgive.“

„But, I mean, it still hurt, right? That I didn’t show up and. That I made you think I didn’t give a shit about you.“

Asahi’s hunched shoulders were honestly answer enough. That image suddenly reappeared, the one Noya had never seen, but still kept returning to him. Asahi all alone, sitting on that bench under the cold streetlight.

„I… I’ll never be able to express how sorry I am,“ Noya choked, „About that happening, about missing that, that moment. That. I mean, between us-“

Asahi reached out and took his hand again. The simplest and most meaningful of gestures. He glanced up at Noya, almost coyly from under his lashes. The smile on his face was a little crooked, but sincere.

„Noya… Thank you. That means a lot,“ he said.

He knew it then. It would be fine. It wasn’t yet, not completely, but it would be fine. Noya could see it in the curve of Asahi’s eyes, could probably read it in his palm if he opened it. Could feel it in the touch of his hand, etching itself into the back of Noya’s own.

For a moment, Noya had to look down into his steaming tea. On the brink of tears again, this time brought to it by kindness and tenderness. He was wonderful. Noya had been aware, of course, but this time he felt it seep deep into his bones. Asahi was wonderful, and he would never forget it.

Noya looked up when he felt Asahi squeeze his hand. There was mirth, a little bit of concern. „I can’t handle you crying,“ he reminded him.

Wiping at his eyes with his knuckles, Noya replied, „I never cry.“

Asahi chuckled. He’d tilted his head slightly, so his hair fell against his chin a little and brushed his Adam’s apple. He looked so soft. Not breakable, because there was strength in forgiveness, just fond. His thumb brushed over Noya’s like the wing of a bird.

He was waiting. For Noya. And if it wasn’t going to happen today, he would still wait. Maybe not forever, but for now, he would. Wait until Noya was ready and just conjure them into existence with a few words, like pure magic.

Noya wanted exactly that.

He took a quick breath, feeling slightly dizzy. „I, I also wanted to tell you something. But I wasn’t sure if. You wanted to hear it.“

Noya wanted exactly that, so incredibly fucking much that it raged in his chest like a trapped beast. But there had been reasons for not taking that final leap. Like Noya being anywhere else but here. Like Asahi having commitments he needed to fulfill. Like all the crushing stories Noya had ever heard about long-term relationships.

On top of that came Noya’s incredible fuck-up. One year of Asahi thinking that Noya didn’t feel the same way he did, that Noya was fundamentally different to what he’d always thought of him. Maybe it would be fine, but could you ever come back from something like that?

Asahi’s thumb swiped over his hand again. He was still sitting there. Hints of anticipation in the curve of his forehead. He didn’t want to hope, but did it all the same. Noya had experienced that feeling all evening, and seeing it unfold on Asahi’s face made him want to hug him tight.

Despite all odds, despite all his incredible fuckups, Asahi still wanted Noya. Chose him over all the Take-fuckyous in the world. Chose him knowing what being with him would mean. Noya just needed to trust him, trust the both of them.

Noya clutched Asahi’s hand, flushed from head to toe with the things he wanted to say.

He gasped in a breath and opened his mouth. A strangled wheeze escaped.

Asahi laughed, then, brimming with fondness and pure joy. Still holding Noya’s hand in his, he bent forward.

„C’mon,“ he said, dug a fist into Noya’s penguin jumper and dragged him off his chair.

He wasn’t sure what was happening, but he knew that he needed to fucking say it already. But, but he was kind of whimpering now, words blurring and liquidating behind his lips as Asahi pulled him in his lap. His thighs were broad, felt so big under Noya’s own. The words clamoring in his mouth puffed out in a small gasp when Asahi embraced him. Heart somewhere in the stratosphere, Noya did the same, winding his arms over Asahi’s shoulders, burying his hands in his hair, in the wool of his sweater. He rubbed his cheek against Asahi’s neck. The neck he’d looked up to innumerable times, tracing the beads of sweat with his eyes, wondering about its feel, its taste. Years later, Noya squeezed his lips against it, too shaky to feel anything but exaltation.

Not a sheet of paper would have fit between them. Noya felt Asahi’s mouth cautiously trace the shell of his ear and wanted to be fused to him. His breath was so warm, heating Noya’s ear, his throat. He shivered, cheeks flushing. Asahi felt so big in his arms. There was so much of him, skin and flesh and warmth, Noya could never hope to embrace all of him. He had a feeling he’d die trying, anyway.

They were so close. Like this, for the first time. Certain of what they both wanted from each other.

Noya turned his head, captured Asahi’s lips just as they opened to say something.

They felt hot on him. Pressed over the arch of his upper lip, sucking gently. Plush and supple, molding against Noya’s with every tentative move. Opening easily in a clear invitation. Noya could hardly control his breathing when he slid his tongue into Asahi’s mouth, stroked it against the tip of Asahi’s own. A small shock of electricity, making them both gasp. Noya trembled a little, trading soft touches, a bit of wetness, warmth, taste. Asahi’s, all of that was Asahi’s.

His mouth was damp with spit when they separated. Not knowing if it was Asahi’s or his own made it all the better. They pressed their noses against each other, looked at each other.

Noya was finally here. Right where he always wanted to be, becoming what he’d always yearned to be. The happiness he felt was low and deep, filling him up from the bottom, raising higher until he thought it must be dripping from the tips of his hair.

Asahi stroked a hand over his face, swiped a thumb over his cheek. „You’re really cold, Noya,“ he whispered. His eyes were glinting, the warmest they’d ever been.

„Am I,“ Noya replied mindlessly. He didn’t feel cold. He felt suffused with heat, lit up like kindling.

„Yeah,“ Asahi said. He kissed Noya’s cheek. His skin burnt a little where it was touched, the tip of Asahi’s nose against his temple a cigarette singe. Maybe he was a little cold.

„You want to have a hot shower?“ Asahi mumbled against his jaw, „It’s fine, I was thinking of having one, too, maybe.“

They pulled back enough to be able to look at each other. Noya saw the same thought that had sparked in his brain reflected in Asahi’s widening eyes.

For a few heartbeats, they were quiet.

Then Asahi sputtered, „We, we don’t have to.“

„But we want to,“ Noya said, a discovery and a question all in one. The last thing he wanted to do was take it too fast, but… they had been waiting for so long.

Asahi’s cheeks went up in flames. Noya smiled and kissed him again. He could do that now. Just lean forward and kiss Asahi, press his lips wherever he wanted.

Voice a little shaky, Asahi said, „You go first, uhm, you’re the guest-“

„No,“ Noya answered, hardly kissing Asahi’s chin anymore, heart in his mouth, „I want you already in the tub when I come in.“

„Uh, okay, i-if you insist,“ Asahi stammered.

„I do,“ Noya said, just to feel Asahi squirm under him.

He could feel Asahi’s hands push at him a little, asking Noya to slide off his lap. He did so after a few more kisses. Sinking back into his seat, he smiled when he watched Asahi stand up on unsteady legs.

„I, I’ll lay out some towels for you,“ Asahi announced. He stood there, staring at Noya. Fidgeting, a little nervous, but eyes still shining.

Noya didn’t say anything, just continued to smile at Asahi, who blushed a little harder and stumbled into the bathroom.

The water started to run. Noya listened to its splashing and sipped his tea. It was still steaming, fogging up his nose and maybe also his brain. He definitely felt a little hazy.

He could have this, too. Noya was about to have this, with Asahi. Be as close to him as was physically possible for another human. He took another sip from his mug, but his mouth was smiling too hard and half of it spilled over his lips. He mopped it up with his jumper, because fuck it, that thing was already ruined.

The sound of running water stopped, but picked up again after a few seconds. It sounded a little more dull, deep. Like a bathtub filling it up.

Noya didn’t know why, but he had to hide his face in his hands. Press the palms against his eyes and the heels against his cheeks. Then he giggled, just a short, joyous burst. Which was good, he was kind of sick of fucking crying.

As soon as the sound of running water stopped, Noya found himself in front of the bathroom door. Should he knock? Asahi was already waiting for him, so he probably didn’t need to. It was still polite, though. His knuckle rapped against the wood while he slid the door open. Best of both worlds.

Like most bathrooms in Tokio apartments, Asahi’s was tiny. A toilet crammed next to a sink shoved next to a washing machine, separated from the shower area with the flimsiest of sliding doors. Noya took a breath and opened that one.

The water sloshed as Asahi sat up slightly in the tub. It was small, looked even smaller with Asahi sitting in it. He had to spread his legs with his knees poking out of the water in order to fit. Noya was a little disappointed to see his hair still dry, but the scarf he’d haphazardly tied around his messy bun more than made up for it.

Noya grinned at him, feeling so light that he thought he might take off at any moment. Asahi swallowed, smile small, but willing.

Still standing in the open door, Noya tore off his clothes. He didn’t make a show of it, just undressed and shoved his clothes somewhere on Asahi’s floating shelf. He closed the sliding door behind him, fell onto the bath stool. It was right next to the tub, and Asahi raised his chin a little as soon as he sat down. Noya smiled, wondering whether Asahi even knew what he was doing, whether he was just going to demand kisses from him as soon as Noya was within reach.

He bent sideways while Asahi leant back. Noya cupped his jaw, seized control of the kiss the moment their lips met. He was so ready for this. His tongue licked against Asahi’s, his hand wandered over Asahi’s throat down to his chest. Possessively, he groped one of his tits. God, it was so fucking soft, with that firmness underneath the skin, but still so malleable. The tips of his fingers combed through the fine hair, felt for a hardening nipple, rolled it and pinched it. Noya’s mouth filled with Asahi’s quiet gasps.

When he pulled away, Asahi looked fucking ripe for the taking. Cheeks flushed, mouth swollen. Noya smiled, because he didn’t even need to check. He knew Asahi was just as hard as him.

Toes curling a little in anticipation, Noya reached for the shower head. They were going to do this, now.

The water washed over his head, rinsed out most of the gel in his hair. He squeezed a dollop of Asahi’s fancy shampoo into his palm and foamed it up. It would make him smell like Asahi. The thought made him grin just as much as Asahi’s hand spreading shower gel over him did. Noya knew it was just an excuse to feel him. His touches were light, exploring the valleys and ridges of his body. A thumb swiping over his nipple, a ring finger dipping into the crease of his thigh. It felt intimate rather than arousing and had Noya’s cock salivate with want.

After a while, though, Asahi had enough. He turned on the shower head and rinsed the shampoo out of Noya’s hair as he was still soaping it up. Noya giggled, then coughed as the water filled his mouth. He heard Asahi snort, but whatever. Noya was more than okay with having the big cutie wash the soap off of him.

When Asahi deemed that job done, he pulled Noya into the tub. Like, literally grabbed his arm and tugged him stumbling into the water.

„Impatient, are we?“ Noya commented, sinking down on Asahi while he tried to be mindful of Asahi’s vulnerable body parts. He thought that Asahi blushed, but couldn’t be sure with his face flushed from the heat of the tub.

They fell into a kiss immediately. Noya fit himself against Asahi, chest and stomachs and hips and cocks. Asahi’s legs twitched a little, spread themselves wider. Noya took hold of his hips, dug his fingers into the flesh of his lower back. They started grinding, immediately, naturally. Noya gasped against Asahi’s lips, sank his tongue deeper into his mouth when Asahi moaned. It was so easy, so fucking easy to find a rhythm, to match their bodies together. The thick head of Asahi’s cock rubbed against Noya’s stomach. He could feel how full Asahi’s balls were, pressed against his own, how tight, ready to squirt their load on both of them. Asahi wanted this so much, and Noya knew that, he did, but fuck, Asahi wanted this.

Noya couldn’t have stopped himself from picking up speed if he’d wanted to. The water splashed down over the edge onto the tiles. He deepened their kiss, reached inside Asahi’s mouth as far as he could. His hands settled over Noya’s own where they were guiding Asahi’s hips. Noya felt how he crossed his ankles over Noya’s back, pressing him that little bit closer. Noya fucked him harder for it. Because that was what they were doing, fucking in the bathtub in under two minutes with water spurting between them, and then with their cum, Noya could feel it, the mounting orgasm in his prick and his abdomen, in his balls rubbing over Asahi’s, he was gonna cum like this, with Asahi, he could practically taste it on his lips, his tongue.

Then the lights cut out.

Noya’s hips stuttered like a stalling engine. He looked into a blackness where he knew Asahi’s eyes were supposed to be and panted, „Is this a fucking joke?“

„I, I don’t know,“ Asahi gasped back. More water rushed. „I think the whole street got cut, I don’t see anything outside.“

Yep, there was not even one teeny tiny beam of light coming through the frosted window.

„Motherfuckers,“ Noya cursed.

„Who?“

„They know who they are.“

Asahi giggled again. Noya felt Asahi’s lips collide with his chin in a kissing attempt and snorted.

„Not even that far off,“ he whispered, „Five points for effort.“

„Oh, shut up,“ Asahi countered before stealing his breath away.

Well, this wasn’t so bad. Not being able to see Asahi while he orgasmed was a crying shame, but at least he’d be able to hear it. He put his arms back, about to brace himself against the tub when Asahi sat up.

„Let’s get dry and look for some candles,“ he suggested.

Seriously? Noya commented that proposal with „Booo.“

„Come on,“ Asahi said, carefully lifting himself out of the tub. Or at least that’s what Noya assumed was happening based on the sounds and the fumbling touches. Asahi added, voice a little quieter, „I, I just want to see you. I mean, when you…“

Okay, yeah, they had to get the fuck out of this bathroom and find the nearest light source right this second.

Noya rose out of the water and groped for Asahi’s shoulder. „Lead the way,“ he instructed.

They shuffled out of the pitch-black shower area. Probably. The only thing that Noya knew was that at some point Asahi’s fingers encountered the sliding door and pushed it open. Then there was a towel pressing against his shoulder.

Noya rubbed the cloth over his dripping body, then let it fall to the ground. Actually, he should really tie that around his waist in case the lights came on again. But Asahi already grabbed his wrist and pulled him towards whatever. There was definitely the possibility now that he’d flash Asahi’s neighbors resembling a damp cat with a flagging boner. Well, might as well go out with a bang.

Another door opened, and the texture under Noya’s soles changed.

„I wonder if this is close to what you’d see when you switch on the lights in a dark room,“ he mused.

Asahi snorted. „I think usually the men in there are more dressed than this.“

„You think so?“ Noya wondered, „Like, nobody ever goes full on ‚free buffet for all’ like this?“

„Maybe if they want to contract gonorrhea by sheer proximity. Besides, dark rooms aren’t really a thing anymore.“

Noya listened to the sounds of plastic and glass being moved around as he stood in Asahi’s kitchen stark naked. „Oho? Why don’t you tell me more about your vast experience with dark rooms in gay bars?“

„That’s the point,“ Asahi explained, „There aren’t that many anymore, because we have phones now.“

Noya hummed. „So instead of screwing anonymous people in gay bars, we screw anonymous people we met over the internet?“

„Pretty much, yeah,“ Asahi answered, slowly leading Noya somewhere else. This was starting to be fun, actually.

„So that Takehiko is one of those anonymous fuck dates?“

Noya regretted that question immediately after it left his mouth. He didn’t even know where that had come from.

To his credit, Asahi replied just as quickly, „No, I’ve actually known him for half a year, and he’s been asking me to go on a date with him for just as long.“

After a bit of silence, Asahi grumbled, „I can’t believe you’re making me talk about this while slinking around my apartment practically naked. During a fucking blackout.“

Noya got pushed by gentle hands onto what was likely Asahi’s bed. He listened to the sounds of Asahi groping his way around some drawers and blurted, „What, what made you decide to go out with that guy?“

Noya bit his lip. Wow, he was a veritable questionnaire full of queries designed to ruin this thing for them. He didn’t even know why he wanted to know. Hadn’t he decided to just trust them in this?

A flame ignited right in front of him. Noya had to close his eyes a little against the flash, but watched with rapt attention as the light floated down. In its faint glow, Noya could only make out Asahi’s hand. It spread the light from wick to wick. Asahi had apparently collected as many tea lights as he possessed and was now lighting them on by one on his bedside table.

„I wanted him to leave me alone,“ Asahi answered, watching his hand cast light where it went, „He wasn’t pushy about it, but… persistent. I figured I’d go out with him once, and we could leave it at that.“

That should make him feel better, but still Noya pushed, „You ended up having fun, though.“

Asahi looked at him. The light of the candle flames flickered over his face, made him look like something out of a dream. Noya felt his hand being squeezed again.

„You don’t have to worry,“ Asahi said gently, „I’m not going to run back to him.“

Maybe he should, though. Maybe Asahi should before Noya got a chance to fuck up anything else. He, he shouldn’t think that, didn’t want to think it, the kinds of things that kept them apart for so long, but… it’s not like it was untrue.

Noya opened his mouth, but the words in it vanished when colorful lights gleamed from Asahi’s hand. Noya blinked at the tangled string of lights spilling over Asahi’s fingers and lap. His eyes followed the cord to a power adapter run by batteries.

„Oh, look at you, being all clever,“ Noya praised.

Asahi snorted, didn’t even try to untangle the knot of lights, but just put it down close to the headboard of his bed. With the help of the tiny bulbs, it was much easier to see Asahi’s face. He looked at Noya, open and genuine as ever.

„Did it really look like I was having fun?“ Asahi asked, nudging Noya’s hand with his own.

Noya recalled him taking a sip from the guy’s glass, opened his mouth to say yeah, that had seemed like a fun date. But in his memory Asahi’s face somehow looked less timid and more strained. His shoulders more stiff than relaxed. Involuntarily, an image of Asahi eating his soba soup popped up. His nose and cheeks red from the heat, eyes flushed with something else, lips twisted to hold on to the mouthful of noodles through his laughter.

Only Noya knew him like that. Sloppy and content, ready to be dragged into every one of Noya’s messes. Wanting and willing, waiting.

A small smile grew on Asahi’s face when he saw that Noya got it. He cupped Noya’s face with his hand and mumbled, „Nobody ever really compared, you know.“

Without consulting any part of his brain at all, Noya clambered into Asahi’s lap. He was so fucking cute with his scarf and wet strands of hair plastered to his neck, but Noya freed him of it anyway, pushed his hands into Asahi’s hair to drag his face closer.

„Me, me, too,“ Noya said in something like a whisper and a kiss, „They’re all so fucking vapid and, and you’re so brilliant.“

Breathlessly, Asahi giggled into his mouth. One hand settled over Noya’s shoulder, the other grabbed his thigh. Suddenly, Asahi broke their desperate mashing of mouths and stared down at Noya’s very naked waist.

„Did you lose your towel?“ he asked, voice stunned.

Noya shrugged. „Let it drop in the bathroom and lost it to the void.“

Asahi barked a laugh, entirely too loud for Noya’s fragile ego. He pushed Asahi sideways on his pillow in retaliation, stumbled off his lap.

Even Asahi’s eyes laughed at him. They were so clear, letting Noya know exactly what he wanted. And he was in luck, because it matched exactly what Noya wanted.

„Isn’t that the fun part you were talking about earlier?“ he asked, kneeling between Asahi’s spread legs. And they did that immediately, didn’t they, opening up for Noya, letting him in just like that. He pressed his lips together as he opened Asahi’s towel. His dick was limp, but already unfurling in interest. Noya didn’t touch it, just brushed his fingers through the thicket of trimmed hair growing there, watched it twitch in yearning. He’d been way too distracted before, but fuck, Asahi basically had the model of all cocks. Thick shaft, thicker head, foreskin stretching over it, begging Noya to strip it down and reveal the needy glans underneath.

But Noya did neither of those things. Instead, he swiped his hands over Asahi’s hips down to his thigh. He dug his fingertips into the muscles, lowered himself over Asahi’s squirming body. He was ready, so fucking ready. Noya could hear it in his breath, the quiet gasps from his mouth, feel it in the jerk of his legs as he raised his knees, framing Noya with his thighs.

They were both burning up. But Noya made them a little hotter for it. He coaxed Asahi’s tongue out into the open, stroked it with his only to force it back into Asahi’s mouth, practically fucking it with his tongue. Asahi’s gasps turned into moans, quiet and strangled. His breathing heaved when Noya released his lips. Noya wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next until he found himself sinking his teeth into Asahi’s throat. He groaned almost just as loud as Asahi. The skin tasted clean, felt so soft under his mouth, so breakable under his teeth. Noya sucked hard on it. He needed it to bruise, bloom crimson on Asahi’s neck with marks of his teeth and tongue. A map of Noya’s possession on every patch of Asahi’s skin.

Noya rolled his hips harder, turned their aimless wreathing into a slow grind. They were both rock hard again. And wet. Noya didn’t get like that, so, so that must be Asahi, dripping his pre-cum all over both of their cocks. Noya groaned around a mouthful of Asahi’s skin. His hands slid from Asahi’s thighs down to his ass. A jolt went through Asahi’s hips, but Noya pinned him down, grinning slightly. Fuck, if that didn’t feel a little like riding a bull.

Once Asahi had settled again, his hips were curved. Noya dug his fingers into his cheeks and spread them as wide as they would go, squeezing himself right between them. He felt Asahi’s hole flutter against his balls.

A needy pant crawled out of Asahi’s throat, and in its wake, he breathed, „Yuu.“

Noya hadn’t even needed to tell him, because Asahi apparently read him like a book. With a watery smile and glowing cheeks, Noya rewarded him by dragging his teeth up to his earlobe.

Asahi flinched again. One of the hands holding on to Noya’s waist left him and came back with a tube. Noya took it, unscrewed the cap with the help of his teeth because he didn’t want to relinquish his hold on Asahi’s thick ass. Asahi giggled a little, went right back to kissing Noya as soon as he spit out the lid. He squirted the lube all over his fingers and Asahi’s stomach before moving his hips back enough to reach Asahi’s entrance.

„U-Use two,“ Asahi mumbled, and, just, fuck.

Noya simply had to comply and breached Asahi with two fingers. It was hot, firm, but then soft when Asahi moaned and pressed himself down, didn’t stop moving, screwed himself on Noya’s fingers with hitching breaths. Noya bit his lower lip, slid in until the last knuckle.

„You fucking love this, huh?“ he hummed, sucking in Asahi’s reaction like parched earth, „Makes you feel so fucking good when I finger you?“

Asahi’s ears blushed just as much as his cheeks did. „Yeah, it, it feels good,“ he moaned, „Yuu, put, hnnn, put in more…“

Noya did. From two right to four, stuffing them all the way up, feeling Asahi’s hole twitch and suck, hearing him whimper and groan.

Noya groaned right back, „God, you’re so fucking hot and adorable, Asahi, I wanna fuck you so hard.“

A strangled sound came from Asahi, and then a condom bounded off of Noya’s face.

Laughing, Noya picked it off of Asahi’s trembling chest, tore it open with his teeth. He literally couldn’t wait any longer, and Asahi couldn’t, either, but he still gave him a few more strokes with his fingers. Sitting up, he watched in fascination as Asahi’s rim almost swallowed his knuckles. Okay, yeah, this was definitely something they should explore at a later point.

Noya rolled the condom over his weeping dick in under two seconds. He shuffled forward on his knees, grasped the backs of Asahi’s and pushed them into the mattress. They both watched his cock cram inside, Asahi’s hole stretch around the tip and take in the head. Noya didn’t think, just looked at his hard dick sink in deeper. Asahi convulsed around him, little twitches along his shaft. Noya could hear him pant right next to him. Tiny moans with every exhale puffed out of his mouth. He didn’t stop even as Noya pressed in all the way to the root.

All the fucking way. Noya looked up, into Asahi’s flushed and damp face, his glimmering eyes, all right there, just for Noya. He released Asahi’s legs and cradled his head, burrowed his hands in Asahi’s hair. They couldn’t get closer than this. They kissed, a brief blending of tongues. Then Noya started to move, and they gasped.

God, Asahi was just so incredibly hot inside, pulling on Noya’s cock with every stroke, pushing his hips up to take in more. It was a slow grind, but not what Noya had promised him. He’d said he wanted to fuck Asahi hard, and Asahi wanted that, too, Noya could feel it in the way he twitched so much, fucked himself back on Noya’s dick. So he braced himself more against the pillow, lifted his hips and slammed in.

Asahi whimpered again through his panting, met every one of Noya’s thrusts. It was fucking transcendent. The look in Asahi’s eyes, the smell of his clean sweat, the feel of his hair, the heat of his love. It was so good, way too fucking good, because Noya felt his cock get so hard, his balls draw up, about to squirt his cum into Asahi.

Noya slowed down, brought their fucking back to a slow gyration, but fuck, even that was too much. He kissed Asahi, so he wouldn’t see his shamefaced expression. „I, I’m sorry,“ he whispered against Asahi’s lips, pulled his straining cock out halfway, „I’m way too into this, fucking cumming already.“

Asahi pressed hot kisses on Noya’s cheek. „I-It’s alright, me, too,“ he replied, and bless him, he was being too nice, but then Noya watched him take hold of his drooling dick and start jerking himself. It, it gushed out pre-cum, clear and sticky, and Asahi groaned, smeared the wetness all over his swollen cock, fuck. Noya felt Asahi’s thighs tense around his ribs, watched his back arch, heard him whine, „Yuu, hah, Yuu.“

Asahi was about to cum, and Noya needed to get with the fucking program right this instant, and he did, shoved his cock into Asahi, stuffing it into his twitching hole and made him mewl, fucked into him hard with long strokes of his wet prick, God, just pressing as far inside as he could go, watched Asahi’s mouth go lax with pleasure, his flush spread over his chest, his hair gleam in the lights, and then watched him pour his cum all over himself, heard him groan as it splattered on his chest and chin, felt his hole clench and clutch on his dick, and Noya came. It just shot out of him, through him, with his hands twisted in Asahi’s hair and his voice whimpering, his cock pumping in and out of Asahi, jerking and spilling and shoving and marking.

Noya pushed his face into Asahi’s hair, breathing heavily. It smelled so good, and Noya smelled like that, too. He lowered himself on Asahi, made them both moan as his weight pressed his cock into Asahi. He felt the hand clawed in his neck loosen, tremble down his back. It settled over Noya’s cheek. Slowly, but insistently, it turned his head around until his mouth was uncovered enough to be kissed.

It was a tender press, a soft slide. Asahi’s lips so plush and puffy. Noya kissed him back as much as he was able to, which actually wasn’t a lot. He moved his hips a little, just to feel his dick still buried in Asahi’s ass. He smiled when Asahi sighed.

His cock grew limp, so Noya pulled it out. Asahi winced, and Noya kissed him extra soft for it. Then he cleared his throat. „Sorry about the, the short… performance,“ he mumbled.

Asahi just smiled against his lips. „I, I wanted it, too, and… it was actually pretty hot.“

Well, Noya had nothing but agreement for that statement. Hardly seeing what he was doing, he peeled the condom of his dick and tied it or something. He felt heavy, his fingers clumsy. „Just so you know, next time it’s gonna be even better,“ he bragged.

„Is that right?“ Asahi teased while patting Noya’s cock down with something, maybe… tissues? „I’m looking forward to it, then.“

Noya raised his arms in invitation. The Asahi shaped blur settled in between them, enveloped him in a warm hug. Fingertips traced through his hair. It was actually still a little damp. Hopefully, Asahi wouldn’t mind too much.

„You better… prepare yourself,“ Noya mumbled, about to go into every excruciating detail of their next round, but his eyes wouldn’t… they wouldn’t really open…

 

 

When Noya woke up the next morning, he was in a strange bed. Well, he was in Asahi’s bed, because that was Asahi right next to him, wasn’t it? Entangled in a flimsy sheet and Noya’s arms, exposing his shoulders, part of his back.

He was naked. That made sense, because… they’d totally fucked last night. After an emotional roller coaster of an evening, after Noya had finally taken that leap. They’d done it here, in Asahi’s apartment, on Asahi’s bed. Except that the sex had lasted for about five seconds. And then Noya had fallen asleep on Asahi. After he talked big game about their next round, too. Fallen asleep like a baby, with Asahi cleaning his dick and all. Honestly, he’d be lucky if Asahi ever wanted to get near his thing again.

He glanced over to the mountain of muscle and softness he was wrapped around. Noya was still here. It wasn’t like he’d really expected to be transported somewhere else during the night; it was just… he was here. Wrapped around the man he loved, laying right there in front of him, looking even softer in the morning light. His chest rose and fell, his skin a little damp with sleep-sweat. The only feature Noya could truly make out was the tip of his nose poking out under the mess of his hair.

Noya pressed his lips together. Of course, his dick was very interested in their state of undress and general closeness. Eager for that man to cum under him again, to sweat and moan with him. God, they’d fucked yesterday. Like, actually, truly had sex for the first time. After years of wanting exactly that, was it so weird that Noya had gone off like fireworks?

But here was his second chance. Asahi warm and right here next to him, gloriously naked, vulnerable. Formerly Noya’s best friend, now… something completely else, but exactly what he wanted him to be. He simply couldn’t leave things how they’d ended last night, Asahi deserved more.

Noya glanced around. The lube was still on the mattress, so he snatched it up quickly. Asahi might not need a lot of stretching, but definitely better to be safe than sorry. The drawer with the box of condoms was also conveniently open. Noya fished one out before closing it. Thankfully, the tea lights on the nightstand had just burnt out without killing them in another fire. Or probably that had been Asahi’s doing, seeing as the fairy light around the pillow was also turned off.

Noya wrapped himself even tighter around Asahi, brushed his handsome face free from under the tangle of hair covering it. Asahi made a noise like a drowning man.

„Morning,“ Noya whispered, pressed a kiss to his earlobe. His left hand travelled down over Asahi’s chest, just checking out the situation. His fingers brushed over heated, hardened flesh, and Noya smiled.

„Need my help with that?“ he mumbled.

Asahi turned around just enough to peer at him over his shoulder. He looked tired and crumpled and cute as hell. „Am I right in assuming you want to make up for yesterday,“ he rasped.

„Obviously,“ Noya confirmed, „I have to show you what a sex beast I really am.“

„Oh, God,“ Asahi groaned and pulled the blanket over his head, „Can’t we just cuddle?“

Noya giggled and dove after him. His arms hugged Asahi tighter. He listened to Asahi’s happy sigh, felt him relax in his arms. It made Noya all mushy and warm and clingy inside. He latched onto Asahi’s neck and started gnawing. He’d left hickeys the size of dipping bowls there, wow.

Asahi yelped. „This is not human cuddling, this, this is dog cuddling,“ he complained and rolled around. But the only thing he did was wrap his own arms around Noya and pull them even closer together.

They kissed. They could do that, now. Wake up next to each other and kiss each other breathless in the morning. If he wanted to, Noya could slide his tongue past Asahi’s lips and just feel his warm mouth. He could sink a hand into Asahi’s hair while the other crawled around to his chest and groped his tit. Asahi liked that. Enough to angle his head and let Noya delve in deeper. His hand felt huge on Noya as it slid over his side and kneaded his butt. He did it slowly, just enjoying the push and pull of Noya’s skin. He did the same to Asahi’s chest, now and again grazing a nail over his nipple, tugging gently on his hair. Noya really needed to titty-fuck Asahi one of these days.

By the time they separated, Asahi was grinding his cock against Noya’s stomach. „Knew you were just playing coy,“ he mumbled, grinning against Asahi’s jaw.

Asahi didn’t deign that with a response, just muttered, „You better be quick about it.“ His voice sounded petulant, but the way he rolled on his back and lazily stroked his cock was anything but. He pulled the covers back, eyes tracing over Noya’s naked body. Honestly, he didn’t think there was anything in this world that could make him feel more attractive than seeing Asahi thirsting for him.

„Asahi, you’re missing the point,“ Noya teased, heart already drumming faster. He settled between Asahi’s legs, glancing at the feast in front of him. Asahi’s rim looked pliant and loose, not to mention irresistibly fuckable. Still, he asked as he broke the condom package, „Need some prep?“

Asahi shook his head. „No, I can take it like this.“

It was out of Noya’s mouth before he even finished the thought. „I think it’s less about you being able to take it than having me force you to take it, though.“

For a second, nothing happened. Then Asahi’s face got consumed by a blush from the edge of his jaw to the roots of his hair. His mouth moved, but only garbled sounds escaped. Noya didn’t miss how he squeezed the root of his cock like he was strangling it.

„Gotcha, huh,“ he said and winked. Asahi looked like something in him exploded.

Noya spurted a generous amount of lube on his condom covered cock. „I think it’s pretty fucking hot, you know. Nothing wrong with liking to submit a little.“ Or a lot. Hopefully a lot.

Asahi’s mouth opened for denial, but then he just bit his lip while Noya stretched his leg over his shoulder. He pressed a quick kiss to Asahi’s calf. „Don’t worry, I’ll give it to you like you want it.“

Noya wrapped one hand around Asahi’s thigh, wanted to seize Asahi’s hip with the other. Asahi caught it with his own and held it tight. His cheeks were still flushed, teeth still sunken in his bottom lip, but his face was dripping with anticipation.

Noya pressed their hands into the mattress and his cock into Asahi’s ass. Okay. Okay, fuck, it was tight, tighter than it had seemed, but Asahi just shook and looked at Noya in unfiltered adoration and spread his legs even wider. So Noya didn’t stop, just nudged his hips back a little and kept thrusting in. Asahi went from shaking to jerking. His nails dug into the back of Noya’s hand, but he didn’t mind. Asahi was losing it, right there on his cock, and that was worth more than a scratched hand.

Noya grit his teeth. He pulled back further, thrust in more. It was probably too soon for that, which was why Asahi choked out moans and bitten off gasps, arched his back into Noya’s shoves.

„Like that, huh?“ Noya panted, „Just like that? Spreading you open and screwin’ you, that’s how, how you like it?“

He hadn’t really expected Asahi to answer, so it was all the hotter when he groaned, „Yes, Yuu, I, I, just want you…“

Noya’s chest was burning up again, because it him right there where he could feel it this time. Not a piece of information passed to him, but an actual feeling. Asahi was practically bursting with it, dripping from his eyes and voice and fingers. Noya pulled his cock out and crammed it all the way in, again and again with Asahi bouncing up on him, taking him to the hilt and whimpering.

Asahi wanted him. He wanted to be with Noya even if he was a fuck up who left him waiting alone in Zurich or if he came after ten seconds of banging him. He wanted Noya all the same, with that exact devotion that had Noya cheer for him even when Asahi couldn’t stand up on the court anymore. They’d had that, and they still had it, always pulling them together, not letting them go. Noya could doubt Asahi, could doubt himself, but Asahi would still want him, choose him despite every obstacle. And so would Noya.

He folded Asahi’s leg to the point where his knee almost grazed his chest hair, breathed right into Asahi’s panting mouth, „You wanna be mine.“

He hadn’t even finished the sentence before Asahi whined, „Yes, yes, Yuu, I want to be yours, Yuu-“

Noya smiled at him, at this desperate mess of a man, and whispered, „I, I wanna be yours, too, so that makes us each other’s.“

Asahi moaned a laugh. It blew from Asahi’s lungs right into Noya’s. And he knew that wasn’t how science worked, but Noya tried to swallow the breath down anyway and keep it.

„I, I have you know this ’s no joke,“ Noya slurred over Asahi’s chin, picked up their hands and pressed them next to Asahi’s head, his heart racing, „I’ll drill it in-into you if I have to.“

Asahi’s eyes sparked up at him. „I wish y-you would,“ he gasped.

Noya grinned. Exactly what he’d been planning on doing.

He dug his fingers into Asahi’s thigh, pulled him back on his cock just as he slammed in. He literally fucked groan after groan out of Asahi, pressed them out even as Asahi tried to keep them in. Asahi turned his head, bit into the piece of pillow he could reach, but obviously that was off the table. Noya released his hand and grabbed his chin, pulled the fabric out of his mouth.

Asahi was a fucking mess in no time at all. Drool clinging to the corner of his mouth, crying out moans like sobs, squirting out pre-cum all over his stomach. He was barely hanging on, ass already pulling on Noya’s dick like he was about to cum. Noya wanted to push him more. See what made Asahi scream, what made him cry, what made him curse. But they had time, didn’t they, so Noya released Asahi’s thigh and started stroking his dick.

The doorbell shrilled, and they both jumped so hard Noya almost stuffed himself all the way up into Asahi’s throat. Motherfucker fucking seriously?

„He, he’s too early,“ Asahi gasped, looking at his alarm.

Stupid motherfucker, then, couldn’t even read the clock. Apparently out to cockblock it for them even if he stood no chance.

He looked down at Asahi, fucking wrecked with his dick weeping to burst his load. Like fuck Noya was gonna let that asshole interfere. Asahi was fucking off the menu, he, he was Noya’s now, irrevocably.

Swiftly, he slid his hand from Asahi’s chin over his mouth. He gave Asahi only a moment to blink up at him before he started pounding him again.

Noya couldn’t really stop the slapping sound of their skin, but Asahi’s shriek was caught behind his palm. He struggled a little, not much, just enough to make Noya shove his fingers into his mouth and fuck him harder. Then he just took it, twitching and choking on Noya’s digits and his own moans. He was a lovely sight, desperate and irreversibly his.

„You’re so fuckin’ pretty,“ Noya whispered, right above Asahi’s ruined face. He pumped his fingers in and out of Asahi’s mouth just to feel him drool. „You fuckin’ love this so much, you, you’re gonna cum on my cock just like this, huh?“

Asahi’s head twitched, his mouth gurgled. Noya jerked his cock again, faster, felt the pre-cum spill over his fingers. Asahi was so close he couldn’t fuck himself back on Noya’s dick anymore, just thrashed under him, whimpered around the fingers in his mouth, sucked on them like they were Noya’s cock and he wanted him to spurt all over his face. His lips moved around Noya’s fingers, trying to shape his name, not even able to slur, just a needy whine of Yuu that went straight to Noya’s cock. Asahi’s own went impossibly hard in his hand, his whole body arched, and Noya barely squeezed his lips closed with his fingers before he sobbed out his orgasm, Noya could feel it muffled on the tips of his fingers like he felt Asahi’s cock gush out his cum in his fist, watched his face screw up in pleasure as his hips ground up in him, taking him deeper, so Noya drove in hard and smiled when Asahi cried out, just for him, just for Noya.

He slowed down, but kept fucking Asahi right through his afterglow. He squirmed and mewled, took it beautifully with twitches and jerks and strangled gasps. Noya shoved in hard once, felt Asahi shudder on his prick and pulled out his fingers. They were absolutely drenched in spit. He took hold of Asahi’s chin again and kissed him. His mouth was sopping wet and hot, so fucking tenderized from Noya’s fingers. Maybe Asahi would let him stuff his dick in it?

The doorbell rang again, but fuck all that. He had Asahi right here, hands shivering against Noya’s chest, grasping for him when he jammed his cum-stained hand behind Asahi’s back to hug him closer.

But Asahi did kind of need his keys. And his wallet.

So Noya pulled his caressing tongue out of Asahi’s mouth and breathed, „Want me to get that?“

Asahi looked so out of it that Noya was surprised he had enough presence of mind to shake his head.

„You sure?“ he asked. This time he got a head shake and some sort of negating sound.

Noya breathed a laugh. „You gotta get cleaned up first, though,“ he suggested.

The box of tissues was still on the nightstand, so Noya took a couple and wiped them over Asahi’s face. The sweat and drool were easily removed, but Asahi’s face stayed flushed, his lips swollen. He pretty much looked like a man that just got fucked within an inch of his life.

„I hope he’s as dumb as he looks, otherwise he’ll probably be able to tell you got a pretty good pounding,“ Noya said, raising himself up on his knees.

Asahi looked at him. „Wasn’t, wasn’t that kind of the point?“ he croaked.

Noya couldn’t help but smirk at him. „A little, maybe.“

Wincing, he pulled out his dick. It was basically crying at this point, begging to release inside of Asahi. But first they needed to get rid of that asshole. He was about to clean up the lube smeared all over Asahi’s crack, but Asahi shook his head, stood up on shaky legs. Really? He wanted to answer the door like that?

„Uhm, you got jizz on your abs,“ he pointed out. Asahi just smiled at him. He unearthed some pj pants from somewhere and pulled them over his bare, still considerably wet cock. A shirt went over his cum-covered chest. Evidence of their fucking was still all over him, barely concealed by layers of cotton. Noya probably shouldn’t think that was hot as fuck, but his twitching dick definitely did.

Asahi picked up a wool scarf from his armchair. Noya saw him coiling it around his throat before he left the bedroom.

With a sigh, he let himself fall face first into Asahi’s pillow. It smelled like him, was a little damp in places. From Asahi’s sweat and presumably his spit. Was it gross that he wanted to rub his face all over the wet spots? Probably.

There was the sound of a door opening, and Noya’s ears pricked up.

The guy greeted Asahi warmly, immediately asked about the scarf. Asahi mumbled something about catching a cold, Noya could hardly understand him with his mouth covered by wool. Good excuse, actually. Take-whatever expressed a lot of regret, some shit about… having brought soup instead if he’d known? Oh, motherfucker bought fucking breakfast! Probably thought he could seduce Asahi with fancy scones and overpriced coffee! Noya should totally go out there and kick his ass, just… maybe not with his hard dick swinging in the breeze.

He glanced around. Asahi’s towel from yesterday should still be somewhere around here. Before he could locate it, he heard Asahi say thanks and sorry about twenty times, he appreciated it, but he was sick and couldn’t have it on his conscience if Take-asshole got it as well. Something else from the idiot, he really didn’t mind, blabla, but his voice got quieter. Was Asahi closing the door on his face? Noya only heard his apologies and thank yous, and then there was a click.

Three seconds later, Asahi stumbled back into the bedroom. The scarf was already back in his hand, and he tossed it somewhere as soon as he entered. With impressive speed, he tore off his pajamas. Noya’s mind was still processing as Asahi crawled on the bed, entirely naked, cum stains partially smeared over his chest, still glistening on his flaccid cock. It was more out of instinct than anything else that Noya turned on his back. The sweet smile on Asahi’s face made the sight of his marked body even hotter.

Noya didn’t really get a say in it when Asahi knelt over his hips, took his throbbing dick in his hand and lined himself up. And he was fine with that, was actually pretty fucking ecstatic over it, especially when Asahi’s hair fell over his face like that, still blushing with his mouth all tender and puffy and then even more blushing, like how even-

„I, I’m sorry,“ Asahi suddenly blurted, „Did you not want to…?“

What kind of question even was that of course Noya fucking wanted Asahi to ride his dick he was practically salivating for it like a bitch in heat he wanted Asahi to bounce on his hard prick he wanted-

„Yes!“ Noya shouted, clutched Asahi’s hips and shoved him down on his cock.

Asahi squeaked, but recovered remarkably quickly. He balanced himself on his knees, put his full weight on Noya’s hips, and, just, fuck, that was quite a bit of pressure on his cock, so Noya got himself ready, lifted his knees and dug his heels into the mattress, but that still didn’t prepare him for the way that Asahi started to grind on his cock, with rolls of his hips and a curved lower back, dragging himself forward and then all the way back, pressing all of himself just down on Noya’s dick.

God, it was deep. His cock couldn’t possibly get in any further than this, he was literally all the way up in Asahi. Hitting him right there where it made his whole body jerk and writhe. And Noya writhed, too, from Asahi’s hole spasming around his root, his ass pulling on his head, tugging on his foreskin every time he rolled his hips forwards. Since when could Asahi even move like that? In that smooth fucking grind, arching and curving his back. Like, seriously, the next time they ended up drunk he’d ask Asahi for a lap dance, like, he simply had to try.

„O-Okay?“ Asahi gasped. He looked down at Noya, flushed from chest to hairline again, strands of hair sticking to his damp forehead. He was obviously enjoying himself up on Noya’s cock.

„You’re so beautiful,“ he blurted. It was the only thing in his mind, and how could there have been anything else in him faced with such a sight? „So, so beautiful, just… Fuck, you feel so good, Asahi, it gets, gets so fuckin’ deep like this.“

„Yeah,“ Asahi moaned. He placed his hands in Noya’s thighs, shifted his weight a little further back, and, God, God fucking-

Noya groaned, it was building so fast inside of him, he, he had no time. So instead of the lube he just grabbed for Asahi’s half-hard cock, grinned at him when Asahi winced.

„Ah, no, Yuu,“ he panted, „I, I just want you to…“

„But you get off on this so much, like, you’re fucking drippin’ already,“ Noya slurred. Just because he could, he gave Asahi’s prick a hard stroke, smiled at the way it had gone completely hard in his palm, spouting a shot of clear pre-cum on his stomach. „You literally got like this in, in five seconds.“

„Yuu…“ Asahi protested weakly.

„C’mon,“ Noya whispered, picking up the rhythm with his hips, „I wanna see you cum like this.“

Whatever Asahi wanted to reply got lost in his moan. Noya moved with him, thrusting his dick up into his twitching hole, effectively reducing Asahi to screwing himself on Noya with shivers and whines. His head rolled to the side, exposing Noya’s love bites in the morning sun. His bottom lip was trapped under his teeth, but got slowly released when Noya jerked his cock harder. His mouth got lax again, he was close, almost there, which was fantastic because Noya’s cock was practically bursting.

„Y-Yuu,“ Asahi hiccupped, chest heaving and hips stuttering, „Feels, feels so g-good with, with you…“

Asahi simply had to do that, right? Look at Noya like he didn’t want to look at anything else for the rest of his life and say exactly that, make everything in Noya burn for him, for this man who needed to have Noya know how it felt to be close to him, to be so fucking intimate and vulnerable together, Asahi was just too much, too much love and warmth wrapped into one soft man, his stupidly soft man, entirely too much for Noya to take, so he choked, „Me too, Asahi,“ and watched a tiny smile unfurl on his face before he jerked him tight and then he was watching him cum, riding Noya’s cock, groaning towards the ceiling and shoving himself down, as far as he could, feeling Noya so deep in him, right there with him, and Noya dug his heels in, screwing his prick up into him and let go, streamed his cum up in Asahi, shuddering and cursing, reaching out and clutching Asahi’s outstretched hand.

Gasping, Asahi squeezed his hand hard. Noya squeezed it right back, even when Asahi was pressing down on him so much he had to bite the pillow. He gave them both a few more circles, a little sputtering, breathtakingly tight. Noya couldn’t do anything but lay there and pant.

There was only a split second in which Noya saw Asahi’s face dripping with sweat, his eyes open like the sea. Then he fell on top of Noya.

Thank God his reflexes were decent even after rigorous sex. Noya raised his arms just in time to catch Asahi. Said man didn’t seem to care much, just wormed his arms around Noya’s back and hugged him tight. God, shouldn’t it be illegal to be so fucking adorable? Noya was wasting valuable time not embracing Asahi, so he did just that. Wiped his spunk covered hand somewhere on the sheet and wrapped his arms around him.

It was warm, and heavy, and smelled like them both. Some of Asahi’s hair had settled on Noya’s face, but he didn’t mind it. He just turned his head further, so he could kiss Asahi’s nose.

Still crammed up in Asahi, Noya drifted a little. He had Asahi’s weight on him, could hear him breathe right next to him on the pillow. His muscles were soft, relaxed, curled and bowed around Noya. He was still so incredibly hot inside.

Some time passed, Noya didn’t care how much. They were just together, limbs entangled and resting, breaths mingling. He stirred awake a little when Asahi brushed his nose over Noya’s cheek and mumbled, „You’re still inside…“

Oh yeah, he was. Deliciously so. „I am.“

Asahi hummed. It was difficult to make out his features, but through the mess of his hair Noya thought he saw him smile gently. He’d always thought that those smiles of Asahi were infectious, but nowadays Noya seemed to possess no resistance at all against them. His lips curled just as Asahi captured them in a kiss.

Tender as his mouth was, Asahi gasped now and again. Especially since Noya couldn’t resist dragging his teeth over Asahi’s lips. It was hot, in that sated, bordering on sluggish way. Noya could have done this for hours, hands down. Just kept kissing and licking and stroking. But Asahi shivered at one point, resulting in Noya’s soft dick slipping free, and oh yeah, maybe they should clean up a little.

Noya divested himself off the condom while Asahi tried to wipe himself cum-free. Was a little bit of an impossible endeavor, though, since Noya had smeared Asahi’s jizz all over his back and… some of his hair? Honestly, he was a bit hazy on the details.

After he’d enjoyed the image of Asahi ridding himself off the lube on his ass, he suggested, „Maybe you should have a shower?“

That statement got interrupted by his own stomach growling like a tiger.

Asahi glanced at him, grinning, „Maybe breakfast first?“

„Breakfast!“ Noya shouted and sprang up from the bed, but wait! „Where did I leave my clothes?“

„In the bathroom,“ Asahi laughed from the confines of his pj shirt.

And voilà, there they were, still crumpled on Asahi’s floating shelf. A quick sniff test confirmed that everything still smelt useable, the penguin sweater just looked a little worse for wear. But would you look at that, there was an extremely soft looking hoodie stashed just underneath Noya’s clothes. One that smelled used, with traces of Asahi’s deodorant and shower gel, hints of his sweat. Perfect.

Even more perfect was the way Asahi giggled at seeing him drowning in it. Noya even got a fond kiss pressed on his cheek. And a few more. That was motivation enough for him to grill a few pieces of salmon. After they cheered for the return of the electricity and Asahi made him wash his hands, of course.

About twenty minutes later, Noya stuffed his face with radish and rice. It was good, but Noya already knew that Asahi was good at cooking. Shit at frying anything, but cooking in general? The bomb.

He flinched when something hooted. Asahi snorted around his chopsticks, and ugh, that stupid cuckoo clock he’d sent Asahi from Bavaria, which Asahi for some weird reason actually used. He glanced at it, immediately felt bad when he saw that holy shit, it was almost ten.

„Don’t you have to go to work?“ Noya asked.

Asahi nodded, lowered his miso soup. „Yeah, but I’m on flex time, remember? It’s okay if I come in a little late. Once a year.“

Well. Far be it from Noya to have Asahi leave him early. Well, not like he was going to stay here. Or, or maybe. Or!

Noya blurted, „Can I stay here? When you go to work?“

Asahi swallowed his food before answering, „Don’t you want to go back to your bed and breakfast?“

„No?“ Noya replied instantly, „I mean, if I can stay here, then no.“

„But your stuff is there?“

Oh, right. „Well, I can get it while you’re at work and take it back here?“

Asahi sipped at his tea. Well. Maybe that was a little fast? They had just fucked each other into next week, and, and Noya had sucked saucer-sized love bites into Asahi’s throat, but maybe this was a little much?

„How long are you staying?“ Asahi asked.

Noya stalled, scratched his leg, then his elbow, was so engrossed in scratching himself raw from nervousness that he almost missed it when Asahi said, „I’ll be off in two days.“

He only continued when Noya glanced at him. „I wanted to go to Karasuno and stay with my family for a while, for New Year’s.“

„And your birthday!“ Noya burst out, because fuck, he didn’t have anything! Didn’t get Asahi anything for Christmas, either. Wow, this was off to a good start.

„And my birthday,“ Asahi agreed with a smile, „Are you going to visit your family, too?“

„Uh, I thought about it. Didn’t plan that far ahead, honestly.“ Which was to say, four days into the future.

Asahi took his hand. He’d done it countless times over the last 24 hours, but it still felt so reassuring. A promise conveyed through touch alone.

„We could go there together, spent a few days. If you want, you can come back to Tokio with me, after, and then… we’ll just see.“

Noya swallowed. Squeezed Asahi’s hand and swallowed again. Asahi wanted this. Had wanted this for years, just like Noya, had travelled all the way to another continent to tell Noya that he was ready. Asahi was going into this with his eyes and his heart open. Noya just had to do the same.

„That, that sounds really good,“ he finally rasped. His lips trembled a bit when Asahi bent forward and kissed him, but that was alright, too.

Noya waited until his heart had calmed down and Asahi had taken a bit of his rice before he said, „Yeah, can’t wait to fuck you in your old bedroom.“

The way Asahi sprayed some of his half-chewed food on the salmon was very satisfying.