Okuyasu was startled awake by the piercing yet muffled ring of a telephone downstairs, uncomfortably dragging him out of his sleep and forcing consciousness back into his aching and exhausted body.
For fucks sake.
He had been running on about four hours sleep per day for the past week straight, and staying active through coffee and sheer sense of will alone wasn’t going to last much longer. Now, as he was finally going to get something close to a healthy dose, someone thought that it would be a great idea to call him at 2am.
It was probably some scamming scheme or a telemarketer - not that either had many differences between them - and Okuyasu had half a mind to let it ring out and completely ignore it, try and get back into a more relaxed state - anything to salvage what the night could have been - but something indescribable grabbed at him, and gave him just enough energy to drag himself from the warm comfort of his bed and into the freezing night air.
The central heating had stopped working a long time ago. Getting it fixed would cost close to a fortune, a fortune that Okuyasu didn’t have, so he just dealt with it as best he could. After a while under the blankets, his own body heat maintained a good temperature, but anything outside of them was horribly cold during the night. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t like he could be picky. It was this or homelessness.
He shivered in his tank top and joggers, gritting his teeth and hoping that the late night caller had a very, very good reason for disturbing him.
The ring kept on going, almost as if it was teasing him with its shrill vibrations as he hurried down the stairs towards it, making a mockery of the sloppy way he stumbled across the landing.
Finally, he reached the damned thing and grabbed the earpiece from it’s holder, perhaps a little too violently, and pressed it to the side of his head. Usually he’d answer calls with a polite greeting and the name of the household in a neutral tone, but anybody expecting such graciousness at a ridiculous hour like this was plainly out of their mind.
“Hi, who’s this?” he sighed, a clear edge in his voice as he spoke.
There was silence for a couple of seconds, then what sounded like a relieved gasp of air. What the hell was this asshole doing? Was it a prank call? No marketer would act like this, they had at least a guise of professionalism to hide their questionable marketing tactics.
This whole situation was hurting his head. Why weren’t they saying anything?
“... Nijimura household? Can I help ya?”
Just heavy breathing and nothing else. Not even a ‘sorry, wrong number’ or an ‘oops, didn’t mean to call you’. What the fuck was going on?
Okuyasu opened his mouth to make a rather curt comment, but was cut off by the caller finally speaking. It took him a moment to recognise the voice. Through all the fuzz of sleep deprivation and the grainy audio from the low quality landline, there was a hint of familiarity, and when it clicked, all the steadily built up anger and apprehension dissipated, like they were never there to begin with.
How could he possibly have stayed angry as he heard the next few words from the other side of the line?
“... y... you’re alive... h-holy shit you’re alive... thank god...”
They were breathless and shaky and clearly in an absolute state of affairs, but the voice was unmistakeable.
It was Josuke.
“... Josuke... wh... what... whadya mean I’m alive? O’course I’m alive, I’m fine, what’s goin’ on?”
There was a sniff and the sound of fabric ruffling, then nothing for a couple of seconds.
“... It... fuck... it’s nothing, I-I’m sorry for disturbing you man, I’m just being really s-stupid. I’m hanging up no-“
“Hey hey hey don’t hang up! How the fuck am I gonna go to sleep after you call me all stressed out like that?! What’s goin’ on?!” he repeated.
Okuyasu almost felt bad for being so pissed on his way down, even though he knew Josuke would have no way of finding out. All of that fuming for nothing, it wasn’t a marketer or a scammer or a prank caller, it was his buddy. A buddy having a really hard time by the sound of it. All those negative feelings disappearing instantly left him feeling momentarily hollow and a little bit anticlimactic.
Now he was only concerned.
“... it... dude, it’s really n-nothing you know... me being dumb. That’s all.”
“Shit, Josuke, I kno’ I’m stupid but I’m not that fuckin’ stupid. You called me at 2am.”
“Yeah and I’m sorry, I d-disturbed you for nothing and I feel like an idiot. Just go back to bed.”
“... no way. I’m worried now.”
Okuyasu slid his back down the peeling wall and came to rest at the bottom, grateful that the cord was long enough to comfortably allow sitting on the floor while talking on the phone. Not so grateful that the ground was cold, and he felt an unpleasant shiver go right up his spine. He tried to ignore it.
“... O-Okuyasu... I promise, it’s nothing. Just go back to bed now.”
“Fuckin’ hell man, listen, you woke me up at this time in the mornin’, and we got school today. The least y’can do is tell me whatever got you so worked up.”
He could hear Josuke gathering his composure, taking deep breaths, and even though all he had was an audio feed, he could easily visualise him biting his lip.
“... it’s embarrassing. You’ll think I should just suck it up.”
“No I won’t.”
“But I am. I’m feeling r-really fucked up man, I don’t know what the fucks been going on with me, or my head.”
Okuyasu didn’t know what to do. He was never any good at this. He’d never had to deal with upset people before, in fact he was usually the upset one, and Keicho would have to deal with him getting all teary over nothing, all the time.
His head was starting to hurt. Maybe it was because he was tired. Maybe it was because he was thinking too hard. Either could answer the prompt.
“... do you want me ta come over?”
never too soon
“... no... mum’ll wake up and kill both of us. I’m surprised that she didn’t wake up when I came downstairs to call you.”
He knew the warning wasn’t a ploy, Tomoko was usually quite agreeable, but messing with her precious sleep would land you directly at the top of her bad list, which was the last place anyone would want to be.
However, it was odd indeed. They were a mere minute walk from each other, yet here they were, talking via telephone.
“... Josuke, I know I’m being a stubborn bastard right now, but I’m not gonna drop it until you tell me what’s freakin’ you out, if that takes a day or a week or a month I don’t care, so please just spit it out now. I’m not gonna think that y’stupid.”
For a brief moment, he thought that Josuke’s own stubborn streak would kick in and keep protesting, hence the sound of him finally lowering his guard was like music to his ears.
“... I... I’ve been... f-fuck... I... I’ve been having... bad... bad fucking dreams, ok? Really bad dreams, where things keep going all sorts of wrong in all sorts of ways. I keep waking up all s-sweaty and shaky like it’s just happened, it... it feels like it happened. Even though I know it didn’t happen it feels like it and it’s... Just. Bad dreams. Nightmares, I guess.” he ranted, still keeping hushed so to not wake his mum, but even so...
... Okuyasu could tell he wasn’t making it up or making it sound worse than it was or anything. He was being sincere.
Josuke was too much of a prideful and genuine guy to lie about something like that.
“... they weren’t so bad at first but... they’ve been getting worse and it’s... I... I’m scared to go to sleep because I’m scared of what I might wake up believing. I don’t wanna see that shit anymore. I... I feel so... I feel so pathetic dude. I’m in high school for fucks sake. What kind of high schooler has fucking n-nightmares? It’s like I’m a fucking toddler.” he continued, trailing off at the end, getting a bit choked up.
Okuyasu wound the phone cord around and around his finger, letting it softly spring away once it reached coil capacity.
“... did... you... have a really bad one tonight, or somethin’?” he asked.
He hoped he sounded genuinely concerned, and not tired or frustrated. He wasn’t the best at tracking his own tone of voice, and was always worried he’d come across wrong.
It appeared that he was safe this time.
Josuke took a few more gulps of air. Okuyasu wondered if he knew how obvious it was that he’d been crying.
oh, reckless abandon
“... it felt so fucking real. I thought it was real. I knew it was real, but it wasn’t, because I called you a-and you were there. You are there. Here, fuck, you... you k-know what I mean.”
“... I kno’ what ya mean.”
Baited breaths. Tense atmosphere. White noise filling their respective spaces while one waited and one tried to build up the courage to let it out...
... and he did.
“... He f-fucking killed you... Okuyasu. I wasn’t f-fast enough, I was too f-fucking late and I lost you again and it was all m-my f-fault!”
Okuyasu’s blood ran cold. Despite no name being mentioned, the ominous ‘he’ was pretty infamous in their social circle. His identity was nothing of a question.
Even though months has passed since the incident at the end of the summer, it was still hanging heavy over anyone who had even an inkling to what events had transpired. Creeping into the fronts of people’s minds when they least expected it, troubling them well after the danger had been vanquished... almost as if a small part of that killer was still alive in the form of passing thoughts, memories that could ruin a day in a heartbeat. Certain streets and locations forever tainted by a dark force that only select individuals could feel, as the rest of the population continued living in ignorance of the absolute terror they had ignorantly harboured for fifteen long years.
If his influence had so negatively affected people who had barely met the guy, Okuyasu could only imagine how Josuke had been struggling.
Fighting him straight on, nearly sacrificing his own life to do so, going head to head with the terrifying source of evil that had secretly plagued the town for close to two decades, entirely undisturbed.
He must have been terrified.
“... I c-called you because I needed to hear your v-voice to know that you were o-ok... I couldn’t stand waiting till the morning... I-I was scared you w-wouldn’t show up and I’d find you d-dead somewhere a-and I would’ve been t-too fucking late all over again!”
Fuck, how was he supposed to reply to that? What could he possibly say to make him feel any better?
Truth be told, Okuyasu hated talking on the phone. Everything was so much easier in person. He could hear people better, be more expressive with his hands, see people’s faces - not that it helped all that much. Too many people smiled when they weren’t happy, or acted indifferent when they did actually care quite a lot. It messed with his head, and messed with him even more when he did those things himself, yet still couldn’t notice when it was somebody else.
Still, even with all the challenges of reading body language in place, at least there was more than just a voice coming from a piece of plastic to work with.
like no one's watching you
“... Well... I’m alive. I promise. Ya can come over and check for y’self if y’want.”
“... could I a-actually? Or... are you joking or something?” Josuke asked.
It was a half joke - he wasn’t expecting his offer to be taken up - but he wouldn’t really mind. He was awake now, pretty wide awake, and he’d probably be able to be a little more helpful in person.
“... ya can if ya want. It’s up t’ya.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Josuke had snuck out to his house. The front door was way too loud when it closed apparently, but his bedroom window made a relatively safe exit and entrance for late night shenanigans without Tomoko finding out.
“... you... mean it?”
“Yes I fuckin’ mean it! Fucks sake Josuke, I think y’need a fuckin’ hug and I can’t give ya one over the line can I?”
a moment, a love
a dream, a laugh
a kiss, a cry
our rights, our wrongs
Josuke got a little bit quiet, and he felt like smacking himself.
“... sorry... I didn’t mean ta get all loud... I wanna help you out man, I really do, I’m just shit at stuff like this. Y’know I’m shit at stuff like this.” he spoke, pressing his fingernails into his palm.
a moment, a love
a dream, a laugh
a moment, a love
a dream, a laugh
“... I... I’ll be there in a f-few minutes then...?”
“... aight, see you soon. It’s fuckin’ cold out, put a jumper on.”
“Gee, thanks mum. I will.”
just stay there
'cause i'll be coming over
Okuyasu felt the starts of a smile tug at his lips at that comment, but they soon fell as Josuke hung up, and he was left sitting on the floor, staring into the distance with only his thoughts to keep his head from falling silent. He groaned as he stood up, only now noticing the pins and needles in his feet and backside from sitting still for so long.
He wondered if he should have quickly rushed back upstairs and fixed up his appearance a bit before answering the door, but couldn’t be bothered. He couldn’t imagine Josuke looking all that well kept either. He was indeed the most appearance-concerned person Okuyasu had ever met, thought not quite particular enough to do anything special for something as casual and sudden as this.
Everything stretched out impossibly far, drawing all the energy out of the passage of time. Anticipation rose even though nothing exciting was happening, his heart beat against his ribs as if it was trying to escape. The only solace was finally hearing the squeak of the gate opening, and light footsteps up the path.
There it was. His telltale knock.
He opened the door and his eyes fell onto him, and all thoughts of appearance went out the window. Josuke was so disheveled that he hardly looked like himself.
Deep eye bags from sleeplessness coupled with the redness of recent crying made him look ill, and made Okuyasu want to carry him straight up to bed and force him to rest. He also wondered how he wasn’t uncomfortable with all his hair down, getting in his eyes. Despite seeing him without it many times before, the length always caught him off guard, and the lack of his signature hairstyle was odd at the very least.
Josuke angled his eyes downward, not quite making contact, shivering as a particularly sharp wave of cool air from outside breached the doorway. It snapped Okuyasu back to his senses.
“S-Sorry! Come in, it’s really fuckin’ cold.”
He ushered him inside and closed the door, briefly gritting his teeth and grimacing at the temperature.
“... s-so... I’ll uhm... I’ll put the kettle on. I don’t have much in at the moment but... I have tea and stuff... I’m sorry it’s so cold in here, if you want I could-“
“... y... yeah?”
Josuke slipped his shoes off and lined them up by the door, then finally turned to look at him with a slight smile.
“It’s ok, you don’t have to do anything for me. Just letting me come over is more than I could have asked for.”
“... w... well I’m still gonna put it on. Trust me, you’ll appreciate it in a bit, t’be honest it ain’t much warmer in here than out there.” he grumbled, jerking his head towards the door, then stumbled over to the kitchen, his feet still half numb. Josuke silently followed him.
He fumbled around in the dark, finally finding the button to a small electric lantern that sat on one of the counters. Much alike everything else, the electricity was faulty and didn’t work half the time, the kitchen especially. Three bulbs had blown out within the last month, and he didn’t want to risk it happening again, so he was using the lantern for now. It looked like it was part of some camping set - adorned with scratched metallic red paint and some unreadable logo - but now it was all on it’s own.
To his utmost embarrassment, Okuyasu had found it balancing on the top of a skip filled to the brim with broken fortitude and other trash. It felt like such a shame and a waste to just leave it there, eventually to be dumped at some garbage plant, so, he grabbed it. The skip belonged to a neighbour a bit further up the road, so it was lucky nobody saw him. Even though skips were full of stuff you didn’t want anymore, taking from them was still legally recognised as stealing.
He thought that was stupid, but, what could he do to change it? He had a new portable light that he didn’t have to pay for now. That’s all he cared about.
He considered recounting the short story to Josuke to fill the silence, but he’d displayed some distaste in his habit of re-homing random items he picked up in the past. He’d always given him a whole ‘you don’t know where it’s been’ spiel, and no matter how many times Okuyasu said he could just wash the items, he never did approve of his habit. Maybe Josuke didn’t quite understand - their lifestyles were completely different after all - he’d always had everything he needed to live comfortably, while at the Nijimura household, even necessities were luxuries sometimes. Something like an abandoned cutlery set with a couple of dents out the back of a run down restaurant wouldn’t even catch the eye of animals, let alone most humans, but a sight like that would be borderline exciting to the extremely underprivileged. One man’s trash is quite literally another man’s treasure.
It was one of the scarce big differences that caused the occasional rocky patch in the friendship, so Okuyasu just avoided talking about any odd behaviours that resulted from his financial standpoint. Avoiding conflict was the priority. To sit in silence was better than to start up a potential disagreement, especially considering the whole reason why he had come over.
He flicked the kettle on, and scanned over the limited selection of teas he had available. Nothing much, but he had a couple flavours he knew Josuke liked. It would be fine.
Turning around and resting his back on the counter, he looked back at his friend, who was quiet. Awkward. He looked like he wanted to say something, but didn’t have the guts to do it.
So Okuyasu spoke instead.
“... you can stay here t’night if ya want. Your- I mean... Tomoko leaves for work early this week right? So she won’t even know.”
“... really? I... you’re sure? Don’t we have school tomorrow?”
“Yea’, but whatever. I’m probably gonna be too tired to go in anyway.”
Josuke breathed in sharply, looking sheepish very quickly, and Okuyasu waved his hands at him in a panicked manner.
“It’s not ya fault J-Josuke! I wasn’t really sleeping well t’night anyway, I was sorta awake already, and y’kno’ how I am, once I wake up I can rarely fall back under for at least a couple hours...” he lied through his teeth.
For a second, he though he’d managed to kid him, before Josuke looked away.
“Liar. It is my fault.”
“I could tell by how you answered the phone. You sounded like you wanted to strangle me through the cord when you first picked up.”
“... did I? Shit... sorry...”
He shook his head.
“Don’t be. I’m the one who called you at some stupid time at night. I don’t even know what time it is, but, it’s late isn’t it.”
“... half 2.”
The kettle boiled, and Okuyasu pulled two clean mugs over from the draining board.
“... do you have jasmine?”
“Yeah, y’want that?”
“... if it’s alright.”
The clinking of spoons against the side of the cups were all the two of them could hear for a few moments, and then some shuffling from above their heads.
“... is your dad awake?”
“Might be. Might not be. He moves a lot in his sleep, probably just that.”
Josuke eagerly accepted his mug when Okuyasu passed it to him, clasping it between his hands to warm them up.
“... so... do ya wanna stay down here? Or we could go up to my room, I mean, y’ve been up there before. It’s warmer but not by much.” he mumbled, switching off the camp light.
They both tiptoed up the stairs, careful not to spill their drinks, or make enough noise to wake up Mr. Nijimura. Okuyasu had memorised which steps creaked more than others and skipped them accordingly, while Josuke roughly copied his jagged path upwards as they ascended.
It was ironic. Okuyasu’s house was clearly once something of decent luxury, three floors, ornate design, with an abundance of rooms and spacious areas throughout. Borderline mansion size, if only it wasn’t so far gone into the decay of time and abandonment.
Josuke hadn’t told him, but in the past, Jotaro had seriously considered getting in contact with the town’s social services, and only didn’t because he knew it would cause a truckload of problems the moment that anybody found out about his father.
Even so, it was no place for a sixteen year old to be living. Damp, cold, falling apart, it wouldn’t pass a health and safety check even if he worked and cleaned non stop for a week. After a while it wasn’t shocking anymore, it was just sad.
What could anybody actually do to help him?
while our blood's still young
it's so young, it runs
Okuyasu nudged his bedroom door open with a shoulder, and after placing his mug down on a small table by his bedside, collapsed onto it, finally resting his legs. Standing for so long on the rough hardwood floors had made his heels start to ache.
Josuke awkwardly stood in the doorway, biting the inside of his bottom lip as if it was a piece of gum.
“... don’ be so nervous man, I’m not gonna bite.”
“... I know, I know... I just... I still feel bad.”
“Ya can sit down ya kno’.”
Instead of protesting further, he did as suggested, carefully closing the door behind him and sinking into Okuyasu’s mattress. It was one of the very few new things in the house, and funnily enough, it was actually more comfortable than his own at home.
(The last mattress had fallen victim to a bug infestation. Despite his best efforts, they weren’t budging, and Okuyasu had to regretfully dive into his limited savings to purchase a new one.)
They both looked somewhat forward, sort of out of focus. Somewhere between the floor and the wall, not looking at each other, but feeling each other’s presence. That alone was comforting.
“... do you wanna talk ‘bout it?”
Josuke shrugged, clutching his mug harder.
There was such a tense atmosphere, something completely abnormal to the two of them. Usually, all the time spent in each other’s company was carefree, with a light tone at every occasion. Nothing but laughs and jokes, a sunny day spent with dear friends, their daily walk to school passing fields filled with green, strawberry ice cream, Morioh’s prettiest sights, a night playing games, or whispering until the birds sang outside. Good things. Sweet memories.
Of course, many more somber interactions had occurred across the time since summer ended, though that didn’t mean either of them were used to it yet. Nobody had taught them good coping mechanisms, so things were still slowly working themselves out in their heads.
“... we don’t have to, if ya don’t wanna... we can just go to bed or something... whateva makes ya feel better.”
If only everything was easier. He wished he was more like Koichi, or at least able to give actual good advice at times like these. Instead, all he could do was act as an emotional punching bag... or more like an emotional sponge. Soaking in information and troubles and worries, listening and nothing else. Anything he did have to say would be so clique and obvious that it would be more likely to annoy than to aid - in his mind anyway.
... oh. He’d been so deep in his own sea of troubles that he’d neglected to notice something.
The shaking across Josuke’s tensed shoulders, his bowed head, long navy hair hiding the obvious expression beneath.
“... hey...” he whispered softly.
He gently took the tea out of Josuke’s quivering hands, and placed it down next to his own, worrying that he was going to end up dropping it with how much he was moving.
Free hands allowed Josuke to wipe his eyes to no avail. It seemed the tears just kept coming.
He didn’t cry much.
Okuyasu had once asked him about it, and he said something about not wanting his mum to worry, and changed the subject really quickly. It was a disorganised dynamic between them, one crying at the tiniest things, the other so used to keeping everything bottled up that when everything finally got too much, it all burst out at once and rendered him almost completely vulnerable.
“... I f-fucking hate this... it’s supposed to be over... I thought it was all over... b-but it’s like he’s still in my head... I can hardly get through a w-week w-without waking up and losing my shit over some fucking nightmare... I d-don’t know what to do... I feel pathetic, Okuyasu... I... I don’t understand. He’s gone... he can’t hurt a-anybody anymore, not me, or my mum, or Koichi or Jotaro or you or anybody else... so... why... why am I so fucking scared?”
Even though they were alone, he was still holding it in. Trying to keep his exterior as hard and confident as he could stand without completely breaking down from emotional exhaustion.
It must have been hard. Always keeping up a façade like that.
So even though it made him anxious to his core, Okuyasu went against his rule of solely listening. Maybe he could coax a little more out of him.
“... s’ok... ya can just let it out... ya kno’ I’m not gonna judge ya... I kno’ that y’like everybody to think that you’re always fine and stuff... but... it’s ok to feel bad...”
... and that was that. Sometimes, all you needed to get someone to open up, was to ask the basic questions. A simple ‘are you ok?’ could turn the most steadfast individual into a blubbering mess in seconds if they were worked up enough.
Josuke was no different. Being explicitly told that it was ok to put down the act for once broke though the thin remains of his exterior in a second, and before he knew it, everything gushed out at once. His face crumpled, usually bright blue eyes dull and broken. Tears and cries and sobbing so violent that he was almost struggling to breathe. Okuyasu pulled him in for a hug, which he eagerly received, hiding his face away in his shoulder.
“I-I-It’s so fucking i-irrational but I’m t-terrified! I’m so fucking scared! I c-can’t stand seeing everybody I c-care about d-die again and again in my head, I d-don’t care if it’s real or not, I can’t fucking stand it!”
“... must be really... really tough on ya...”
“It is... Okuyasu, w-when you, when you d-died, l-like, really... r-really died... I... I was l-losing my mind! I was gonna l-lose someone else b-because I was too f-fucking cocky!”
“... w... what? Josuke, it wasn’t ya faul-“
“Yes it was! I got too far f-fucking ahead of myself and y-you had to s-step in and save me! That’s why he got you, it was all my fucking fault!”
Josuke’s fingernails were digging into his back, and they were starting to hurt a little. Okuyasu almost said something about it, but decided to ignore it for now. The atmosphere was already tender enough without anything else for Josuke to feel bad about.
“That’s what happened w-with my grandad, I got t-too confident and I f-fucked up and he was killed ‘cuz of it! It was all because of m-me, and I d-didn’t even learn from it ‘cuz I almost lost you the s-same fucking way!”
“... but ya didn’t... I’m right here... I’m ok... ‘n’ you’ll be ok too...”
“... a-and w-what if I’m too late next time as well?”
“... Josuke. There won’t be a next time. I promise.”
It took a few minutes for him to calm down enough, slowly fading from intense bawling to the occasional whimper, still shaking and shivering without any sound.
With that, there was quiet in the room, apart from Josuke’s heavy breathing and the occasional gust of wind outside.
He’d tired himself out. Having that much anguish building up in your head was exhausting, and now that it had all come out, he was even more exhausted.
A good night’s sleep would do wonders for them both, but for now, some comforting words were what he needed. Okuyasu silently prayed that he wouldn’t mess up and say anything insensitive by accident.
Josuke pulled away, messily wiping his face again, more just smearing the tears around than anything else.
“... fuck, I’m sorry, I’m gonna w-wake your dad up if I don’t calm down...” he whispered.
“Nah... he’s a deep sleeper, it’s alright, don’t worry ‘bout waking up dad, or catgrass, ya can carry on if you need ta...”
He shook his head.
“I hate crying, I-I don’t wanna cry anymore. I just wanna feel ok again... like before all this s-shit happened.”
Okuyasu gestured at his tea and Josuke nodded, gratefully accepting it as he passed it back to him. His hands had steadied enough to hold it now, and he quietly started sipping away.
“... look... don’t expect any lifechanging philosophical shit from me... I don’t really kno’ what will help or not... but... I don’t blame ya for being affected by what happened.” he swallowed nervously, wishing his mouth would stop being so dry, “... anybody would’ve been, you aren’t weak or pathetic for being scared, if y’weren’t after doing what you did, I’d be real fuckin’ concerned.”
“... but it’s over... I-I don’t have anything to be scared of anymore...”
“... I mean... I still have horrible memories from when I was little... of my dad ‘n’ Keicho, some of Dio even... ‘n’ every time they come into my head I get this... awful sinking feeling in my stomach and I wanna just lock myself up in a box ‘n’ never come out. Even though it’s been years. But y’wouldn’t call me weak for that, would ya?”
Josuke didn’t respond.
“... would ya?” Okuyasu said again, a little more emphasis into the words, and Josuke looked sheepish again.
“... no... I wouldn’t...”
“Exactly. Sorry... for using myself as an example... I didn’t really know how else to compare it... but... uhm... how do I put this... sometimes... people go through terrible things that follow them for the rest o’ their lives... but... that’s ok, ya kno’? Doesn’t mean ya weak, if anything it means ya damn strong for going through something so bad ‘n’ coming out the other side in one piece.”
Why even try. No matter how hard he concentrated, it still felt like utter bullshit was coming out his mouth, nothing but useless drivel that did little more than fill the air.
He looked back over at his friend, who had calmed down a great deal.
“... am I... making sense?”
“... yeah... you are.” he mumbled. Maybe he was being genuine, or maybe he was just saying that to be polite.
“I’m... I’m here for ya, and I’ll always be here for ya. So will Koichi, ‘n’ Mikitaka, loads of other folks as well. Y... you aren’t alone. You’ll never be alone. Even if y’try to get all isolated and cut yourself off from everyone, I’ll break down whatever walls ya put up and come get ya... I just... what I’m trying to say is... no matter how late it is... you can always call me. I’ll pick up.”
won't stop 'til it's over
won't stop to surrender
Josuke hummed in the back of his throat, nodding along to what he was saying.
“You know... you keep saying you’re bad at advice.” he said, staring into his cup.
“That’s because I am. Everythin’ I say sounds obvious, like a bad movie script. I’m worried it’ll all just end up annoying you.” Okuyasu replied, “... done with your tea?”
“Oh, yeah, thanks...”
He took the cup from him again, slightly less carefully putting it down on the table now that the chance of spillage was gone.
“... you haven’t touched yours yet.” Josuke mentioned.
“Ha, I only made myself one so that you wouldn’t complain as much and just accept a fuckin’ cup of tea. I know how you can get.” he smirked, then yawned, stretching his arms over his head, grimacing as his shoulder made an unpleasant clicking noise and started hurting more than it had been hurting before.
“Ouuuuch, guess another trip to Tonio’s is due huh?”
It seemed that his half assed attempts to lighten the mood hasn’t worked. Josuke looked as serious as ever.
“... you don’t give bad advice.”
“... y... ya sure? I dunno... I sorta just... say whatever comes into my head ‘n’ hope it’s not stupid... maybe y’just think that because ya sleepy.”
“No, I mean it.”
A round of creaking echoed throughout the house, and almost on cue, Josuke started shivering as well.
Sure, he was wearing a jumper and Okuyasu was wearing much less, but he was used to spending night after night in the cold. It wasn’t anywhere close to pleasant, but over time it had become almost bearable. His guest was used to a much steadier and warmer temperature.
“Gimme your hand.” he spoke, and clasped both of his around Josuke’s when he lifted it up.
“Jeez, I’m usually the one with cold hands. Get under the duvet man, you must be freezin’ all over.”
Josuke discarded his jumper, and they both got in, no need for conversation. They’d done it countless times before. Sharing a bed was just a normal part of staying over, it made sense, they both fit pretty comfortably, and sharing body heat really did wonders during the winter.
“... how tired are you?” Josuke asked.
“I dunno. Could stay awake, could try to sleep. It’s up t’ya.”
“... I feel bad for this. Waking you up and crying on you. I feel like an asshole.”
“Y’can cry on me whenever ya want. I’d rather you cry on me than keep it all buildin’ up in your head.”
He shifted around in the bedsheets, finally turning and looking him in the eye. A bit more of the colour was back... or seemed to be back. The classic Josuke sparkle. It was nice to see it.
“... earlier you said there won’t be a next time, but... how can you be sure? Stand users attract stand users, we’re bound to fight another one at some point.”
“... I’m not gonna lie to ya man... I’m always gonna do everythin’ I can to protect ya, b’cuz, if I get hurt, I can be fixed. You can’t.”
songs of desperation
i played them for you
He didn’t looked very happy at that.
“... you’d better not. I’ll be paranoid all the time if you think like that, and besides, I can handle myself.”
“I know ya can. I just care about ya.”
Even though only a couple of minutes had passed, the space under the duvet was warming up massively, especially with two people so close together.
“... but... Okuyasu, I care about you too. That’s the whole reason why this happened, because I had a dream where you died and lost my shit over it.”
“What if I promise you that I won’t die?”
“... huh? But... you can’t be sure. Nobody with a stand can be sure, who knows what’s out there?”
“... I don’t kno’ what’s out there... but...” he reached out and found Josuke’s hand once more, gently entwining their fingers, “... I do know that you’ll always have my back. That’s enough for me t’be able to face anything.”
Josuke squeezed back, shuffling closer to him.
“... god you’re so cheesy.” he muttered, but finished the statement with a shy grin, and Okuyasu couldn’t help but feel his spirits lift.
“Shut it, you’re the one who’s watched Grease so much ya know the lines off by heart.” he teased.
“Pfft, I’d rather know Grease off by heart than Akida.”
“It’s Akira! Not Akida! A, Ki, Ra! God Josuke, didn’t I make ya watch it with me just a couple weeks ago? You forgot the title already?”
“Yeah, I zoned out halfway through because I was bored of you gushing over that guy in the red jacket every time he came on screen. One too many comments about his ass sent me over the edge.”
“Kaneda is cool, asshole. He was my favourite character as a kid.”
“It sounded more like you just had a big fat crush on him, but... wait, how old were you when you watched it?”
“... uh... I watched it about a year after it was released... so, 6.”
Josuke blinked at him in disbelief.
“... isn’t it R rated?”
“Well uhm... Keicho didn’t really... pay attention to what I was watching when I was little... as long as I wasn’t bothering him he didn’t care, he just shoved vhs tapes at me and told me to stay entertained.”
“... so he just let you watch R rated films? Wasn’t he like... only 8 as well?”
“Oh yeah, he usually just stole ‘em. I watched tonnes. To be honest they might’ve fucked me up a bit, like... desensitised me to violence or something. But, oh well, it happened. Can’t do anything to change it now.”
Okuyasu blew a stray strand of hair out of his eye, and looked back to Josuke, finding him still staring, visibly concerned, but then again, he never could really pin down what he was thinking.
Then it hit him.
“... oh... fuck, I made it all dark again... sorry.”
Just as Josuke was finally smiling. Why did he always have to ruin things like this?
Guilt started boiling in his stomach. It wasn’t like it was a one time thing either. On multiple occasions a week, they’d be having lighthearted conversation, and somehow the most disheartening memories you could find would start spewing out of his mouth before he even realised. He’d wonder why people were staring at him, then realise it was pity, and he’d be hit by the realisation that yet another moment was ruined. All by him and him alone.
Koichi had once asked him how he was so casual about it all, how on earth he could sometimes recount parts of his terrible childhood without even changing tone of voice.
He didn’t have an answer.
... and there was that look again, straight from Josuke. Pity.
“... sorry f’doing this all the time. Must be annoying.”
“It’s not annoying. I’m glad you feel like you can talk about it.”
“... do you know what I’d rather talk about?”
Josuke let out a loud snorting noise and pressed his head into the pillow to muffle it.
“Well, if that’s what you wanna talk about...” he joked after he’d calmed down enough. Joking without even a hint of a smile, what on earth did that mean? Okuyasu sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. It still felt tense.
a moment, a love
a dream, a laugh
a kiss, a cry
our rights, our wrongs
Everything was so volatile at the moment.
Summer happened, and then, everybody was expected to go back to normal. As soon as Josuke was out of the hospital, he was back at school, along with Koichi, and himself, and everyone else went back to their jobs or wherever they belonged. Surely Jotaro would have known there would be an emotional fallout at some point, yet despite that, he did nothing about it. Just left along with Joseph Joestar and hadn’t contacted anybody in Morioh since.
Left a bunch of traumatised kids to deal with their problems on their own. It didn’t seem right.
Then again, what could he have realistically done to help them.
a moment, a love
a dream, a laugh
They had each other, they had their friends, but even so, each and every one of them was so bitterly alone. How many nights had gone past where Josuke had awoken and suffered in silence, putting on a fake smile the next morning? How many of the others were suffering like this, haunted by memories better off forgotten?
Okuyasu hated even thinking about the countless sleepless nights he’d sat through, desperately trying to think of something nice while every horrible thought forced it’s way into the foreground.
He didn’t wish that on anybody, laying there, afraid to sleep because of the hyperrealistic dreams, afraid to stay awake out of fear for what he may end up doing to himself. All alone with nothing but his own self destructive projections, and nothing at all to make the morning come around sooner.
a moment, a love
a dream, a laugh
He snapped back to reality.
“I kno’ we moved past this a while back... but... back in July... there was a while where I thought ya might die too.”
He remembered that he was still holding Josuke’s hand and held it tighter, rolling over and staring at the ceiling.
“Soon after they took *him* away... ya just blacked out. Jotaro said you’d lost too much blood, and we had to wait for a whole new ambulance to arrive. All we could do was try and put pressure on your wounds and hope for the best. I was fuckin’ terrified... ‘n’ even when you were at the hospital, I had this stupid fear that ya would never wake up. Even though you’re practically all healed, every time y’mention your leg or your side hurtin’, I get scared that you’ll be rushed back one day. I kno’ it’s irrational, but I can’t help it.”
Josuke didn’t say anything. Maybe he didn’t know how to reply, maybe he just didn’t want to reply. Maybe he didn’t like the aching scars stuck on his body forever being brought up. Okuyasu told himself to stop guessing and just ask.
“... sorry. Did that come outta nowhere?”
“... yeah, but I don’t mind. Our lives are just a series of things coming out of nowhere, I’m used to it.” he paused for a second, “... that was a lie... I’m not.”
“Aha, me neither.”
“I don’t think we’ll ever be.”
'cause i'll be coming over
They’d been getting gradually closer, somehow.
Accepting that their lives would never be normal wasn’t new. Ever since they both grew conscious of their stands - whether gradually after a hospital trip, or instantly after waking from being stabbed with an arrow - they had both known that trouble would probably follow them till their dying day. It was bleak, and depressing. No teenager should ever have to wonder how many times they’d have to fight for their life in the future, or how many loved ones they’d lose to an opposing side.
Yet here they were, 3 in the morning, mutually discussing those facts, so tight together they may as well have been on top of each other. As if it was normal.
and while our blood's still young
it's so young, it runs
“... anything else you want to tell me?” Josuke questioned softly, and Okuyasu shrugged.
“Maybe, but that’s all I can think of right now. Talking tires me out. Might nod off soon. That cool with you?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“... oh, thought of somethin’.”
“... what is it?”
He hesitated, then reached out and brushed a strand of hair out of Josuke’s eyes with his free hand, perhaps lingering for just a second too long before pulling away.
“It’s ok t’cry. I don’t wanna see you holdin’ it in anymore. Not good for ya.”
The fatigue was really dragging him down now. No matter how hard he tried to stay conscious, he was going to pass out soon.
Josuke had noticed as well. Maybe it was the way his eyes kept shutting that gave it away, or the way his speech was getting slower and sloppier by the minute.
“... you’re really tired. C’mon, let’s just go to sleep.” he said, and Okuyasu gratefully nodded, but still listened intently when he added something else, “I just have one last thing to ask.”
“... what’s that?”
He could see him feigning an itch and deliberately looking away.
“... well... we’ve always been touchy, right?”
“... what do ya mean...?”
“Like... we’ve always been pretty touchy with each other. I have way more physical contact with you than let’s say, Koichi, or even my mum. It’s just something that we do.” Josuke grumbled, clearly overanalysing what he was saying, yet was trying to play it off.
He did that a lot, and it rarely worked. Okuyasu didn’t have the heart to tell him.
“... I mean... yeah... I guess...”
“... so... I uhm... let’s say I... have another episode and wake up all freaked out, could we, sleep in a way that I’ll instantly know you’re there? If that makes sense? Or... is that too weird to ask. Sorry.”
Okuyasu chuckled, then let out a satisfied sigh.
“Y... you want me to cuddle ya?”
“God you don’t need to put it like that!” he exclaimed, flushing red, “... but... yeah, I guess. Or we could just sleep close... or something...”
“Josuke, we been holdin’ hands for the past like... half an hour, if I was weird about touchin’ you ‘n’ stuff, I woulda said already.”
“I know... I just, it’s a bit odd for friends to... you know... cuddle. It’s intimate.”
“... well... we’ve kinda been closer than just friends for a while now... haven’t we.”
They both fell silent. Okuyasu wanted to punch himself in the stomach.
He couldn’t read Josuke’s face. He couldn’t tell if there was surprise and shock written there, or abject disgust. His wide eyes and raised eyebrows could mean any number of things. Anxiety skyrocketed, bursting through the roof and left him laying there, frozen in place, afraid to say anything else in case it fucked everything up more than he just fucked it.
Why would he let himself say that?
Even Josuke was lost for words, laying there, staring at him with those piercing blue eyes.
Staring as if he was trying to look straight through him.
He’d meant to say that they were closer than the typical friendship. Way closer. They spent more time together, told each other more, trusted each other more, knew each other’s deepest fears and secrets. Went out together more, had more meals together, talked more, touched more, to the point where ‘friendship’ didn’t capture it all properly. ‘Best friend’ didn’t even scratch the surface of how much their connection meant to him.
He felt as close as family, but not in the same way as Keicho did, or his dad did, or even the distant and fleeting memories of his mother did.
Josuke was someone he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Just ‘friendship’ could never show that.
won't stop 'til it's over
Yet it seemed that what he’d said hadn’t been received well. Josuke was still silent, no matter how intensely Okuyasu internally pleaded for him to say something, anything at all, to break the uncomfortable quiet.
Nothing but breathing and a rush of wind outside the windows.
Then, as quickly as Josuke had fallen still, he reanimated, giving off a smile and a neutral sigh.
“... ah... yeah, I think I understand.”
... was that... it? Was that all he had to say? Surely... surely he had a few more things to say than just one simple statement. It couldn’t be that anticlimactic, could it?
“... y... ya do?”
“I think so, and if I’m thinking right, I recon we’re on the same page.”
He pulled Okuyasu’s hand closer to his chest, and held it tighter.
won't stop to surrender
He didn’t know what to say. Whether to press for more information, more detail. Whether to ask or not, ask what he thought of being more than friends. What that truly meant to him. Was everything still just... platonic? Or was it... possibly, something more than that?
That idea alone send his heart off on a tirade, thumping in his chest like a jackhammer. All hopes that his face didn’t appear so red in the low level light were quickly abandoned.
He hadn’t intended any of his actions or words tonight to come off as anything but a friend supporting a friend, yet now that he was thinking about it, what on earth else did ‘we’re more than friends’ suggest?
There were no good words to describe how he felt. Everything jumbled up inside his head, nothing feasible was even appearing. It hurt.
“... you’re overthinking.”
Josuke’s voice cut through the sea of disorder littering his consciousness, bringing his attention back to the present.
“... I’m not.” he lied.
“Yes you are, dummy. You always pull this one face when you’re overthinking things, I can tell.”
He was so unendingly jealous of Josuke’s ability to easily figure out what people were feeling and considering by just looking at them. Must’ve been useful.
“... I feel like an idiot. I shouldn’t’ve said that.”
“... said what? The thing about being closer than friends? Okuyasu, I told you, I get it-“
“B-But what if you don’t? What if you’re thinkin’ something completely different t’me?”
Damn his habit of saying anything that came to mind. He always did it and then instantly regretted it once other people reacted, why couldn’t he have a little more precognition than that? Same outcome every time, yet still his tongue ran itself straight into trouble. Wasn’t doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result the definition of insanity, or something? Did that still count when it was unintentional?
... and now he’d landed himself right into another huge vat of worry.
What if he meant less to Josuke than Josuke meant to him?
It was a sudden and scary thought, one he hadn’t quite had before. There had always been insecurities that plagued him, the regular thoughts of not being good enough, being annoying, being a burden - everything that Keicho had made him painfully aware of for so many years - but never anything so raw and bold and in his face. Nothing quite like this.
If it turned out that while Josuke was his entire world, all he was summed up to a normal pal destined to be forgotten in a few years... honestly... he’d rather not know.
He trusted him. He trusted Josuke, and wanted nothing more than to believe they truly were on the same page... but the seed of doubt that always followed him had already planted itself.
“... I’m... I’m worried... Josuke... I don’t wanna end up treatin’ you a certain way ya don’t like cuz I got it wrong... I get things wrong all the time... ya kno’ that...”
Josuke raised an eyebrow.
“... then what were you thinking?”
The dryness in his mouth was infectious, spreading down his throat and pulling it tighter, while higher up, everything was the opposite. Silly little tears welled up in his eyes. Crying over nothing as usual, even though his nothing could feel like an awful lot sometimes.
“... I... I j... I just... I... J-Jo... J-Josu-“
“Take a deep breath man! Holy shit, you’re gonna end up hyperventilating if you carry on like that!”
He pressed his lips shut, shame and embarrassment coursing through his system.
Why were the right words so hard to find? Why was everything to do with talking so exhausting?
This entire meet-up was solely to provide Josuke with some much needed support and time out. Why was he the one crying.
Why the fuck was he the one crying?
won’t stop till it’s over
“I’m sorry, I kinda put you on the spot there huh... would you rather I go first?”
Okuyasu tried to say no. He clenched his fists, he tried to throw the word out of his mouth and into the air, but nothing happened.
He didn’t want to hear. He was scared.
Blissful ignorance was better than the painful truth, so he just shook his head, willing all the built up emotion in his chest to simmer down, just for a second, just long enough to regain composure. It wasn’t listening.
Funny. This was exactly what he’d told Josuke not to do earlier.
‘Hypocrite,’ he thought, ‘fucking hypocrite.’
Hypocritical indeed, and as usual, despite knowing he was going against his own advice, he couldn’t stop himself one bit.
The tears were warm, odd in contrast to the air, and it felt like they’d cooled down by the time they’d dribbled to the bottom of his face and dripped onto the sheet. Pitter pattering of tears against fabric was strangely, a highly recogniseable sound.
Too recogniseable. Josuke would undoubtedly recognise it too.
won’t stop till it’s over
“... hey, Oku, why’re you upset?”
- and suddenly Josuke’s hand wasn’t wrapped around his anymore. Josuke’s hand was laid tentatively across his cheek. It was cold, yet comforting, and he completely melted into the touch, pressing his own hand on top to make sure he didn’t pull away. Not yet.
Something about being handled so gently and with such care, it felt good, and bumped hard against a memory he’d tried to forget a long time ago.
won’t stop till it’s over
‘Oku’ echoed around his head. Oku Oku Oku. Maybe that was what made him spill over.
“... s-sorry...” he mumbled. Josuke gave his cheek a soft squeeze.
“... you’re the most important person in my life, you big dummy. That’s what I meant, at least.”
... ah. So their feelings were mutual, and in unison after all. All that internal worrying for nothing.
Yet for some reason, he still couldn’t stop crying.
“I-I feel so shitty Josuke, this whole thing was f’you... s-so why am I crying, like an asshole?”
“What kinda piece of shit would I be if I made everything between us about me and never about you?”
He looked away, watery eyes fixed onto Josuke’s shoulder instead of his unmoving steady gaze.
“... is there anything I can do?” he asked, his thumb gently sliding across his cheekbone and back.
“... uhh... call me Oku again.”
“... sure, Oku. It sorta just came out when I said it earlier... but... you like that or something?”
“... I think... I think my mum used to call me that.”
Josuke took a moment to reply, pursing his lips slightly.
“... lucky. I can hardly remember anything before I was four.”
“Me neither, I jus’ get feelings sometimes. Like... what’s it called... de somethin’.”
Josuke’s mood really was an artefact of mystery. He had managed let himself open up to pure vulnerability, and had ricocheted right back to where he usually was without leaving any clues of the past behind. It was almost impressive to have witnessed, but then again, it was more sad than anything else. Okuyasu could only wonder how long it had taken him to perfect the peculiar skill, how many times he’d wanted nothing more than to collapse and cry till there was nothing left and had forced himself through it instead.
It was different to his mood spikes whenever his hair was mentioned. That was reactionary. This was predetermined.
“Have... you ever had a nickname, Josuke?”
“... yeah, my mum had a bunch when I was younger, but I hate all of them.”
Okuyasu hid a smirk through the sadness.
To Josuke’s ignorance, Tomoko had actually indulged into his childhood with the regular guest on a couple of occasions. Some sleepover a couple months back, while Josuke was taking one of his ridiculously long showers, she’d grabbed an album of baby pictures and started happily chatting about whatever came to mind, embarrassing nicknames included. He would’ve been annoying him with the information by now, had Tomoko not made him promise to keep his mouth shut, knowing how her son could let his emotions get the better of him sometimes. As much as a flustered Josuke was always a sight to see, a promise was a promise.
He wished that Josuke took trivial things like this a little less seriously. If he did, he’d be able to thoroughly agree - some of the names were indeed sickeningly embarrassing - and make a joke about it. Alas, he knew him well enough to figure out his mood would be ruined the moment it was brought up.
“... there’s gotta be a’ least one ya don’t mind.” Okuyasu wondered, wishing that Josuke would keep gently stroking his cheek until he lost consciousness.
“If you’re gonna start callin’ me Oku then I want a nickname for you.”
“Oi, you’re the one who asked me to say it again, don’t lump that on me.”
His voice sounded harsh, but his cheeky grin pointed towards a different emotion.
“I mean it, I really hate all my mum’s nicknames, you aren’t getting a single one out of me ‘cause I know I’ll never hear the end of it. Feel free to make one up or something, if you really care that much.”
“... ok... t-thanks Josuke.”
“Why’re you thanking me? Should be the other way around. I haven’t done shit, you’ve done so much for me tonight.”
He was so grateful, but Okuyasu couldn’t see why. Sure, he’d helped him calm down a bit, but that wasn’t an ability limited only to him. Koichi could have done the exact same, and Koichi’s house had consistent structural integrity, much unlike the building they were laying in.
He didn’t feel like he’d done much. He’d just sat and listened, the bare minimum while supporting a friend.
“It’s not much, I just let you come over ‘n’ gave you tea... anyone could do that.” he mumbled, “Not really special or anythin’.”
“But I didn’t want to see just anyone, I wanted you.”
Okuyasu felt himself welling up again. Sweet little things like that always hit way too hard and way too deep.
“... yakno... y-ya the only person who’s ever said y’wanted me. I dunno how to feel. Spent so long just bein’ told I was a waste of space, an’ suddenly I met you and... you know... you never said anythin’ like that. Not even once.”
“... I just treated you like you should’ve been treated.”
“... somethin’ like that. Still hurts my head.”
A single thread of birdsong fluttered past the curtained window.
“... is that the answer? You’re upset because your head’s hurtin’?”
“... n... no... I’m upset b’cuz my head doesn’t work like it’s ‘sposed to. Everyone’s works one way and mine works another, d-don’t get it.”
Josuke hummed in response, looking down towards the mattress.
“... well... yeah, but... if it didn’t, y’wouldn’t be Okuyasu.” he said. The way he said it wasn’t clear, so many different indicators and tiny differences between each word.
“... maybe I’d be better if I wasn’t.”
“No fuckin’ way man. You’re great just the way you are. I don’t want you to change.”
The steady stroking of Josuke’s thumb came to a halt, and he pulled his hand away, not hearing the silent protests that filled Okuyasu’s head in that moment.
“... I’m sorry, you were gonna go to sleep and this all carried on longer.” Josuke mumbled, pressing his hand in a fist to his chest.
“... s’ok. We should prolly open up like this a bit more.”
“... yeah. We’ve got a lot of shit to sort out.”
He wasn’t kidding. Some issues could never be fixed, the damage had been done already, and the initial seeds of trauma had been planted months ago, however, other things would improve through support and trust. They could work through it together.
“... I think y’gonna be ok. You’re the strongest person I know. You’ll be alright.”
“Stronger than Jotaro?”
“Oh shut up and take the compliment.”
Josuke giggled, then yawned, politely covering his mouth with his hand. He was tired too.
“... I’m only strong because you’re here. You keep me grounded.” he said, rubbing sleepy tears from the corner of his eye, “fuck, I forgot how draining this kinda stuff is. For real now, can we sleep?”
“Yeah, sure thing...”
Okuyasu clenched and unclenched his teeth, remembering an earlier request.
“... uhm... could y’turn over?” he mumbled.
Josuke blinked at him, not understanding the request, then quickly mouthed ‘oh’, and realised what he was instigating.
Okuyasu was beyond relieved that he’d caught on without further prompting. He didn’t know if he had the willpower to explicitly say something like that to his best friend.
How would “turn around, I’m going to cuddle you” even sound coming out of his mouth? It would take an insane amount of luck just to keep his voice steady, let alone deliver the statement without shrinking into a ball and burying his face deep into his own hands.
It would have been embarrassing through and through... yet, they were still doing it. The action without verbal confirmation was still an action, that hadn’t changed a bit, and he was nervous but... not quite embarrassed. Josuke had asked him to, and he didn’t have a problem with it, so what was there to be embarrassed about anyway?
Josuke was already doing as he said, shifting around on his elbows until he was facing away from him. He couldn’t help but wonder what his face looked like now that it was out of view, what expressions he was possibly showing now that the direct line of sight was cut off.
It didn’t really matter.
Okuyasu took a deep breath, paying way too much attention to how he was holding himself, and how quickly air escaped and re-entered his lungs.
Josuke’s back was pretty normal. There was nothing to look at really, yet still he stared, tracing up and down his silhouette, evaluating every wrinkle in his t- shirt, the way his hair flowed down his neck and onto the pillow like some sort of opaque waterfall. It was procrastination, he was grasping at any spare second to delay the inevitable, and he knew that. It didn’t stop him.
The tiny bit of frayed stitching on the shoulder seam of his t shirt, seeing that he’d forgotten to take his piercings out, the faintest hint of hairspray that still lingered around his head despite being washed hours ago. Okuyasu kept looking for the little things that didn’t need to be noticed.
... and then his eyes fell onto the star on his left shoulder.
Perfectly placed and shaped, as if it was drawn on in permanent pink ink with a stencil or a ruler.
He slowly remembered a distant conversation with Tomoko, one of the many days where he’d come to grab Josuke for school and he wasn’t ready yet, still fussing over his appearance in the bathroom.
She’d shown him a few admittedly cute baby pictures, told the occasional quick story, normal antics for a mother who loved to embarrass her son while he wasn’t there to complain.
One flash of information shined though, like a beacon of light amongst the fuzzy memories of a better time.
“Josuke’s name is a bit strange, you can read it two ways. Of course he’s called Josuke, but ‘suke’ can also be read as jo, so, in a way, he’s Jojo as well! Just like his father!”
That single four letter word stood out, parting the way, allowing him to think a little more clearly.
Josuke tensed up, recognising it. Perhaps he’d heard those two syllables in conversation before.
“... can I call you Jojo?”
“... sure... I don’t mind that one. It’s cute.”
‘Cute’ printed itself to the front of Okuyasu’s brain. He thought it was cute. Did that mean he also thought the Oku nickname was cute, or was he overthinking things again? Probably.
He took another deep breath.
This was no time to be so nervous.
After counting to ten in his head, he leant forward - trying not to shake so much - and slipped an arm around Josuke’s body, hand coming to rest on his stomach, pulling him close in the same way he’d seen countless times in the movies, holding him tight.
The tenseness in all his muscles was undeniable, and he was sure that Josuke could feel the stiffness in his own movements as well. It... wasn’t going to work out if this carried on. Someone had to go first and lead the way... so, as hard as it was, Okuyasu ordered himself to calm down and relax. Think about the good things.
Josuke’s hands had been cold, but everything else was delightfully warm, like a big soft hot water bottle that breathed. He smelled good, some familiar fragrant aroma he couldn’t name. Signature Josuke smell. It ended up on all his clothes and his book bag and everything else he came in regular contact with, and Okuyasu had come to subconsciously associate it with feeling safe, and feeling cared about.
Now that he’d looked at the situation a little more positively, it was becoming more and more clear that... this was nice.
Josuke clearly thought so too. He’d finally started leaning into the embrace, going limp in Okuyasu’s arms, like he trusted him. He did trust him.
“... you sure you’re ok with all this?” he whispered, “... you really don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“... no, I want to.”
Okuyasu could feel his heartbeat in his fingertips, and every breath he took, each and every movement the person in front of him made. He’d never been this physically close to anybody before, and plainly, did not know what to do.
Films never went this in depth. It looked so easy, just grab them, hug them and sleep, but it wasn’t that cut and dry. He’d never seen a film that zoomed into a character’s perspective as they worried about any problem they could think of, and he wished he had, so that he had the slightest inkling of what to do.
It was almost overwhelming, the amount of stimulation he was suddenly subjected to. Being hyper aware of where his hands were, where his legs were, all the intricacies of another human being so close up, what to do with his other arm, whether to do anything at all. What if he moved too much and annoyed Josuke? What if he didn’t move and just left himself doing something that wasn’t correct? Too much to think about. Too tired to figure it out.
“... thank you.”
Josuke’s voice reached him again, giving him something to anchor onto.
“... it’s nothin’.”
“It’s not. I’m not... very good at asking for people to do stuff for me... so, I mean it.”
“... am I doin’ it right though?”
“God, I was about to ask you the same thing.”
They both let out a small laugh, and Okuyasu let his forehead rest against the back of his neck, squeezing his eyes shut.
“... you’re fine, you don’t gotta do anything.” he said.
What time was it now. 3am? 4am? At this point, neither of them cared anymore.
“... if I wake up again, I’ll try not to disturb you.” Josuke murmured.
“You’d better disturb me. Do y’know how shit I’d feel if I woke up in the mornin’ and found out you’d been upset while I was right next to ya?”
“... mmh... I guess.”
Okuyasu let out a big contented sigh, snuggling closer, wondering how it would feel if Josuke was the one holding him instead. Maybe he’d ask about that sometime else.
“... we should... like... move in together one day, after we graduate... when you’re at university and I find a job... get a flat closer to the centre or somethin’. Then I could do this for ya whenever you wanted.”
Josuke let his hand rest on top of Okuyasu’s wrist, and slipped it down until they were back to palm, and his fingers could gently slide down and interlock.
“... and what if I wanted you to do it every night?”
His cheeks flared red, and he realised how hot his face had been for the last while or so, and how sleepy it was making him. Josuke was so warm, so warm that the cold of his house felt like it wasn’t even there. His eyes started to flutter closed, beyond any shreds of control that remained, lulling him closer to rest.
“... t-then I’d do it every night. That’s what whenever you want means. You know... you’re way smarter than me, but you’re still a bit slow sometimes. Dumb Jojo.”
Josuke sniffed, and for a second, it sounded like he was crying again.
“... I’d like that.”
Okuyasu’s breathing had steadied out. Josuke had never even dreamed of being close enough to him to know that so instantly. He felt it on the back of his neck after all, every inhale and exhale, undeniable proof that he was indeed still alive and still there.
“... hey... dude... you asleep?”
No reply. Wow, he’d slipped under pretty fast.
Guilt twinged at his gut. Fundamentally, Okuyasu was only that exhausted tonight because of him, and knowing that felt bad, but... this talk needed to happen. Whether it was tonight or another night in the near future, the subject would have come up again anyway. He knew that they were both going to be better off for getting it over with sooner.
A pang of fear clutched at Josuke’s heart as he considered the possibility of another bad dream. He’d been scared to fall asleep. They had been growing increasingly visceral for the past weeks, preying on the deepest phobias hidden at the core of his soul, all the weaknesses that only nightmares could properly exploit.
What would he do if he woke up in a cold sweat, shaking and crying like a toddler sleeping alone for the first time? It was humiliating. Knowing that Okuyasu would completely forget his own personal needs to comfort and make him feel better only made that possibility feel all the worse.
Though... even so, he felt so safe. Okuyasu was warm, and soft, and gentle. You’d never know he had a side like that just by looking at him.
He felt better already, tucked up and cosy inside a trusted embrace. Regretting not asking about it sooner.
Feelings around Okuyasu were complicated.
He couldn’t name them, or label them, they were mysterious in concept, but they were casually sat right in front of him. Had been for a while now, maybe since the end of summer, or even earlier than that. Blurry and incomprehensible, but with time and evaluation, he knew they’d clear themselves up, and paint a clear picture one day.
Sooner than expected, evidently.
He smiled, closing his eyes.
“... goodnight Oku. Sleep well.”
won’t stop to surrender