Reaching behind himself to lock the deadbolt into place, Yokozawa Takafumi slipped off his loafers using his heels. “I’m home,” he called out to the empty apartment as he groped about for the light switch, a sight he’d grown used to of late. While he’d previously found this a rather lonely state of affairs, these days he had a picture frame given to him by Hiyori to keep him company–a collage of pictures she’d snapped during their summer trip along with a few of Sorata as well.
Just one glance at the frame, decorated gaudily with rhinestones and cute stickers, filled Yokozawa with affection, and while it was admittedly a bit embarrassing to have pictures including himself sitting around his room, it still left the whole space feeling just a touch brighter.
It was strange, though, how Sorata seemed to adopt such a dignified expression when posing for pictures for Hiyori; he’d always seemed so blasé around Yokozawa. Smiling to himself as he reminisced, he tugged his tie loose from his collar and rifled through his bag with his free hand, intent on taking care of preparations for the next day before settling in for a bath. When he peeked into his bag, though, he froze, dumbfounded.
He’d meant to retrieve his cell phone to let it charge overnight–only to find it wasn’t where he usually stowed it. He had returned home to his apartment after having dinner at the Kirishimas’ place–so he must have left it there. While he likely would’ve never given its absence a second thought if he hadn’t noticed it missing in the first place, the moment he’d realized he’d left it somewhere, he felt overcome with a strange sense of anxiety.
If he’d noticed sooner, he could’ve gone back to retrieve it while on his way home–but there was simply no time to do so now. Granted, he hardly ever received any calls or texts in the middle of the night on a weeknight, and any emergency contact from his family would come through his landline–he could surely go one night without his cell phone without the world falling apart. So while it would likely come back to bite him one way or another, having Kirishima bring the phone to him the next morning at the office was obviously the most logical route to take.
Taking his notebook in hand, he flipped through to find Kirishima’s home phone number and called using his landline, noting to himself that it was probably a good idea in the future to keep the guy’s cell phone number and email address jotted down somewhere for unexpected circumstances such as this.
“Yes, Kirishima residence!”
“Ah–Hiyo? It’s me, Yokozawa.” Hiyori had been the first to answer the phone. Almost forgetting to announce himself, so used to calling via cell phone as he was, he frantically reassured her of who he was.
“Oniichan? What’s wrong? You never call on the house phone!” He couldn’t blame her for being confused; he’d only moments ago told her good night and taken his leave.
“Sorry–I think I left my cell phone at your place. You don’t see it around, do you?”
“Mmm, it’s not on the table… I’ll go look for it! Here’s Dad in the mean time! Hey, Dad–Oniichan’s on the house phone!”
“The house phone?”
“Yeah, he forgot his cell phone, he says. Here you go!”
Kirishima took the phone from his daughter after a bit of back and forth. “So, you forgot your cell phone? Pretty lame slip-up for you.”
“Yeah yeah, stuff it. I thought I had it in my bag.” He paused to go back over the chain of events in his mind. He’d placed the device in his bag–but then he’d heard the sound announcing a new message and taken it out again.
“Well, I don’t see it. Where’d you leave it?”
“I’m pretty sure it should be over by the sofa. It’s not under the cushions or anything, is it?” He remembered at least checking his messages in the Kirishimas’ living room. When he’d tapped out a response to the message, Kirishima had griped at him not to do work during off-hours, adding in a grating lecturing tone, “It’s because you go and respond that they send you shit like that at all hours of the night.” And while Yokozawa did agree that he had a point, his mind was filled with thoughts of work 24-7. He understood that it would probably be more efficient to have an on-off switch like Kirishima, but if it were really so easy to just ‘turn off’ like that, he would’ve done so long ago.
Their exchange back then had forced thoughts of his cell phone from his mind, and he’d likely set it down somewhere and completely forgotten about it.
“It’s not under the cushions–and not buried in any cracks either. Hiyo–mind ringing up Yokozawa’s cell phone for me?”
“You just want me to dial his number?” A moment after she asked this, Yokozawa caught the sound of his own ringtone echoing over the receiver. As he’d suspected, it was somewhere in the Kirishimas’ apartment.
“Hiyo, can you tell where it’s coming from?”
“It’s coming from the sofa… I can hear it around here. What about you, Dad?”
“Ah–found it! Why the heck was Sorata on top of it…?” He could hear Kirishima offering an apology tinged with laughter over the phone, likely to placate Sorata who’d just had his nap disturbed.
“I’ll bring it down to the sales floor first thing in the morning. You’ll probably be there earlier than me, after all, right?”
“Just call me when you get there and I’ll come up and get it from you myself.” It was bad enough he’d had to ask the guy to bring in something he forgot; to make him bring the thing all the way to Yokozawa in person was just too much.
“Why waste time calling your extension? It’d be faster for me to just go there when I arrive.”
“It’s not like there’s a huge difference in effort either way.”
“Oh? Or what–maybe you don’t want me showing my face on your floor–is that it?”
“That’s not what…” Try as he might to deny it vocally, though…the guy was kind of right. Most everyone in the company now knew that Yokozawa and Kirishima were close, but they still had the details of their relationship under wraps–and Yokozawa had no intention of making that public knowledge any time soon. Plus, there was also the fact that Yokozawa had a few coworkers who seemed oblivious and carefree at first glance but who could be surprisingly sharp on occasion; he couldn’t deny that he’d rather they not see the two of them interacting. “Just–would you mind at least checking to see if I’ve gotten any new messages?”
“Tut tut, someone’s being careless–asking another person for that kind of thing. You never know if I might just open a random message that catches my interest.”
“Not like I’ve got any texts I give a shit about you seeing.” Most of the settings on his cell phone were still in their default state; he hardly ever used the camera, and had no special ringtones or such set either. All he cared about was being able to make calls and send messages. All of the images in the photo folder were ones he’d been sent by Hiyori, even.
“…Ugh, what a boring-ass wallpaper. Want me to change it to a photo of my gorgeous self?” He could practically hear the leer in Kirishima’s voice, and understanding fully well that the guy was only suggesting that to rile Yokozawa up, he opted not to get dragged along so easily tonight.
“Do whatever you want. I’ll just change it back later.”
“Y’know, you’ve been far less endearingly charming than usual lately.”
“Fine by me.” Trying to find anything remotely ‘cute’ or ‘endearing’ about Yokozawa in the first place was demented, in his opinion, and Kirishima was likely the only person in the world benevolent enough to deem him as such. It would really be a weight off of Yokozawa’s shoulders if the guy would up and realize how ‘peculiar’ his tastes ran.
“Aww, don’t be like that. Though I have to admit, your contrary nature is–in and of itself–charming in its own way.”
“I’m not being contrary–I’m telling you exactly what I feel!” He fought the urge to cradle his head in his hands at the unexpected response from Kirishima. It was times like this he wondered just where he’d gone wrong in life to get to where he was–but then something would always happen that would move him deeply, and he’d be reminded that there were always pros and cons to falling this hard for someone.
“C’mon, don’t get pissed. I was only teasing you a bit.”
“You…” Yokozawa’s face twitched at the shameless excuse, begging the question of just how was that ‘a bit’?
Perhaps sensing that he was in danger of very seriously tempting Yokozawa’s ire, Kirishima forcibly switched topics with, “Oh right–I was supposed to be checking your phone… I don’t see any new messages or calls. Besides–I can’t imagine anyone’d be messaging you at this hour.”
“I do get emergency requests for confirmation sometimes.”
“Do that shit the next day, then. You’ve managed to lose your phone for an evening–take a break from work, why don’t you?”
“Not like I can help it! It’s just–how I am!” His personality type was less ‘sensitive’ and more just flat-out ‘high-strung,’ and as things were, he’d rather be in a position to use his private time to take care of matters as soon as they became an issue than to stand there later saying If only I had done this…; it was just better this way for maintaining sanity all around.
“Well just–try to tone down the ‘workaholic’ side a bit, all right? You’ll work yourself into an early grave pushing yourself like this all the time.”
Being the butt of Kirishima’s teasing all the time made these odd moments where he expressed genuine concern all the more awkward, and Yokozawa covered his embarrassment with a sharp end to the topic of conversation: “Don’t be dramatic; just–bring me the phone tomorrow?”
“Yeah yeah, okay.”
“Good night; see you tomorrow.” It was slightly strange–and a little awkward to boot–trading such benign niceties over the phone, and with a twinge of regret, Yokozawa softly replaced the receiver in its cradle.
“Is Yokozawa here?” It was rounding 9 AM when Kirishima appeared on the sales floor.
“What’s wrong, Kirishima-san? Is there…something the matter?” Office hours on the sales floor were set, so most members of the staff were already at their desks–but hardly any of those working flex hours had made it into the office yet. Kirishima was always one of the first to arrive at the office, eager to get a bit of work underway, but today he’d arrived particularly early, leaving Henmi to panic in assumption that something had happened again.
“Here for a delivery, as so ordered by Yokozawa.”
At Kirishima’s phrasing, Henmi’s eyes flashed wide. “He ordered you?!”
“…Kirishima-san, would you please mind not using such scandalous turns of phrase that might be misconstrued by listeners…? I did not order you, I kindly asked you.” Yokozawa had to clamp down on the urge to release his rage verbally, instead lacing his words with a polite air. Were he to act on those urges, he’d just wind up seeming all the more childish in comparison to Kirishima to those around them. He knew he adopted a rather cocky, proud attitude when interacting with Kirishima in private, but a good portion of the reasoning for that could be chalked up to Kirishima’s incessant provocation.
“Eh, what’s the difference? Here–your cell phone. Try not to forget it again, would you?”
“Th–thanks…” The way Kirishima casually passed over the phone threw Yokozawa off his game; he’d been thoroughly prepared for a good round of teasing, but Kirishima seemed to withdraw rather easily this time.
“Well, catch you later. I’ll contact you about the fair later on.” And with a wave, he departed.
“Whew, that gave me a shock! I was shaking in my boots here, worried we’d screwed up again!” Henmi released a sigh of relief, apparently having been anxious that he’d committed some monumental screw-up without realizing it.
“You tryin’ to tell me you screw up that often?”
“Of course not! But I can’t say for 100% that I haven’t messed up somewhere unknowingly… Like before, you know?” At this, Yokozawa recalled how the entire sales staff had wound up having to clean up after a former staff member–now transferred to an affiliate company–had utterly bungled a project. While part of the fault had lain with them for not catching on to his mismanagement sooner, they’d all been utterly overwhelmed at the time. By this point, though, they’d managed to settle everything and get back to standard operations, but at the time, every single member of the sales department had wandered around in a pale stupor.
“Have some confidence in your work. I’ve got your back; I’m not going to let anything like that happen again.” This was, in a way, a form of self-suggestion; Yokozawa was himself only human, after all, and he couldn’t say for 100% certain that he’d never screw up either. But regardless, they needed to all of them have a bit more confidence in their work. Most unforeseen disasters occurred as a result of negligence, and while he had difficult completely separating his private life from that in the workplace, maintaining a constant level of vigilance could only help decrease the incidence of such careless errors.
“That reminds me, Yokozawa-san… Where did you forget your cell phone? It’s really not like you to just forget things.”
“What’s it matter where I forgot it?” It just figured the guy would once again latch on to something annoying, he grumbled to himself, and when he averted his eyes, Henmi demonstrated his sharp sense of intuition.
“Ah! Wait, did you go to Kirishima-san’s place again?? Man, I’m so jealous! I wish you’d invite me along too sometime!” Henmi seemed to have some sort of admiration for Kirishima, commenting at odd moments about how he wanted to be like Kirishima when he grew up. While Yokozawa wanted to counter this with reminders that he was ‘grown up’ already, he couldn’t bring himself to crush Henmi’s dreams for no reason at all, instead letting him babble on as he pleased.
After all, the only reason Henmi looked up to Kirishima was because he didn’t know the guy’s true nature. Ever since the two had grown closer, Yokozawa had found himself shocked on a fair few occasions; Kirishima had a surprisingly childish side to himself, with an annoying personality that led him to find true enjoyment in teasing Yokozawa.
“Then why not tell him yourself?”
“I could never be so shameless! I still get nervous just standing in front of the guy!” He had a point; so long as Kirishima kept his mouth shut, he oozed this strange air of intimidation–which was perhaps why he made it a point to be as casual as possible at work.
“Sucks for you, then.”
“EH?! B–but you’re supposed to say stuff like, ‘Well then just leave it to me’ at times like this, aren’t you?!”
“Hell no. Now stop babbling and get back to work.” Henmi’s shoulders slumped at Yokozawa’s sound rejection, and he headed back to his desk.
Yokozawa was filled with a renewed sense of urgency to keep Kirishima from poking around in the sales department unless absolutely necessary; dealing with the blowback from any appearances he made was far too annoying.
He returned his focus now back to the proposal he’d been working on, intent on constructing some sort of springboard for discussion before the meeting later on. Typing away in a rather practical fashion, though, his mind wandered back to Kirishima’s attitude earlier. He’d been far more tractable than he usually was, even for being in public.
Wait–what if he’d done something to Yokozawa’s cell phone? Recalling their conversation the previous evening and how Kirishima had been griping about the state of his phone’s wallpaper, he slipped his hand into his pocket, drawing the device back out.
If he’d set some outrageous image as the home screen picture, it would be very bad if anyone else saw it, so just in case, he flipped open the screen under his desk, glancing at it quickly–but his worry had been for naught, as the screen was the same as it had always been. “…Guess I’m just over-thinking things.”
It wasn’t like the guy was the type to mess around all the time; he was the strange one here, acting as if having tricks played on him by Kirishima was an everyday thing.
Collecting himself, he returned his focus to the computer screen and set back to work.
The day had been packed with meetings and summons, leaving Yokozawa unable to attend to the work he’d had waiting for him back at his desk and with little choice but to put in overtime to see it finished. While he could have easily left it for the next day with no issue, finishing quickly with time to spare was easier on his nerves. He wanted to take care of all this business beforehand–so that he could be sure to be able to leave work on time come Friday.
But he was too stiff just at the moment to soldier on, and rather than continuing to bury himself in his work, he deemed it likely a better idea to stretch his legs a bit. “I’m gonna take a break,” he announced, slipping his cell phone and some change into his pocket.
“Huh? You mean you’re staying longer?” Henmi asked, surprise clear on his face. It was probably hard for the guy to bring himself to leave so long as Yokozawa was still hanging around, and glancing around the rest of the floor, most of the other workers had already headed home for the day.
“I’ll head out after taking care of a bit more paperwork. You can go on ahead if you like.” It was his own damn fault he was still here, so it was hardly fair to ask his subordinates to do the same. Sure, there were some in the office who forced their underlings to keep up with their own pace, but Yokozawa wasn’t one of them, and while he did place value on the spirit of cooperation, too much pressure to conform and go with the flow was utterly inefficient.
“Then I’ll take my leave once I’ve found a good stopping point! It’ll be all downhill from here, after all.”
“I see. Well–don’t overdo it.”
Henmi snickered at the casual advice. “I could say the same thing to you! Please take sure not to work yourself too hard, Yokozawa-san.”
Yokozawa couldn’t stifle a wry grin at the remark. “Never thought I’d hear that coming from you. Guess I’d better take care, then.” He hadn’t expected to hear the same words Kirishima directed at him from his own subordinates. Maybe from an outsider’s perspective he really did seem to be driving himself too hard; a change in his lifestyle might bear some consideration, he pondered, and with a soft sigh, he headed toward the break room.
When he came to, he noticed his head was sitting at an odd angle–and the material propped under him was too hard to be a pillow, and a bit too tall as well. A bit woozy as he was, the time and location were hard to recall, and he couldn’t quite get a grip on just where he was at the moment. Rifling around through his mind, though, he finally remembered heading into the break room for a short respite while working overtime.
He definitely recalled buying a coffee, thinking to inject a bit of life into his tired bones via some caffeine and sugar–but when he’d sat down, he’d suddenly been overcome with a wave of exhaustion and leaned over to rest against the wall. After that, though, everything was a blur, suggesting that he’d lost his battle with sleep.
He knew he had to get himself up and going again to get back to work, but he just couldn’t shake the drowsiness, and just as he was fighting to keep his heavy lids open, a voice called out from somewhere above him, “You can sleep a bit more; I’ll wake you in another 10 minutes.”
Ah…okay then… he thought dully, fully prepared to give himself up to slumber once more–but the sensation of fingers threading through his hair snapped him back to reality in a flash. His eyes snapped wide open, bringing him face to face with Kirishima staring down at him. Before he could even ponder why Kirishima was here, though, he jumped up almost in reflex. “Wha—t the…?!”
The sudden movement sent his head slamming into Kirishima’s chin, and with a dull thunk, they both quickly found themselves nursing their injured areas.
“Owwwwowowow…what the hell–that fucking hurt, you blockhead.”
“I could say the same for you! What the hell are you doing?!” His tone reflected his panic at the unexpected situation he’d found himself in. He’d just woken up, too, to make matters worse–and so he hadn’t quite managed to organize his thoughts just yet.
“Whadya mean ‘what am I doing’? Letting you sleep on my lap. Duh. You should’ve seen the position you were trying to nap in. I kindly loaned you my lap as a pillow, though, and this is the thanks I get?”
“Don’t take that condescending tone with me.” It wasn’t as if he’d asked for Kirishima to do such a thing, and even though most everyone in the office had already left for the day, they really ought to be more discreet considering that more than a few editors were still hanging around.
“You saying I wasn’t comfortable?”
“That’s not the issue, for one, and hell no you weren’t comfortable for another!”
“Come now, we mustn’t be picky; it was better than no pillow at all, right? Mr. ‘about to topple out of the chair he was sitting in’?”
“Then you could’ve woken me up.”
“Why the hell would I do that? Not like I get to see you in that state all that often, after all; wanna see?” He whipped out his cell phone here to show Yokozawa the picture he’d apparently snapped. It was indeed a sight to be seen, but surely there was no reason for the guy to take a picture and then force him to see it.
“I keep telling you–don’t take pictures of me like that. When are you gonna get it through your head?!” His indignation rose, shame and disgust mixing in a whirling battle for dominance in his mind. The exhaustion that had befallen him moments before was nowhere to be seen now.
“C’mon, this is nothing–you’re a man, so pull your panties out of your ass. You’d be a hell of a lot more popular if you’d learn to stay cool and collected.”
“I don’t wanna hear that from you…” His temple began to twitch with irritation, and reminding himself that blowing up would only be playing into Kirishima’s hands, he gulped down the rest of his now-cool coffee in one go. He’d come into this room for a respite, but putting up with Kirishima had sapped his strength once again. He really wished the guy would grow up and stop teasing so mercilessly.
“Oh, and just so we’re clear: I’m fine with being able to use an arm as a pillow in return for lending you my lap.”
The casually bold manner in which he offered this exchange led Yokozawa to respond in much the same mood. “…Whose arm?”
After pausing to consider this for only a moment, he quickly snapped back to himself. “Who the hell would…?!” He’d only imagined it for a flash, but that instant had proven so stomach-churningly disgusting his thoughts had screeched to a halt. He couldn’t wrap his mind around Kirishima’s mentality that he would request something like that so casually. Lap pillows, arm pillows–these weren’t the kinds of things men passing 180 cm in height did for one another.
“Aww, c’mon–just for a little bit? It’s not fair that Sorata gets to have all the fun; I wanna get in on the action some too.”
“Don’t get jealous over a cat!” It was hard to tell just how serious the guy was being on this point–there was always the possibility he wasn’t joking in the least with Kirishima, and he took a small step back at Kirishima’s sullen, serious expression.
“I’m not jealous, just…envious, that’s all. If the arm’s a no-go, I’m fine with your lap, too.”
Trying to admonish someone like Kirishima who was deaf to all argument was a mistake in and of itself, so it was best not to attempt such pointless things in the first place. “Stop hanging around here and get your ass home; Hiyo’s waiting for you, isn’t she?”
“My mom’s over tonight, so she’ll be fine. I had a ton of meetings today, one right after the other, so it’s taking me forever to get through the work on my plate. I don’t wanna leave it til Friday, though, so I’m trying to get it done while I can.”
“All the more reason not to piss around like this.”
“Hey, everyone needs a break now and then, right?”
“How the hell is this a break…?”
“Whatever; at least I got to see you, and that’s enough to make me feel better. I’ll compromise with your shoulder–so give it up.”
“Shoulder?” Instead of responding, though, Kirishima simply gently settled his head against Yokozawa’s shoulder, and while the sensation of his hair brushing lightly against Yokozawa’s ears and neck was a bit ticklish, he bore it silently.
“…Yeah, you’re pretty stiff.”
“If you’ve got a problem with it, I’m happy to take it back.”
“Just offering my opinion.”
Yokozawa couldn’t imagine the position to be in any way comfortable, but Kirishima continued to settle his weight against him, the feeling of his breathing in such close proximity proving a strange sensation indeed.
“Yokozawa…never lend your shoulder or arms or lap to anyone else but me, okay?”
“…You’re the only one who’d ever want them in the first place.”
“You think so?”
“I do.” He couldn’t help the soft chuckle that escaped at Kirishima’s ridiculous worrying, and tugged along with the gesture, Kirishima’s shoulders shook with mirth as well.
His cell phone was ringing shrilly from beside his pillow–apparently he hadn’t mistaken it for his alarm. Yokozawa squinted his eyes in the darkness as he checked the time; it was morning, but only just barely, and he still had some time before he needed to wake up. “…The fuck is calling at this hour…”
Depending on who it was, he had a good mind to cut short the call without even answering, but when he flipped open the screen and saw the caller’s name, he balked.
Where the caller’s name should have been were merely the word ‘Darling~♥’ and a shot of Kirishima striking a pose with sparkling stars and hearts gaudily decorating the image. “…The hell is the big idea…?!” he snarled into the receiver after punching the ‘answer’ button, but all he received in return was amused laughter.
“Gooood morning. Did you have sweet dreams?”
“Forget that–what the hell is this?!”
“Hey, you’re the one who told me I could do whatever I wanted. And I’d like to remind you that since you knew it was me calling, it means you must accept the fact that I am indeed your ‘Darling’.”
“Stop dicking around–and what the hell do you want at this hour?!” There were still another good 20 minutes before he needed to wake up, and he wasn’t pleased in the least to have his precious morning slumber disturbed like this, his anger on the edge of explosion.
“It’s your wake-up call, of course. You weren’t noticing the little joke I’d played, so I had to take matters into my own hands.”
“………” Realizing that this had been the only reason he’d called to wake him up so early in the morning, Yokozawa couldn’t even summon the energy to be dumbfounded.
“Pretty awesome picture, huh? Hiyo took it for me and–“ He cut the call short with the press of a button, in no mood to listen to Kirishima’s nonsense, and navigated back to the address book to edit the entry.
“That asshole, why does he always… A guy his age, pulling shit like this is just…” Muttering to himself, he turned off the picture-showing setting and then moved on to delete the image itself from his data folder entirely–
–and then paused. “………”
There…really was no need to delete the image, now that he thought about it, and he snapped his cell phone shut. Burying his face in his pillow, he felt overcome with a wave of exhaustion.
When was this guy gonna get tired of throwing him for a loop like this? Equally shocking, though, was how despite being pissed from the core of his being at the man…he couldn’t bring himself to be entirely put off at his actions either.
“…Guess this is what they mean by ‘love makes you weak’, huh…”
In an effort to forget about these emotions he knew nothing to do with, he flopped back down on the bed. His alarm was set, so he had at least another good fifteen minutes to sleep–and not knowing that, an hour later, he’d sorely regret going back to sleep, he slipped off once again into slumber.