At the front door Jo fumbled with his keys, which had gone frosty cold inside his pockets, and once he got the door open he nearly pushed Shugo inside, as if wanting him safely in from the cold as quickly as possible. As Jo locked the door Shugo put his bag down and took off his jacket, hanging it on the rack by the door before slipping his feet out of his worn sneakers.
“Come on…” Jo gestured down the hall, towards the kitchen. “Let’s get you something warm to drink.”
Shugo shook his head and tugged at Jo’s arm, pulling him towards the stairs. “It can wait…” he said, his schoolbag forgotten as he pulled Jo’s hand and walked up the first steps.
Shugo pulled, his fingers digging into the leather of the jacket Jo wore, and the other boy followed reluctantly, the look on his face a mixture of concern and bewilderment. Shugo led him up the stairs and towards the door to Jo’s bedroom, which he opened with his free hand, pulling Jo inside.
Jo didn’t get to finish his sentence, as Shugo backed him up against the door, slamming it shut, and clasped his hands on the handsome gangmembers’ face, pulling him down for a kiss. Shugo’s lips trembled into the kiss, allowing his uncertainty, his desperation, his conflicting feelings to seep into it, and Jo’s response was equally uncertain, his arms hesitantly going around Shugo’s body, undoubtedly shocked as Shugo had never done this before. When their lips finally became untangled, both of them were breathing hard, Jo’s stare into Shugo’s eyes one full questions, but Shugo had no answers for him.
Much like he didn’t have answers for himself.
Shugo pressed himself against Jo again and took hold of his wrists, directing them towards the front of his shirt, urging Jo to undress him.
“Urabe…” Jo’s voice was full of hesitation, but his hands did as Shugo wanted them to, undoing the buttons of his shirt while Shugo’s fingers found the clasp of the leather jacket, unbuttoning it at Jo’s neck and working down his zipper. They struggled out of their clothes, Shugo having to urge Jo every inch of the way, before pulling him towards the bed, where Shugo fell against the mattress and took Jo down with him, their bodies landing on the mattress with a bounce. Before Jo could say anything Shugo climbed on top of him, pushing his head down against the pillow with a forceful kiss, his entire body trembling despite the fact that it was safe and warm inside Jo’s bedroom, and when he pulled his lips loose Jo caught his face with his hands and looked up at him, at a face Shugo knew looked nothing like Jo had seen him before.
“Urabe…what’s wrong? Tell me.” Jo said.
“Bullshit. You’ve been acting weird since I picked you up.” Jo said. “What’s the matter…did something happen to you?”
Yeah. You did.
Shugo shook his head and slithered down Jo’s body, his face slipping from the other boy’s grasp as he inched down the mattress, before finally hovering his face above Jo’s groin. He ignored the questions coming from above and grabbed Jo’s cock with one hand, directing it towards his mouth.
Shugo didn’t want to wait. He didn’t know what had come over him, only that he was suddenly desperate to have Jo in him, around him, all over him, keep out the encroaching feeling of dread that had started the instant Haruya had asked him that question.
Do you love him?
Shugo didn’t know. He hadn’t known before, on that muddy field where Haruya stood asking him, and he didn’t know now, with Jo’s hard length dripping in his mouth, a face full of questions even as Shugo sucked him, giving it his all.
“Urabe…” Jo’s fingers tangled in his hair, and Shugo felt the conflict between wanting to push his head down further and wanting to pull him off. “Wait, come on…talk to me first.”
Shugo didn’t want to talk. Not yet. He wanted to be fucked. He allowed Jo’s cock to slide out of his mouth, climbing back up the Shubultz boy’s body until he was straddling Jo’s waist. Shugo stared down at Jo’s bewildered face as he reached behind himself, his fingers easily finding his own entrance and hastily preparing himself. Jo, in his confused state, didn’t realize what Shugo was trying to do until the rugby player began lowering himself down onto Jo’s thick hardness, nearly forcing himself down onto it.
“Urabe! Wait, wait…you’ll hurt yourself!” Jo’s hands grasped his waist, trying to stop him.
Shugo shook his head vehemently. “Don’t stop me.”
“Urabe…come on, this isn’t funny!”
“I ain’t joking.” Shugo pushed his ass down again, gritting his teeth as the head of Jo’s cock began to slip inside his minimally-prepared hole.
“Fuck…” Jo’s eyes screwed shut. “U-Urabe…”
Determined, Shugo’s hands worked Jo’s length inside him, thrusting it up into him, wincing against the slight pain he felt, feeling heat at the rim of his eyes. With one final move Jo was fully inside him, and Shugo threw his head back, his vision growing hazy as he stared up into the ceiling. It didn’t last long, however, as two hands grabbed him by his face and pulled it down, and as his head dropped a single tear fell free from his face, falling onto Jo’s chest and making a tiny splatter there.
“Urabe, stop it!” Jo said firmly, one of his hands quickly grabbing Shugo by his hip to stop him moving any further. “Stop. Just stop, right there. You’re hurting yourself!”
Shugo shook his head. “Don’t wanna stop…”
“We’re not doing it like this, you understand? Not like this!” Jo said. “Now calm down and tell me, just what the fuck is the matter with you?”
In an instant, Jo had them flipped over, Shugo now lying on his back. Shugo whimpered in protest when Jo pulled out of him, which he did very slowly and carefully. Then he gathered Shugo into his arms and tugged up his chin, forcing Shugo to look straight into those deep, dark eyes.
“You’re not getting off this bed until you tell me what’s wrong…” the voice said calmy yet firmly. “What happened today? Why are you like this?”
Shugo didn’t answer immediately. His trembling arms went around Jo’s neck, and he felt the other boy tightening his grip around him.
He keeps me safe. He takes good care of me.
“Just tell me, Urabe…I hate seeing you like this.”
He looks after me.
He takes good care of me.
“Haruya knows…about us.”
Long silence. He felt Jo’s body tightening against his own, felt every sinew of muscle contracting in reaction to his words, and the fear came back tenfold, the fear that he was about to be let go, the fear that the arms that were holding him would hold him no more.
“How…how could he know?”
“He saw us last night.” Shugo said, his voice sullen and resigned. “He came back to get something he left behind, and he saw…us.”
“Did he tell you this?”
“Is that why you’ve been acting so strange?” Jo asked him. “What did he say to you? Did he threaten to tell anyone else?”
“No!” Shugo said quickly, shaking his head. “Haruya would never do that!”
“He didn’t tell anyone? Not even that boyfriend of his?”
Shugo shook his head. “He didn’t tell Shibaki. He didn’t tell anyone. And I believe him.”
Jo cleared away several strands of hair from Shugo’s face. “Then why are you acting like this? What’s wrong?”
Shugo…do you love him?
“He asked me all sorts of questions…predictable ones, too. Why, of course…”
“…and why me.”
Shugo nodded. “I asked him why he was with Shibaki. And he said…he said that Shibaki keeps him safe. The he takes care of Haruya, looks after him.” he tilted his head up and looked into Jo’s eyes. “As he said these things, I kept thinking about you.”
“I told him that you do the same things for me, Jo…that you look after me, that you take good care of me…” Shugo tangled his finger in the chain Jo wore around his neck. “But is that true? Am I right?”
Jo didn’t answer him.
“We never talk about this, do we? I never brought it up because I felt it was something you wouldn’t be comfortable talking about, that we should just leave it be and just go on doing what we do…” Shugo shook his head. “…but I just realized that I can’t go on like that anymore, Jo. I just can’t. For our sake…I gotta know my reasons for being here, for being with you.”
“Last time I asked you, you didn’t know the answer.” Shugo went on. “You probably don’t know it still, and that’s okay. But I…I had a lot of time to think about it today, to try and figure out if this…thing that we have between us.”
“What about it?”
“Well, just what the hell is it, for one thing?” Shugo stared up at Jo. “What is it? Does it even have a name?”
Jo shook his head slowly. “I don’t know…”
Hearing this, Shugo disentangled himself from Jo, moving away from him, sitting with his back against the wall and pulling his knees up to his chest. Jo watched him, following his every move, his face looking the most uncertain that Shugo had ever seen him.
“Haruya asked me something else…” Shugo said slowly, placing his chin on his knees. “He asked me…if I love you.”
He could almost see the way Jo flinched at the word, turning slightly away, his shoulders hunching up.
Scares you, doesn’t it? That word, ‘love’. It scared me, too.
“I told him I didn’t know…and I truly don’t.” Shugo said. “I’ve never asked myself that question before, but now that it’s been asked, it just won’t let go of me. I keep hearing it inside my head, but I don’t know whether it’s Haruya’s voice speaking…or my own.”
An even longer silence now, in which Jo seemed to be pondering his thoughts, and Shugo sat there watching him. Silence was a big part of their time together. In silence they were at their most comfortable, neither feeling obligated to say anything other than be there with each other, where things were left unsaid because they were better off that way. But not now, not tonight. Shugo wanted to talk. He wanted his answers. From himself, and from Jo.
“Urabe…” Jo said finally. “Do you want me…I mean, do you want me…to love you?”
Shugo waited one long, deep breath before answering. “Can you still do that, Jo?”
“Can I still love, you mean…”
“Good question.” Jo placed his hands on the tussled sheets. “Can’t say for sure…I know I’ve done it before, but now…”
“It’s your mother, isn’t it?” Shugo said quietly. “She’s the only one you’ve ever really loved…”
“I’m not trying to take her place, Jo.”
“I know that…” Jo said. “It’s just that I’ve never really—opened myself up to anyone since she died, you know…but maybe I can give it a try. Who knows? Maybe all it needs is a little effort.”
“But would I be worth that effort?” Shugo asked before he could stop himself.
Jo shook his head. “That’s not the real question.”
“Then what is?”
Jo inched closer towards him, looking in his eyes. “The question isn’t whether or not you’re worth my effort, but whether or not I’m worth your waiting for.”
“All your life you’ve been made to wait, Urabe…you’ve carried so much weight all this time, waiting for something good to finally come along, and I don’t know if I have the right to put you through something like that again.” Jo shook his head. “I can’t make you wait for me, while I try to see if I can love you, for something that probably won’t be there in the end. I can’t do that to you.”
Shugo felt heat in his eyes again. “Jo…”
“But if you’re asking me, whether I’d be willing to try for you…the answer’s yes.” Jo said firmly. “I can’t promise you if it’ll turn out okay in the end, but I will try.”
Shugo clasped his hand over his mouth and shut his eyes, feeling his tears rolling down his cheeks. He didn’t know whether they were of joy, relief, or despair. The tightness in his chest remained, unremedied. Jo reached for him, wanting to take him into his arms, but Shugo shook his head and backed himself into the corner, shirking away.
“Urabe, please…” Jo said. “Don’t do this to me.”
“Do you realize what you just said?” Shugo choked out. “You realize that you just told me…that you’d be willing to try…to try and love me?”
“Of course.” Jo said. “And don’t think I didn’t mean it.”
“It’s not that, shithead.” Shugo wiped at his eyes. “Do you know what it means to try to love someone like me, how difficult it would be?”
“Urabe, for God’s sake…” Jo shook his head exasperatedly. “You honestly think I wouldn’t bear it, for you?”
“Jo, listen to me…” Shugo said. “You said it yourself—I’ve been made to wait for the good things in life for too long, and you’re right. But maybe…maybe it’s because I just haven’t found what I need.”
“Then what do you need?” Jo asked him. “Come on, tell me…”
Shugo sniffed and tasted the salt of his tears on his lips. “Everytime you pick me up from work, I’d slide down that railing and wait for you to catch me—you’d always catch me, I could count on you to do that…like tonight.”
Jo shrugged. “Well, I wasn’t about to let you smash your head into the pavement, that’s for sure.”
Shugo managed a weak smile. “Such a small gesture…but it means a lot to me. Whenever you hold out your arms, it’s like you’re telling me that you’re not going to let me fall, that you’ll be there to catch me.” he sighed deeply. “Call me stupid or whatever, but I’ve never felt safer than when I’m looking down on you, getting ready to slide, knowing that when I get to the bottom, you’ll be there.”
“I wouldn’t call that stupid…” Jo said. “That’s the truth.”
“I guess I’m a lot like Haruya…” Shugo said. “He’s with Shibaki because he feels safe and taken care of, the way he’s never felt since his sister disappeared and all his parents cared about was finding her. And I’m with you because…well, because I also feel safe and taken care of, the way my parents probably want to make me feel, but can’t because they can’t afford it.”
Jo shook his head. “Urabe…”
“You make me feel…important, Jo.” Shugo said. “Important. Nobody’s ever made me feel that way before. And I realized…that this is exactly what I need.”
“To feel important?”
“To feel that I matter to someone.” Shugo corrected him. “Mind you, we’re not even talking about whether or not you really feel that way for me, this is just what I’m led to believe when I’m with you.”
“You don’t think I really feel that way?” Jo sounded a little hurt. “That you really matter to me, that you’re important to me?”
“I don’t know, Jo…” Shugo said. “How am I supposed to know how you feel for me, when you’re still holding back so much? Did you really expect me to know?”
Jo dropped his head slightly, his naked shoulders slumping. “No…”
“Jo…if I’m going to be with someone, it has to be someone who’s going to put me first.” Shugo said slowly. “I want to be with someone for whom I come before anything or anyone else—well, maybe not quite but pretty damn close.”
Jo looked up at him. “Urabe…”
“I’m tired of being put second, Jo…I want to know what it feels like to be in first place, where not even things like responsibility, or common sense, or some bitchy transfer student, or even my own fucking fraternal birth order is gonna make me give up that place!” Shugo was breathing hard, his hands clutching at the sheets beside him. “And I know how terribly selfish that all sounds, but excuse me, I’m so fucking tired of pretending that I’m unselfish, that I can live this way much longer!”
Jo’s face blurred in front of him, and Shugo realized new tears were forming in his eyes.
“With you, Jo…there’d been moments when I actually felt that need fulfilled…that even if only for a brief moment, I was the most important thing to you.” he said. “Of course, I could be wrong—it’s possible that I simply read too much into it and you didn’t feel that way at all.”
Jo shook his head slowly.
“So how about it, Jo? Can you give me what I need?” he held Jo’s gaze firmly. “Can you be that person, the one who’s gonna put me first, who’s gonna make me feel important enough so that I can bear having to play second-fiddle in every other part of my life?”
“Because if you can’t, I’m going to go and walk out that door right now. I mean it.” Shugo said. “Let’s just end this thing, before I start believing in things that aren’t there, before I start wanting things you can’t give…before you have to bear with me being that way.”
Jo was staring at him, his eyes unflinching.
“If I’m going to fall for you, Jo…which I’m so fucking close to doing…” Shugo lifted one hand and pointed his finger at the other boy. “Then you’d better be the right person, or this won’t go any further than it already has.”
“You stupid fuck…” Jo muttered.
Jo reached for him and grabbed him by his shoulders, throwing him down on the mattress. Shugo felt the weight of the other boy suddenly on him, and the face now hovered a close distance above his, eyes drilling through him. Shugo tried to wriggle free, but Jo’s hands on his shoulders were gripping firmly.
“You haven’t learned one bit, have you?” he could hear Jo trying to make himself sound angry. “How foolish would I be, if I let you walk out that door?”
“No way I’m letting that happen. No fucking way. And if that means I have to try and be everything that you just said I have to be, then so be it!”
Shugo felt himself slowly going limp in Jo’s hands, his body reacting as always to the close proximity of the other boy’s presence, and he shook his head. “You’re not fair…”
“When I’m close to you like this, I can’t even think straight…” Shugo said.
“What, you think I can think straight when you’re this close to me?” Jo shook his head. “No, we’re even on this one, Urabe.”
Shugo looked up at him, staring disbelievingly. “Jo…”
“You did something to me. Starting from that night, and still going on to this day.” Jo said, holding his face in one hand and looking in his eyes. “I might not know what it is, but I don’t want it to stop.”
“I don’t want it to stop, either…but…”
“You were afraid, weren’t you?” Jo asked, but it wasn’t really question. “You were afraid I’d decide to end this thing as soon as you told me that one of your friends had found out…”
Shugo nodded weakly.
“Why would I? At this point I wouldn’t end it even if it was one of my friends who’d found out.”
“Jo, you can’t mean that…”
“Why can’t I?” Jo said furiously. “Did you really think I’d give all this up, whatever it is that we can’t even name, because someone, anyone, found out?”
“But, your friends…”
“They’ll survive it. They’ve been through worse.” Jo said tersely. “We all have.”
“Urabe, now you listen to me, okay?” Jo demanded firmly.
Jo pressed their foreheads together. “You are everything I thought I didn’t want and didn’t need. And through you, I learned just how wrong I was.”
Shugo felt a shiver pass through him, and he knew it wasn’t one of cold.
“You said that I make you feel important, the way nobody’s ever made you feel before…well, there’s one way you make me feel that only one other person has ever made me feel before.”
“And what feeling is that?”
If Shugo hadn’t been lying down already, he surely would’ve fallen over himself. His entire being shuddered, his eyes staring up into Jo’s, who looked down onto him in all sincerity, not a single hint of untruthfulness anywhere to be found.
“When she died…I died. And I thought, I’ll keep this body living just long enough to have my revenge over those who killed her…who killed us.” Jo went on. “That’s how Kurosawa and the others feel, too. That’s what bonded us together. Our loss, our anger, our need for revenge.”
Shugo watched emotions play out across Jo’s face, one after another.
“But then you gave me this…” Jo brought up his right wrist, showing the wooden beaded bracelet that Shugo had given him. “…you gave me the bead of ‘Hope’, remember?”
Shugo nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
“I thought you were telling me that I had, somehow, become your hope, however small, however insignificant.” Jo said. “And damn if this sounds silly or whatever…but from that night on, I thought of you as my hope.”
“As for putting you first, making you one of the most important things in my life…” Jo offered him a shrug. “…well, you already are.”
Shugo drew in a sharp breath. “Really?”
“Really.” Jo assured him. “You know I wouldn’t lie to you.”
He used his thumb to brush traces of tears away from Shugo’s eyes, which proved to be a futile effort since each time he did it a new surge would always replace the ones he brushed away.
“I told you before, didn’t I? I want you to trust me, I want you at a point where you never have to doubt my feelings for you, where you can be sure that the things I do for you really are for you, and not for some other purpose.”
“Trust me…” Jo leaned down and whispered in his left ear. “Shugo…”
Hearing his name spoken by that voice for the very first time made Shugo’s eyes flutter shut. He listened to his own name echoing in his own head, in Jo’s deep voice, before opening his eyes and seeing the handsome gangmember now smiling at him.
“About time I start calling you that, right?”
Not knowing what else to do, Shugo nodded.
“Shugo…” Jo said again. “Gotta be honest, it’ll take some getting used to.”
“Na…” Shugo hesitated, his voice caught halfway in his throat. “Naoki…”
The other boy’s smile widened. “That’s it…say it again.”
“Naoki…” Shugo muttered. “Now that we’re on a first name basis, shall we fuck properly?”
Laughter, laughter that was crisp and smooth and comforted him, arms that drew him into a kiss with lips that were as soft as he’d ever recalled them being, and Shugo felt himself succumb, not to lust or desire but his own overwhelming need to believe, just believe, that this person with him now was the one he needed.
Take me as I am
I’m not broken
Pieces of my life
Are not tokens
I want to let you know
That I’m still learning
How to love again
And stop hurting
They did it late into the night, Shugo’s stomach empty but for once the least of his cares, and Naoki’s every touch, every kiss seemed imbued with newfound care, and Shugo gladly gave himself in to it, the way he always had before but never quite in this manner, and when it was all over he felt himself being drawn into a warm embrace, a reassuring gesture that reminded him that all that had been said between them were for real.
“Naoki…” he said, still getting used to that name on his lips.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be too concerned, you know—with trying to figure out just what it is that’s going on between us.” he looked into the handsome gangmember’s face. “Maybe it doesn’t have a name because it doesn’t need one.”
Naoki smiled at him, his fingers twirling several strands of Shugo’s hair. “Maybe.”
“So maybe I don’t need you to ‘love’ me…” Shugo continued. “I just need you.”
The smile became wider, and he felt those lips kissing his forehead. “Who’s to define love for you, Shugo?”
Who’s to define love for any of us?
Songs used in this fic:
1. “Pure” – Fools Garden
2. “Maybe” – Five for Fighting
3. “Unintended” – Muse
4. “Take Me As I Am” – Tonic