The 12 Steps of Christmas

by Kubaru Suki (少年好き配る)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/34092.html)

Step One: When your parents offer to take you with them on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise, decline in order to spend the holiday with your girlfriend.

“Are you sure, Takuya?”

“Yup! You two should have a romantic getaway for Christmas. I’m eighteen; I’ll definitely be fine on my own. And if I need help, the restaurant staff will be around.”

“Winning these tickets isn’t the sort of thing that happens all the time. So if you want to go on the cruise, you should say so.”

“Really, it’s all right! I’m happy to let you guys go alone together. Besides, I’m going to take Ozaki out somewhere special for Christmas.”

I waved my parents off and went to work. I had two weeks to get ready and I was going to need every minute of it. Because my Christmas was going to be great; I had it all figured out.

Step Two: Get dumped by your girlfriend on Christmas Eve. It’s best if she dumps you in a manner that is definitive and leaves absolutely no chance for reconciliation.

I clutched the single red rose so hard that the stem snapped in my hand and tilted drunkenly over my fist. “Say that one more time, please?”

Hina blushed cutely. “I’m not going to go out with you today. Satoda Naoki and I got engaged this morning, so I’m not dating you anymore.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yep!” Hina put on her cutest smile. “I’ve loved Naoki forever!” Her cute smile changed into her cute worried smile. “Not that you’re not a nice guy Hayakawa! It’s only that Naoki is really great!”

“…oh.

Step Three: Make sure that Step Two happens in front of the one person on the planet with whom you cannot get along. Make sure that this person has a valid reason to be witness to the event.

“Gee, sis, don’t you think you could take off the kid gloves?”

‘Oh no. Oh please no. Please god no.’ The thoughts rattled around in my head, hollow and tinny like a yen in an empty can of Afternoon Tea being rolled down a hill. ‘Please not him.’ I shifted on my feet, half amazed that I wasn’t creaking as I moved, and looked over Hina’s pretty little shoulder. Of course it was him. Naturally it was the one person I really didn’t want be party to an event like this. “Hello,” I croaked.

Hina’s older brother, Yasuo, gave me the thumbs up. “Ossu!” It was at least noon and he was still wandering around in his pajamas. Typical.

Ozaki Yasuo and I…generally didn’t get along very well. Meaning that generally he made me feel twitchy and irritable. But, in the whole time that Hina and I were going out, I’d probably spent more time arguing with Yasuo than I ever had just talking to Hina. But that’s because he’s irritating. No matter how determined I’ve been to ignore him, I’ve always end up talking with him.

“‘Niisan!” Hina cutely stomped one foot. “Hayakawa-san is fine with the news! He’s only kissed me four times in the whole year we went out! It’s not like his heart is broken!”

Yasuo propped his chin on the top of his sister’s head. “Four times?”

“I respect your sister very much,” I told him with as much dignity as I could muster. I couldn’t believe he was here to see this. If he was going to skip his classes, he could at least have had the grace to do it at his university instead of coming home for it. “And I wanted things to be perfect.”

Hina clapped her hands together. “Aren’t you sweet? And things are perfect, too! If you’d kissed me more, I probably would feel really, really bad about getting engaged to Naoki!”

Ah, yes. Satoda. The rat-fink weasel who stole my girlfriend. “He’s a nice guy,” I said. My head felt too light inside. “He’s a nice guy,” I said. “Smart, too. Best grades in his year. Captain of the chess team. I’m…” I couldn’t say ‘happy for you’. “The reservation for lunch tomorrow,” I said instead, “you can keep that.” It was at my family’s restaurant, so it wasn’t like it was any big deal. Not really. “It’d be a shame to waste it. You and Satoda-san can go.”

“That’s so sweet! See, ‘Niisan!” Hina beamed. “If you’d ever done anything more than fight with Hayakawa, you’d know what a nice guy he is!”

Yasuo gave her a look and then looked at me. “So you don’t mind that the girl you’ve been dating for a year just got engaged to a freshman?”

“Excuse me, please, I’ve got to be going,” I said. I closed their front door in my own face.

Step Four: Be pathetic enough the guy who drives you nuts—and whom you generally seem to make crazy, too—takes pity on you.

I meant to leave. To turn around and walk away and go home and spend Christmas Eve alone while my parents were on a tropical cruise and my girlfriend went out with some guy to whom she’d become engaged without bothering to dump me until after the fact. It’s not like I wanted to hang around, anyhow. Only I sort of ended up staring at her door, trying to drag myself together. I felt like all my feelings had been scooped up and scattered like a handful of snow. And without feelings it’s hard to be motivated.

It was even too hard to pretend I was anything but lost when a fully-dressed Yasuo flung open the front door while I was still standing there.

He paused in the middle of shrugging on a coat and blinked at me. “Oh,” he said, “you’re still here.”

I couldn’t even get worked up. “Yes.”

Yasuo stepped out, shut the door, and then looked back at it. “I don’t think hanging around is going to help you any,” he said, patting the front door. “She’s not going to change her mind. She’s liked that kid since he was in diapers. Sorry.”

It was the ‘sorry’ that did it. I looked up at him, at his weird brown-green eyes and his floppy hair that he’d dyed some botched shade of reddish brown, and his stupid, stupid smile and I emotionally vomited on him. “My parents won cruise tickets; a month-long cruise around the world’s tropics. I could have gone with them. I could be having the best vacation ever but I stayed home so that I could go out with your sister and she dumped me for a pre-pubescent fourteen-year-old chess club geek. And she dumped me on Christmas Eve, one of the most romantic days of the year. Right in front of you.

“Wow,” Yasuo said, scrubbing one hand over the back of his neck. “That sucks.”

I stared at him. “Yes. Yes it does,” I said. I still couldn’t find it in myself to leave or move or do anything but stand there.

My ex-girlfriend’s older brother—bane of my existence—rubbed at the back of his head for a bit and then reached out to me. “Here,” he said, prying my fingers away from their strangle-hold on the rose stem. His hands were warm and gentle. “Why don’t you give me that?”

The broken part of the stem dropped off and landed at our feet. It felt a lot like a metaphor to me and if I could have been horrified, I would have been. But I was still empty so I didn’t even care that I was sniffling. “I got it for her,” I said like a moron.

“Okay,” Yasuo said. “Okay. Let’s…” he looked around and then grabbed my arm and pulled me off the steps. “Let’s get rid of this.” He hunkered down by the snow piled beside their shoveled walk and yanked me down to crouch next to him. “We’ll kill it dead,” he said, rolling the pretty red rose up in a snowball.

“Like my love relationship with your sister,” I said, still snuffling like a wimp.

“We’ll make it the ass part of a snowman,” he said, giving me a handful of snow, “and then we’ll go do something, okay? Because, to be honest, I’m not sure you’re not going to go throw yourself off a bridge if left alone. You’re acting that sort of pathetic.”

I patted snow into a ball and didn’t dignify that with a response.

Step Five: When you end up getting a meal together, don’t eat. Instead, drink steadily to ensure that you get completely hammered.

Even though we (okay he) debated catching a train into Tokyo in order to hang out at his dorm room, Yasuo and I ended up just wandering around town. We kicked down back streets, scuffling up snow, trying to avoid the lovers who were clogging up all the best places. Although I’d stopped whimpering about getting dumped by his sister, my ex-girlfriend’s annoying older brother was still nice enough to take me to some bar that was full of other losers with no plans or dates of their own.

He even bought me drinks and kept offering me food. “Hey, you want some of my chips? You can have some of my chips if you want.”

“No thanks. Can I have another beer?”

“Sure. Are you sure you don’t want a hamburger? My treat.”

“I’m sure. If you’re not going to finish your beer, can I have it?”

“Ah…all right. Hey, you know what tastes good?”

“Yes. Hey, waitress? Can we get two more beers over here?”

Step Six: Once Step Five has rendered you embarrassingly drunk, let him carry you home. If he does not offer, ask. Cling to him the whole way.

“Why are we getting kicked out?” I asked as Yasuo pushed me out the door. “And why is it dark?”

“It’s dark because it’s nighttime now,” Yasuo said, pushing me against the outside wall of the bar. “Hold that up, please.” I obligingly braced up the wildly tilting building. “And we got kicked out because you let slip that you’re underage.”

Oh yeah. “Oh. Yeah.” I squinted one eye shut and watched him get our jackets from somebody inside. “They kicked you out too?”

Yasuo held my coat out to me. “No, I just want to go with you.”

I held my coat and watched my breath fog. “I’m sorry that I never liked you,” I told him seriously. “I’ll miss you when I’m not hanging around your house fighting with you.”

“What?” Yasuo took my jacket out of my hands and shoved my arm into one of the sleeves.

“What what?” I asked him, shaking my arm helpfully. “I never liked you. You bothered me.”

“Riiiiiight,” shaking his head, Yasuo tugged me forward. I thought about protesting—no way was that wall going to stay up on its own—but he was so warm that I just went with it, resting my head on his chest as he wrapped my coat around me and maneuvered my other arm into its sleeve. I almost missed what he said because I was too focused on being held so warmly. “I bothered you. That’s why you could never let an argument go and why you always hung around by me. Admit it, we had fun together.” He smiled at me and patted my cheek.

That made…a surprising amount of sense. I smiled back at him. “I can’t feel my legs and I think I might throw up.”

Yasuo turned me around and slung an arm around my waist. “Puke on your other side,” he told me. “And lean on me.”

I missed being held against his chest. “I can’t walk.” Which wasn’t true. I could walk just fine as long as it wasn’t in a straight line. “You should carry me.” He turned, presenting me with his back. I poked him in the spine. “I meant princess carrying.”

He bent forward. “No way,” he said. “If you want to be carried, it’s going to be piggyback.”

I looked at his back. Somehow, even though he was only three years older than I was, Yasuo wasn’t shaped like a teenager; his shoulders were very broad. I put a hand on one of his shoulders and dragged it across his back to the other side. It took a long time. His head tilted and he looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “All right,” I told him, wrapping my arms around his neck.

Yasuo straightened and for a moment there was only the feeling of being borne up, like a snowflake on the wind, and then his arms came back and hooked around my legs, his hands warm at the backs of my knees. I relaxed against him fully, laying my cheek against his hair. For having a bad dye job, it was still awfully soft. “You better not have passed out,” Yasuo said, hitching me up on his back a little. I wrapped my legs a little tighter around him and he patted me awkwardly. “Can you still find your way home?” he asked. “Because I don’t think you want to stay over at my parent’s house and all the trains have stopped running so we can’t go to my place.”

Nodding, I flung one arm awkwardly in the direction of home. “Just go straight.” He started walking and I clung to him as the world began to bounce merrily along with his footsteps. It all seemed to be keeping pace with his heart thumping steadily under my hands. I pressed my hands tighter to him and rubbed a small circle. “Your shirt’s soft,” I told him. Like the rest of the hazy, lovely world his shirt was just soft.

He chuckled and the world paused as he stopped moving. “Which way?” he asked and I lifted my head to look around. For a good-sized town, we were not actually that far away from my building. I curled myself closer to him.

“Keeping going; it’s three blocks down, one left, first apartment building on the left.” I tucked my face between his neck and shoulder, nosing at his collar. “You smell nice,” I mumbled.

“Thanks,” Yasuo said, hitching me up a little again, his hands higher on the backs of my thighs than before. “My mom did my laundry and she uses fabric softener. And dryer sheets.”

I sniffed his shirt collar, and then his skin. “No, it’s not that. It’s you,” I informed him. I smelled his hair and the warm place behind his ear, just to make sure it wasn’t his shampoo or anything. “You smell nice.”

“…oh,” said Yasuo as I pressed my face back into the crook of his neck. “Well, thanks. I’m glad I don’t smell bad, I guess. I didn’t have time to shower before I got dressed. I was in a hurry,” he said, “because I didn’t want you to lie down in front of a bus or anything.”

“Hmm,” I said thoughtfully. I took a deep breath of warm, Yasuo-smell. It was nice. “I wasn’t that upset. It was only shock.”

“I thought you were going to chuck yourself off an overpass,” he carefully enunciated.

“My hands are cold,” I said, choosing to ignore his unreasonableness. Without waiting for him to say anything, I slipped my fingers between the buttons of his shirt. He hissed but then, so did I. His chest was hot against my fingers and his skin was soft, softer even than his shirt and the snow-globe world around us. I stroked at him just a little, just a little in time with the falling snow, and closed my eyes.

Step Seven: Kiss him under the mistletoe.

Yasuo let me be carried all the way up to the apartment, even though it meant a lot of wriggling around for the keys that threatened to send us toppling off balance and into the snow or, inside the building, into the walls or the neighbor’s door. We actually did crash into the wall getting our shoes off inside the apartment. Once we were back on our feet (well, he was on his feet and I was still holding on to his back and we weren’t falling down anymore) he took me to the kitchen where he backed up to the cabinets and set me down on the countertop by the sink, the world spinning to a stop around us like a carousel horse.

“Take these,” he said after raiding the first-aid kit that we kept by the knife block. The aspirin he handed me were almost powdery and pleasantly bitter in my mouth. “Drink,” he ordered, handing me a glass.

I drank, looking at him over the rim of the glass as he made a face, chewing on several pills of his own. “Here,” I said, handing him the water. I watched him drink, watched the way his throat worked, and had to swallow myself.

“Thanks,” Yasuo said, handing the glass back to me. I took it and looked away. He was tall enough that the mistletoe my father had hung weeks ago ‘to be festive’ (just as an excuse to kiss my mother while she cooked and we all knew it) was nearly brushing the top of his head. I wondered if he knew it was there. I put the glass down in the sink and looked back. “You know,” Yasuo said, sounding like he was going to leave, “I really hate the taste of aspirin.”

I leaned forward, falling off the counter in my drunken incoordination. He caught me with his body. For the second time that night I put my arms around him and let myself relax fully against him. I pressed my lips to his and licked the taste out of his mouth. His mouth was wet from the water and the abrasive, acidic taste of the medicine was heavy but under that was the nearly forgotten tang of beer and the salt from his chips. He tasted like he smelled. I broke away from him to tell him so.

Embarrassingly, my voice didn’t work for a moment and all that came out was a breathless “…good.”

“Yeah,” Yasuo said, sounding sort of breathless himself. “But if this is about Hina—”

“It’s not about your sister!” I cut him off, frustrated. We’d gone over this already and I didn’t want to have to think about his sister when I actually wanted to be thinking about him. Finally. “There’s mistletoe! You’re under it! So I kissed you!” I wanted to say ‘because I wanted to’ (because I did) but I always tended to forget what I wanted to say when Yasuo and I started arguing. “That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

At that, Yasuo turned his face up to the ceiling and I was forced to glare meaningfully at the point of his chin until he turned his face back to me. “I’m not under the mistletoe,” he said, one hand flicking negligently up to indicate the location of the mistletoe. “You are.” I didn’t bother to check. I knew the location well enough and knew that when I’d slid to the floor I had pushed him back a step, putting myself into his place. “Does that mean that I’m supposed to kiss you?”

The hand that had gestured came down softly along my cheek until Yasuo’s first two fingers were on my lips. He pressed gently at my lower lip with a slight, downward pressure. I let my mouth fall open slightly, as much to breathe as anything else. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. There didn’t seem to be any air. I licked my lips, edging my tongue out carefully so that I didn’t touch the tips of his fingers. “Yasuo,” I said.

He sighed softly, almost like a moan. “You called me by name,” he said, his eyes going darker, so that the green stood out clearly from the brown. The arm around my back tightened and he leaned into me, so that I felt the edge of the counter dig into my spine. His fingers slipped between my parted lips and slipped back out again, spreading the moisture they’d gathered, wetting my lips for me. “You’ve never called me anything before.”

That wasn’t quite true. When I talked about Yasuo to my parents or friends, I called him ‘Ozaki’ or ‘Ozaki Yasuo’ since I often referred to Hina as ‘Ozaki’ too. But when I was with him I either used ‘you’ or called him nothing at all. There was no good reason for that, only that it felt weird to call him the same thing I called his sister (Ozaki-san) and rude to call him by only his last name, and far too personal to call him by the name I used when I thought of him, which was ‘Yasuo’. Kissing him, wanting to kiss him, had seemed just that sort of personal however, so I’d used it without thinking. “I’m so—” I started to apologize.

Yasuo cut me off by taking his hand away from my mouth and using it to tilt my head to an angle more his liking as he leaned closer, his head dipping towards mine. “Should I kiss you under the mistletoe, Takuya?” he asked, drawing out the syllables of my name like he was tracing the swells of pearls on a necklace.

I didn’t let him kiss me.

But only because I was too impatient to wait for him to close the distance between his mouth and mine.

Step Eight: Get naked with him underneath the mistletoe.

The kitchen was too warm after the cold of the outside world. And I was still flushed from all the alcohol. It only made sense to discard a few articles of clothing here and there, I told myself. I was just hot. It didn’t mean anything.

“I hate your buttons,” I told Yasuo, simultaneously dragging at the shirt clinging stubbornly to his shoulders with one hand and trying to open those spiteful buttons with the other. Probably I could have done a better job at one or the other if I’d bothered to quit marking out his pulse with my tongue. But every time I tongued the flutter in the hollow of his throat, Yasuo pushed me a little farther back over the counter. I was going to hit my head on the cabinet or the counter top, but it was worth it for the way Yasuo leaned over me. “Hate them,” I repeated, licking the long tendon in his neck. “They don’t actually open.”

Yasuo pushed away from me and I whimpered a bit until I saw him slipping the buttons open easily. “You’re just drunk,” he said reassuringly, “I’m sure you’ll do better when you’re sober.”

“No,” I said, standing a little more upright and staring at his hands. His hands were big. “You did all right and you’re not sober.” My jacket was gone—puddled up on the floor with Yasuo’s—my shirt and tie had been launched at the table, my undershirt was in the sink and I didn’t have a clue what had happened to my belt. “I hate your buttons because they hate me.”

He shrugged out of his shirt and dropped it on the counter behind me, pressing me back. “Maybe they’re just jealous,” he whispered in my ear. His hot breath made me shiver despite the heat (and it was so hot). “Because you,” he nipped the top of my ear “get to touch” he nipped again, a little lower, following the curve “what’s under them.” He bit my earlobe gently before drawing into his mouth.

It was all the invitation I needed. I put my hands on his wrists and ran them up his arms. I wanted to go slowly. I wanted to feel the way the muscles in his arms shifted as he moved. I wanted to watch my hands on him, so that I could keep track of them. Keep track of things. Yasuo kissed me, his bare chest brushing mine just as my hands reached his shoulders. I shoved him back.

“Wha—ah!” he cried out as I curled my fingers into his shoulders and raked my nails down over his chest.

“Shh,” I murmured as I left red trails in my wake and I soothed one hand back up over them as I whispered my lips down along the other set. I paused in that to slide over a few inches and lick the flat disk of his nipple. It pebbled under my tongue. I brought my hand up, brushing my thumb over it even as I kept licking at it, listening to the hitching gasps that were making Yasuo’s chest heave. As with his arms, I wanted to take my time. I even might have if I hadn’t strongly suspected that there was one last button on Yasuo’s person that was in need of un-buttoning. I went down on my knees.

Softly, Yasuo’s hand touched my hair. “You’re drunk, you know. You probably don’t want to go there,” he said, his voice shaking.

Either the button on his pants loved me or it was under too much strain from Yasuo’s erection because it gave easily. It very helpfully took half the zipper down with it. “I really want to go there,” I told Yasuo just before grabbing the tab of his zipper in my teeth. I really fucking wanted to go there.

Step Nine: Fuck.

When I got Yasuo’s pants open, I suffered a moment of hesitation. I wanted to what? It was one thing to think about it while kissing him and another entirely to be thinking about it while staring an erect cock in the face. But, I reasoned, I was drunk and that was reason enough to quit thinking about why I wanted what I wanted.

My hands suffered no such crisis of faith, instead yanking Yasuo’s pants down to his ankles before reaching up to grab the top waistband of his underpants and pull those down too. He nearly put my eye out. I got ready to yell at him (it was his erection, which made it his job to make sure it didn’t poke people in the eyes) but I forgot what I wanted to say when I realized two things. One, Yasuo still smelled really good. Like spice and musk and a night spent jerking off under the sheets—like something I wanted to eat up or drink down. And two, I had the opportunity to do both of those things nearly jabbing my eye out.

I’d never given any sort of blow job before, nor had I ever thought about it. But I’d thought about getting one often enough that I at least had a starting place in mind. I wrapped one arm around Yasuo’s waist for balance, since the room still seemed inclined to wobble, and braced the other arm against one of his very nice looking thighs. I curled my hand around the base of his cock and took a deep breath, leaning forward to rest my forehead against the hair-roughened plane of his abdomen. My eyelids felt heavy, like they wanted to close, but I kept them open as I turned my head just enough to lay an open-mouthed kiss against his shaft just above the place where I was holding him.

Yasuo shivered. For a moment I almost wondered if he was cold—he was mostly naked in the middle of the kitchen after all—but the heat of him was nearly scorching my lips and tongue as I made my way up to the head of his cock. I stopped just below it and pulled back. I slid my hand up and rubbed my thumb across the tip. It wasn’t so much that I was nervous. More like I was wondering how I was going to go about the whole thing.

“Takuya.”

I didn’t look up. “I want to,” I said quietly.

One of Yasuo’s big hands shifted through my hair, gripping lightly. “Takuya,” he said again and I let him tilt my head back, let our eyes meet. “Takuya.” His voice was a sighing sort of moan again and I licked my lips absently. “Takuya,” he repeated. He touched my mouth, his thumb rubbing my lower lip. I opened and caught it, drawing it into my mouth and sucking on it in a way that I hoped conveyed my sincerity in wanting to suck on various other parts of him.

Maybe it did. He took his hand away from my face, wrapping it around the hand I had on him and dragging both our hands tightly down the length of his cock until we hit the wiry crush of hair that framed him. His other hand slid through my hair until it curved around the back of my neck. He urged me gently forward. I went, opening my mouth wide as our joined hands held him steady. Then he was there. Or I was. The swollen, already slick head of his cock bumping up over my lower lip and pushing into my waiting mouth as my tongue slid out to greet it and show it the way. Well hello, very large and private part of Yasuo! Make yourself right at home! Would you like to spend the night? There is plenty of room!

I coughed him back up before my lips even met our entwined fingers. With careful consideration, I swirled my tongue around the crown before trying to swallow him again. To the same result: gagging before I really got anywhere significant. I was about to go for it again when the hand on the back of my neck flexed and then moved up to cup the back of my head.

“Easy,” Yasuo whispered. “Like this,” he said, his hand tracing around to rest along my jaw, his long fingers pressing in at the curve of it just below my ear. I let him guide me in a shallow rhythm. After a moment he began to move our hands over him in time to the bob of my head. He felt good in my hand and he tasted…exciting. There was too much of a bitter, musky tang to call it ‘good’ but I liked it all the same.

Yasuo liked it too, if the way he was moaning was anything to go by. If it wasn’t, there was always what he was moaning. Which was a low, steady litany of ‘like that, like that, like that’s and each one felt like a small stroke to my own overlooked erection. They made me moan.

When I did, Yasuo let go of my hand. I squeezed him firmly and kept the pace he’d set as his freed hand moved to the top of my head, tangling in my hair again. And that felt good, too. I moaned again to let him know I appreciated the gesture.

His response was a quick jerk of his hips. For a second the head of his cock was nudging hard at the back of my throat and then it was gone again. Too quick for me to choke but not quickly enough that it didn’t leave a strange, almost bruised feeling behind. I couldn’t move my head much against his grip—and I didn’t particularly feel like doing it anyhow—but I looked up at him through my lashes. “Hmm?” I hummed up at him questioningly.

Again, the quick thrust of his hips. He lingered just long enough that I realized I couldn’t really breathe around the length of him in my mouth and I swallowed hard. “Umm,” I managed.

“Takuya,” Yasuo groaned. His body rocked forward again and I dug my fingers into his hip. I made an urgent sound in the back of my throat when he didn’t withdraw. I let go of my hold on his cock, pressing my hand flat against the base of him, trying to tell him without words to back up or slow down or let me catch a breath. I gazed up at him hopefully.

In answer, he drove himself forward even deeper, groaning my name again. “Takuya,” he gasped, “like that.” His eyes were so dark that the green stood out like lightening bolts.

“Mmph!” I made a wild sound as my head began to swim. He was too deep, too fast, too hard, too much. I blinked up at him urgently, clawing into his hip and pressing hard against the root of his cock. His hips slammed forward and I felt him swell impossibly large in my mouth. I knew what that meant. I shoved against his hold on me, pushing myself back as far and as fast as I could.

Neither far nor fast enough, as it happened.

Cock jerking against my tongue, he came in a thick, creamy rush. I couldn’t spit it out since Yasuo was holding my head too tightly to him for me to pull my mouth away but I couldn’t make myself swallow, either. The taste wasn’t so bad, but the texture and the thickness were too unfamiliar for me to open my throat to it. So I held it, waiting for his eyes to clear. When they did, I blinked up at him and whimpered. His hands gentled, no longer holding but merely touching. I shoved back and opened my mouth to yell at him and ask him just what he thought he was doing coming in my mouth. Except I couldn’t yell because my mouth was full of come. I couldn’t swallow, couldn’t spit, and I really didn’t want to close my mouth again. I gave Yasuo a helpless look that I hoped translated into ‘hey, I really need to get to the sink’.

Yasuo made a sound of surprise and hauled me to my feet. Before I could turn to spit, he kissed me. His tongue swiped hard and deep through my mouth, sliding slickly against my own. A harsh, biting kiss like he couldn’t get enough. It was sort of gross when I thought about it but I figured it was his mouth and his junk and if he wanted to swallow it then he was more than welcome to it. I swallowed some of it, too. Easily. It was so easy with Yasuo’s tongue coaxing it down.

He pulled away when there was nothing but spit and tongues and stray spunk left in both of our mouths. “Takuya,” he breathed.

I had half a mind to tell him off for the coming and the kissing. If he didn’t know how gross it was, then he really had to learn. Especially if he thought he’d get away with it more than once. Only there was a tingling at the base of my spine and a high, tight feeling in my balls that was telling my brain that my body found it really, really hot. Really. My dick must have overruled my mouth because what I said next was, “I’ve got to come.”

Step Ten: Fuck, fuck, fuck.

I was glad my parents were on a world cruise. It wasn’t even because of the privacy it afforded me. It was because with them gone, I felt free to leave my futon out on the floor instead of rolling it up. And if I didn’t have to roll it out, it saved me fifteen seconds of Yasuo-less groping time and put me at least fourteen seconds closer to coming my brains out.

“Let me move!” I arched under him as best I could, trying to press my erection against any part of him.

Yasuo, who was lying over all the parts of me that didn’t count, smiled and touched my cheek. “Takuya,” he said. He leaned forward to kiss me again.

I sighed as he kissed me slower and slower and deeper and deeper. It was a place to get lost in. Thankfully I had a very insistent signpost in my pants that was pointing the way to the fact that I still really wanted to come. “Touch me,” I moaned, bucking up against him.

“Not yet,” Yasuo kissed my cheek and then my neck. He lifted himself off of me, and while one of his knees was still between my thighs, it was not touching anything good. “I want you to feel really good,” he continued.

I jerked down against his leg as much as I could. “So do I,” I muttered.

Yasuo laughed the sound gusting hotly over my heart as his mouth meandered its way around my chest. “Then quit squirming and let me help you.”

His ‘help’ was going to be the death of me. I squirmed, pushing against him. He had me pretty tightly pinned for so little worthwhile contact so I switched tactics. I pushed myself deeper into my bed and wriggled a hand between us, fumbling with my pants. My button, like Yasuo’s, gave up the fight without even a token of resistance. I was so glad that my parents were gone. Because with them gone there was nobody doing the laundry and after I yanked the zipper down I was free and naked in my hand. “Ah,” I sighed in relief.

“Hey!” Yasuo was goggling at me.

“What?” I snapped, giving myself a stroke. “You’re the one who kissed a guy with a mouthful of come. All of a sudden you can’t handle seeing a guy jerk himself off?”

Yasuo’s smile was lazy and slow and sly. “That’s not it. I was going to do that for you myself,” he said, trailing a chilly lick down the center of my chest. “But if you want to do it, I wouldn’t mind watching.” He shifted so that he was lying beside me instead, propped up on one elbow and looking down the length of my body. One of his legs was thrown over both of mine. The hand not occupied with holding him up to get a better view as rubbing lightly at my collarbone.

“You were going to?” I asked Yasuo, narrowing my eyes at him even as I rolled myself between my palms. Just a little. Just a tease.

“After I made you feel good everywhere else,” he confirmed. His hand swept over my skin. “A long, long time from now,” he went on, his fingers plucking at one of my nipples, tugging on it and rolling it the same way that I was pulling at my cock.

“Glad I didn’t wait for it then,” I gasped, flipping my thumb over the top of my dick. It slid easily through the pre-come. On my chest, Yasuo’s fingers mirrored the movement, flicking rapidly over my nipple. His hand lifted and then came back, his fingers wet from his mouth and moving with the same ease that I had found down below. I pushed my face into his neck and fought for air. “More. Do that more.”

“Show me,” Yasuo whispered, his tongue hot on my ear. “Show me what you want.”

I was so drunk. How else could I have been so dizzy while I was laying down? What else would have caused me to kiss my modesty goodbye? I opened my mouth against Yasuo’s throat and sucked lightly at his skin. I couldn’t look, but I could feel him watching me. I buried both hands between my legs. I gripped the base of my cock with one hand and stroked. With the other hand I tortured the hypersensitive head. I squeezed it, scraped my nails over it, rubbed tight circles around the slit before pressing on it firmly. Yasuo’s fingers faithfully followed mine. Pinching and pulling and rubbing at my hardened nipples, hand and mouth traveling between them both. His leg moved restlessly over mine and for a second his knee pressed up into my balls. I left off teasing my cock and got down to business. I fisted myself from root to tip and grabbed my balls, tugging them sharply away from my body. It hurt, but in the best way possible. “Oh, fuck,” I moaned. “I’m gonna—”

“Not yet,” Yasuo said and he reached for me. He probably meant to cut me off before I could come. But his hand when it touched me was warm and gentle, like it had been in the morning’s cold. It felt good.

“Yasuo!” I came, calling out his name.

“Takuya,” he sighed, sounding disappointed. But when I looked at him his eyes were shinning and his mouth was curled up in that same sweet, warm smile. “I thought I told you to wait. We could have come together, then.”

Sleep was pulling at me. The day had been long and full and I’d just had the orgasm of a lifetime. “Later,” I yawned, losing the word to his mouth in a sleepy sort of half-kiss. I tucked my head under his chin and nestled close to him.

That was the last thing I remembered until Yasuo climbed over me, nearly kicking me in the nuts as he got out of my bed. “Sorry,” he said when I bolted upright and cupped myself protectively.

“Where are you going?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.

Yasuo shrugged. “Shower. I’m too sticky to sleep comfortably. And you got come in my hair.” He sounded happy about that last part. He paused in my open doorway. “Did you want to join me?”

I could feel the cold, tacky spots of drying semen across my chest and stomach. There was a faint, itchy pull by my mouth as well—most likely remnants of Yasuo that neither of us had managed to catch. And we’d pretty much passed all my old levels of ‘that’s perverted’ earlier. I rolled to my feet. “Yeah.”

“Okay.” He stepped back and I lead him to the shower.

We didn’t bother to turn on any lights since the light we’d left burning in the kitchen was shedding enough light into the short hallway to see by and my bedroom was directly across from the bath room anyhow. “We’re going to have to wait a moment for the water to heat,” I told Yasuo, leaning back comfortably against the wall after I’d opened the taps. “It’s an old building.”

“Mm,” he mumbled agreeably, stepping closer and kissing me.

I kissed him back. I’d seen the face of my alarm clock as I’d gotten up. It was going to be morning soon and by then I’d be sober. It’d be time to stop touching Yasuo and start dealing with the disastrous aftermath of getting drunk with him.

Too soon he stepped away from me. “Water’s warm,” he said huskily. “Sooner we shower, the sooner we can get back to bed.” His eyes were heavy lidded but they weren’t sleepy as he sat down on the low stool and pulled me down to straddle his lap. For a while we did absolutely nothing about getting clean aside from sit in the spray from the shower head still mounted in its holder on the wall. We just kissed. Long and deep, hands in each other’s hair.

Eventually I reached for the soap, keeping my head down as I began to wash him. I didn’t bother with the washcloths sitting on the nearby shelf. I hadn’t really had a chance to touch Yasuo earlier seeing as to how I’d been too busy touching myself. I rubbed the bar of soap over his shoulders and chest, watching the way water made the lather flow down his body, catching in interesting places. I got off his lap. “Stand up,” I instructed.

“Better?” Yasuo asked, cupping my face in his hands.

It was a position that was very familiar. I shot Yasuo an arched look. “Not even if you begged,” I said frostily. But I slid a soapy hand over his cock and balls and, when the water had rinsed the soap away, gave the head a farewell kiss before I leaned back. “Turn around and I’ll get your back.”

“You could wash the front a little more,” Yasuo said even as he gave me his back. He looked over his shoulder. “Cleanliness is next to sexiness, right?”

I snorted at him and got my hands sudsy. “Then why is sex filthy?” I asked rhetorically, running my hands up from his ankles. Yasuo had nice legs. I slid my hands up his thighs, admiring.

“Because,” Yasuo said and then he gasped. I guess he liked being bitten there.

“Because?” I asked, scraping my teeth over his hamstring and then moving to nibble at his hip.

“Because—oh, shit,” he broke off swearing quietly. I watched my hands on his ass, my thumbs sweeping back and forth at the crease below his cheeks before turning so that my fingers clutched that swell and my thumbs fit themselves to the dimples at the base of his spine.

“Because?” I prompted. In the filtered lights from the kitchen and the small, high window Yasuo shone pale as marble. The water sluicing over his back made him look cool and untouchable but he was warm under my mouth when I licked the small of his back and his legs spread invitingly. I was half surprised that the water trickling off of him didn’t taste like spilt milk. I dipped my tongue into the shadowy crevasse that divided him. I was so thirsty and all the water was funneling that way.

“Because—fuck,” Yasuo cut himself off again, his whole body quaking against my mouth and the hand I’d slid between his parted legs. “I said ‘next to’,” he finished. “Do it.”.

I froze; my fingers pressing in hard at the base of his balls and my tongue still lapping at him with no conscious input from my brain at all. “Do…?”

Yasuo took a half a step forward out of the spray and I followed him automatically. He leaned against the wall, his hips still angled back towards me. “Do it,” he repeated. As I watched his hands reached back and he opened himself to me.

There was a half of a second where my ‘WHAT???’ and my ‘oh my god, PERVERT’ alarms went off but I was dizzy drunk and I figured that if there had to be a pervert in the shower, better both of us than just one of us. I ran my tongue down the shallow groove he’d parted. He tasted like warm water, clean and private, getting darker and sweeter the deeper in I went. He tasted like a lover’s secret. I pushed closer to Yasuo’s warmth and brought my hands up to help his. That they blocked the light was a bonus. I liked being in the dark with him. I found the pucker of his opening with my tongue. I licked it first, a wide stripe with the flat of my tongue and then probed at it with the point. The first made him sigh, the second made him swear crudely.

“Yasuo,” I murmured when I drew back for a breath. But I didn’t have anything to say aside from his name. I went back to that soft, private place, tasting him and pushing at him, feeling the way his muscles flexed tightly against my hold on him. I pressed, slipping my tongue just inside of him. He cried out and jolted as though I’d shocked him. He’d slipped my grip and so I went after him.

“Takuya,” he groaned and I opened my eyes to see that he was neatly pinned to the wall, the heavy length of his erection pressed tightly between his belly and the tile.

My mouth watered. I stood, fitting my body to his as I rose. “Hey,” I whispered against his shoulder blade. “Hey, can I put it in?”

“Do you want to?” Yasuo’s eyes were still closed and he’d gone very still. I wondered if I’d gone too far in suggesting such a thing.

I decided to downplay. “Kind of.”

“Well, then, no,” Yasuo said, turning around and pulling me into his arms. “That sort of thing,” he said, walking us back under the shower spray, “should only be done if you really, really, really want to.”

“Ah…okay,” I said, trying to think of a way around to getting myself into him without admitting that I really, really, really wanted to. “That sounds fair.”

“Good!” he said brightly. “Because I really, really, really want to put mine in you!” He sat down on the stool again and pulled me back into his lap. The water beat down hotly against my back. “That’s all right, right?”

There was no graceful way to bow out of that one. “Only until I don’t like it.”

“Fair enough,” Yasuo agreed, tugging me down for a kiss. I almost protested. Almost asked ‘do you know where my mouth has been‘ but this was Yasuo and I knew he knew and I figured that he didn’t care anyhow. I slipped my tongue into his mouth and as I did, Yasuo slipped one finger into me, the water easing his way. I gasped. “Hurts?” Yasuo asked.

“Not…really.” It didn’t hurt so much as feel strange. “It feels weird,” I said. When I tightened down back there, I could feel him inside.

“But not bad, right?” Yasuo queried. I shook my head and he smiled, dragging me close for another kiss. “It felt good when you touched me there,” he confided before he caught my mouth with his.

It felt good with Yasuo touching me there, once I got used to the strangeness. His finger moving set of little ripples and spikes of feelings that seemed to be directly connected to my cock. I rocked back on to his hand, wanting more of those feelings.

“Hold still a sec,” he told me and entranced with the way he was looking at me, I did. The second finger burned at me and I whined, stiffening in Yasuo’s arms. “Easy,” he said softly, his free hand running over my back, holding me close to him. “Just relax. It doesn’t hurt.”

“Shows what you know,” I breathed carefully. Maybe it didn’t hurt hurt, but it was my body. “Maybe it does.”

Yasuo chuckled. “Nah, you stiffened up all over.” He gave my crotch a meaningful look.

I looked down. My cock was bobbing hopefully against the warm planes of Yasuo’s stomach. “That doesn’t prove anything.”

Nuzzling at my neck, Yasuo laughed again. Then he did something with the fingers inside of me, something that made earthquakes go off inside my head. “That proves something,” he said, kissing my ear. And he did it again.

I rocked against him. “More.”

“Oh, yeah,” Yasuo agreed, kissing me in time with the movements of his hand.

Slowly I was became little more than a shaking, whimpering mess in his lap. His fingers were relentless, twisting and scissoring, and reaching inside of me, shaking me to the core. I thought I was going to go out of my mind. I thought I was going to come. That was when his fingers slipped out of me. “No,” I protested, pressing down with my hips trying to find him again.

“Yes,” he corrected and I felt a blunt, hot touch where his fingers had been. “I’m coming in,” he warned.

It hurt. There wasn’t any way around that. His cock furrowed its way into me, burning and stinging. “Yasuo!” I dug my fingers into his shoulders.

“Takuya, it’s all right,” he crooned, moving slowly and relentlessly into my body. “Relax and breathe, it’s okay. Just this little bit,” he said, his voice sounding desperate and hoarse. “Just this little bit and then I’ll make you feel good. So good, I promise. I swear. You feel so good. So hot and tight on me. Like a dream. Don’t make me stop. I swear, I swear, Takuya, it feels so good.”

I bit my lip and hung on. Because it didn’t feel bad enough to stop and Yasuo’s voice, his words as he wax rhapsodic about my body, felt as erotic as any of his touches. The water pounded at us and I breathed as he finally, finally slowed to a stop. “In?” I asked faintly.

“Mm,” his voice shook with strain. “Don’t move.”

“I wasn’t going to.” It was more than enough to deal with just having him in there, making me feel full to splitting.

Yasuo shifted to look at me, setting off a quick burst from inside of me that was so fleeting I wasn’t sure if it was pleasure or pain. “You’re so tight,” his words were slurred on the edges of the tension. “You’ve got to relax, Takuya.” The hand on my back rubbed a circle, pressing hard against the muscles that had gone taut there. The combination of his hand and the water was relaxing and I felt myself loosen just a bit. “Better,” Yasuo said, rubbing more. “And he’s still with us,” he said, reaching between us.

“Ah!” I pushed instinctively into his fist around my cock and that burst of pleasure-or-pain raced through me again. Yasuo’s hand flexed hard. “Don’t you dare,” I panted, shivering against him. “You said you wanted to come together and I’m not even close to there.”

“Oh, I’ll get you there,” he said, like it was some sort of threat. His hand began to move, silky and sly. He must have been paying attention in my bedroom because he remembered all the moves I’d used on myself, throwing in a few good twists on the old classics and some new tricks that made me hiss and scratch.

And then he started to talk. Whispering in my ear all the dirty things we’d done to each other and all the filthy things he wanted to do to me still. I started moving because I had to. I had to move, had to have him, had to have it hard and deep and fast and hot. “Yasuo!” I cried out, working harder, moaning when his arm around my back began to help me, lifting me and slamming me back down into the cradle of his pelvis. “Yasuo we—” There wasn’t enough time to do everything tonight. I wanted to do all of it. I wanted to experience every last one of those rough whispers. We were going to have to go out drinking again. “We’ve got to—”

“Yes,” he groaned, biting at me so that it stung and hurt and felt fantastic. “Yeah, come on, just like that.”

“We—”

“We’re there. Right there. Right there.”

I was there, right on that glittering, sharp precipice. Yasuo’s eyes were burning into me, as hot and hard as his cock. “I—”

“Right now.”

“Yasuo!” Deep inside, I felt him expand and he tore me apart from the inside out. Pleasure ripped through me like a howling wind and I screamed with it, rocking forward into his sure, steady hand and back on to his throbbing, jerking cock. I screamed with it until I was out of both air and voice, going limp against Yasuo’s firm chest even as I felt him softening and slipping out of me.

Yasuo wriggled suddenly, reaching for something. I felt the slickness of soap on my back. “Told you I’d get you there,” he said smugly, washing my back.

I didn’t say anything, to wiped out to do more than let him clean the both of us and drag us back to my bed. “We should go out drinking again,” I mumbled as we curled together under the blankets.

Step Eleven: Wake up hung-over, naked, and in his arms. Freak out. Throw him out of the house for good measure.

I woke up warm and comfortable. With a really sore ass. And Ozaki Yasuo kissing the back of my neck. “What—?” I frowned blearily.

“Wake up, sleepy,” Yasuo’s lips moved warmly over my neck. “It’s morning.”

“Morning?” I squeezed my eyes shut tightly, looking at the darkness under my lids.

“Actually,” Yasuo’s mouth tripped its way merrily across my shoulder. “It’s almost afternoon. I’ve been up for hours. But you sleep so cutely that I couldn’t resist watching you and cuddling.”

I opened my eyes. My room was full of bright sunlight that poked moodily at my eyes, trying to reach my brain. Yasuo was curled up half-on, half-off of me, grinning. His stupid, not-actually-a-bad-dye-job hair was falling messily into his nice-if-you-were-into-that-sort-of-thing eyes. I was naked. And he was about to kiss me. “Shit,” I pushed him off of me and sat up, burying my head in my hands.

Yasuo’s fingers ran through my hair and I shook him off. “Hangover? I made something in case the aspirin last night didn’t work.”

“Get out,” I whispered.

“Huh?” He tried to touch my shoulder but I jerked away from him the moment his hand made contact.

I pressed the heels of my hands tightly to my eyes, until I saw sunbursts. “Get out,” I grated out.

The futon creaked as Yasuo shifted his weight. “What?” he asked.

Stupid, stupid Ozaki Yasuo. “I got dumped and I got drunk and I got…here. With you. And we were drunk.”

“But—”

“And I’m sober now. So get out.”

“Takuya…” Yasuo tugged at my wrist, his hand warm and gentle and I couldn’t stand it.

“Let go!” I threw him off as hard as I could. “That kind of talk belongs in last night’s beer,” I said coldly. “And since that’s gone; so you should be too, Ozaki.”

Yasuo looked at me, his face confused and hurt. He looked like somebody had trampled all of his feelings like so much snow underfoot. “Takuya…”

Something horrible twisted in my stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick,” I announced. I locked myself in the toilet and waited, my insides roiling. I heard the sharp bang of the front door and heaved against the nausea and the pain, but nothing came up.

Step Twelve: Having destroyed whatever goodwill Steps Four through Ten has engendered between the two of you, realize that you love him.

I edged out of the bathroom, looking around warily. Yasuo’s shoes weren’t by the door and I couldn’t hear anybody in the apartment but me. I sighed and then startled when a loud buzzer went off. I looked to my left and saw that the laundry closet was open. Padding over I opened the dryer door and found last night’s towels and yesterday’s clothes, clean and dry. Yasuo must have done it while waiting for me to—I cut the thought off. It didn’t matter. I pulled on my pants, hissing at the heat in the zipper but jerking it closed anyhow. The warmth felt good.

My head was starting to pound. I thought about the aspirin I’d had last night and went to the kitchen to see if there was any left. I stopped short when I saw the glass on the counter. There was some sort of murky looking liquid in it. It looked like the hangover cure my father occasionally made. I remembered that Yasuo had said earlier that he’d made something. I rubbed my temple tiredly and went to drink the remedy. There as an aspirin beside the glass.

That was when I saw the table. It was set for two, just simple stuff. Just rice and miso soup. Just some stuff that I knew was in the kitchen cupboards. But Yasuo must have gone out because beside one bowl of rice was a red rose.

I got it for her, I remembered saying. And we’d killed that rose dead, wrapping it up in snow and making it into a snowman’s butt. Well. Snowwoman. Yasuo had added an impressive set of boobs to the finished product. I’d given up the rose I’d had for his sister to him and we’d gotten rid of it together and today he’d got a new rose. One for me. From him. My stomach and head and chest felt funny, but not unpleasantly so. Until I looked up from the rose to the second place setting and realized just what I’d done.

I’d fallen in love. With Ozaki Yasuo, the guy who irritated me and got under my skin and made me feel twitchy and strange. The guy who was unexpectedly kind and kind of fun and broad shouldered and willing to carry a guy home after an afternoon of consolatory drinking as long as it wasn’t princess style. I’d fallen for him hard but it hadn’t happened last night no matter what other things had gone on.

I’d dated Hina for a year and only kissed her four times. I’d taken Yasuo home with me after one ‘date’ and practically passed out from all the sex. I hadn’t been that drunk last night, either. Unsteady, yes. Uninhibited, definitely. But unaware? Not remotely. How many really drunk guys kept thinking ‘I’m drunk so it’s okay’? None, that’s how many. I’d known exactly what I was doing with Yasuo even if I hadn’t been able to admit why.

But I bet that Yasuo had known. Or maybe he’d hoped, hoping to have his feelings returned. I was suddenly very certain that he had feelings like the sort I was returning. After all, his actions last night had gone above any sort of ‘friendship’, even aside from all the sex. He’d taken care of me all night long, smiling warmly and holding me tenderly. This morning he’d bought me a rose, made me breakfast, and cuddled me awake.

And I’d just kicked him out of my house.

“Oh, shit,” I moaned, slapping a hand over my face. I whirled, heading for the dryer and hurriedly pulling on my clothes. They were slightly rumpled since they hadn’t been ironed but they’d do. I had to find Yasuo. I grabbed the rose off the table on my way out the door. I caught the first bus to Hina’s house. It was only after I rang the doorbell that I started to feel nervous. Aside from the fact that Yasuo was hurt and upset, I was about to confront my newly-engaged ex-girlfriend with the news that I wanted to date her older brother. I almost felt lucky when nobody answered the door. Except that it meant that not only was Hina not home, neither was Yasuo. I looked at my watch, calculating.

The lunch reservations were for one o’clock and it was just barely that. Minus the time I’d spend throwing on clothes and getting here as well as Yasuo’s head start, he’d probably made it home before his sister had left for her date. If he’d left again right away, it was possible that he’d told Hina where he was going—especially since he’d been out all night the night before. Hina was sweet enough that she’d probably tell me. Even if she wasn’t, she certainly owed me one. I sprinted for the bus stop.

My family’s restaurant was packed when I finally got there. It was a popular place for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—my parents were firm believers in romance being a wonderful thing and the made sure the business respected that too. But I’d reserved the best table in the house. Masa, our host, was busy on the phone but he tried to wave me over to his stand. I ignored him and headed for Hina’s table. Her parents were with her and Satoda, a fact I only noticed once I’d nearly tripped over a waiter in my haste to reach her. I bowed to them all before turning to Hina. “Ozaki-san, I need to talk to you.” I looked at her parents and fourteen-year-old fiancé. “In private.”

“Um, Hayakawa-san,” Hina winced, looking over me. “I thought I told you yesterday that I got engaged.”

It took a moment to process what she meant and realize what it looked like. I was in yesterday’s wrinkled clothes, I was clutching another red rose, and I was probably a little wild around the eyes. “Oh, yeah, you told me,” I said, waving the rose impatiently. “But I—”

Satoda stood up. “Senpai,” he said politely, “Hina-senpai has agreed to be my wife—”

“Great! Good for you!” I cut him off. I turned back to Hina. “Look, after you dumped me your brother took me out…”

She didn’t let me finish. “I know. He said you were really upset.”

If he’d told her about going out with me then she’d probably seen him and knew where he’d gone off to. “Okay, good! So you know—”

Hina cut me off again, looking cute and determined. “I’m sorry you’re sad, Hayakawa-san, but I’m not getting back together with you.”

“But I—”

“She said ‘no’, Senpai!” Satoda said.

From the front, Masa waved urgently at me. I guess we were making quite a scene. I didn’t care. “And I’m glad!” I said loudly. “Yay, I am happy,” I continued more loudly still. “I’m happy for you,” I said to Hina, “and you,” I said to her parents, “and even you, the rat-fink weasel who stole my girlfriend,” I said, nodding to Satoda. “I’m also looking for your brother,” I finished, all but shouting as I turned back to my ex-girlfriend.

“Oh,” said Hina cutely. Then she pointed behind me. “He’s right there!” She wrinkled her nose at her brother. “‘Niisan, Hayakawa-san is looking for you!” She smiled at me. “‘Niisan is right behind you,” she said cheerfully.

I turned. Yasuo was pale and he had a remote look on his face. I clutched the rose stem tightly. “Yasuo,” I said.

“Talk like that belongs in last night’s beer,” he said disdainfully before looking past my shoulder. “I’m going now, since you don’t need me to chaperone anymore,” he said to his parents. Then he turned around and began to walk away.

“Yasuo!” I shouted after him. “What kind of stupid thing to say is that?”

Masa, still on the phone, was nearly jumping up and down trying to get my attention. I waved him off impatiently.

Half way across the room, Yasuo had turned and was giving me an incredulous stare. “It’s the kind of stupid thing YOU said!” he yelled back.

“Give a guy a minute to wake up next time,” I shouted. “Nobody makes sense when somebody else wakes them up!”

Yasuo glared. “Oh, no,” he shouted, sarcasm dripping from his voice, “you made PERFECT sense! So much so that I can’t help but be swayed by you! We’re going to pretend that last night NEVER HAPPENED.”

“I can’t pretend it didn’t happen,” I bellowed, “because my ass hurts to much.”

The look on Yasuo’s face was priceless. “What kind of stupid thing to say is that?” he screeched.

The whole restaurant was staring at us, Masa was having a fit with the control panel for the overhead announcements, and Yasuo’s family was right behind us. “You want me to say something really stupid?” I yelled. “How about this: I LOVE YOU!” I glared at him, breathing hard.

After a moment of open-mouthed silence, Yasuo threw up his hands. “Well I loved you first!” he shouted.

“Probably,” I agreed at the top of my lungs. “But you wouldn’t even fight for it, you lazy idiot! I had to chase you down!”

“You kicked me out!”

“Well I’m un-kicking you! In fact, I want you to come back and stay forever!”

“Move in with you? You can’t be serious!” Yasuo was still yelling, but he looked hopeful.

I was on a top-volume roll. “I’m totally serious. If you want, I’ll adopt you and make it permanent.”

Behind me, Hina let out an excited squeal. “Mommy, Daddy, you’re getting two engagements for Christmas!” she said. Satoda choked but otherwise seemed to be taking this pronouncement in stoic, manful silence. There was nothing at all from the Ozaki siblings’ parents, but Yasuo didn’t seem that concerned by the two distinct, muffled thumps that followed his sister’s outburst.

Instead, he shook his head at me in that way he had—the one he used whenever he felt I’d said something particularly dense in the middle of a discussion and took a step towards me. “I’m older than you, you idiot! I’d have to adopt you!”

“FINE WITH ME!” I shouted, taking a step closer to him.

“GOOD!” Yasuo shouted back, advancing closer.

“I’LL EVEN TAKE YOUR NAME!” We were only an arms length apart, so I reached out and handed him my rose.

Yasuo took it, sniffing it. “GREAT! I’M REALLY HAPPY!”

He brushed the rose over my cheek and I caught his hand, holding it to my face as he dropped the rose to the floor. “ME TOO!”

“Sir…” Masa edged around Yasuo.

“WHAT?” I shouted.

Masa held his microphone out to me. “Your parents are on the phone. They called earlier and they’re insisting on talking to you. I’ve put them on the speaker since you wouldn’t come to the desk.”

Oh. They did that. Called on big days to check in, making sure that everything was going okay. I gave the microphone a heartfelt flinch. “Yes?” I said quietly.

“Hi sweetie,” my mother chirped for everybody to hear.

“Takuya,” my father added.

“Hi Mom. Hi, Dad.” I gave Yasuo a sickly smile. “You, uh, heard all that?”

“Yes,” said my father cheerfully.

“Yup!” agreed my mother. “And there’s a jewelry store right across the street if you want to buy your Yasuo a ring,” she said.

“Uh…”

“We have an account,” my father said, “for when I get your mother mad at me! Now, you said your Yasuo is going into business management, right?”

I had talked about him an awful lot. “Yeah. Yeah he is. He’s in his second year at university.”

“Good!” my father’s voice rang with enthusiasm. “Then he can get you a ring on the account too and we’ll put him to work on his breaks so that he can learn the restaurant. He can pay us back from that. Yasuo, son, how’s that sound to you?”

Yasuo looked at me and then at the microphone I extended to him. “Sounds good, sir,” he said politely.

“Call me Dad!” my father suggested. “And you can call mother over here ‘Mom’!”

“Okay…Dad,” Yasuo handed the microphone back to me with that warm, sweet smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.

My mother giggled, “We’ll have to start him out with a high salary.”

“About that,” I broke in. “Masa might…” I looked at the still staring patrons and at Masa looking like he was going to kill us. “We made quite a scene,” I temporized.

“Poor Masa!” My mother sighed gustily. “He’s never been in love.”

“Poor kid,” my father agreed. “He’ll understand one day. But we’ve got to go!” my father exclaimed. “Don’t want the boat to leave without us!”

I shrugged at Yasuo’s bemused expression. “Don’t want that.”

“Have a good Christmas!” my mother caroled.

I looked around. Masa was having a complete breakdown, the diners were shell-shocked, Hina and Satoda were holding hands and fanning her fallen parents, my parents were out of their minds on a cruise ship somewhere in the South Pacific, and Yasuo was smiling at me. He jerked his head meaningfully in the direction of the jewelry store my parents had recommended and held out his hand. I reached out and slid my hand into his. “Best Christmas ever,” I said.

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