by Shin De (シン・デ)
Miyagi Kei sat two rows down from the back and three rows across from the windows, a small island of diligent solitude and duty. Hagizawa Ryoji sat in front of him, and the distance between them was bigger and deeper than an arm’s span. In between classes Miyagi would complete his homework or read, and during class breaks he abandoned his desk altogether in favour of the library. This was largely because the people who gravitated towards Hagizawa’s desk usually wound up crowding into his space, and Kei saw no point in defending it.
But when class was in session and everyone was in their seats, Kei couldn’t help watching the boy in front of him. Hagizawa stood out easily, with his height and broad shoulders. He also had spiked, bleached hair and a stud in one ear, which the teachers let him get away with because he had good grades and a charming smile. It was the same smile that had enchanted and then broken plenty of hearts. Hagizawa Ryoji was easygoing and always good for some fun, but he was also supposed to be something of a player, the rumours having followed him out of junior high.
But Hagizawa also never skipped class or forgot to do his assignments, and Kei would stare at the other boy’s back, envying Hagizawa everything that he wasn’t. Most of all he watched Hagizawa’s hands, whenever he could see them. Hagizawa’s fingers were playful and loose, and never idle in class; tapping along the edges of his desk, flicking at papers or twirling his pen. Kei would stare down at this own pale, skinny ones, gripped tightly around his pencil, and wonder what it was like to not be small, quiet and dull.
And slowly, without noticing it at first, he fell in love with Hagizawa’s hands.
Picking up the pen was Kei’s first mistake. It fell off Hagizawa’s desk, bouncing and rolling on the classroom tiles to rest against one leg of his table, and he stooped to retrieve it before he realised what he was doing.
He lifted his head reluctantly. Hagizawa had turned halfway around, and there was a slightly puzzled expression on his face. Unclenching his fingers, Kei offered the other boy the pen on an open palm. Hagizawa reached for it, murmuring something that Kei hardly heard. His attention was caught by the long, firm fingers that hovered over his own, and he had a fleeting, curious thought about what his own small hand would look like in it.
But the implication was quickly lost before he had a true grasp on it, for Hagizawa’s fingers had suddenly gone still. Frowning slightly, Kei looked up again, and the crease between his eyes deepened at the strange, contemplative look on Hagizawa’s face. He held out his hand a little further away from him, and suddenly the distance between them wasn’t big enough.
“Your pen,” he said shortly. It was the first time he spoke to Hagizawa.
The fingers brushed his palm experimentally, and Kei couldn’t stop frowning.
“Thanks.” Hagizawa’s grin was sly. It was the first time he smiled at Kei.
The next morning when the bell rang, Kei slid the novel into his desk and retrieved his textbooks for the first lesson of the day. He turned his head slightly to the door, waiting for their homeroom teacher to make an appearance, and out of the corner of his eye he vaguely watched the crowd around Hagizawa’s desk slowly disperse with small talk and some laughter.
Kei stiffened in surprise, head swinging back to find Hagizawa grinning at him. The other boy had turned in his seat. One arm rested casually against the edge of Kei’s desk, and Kei frowned. It was wrong, that the distance could be bridged so easily.
“Can I borrow a pen? I left some of my things at home.”
Kei blinked behind his glasses, but the smile on Hagizawa’s face didn’t waver. Kei was slightly appalled – for Hagizawa, A-student, to forget to bring his school things was unthinkable.
But he rummaged about in his pencilbox anyway, and picked out a pen, a new one that he had yet to use. He held it out, again on an open palm, and realised it was a strange way to do so when Hagizawa’s fingers again brushed at his hand, expectant and teasing like his smile.
“Thanks. I’ll return it to you at the end of the day.”
It happened many times again after that. In between classes Hagizawa would turn around to talk to him about random things like the popular fast food place that Kei never visited or the latest movie that Kei didn’t watch. It never lasted for more than a few minutes before the next teacher showed up, and though the strangeness of the situation bemused Kei, he didn’t really mind so much. But it became more difficult to not care when the people around Hagizawa started to take notice. Bit by bit they started to crowd around him as well, trapping him into stammering excuses before he could finally flee for the safety of the library.
But he was discovering that not even this could remain unchanged forever. He had always found comfort here before, at the small desk tucked away towards the far end of the geography section where only the faintest of noises could reach him. But now his hands were on the table, curled into fists on both sides of his exercise book. It lay open to the right page, but he wasn’t seeing the words. Kei stared instead at the pencil that rested in the groove between the pages, recalling the pen he had lent to Hagizawa for the nth time that morning.
A dropped pen was no real reason for Hagizawa to suddenly start talking to someone like him, so far removed from the laughter and confidence of the people around the other boy. And it couldn’t be for assignments or tests, not when Hagizawa was already ranked ninth in their entire grade.
The other boy had to be doing it for fun. That was it, Kei thought darkly, frowning when he recalled the funny half-smile on the other boy’s face as he watched Kei fend for himself against everyone else. Hagizawa and his stupid plays.
A hand passed across his eyes, startling him out of his brooding, and when Kei lifted his head, his thoughts promptly scattered.
Oh no. Not right now.
Hagizawa leaned casually back against the table as he winked at Kei. “Yo.” He ignored Kei’s stupefied silence to look around, and whistled softly. “Nice setup you’ve got here. I bet no one ever comes this far back.”
Stupid, stupid Hagizawa. Maybe it was some strange, new form of bullying, Kei thought vaguely. He had had his fair share of it when he was younger, but nothing as bizarre as this. He straightened in his chair, and tensed when the slight movement called Hagizawa’s attention back to him.
“Did you want something?” he asked warily.
Hagizawa shrugged and grinned. “Not really, just wondered where you went off to during breaks. I had a hell of a time looking for you. I checked outside first, but no one I asked had seen you.” He tapped one finger against his lower lip thoughtfully. It was an unaffected, absent-minded gesture, but Kei was drawn helplessly to it, and a pit of dread slowly uncurled in his stomach.
“I was about to go up to the roof too, then I started thinking.” Hagizawa shifted, and Kei snapped his eyes back up. The knowing look on the other boy’s face made him want to cringe in humiliation, but Hagizawa’s tone was idle as he continued to talk.
“So yeah, that’s where people normally go, but you – ” Kei resisted the urge to shy away as Hagizawa bent down closer, lips slightly curled into a smirk, “– don’t do things normally, do you?”
Suddenly his secluded study corner was painfully exposed. That was what Hagizawa did, Kei thought. The other boy twisted the things and people around him until he became the eye of activity. It was fanciful but it was true, and he had just made Kei’s sanctuary into something uncomfortable, when Kei needed the familiarity, when things in class were becoming very unreal to him.
“Are you saying I’m not normal?” he said, and was half-confused by the strange gleam his defensive reply had sparked in Hagizawa’s gaze. Kei dropped his eyes nervously, only to stare at the one hand that Hagizawa had splayed on his table. It wasn’t fair, he thought in some frustration, he had never seen Hagizawa in the library before. To show up now –
For the second time, Kei’s thoughts crashed into each other. He didn’t think Hagizawa ever came to the library, but today – today Hagizawa had been looking for him.
Suddenly the dread was a tight, heavy weight in his chest, but Kei didn’t have time to think about it. The hand on the table had moved into what little personal space was left to him. He squeezed his eyes shut, and forced himself not to flinch when fingers skimmed across his forehead before trailing down his cheek to tilt his chin up.
“You’ll get lines from all that scowling.” Hagizawa’s voice was a low, amused laugh drawing close and closer. “Don’t you get tired of it?”
Kei swallowed, could feel his throat working against the hand under his chin as he opened his mouth to defend himself, but the words never came when he felt the soft brush of lips against his own. He remained very still, and the lips pressed more firmly, demanding a response.
Stupid, stupid Hagizawa and his plays, Kei thought desperately.
And stupid him, for not daring to open his eyes, and for kissing Hagizawa back.
Things didn’t change in class. Hagizawa still turned around in his seat, everyone else still tried to corner him into conversation, and Kei still fled during recess.
But his small library corner was never the same. He still brought his books with him, but he no longer read them. It wasn’t so much that his concentration was lost as it was that it had shifted focus.
Because that was what Hagizawa did. He had overwhelmed the place and made it his own, even on the days when he didn’t come. And because Kei always left the class first, he never knew whether or not Hagizawa would show up, with his easy lips and deft fingers. Kei hated that he continued to wait each time, that somehow he had relinquished all control to the other boy. He hated it but he waited, with a stifling, anticipatory ache in his chest that only eased when hands cradled his head for a better angle or closed around his waist to draw him close. Never was he as grateful as then for the tall, dusty bookshelves that kept the rest of the library out and the helpless, frantic noises in.
Today Hagizawa had not come, and the bell for the end of the lunch break would sound soon. Kei slapped the reference book shut, disgusted with the lack of progress in his report and resigned to the fact that it was really only at home now that he got any work done.
He traced the lettering across the book’s cover, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.
Everything that had happened since that first kiss almost a month and a half ago only happened here in this small corner of the library. They didn’t see each other outside school, they didn’t talk over the phone. Hagizawa never asked him, so neither did Kei, but the need to keep it from everyone else was instinctive anyway, and desperately so. The students, the teachers, his parents – it almost made him sick with fear thinking about what would happen if they were caught out.
His lip curled self-derisively as he collected the rest of his things together and padded out of his corner. There were many things wrong with it, but a deep, alien part of him wanted more of Hagizawa’s low urging and his large hands. And if it could only be here, where he had all of the other boy’s attention, then he would settle for that.
He picked his way through the bookshelves on soft feet, listening idly to the sounds of the library emptying out in anticipation of the bell. Snatches of conversation drifted through the shelves as he walked along their length until he found the right spot, and bent to slide the reference book back in place.
“…wait for him near the bike shed. You know, that area round the back near the fence.”
A small gasp. “That’s a hotspot! The teachers always check there.”
“Not after all the clubs have gone home.” A short laugh. “And Hagizawa won’t care anyway, if they get caught.”
Kei stiffened, crouched down by the lower shelves.
A huff of annoyance. “It sounds just like him. I heard he was already quite the player in junior high.”
“Hypocrite. As if you don’t wish you were Riza yourself.”
“Huh, Hagizawa will move on soon enough. It’s been what, two weeks now?”
“Almost three. And he doesn’t even come all the time, even though she waits for him everyday.”
“But what’s a few missed days compared to every other time that you can fool around with Hagizawa Ryoji? And Riza knew what she was doing anyway when she was making all those passes at him. Any girl with an eye for Hagizawa knows he does it only for fun.”
“So it’s true? I heard he’ll go out with any girl who asks him…”
Another laugh. “As long as everyone gets what they want. Why don’t you try for yourself and see…?”
Mixed footsteps carried the voices away, and Kei remembered the bell. It would go off soon, and it was about time he started making his way back to class.
But he didn’t move, resting heavily on his knees and fingers still on the spine of the reference book he had just put back. They trembled slightly as he stared at them, and he jerked them away, suddenly despising their weakness.
He knew he should have expected it. The rumours were nothing short of the truth: Hagizawa was a player. He didn’t pretend to be anything less, which was partly why he was so popular.
The school bell finally rang, and Kei jolted violently at the sound, his class things clattering to the floor. He stared at them a moment, before picking them up mechanically and rising to his feet.
The girls were right. Anyone who wanted to start something with Hagizawa knew that it wouldn’t last. Everyone knew it was only for fun.
But knowing and wishing were two different things, after all.
Each time it got more and more difficult to try and be quiet. Because there was nothing careful about the way Hagizawa kissed and bit him, or the way the other boy tugged impatiently at his shirt. There was nothing gentle about the way Hagizawa pushed him up against one wall, or pulled them hip to hip until Kei could feel the heat through their uniforms, moving so close and so hard that Kei had to clamp down on the other boy’s shoulder to muffle his harsh breathing.
It was as far as they ever went, and as far as Kei was willing to go, secluded though the library corner was. But he saw it sometimes in Hagizawa’s face, faint exasperation and frustration before it was smoothed over by the other boy’s easy, familiar smile.
It made Kei desperate, and he knew that the other boy would tire of the novelty soon enough and slip back to that original distance where Kei would never reach him again. Because it had been the same for all the other people that Hagizawa had touched.
And yet, and yet…
Hagizawa bore into him, harder and harder, and Kei jerked against the wall, wanting the same friction. But even as his body moved to Hagizawa’s pace, some part of his mind was listening again to what he had heard in the library the week before, and wondered distantly about the many ways that Hagizawa could touch Riza differently.
Teeth bit into his neck, and Kei curled into the sensation. Hagizawa was moving faster now, chest heaving with the effort, and suddenly Kei didn’t want it, not so soon. Squirming under the other boy’s weight, he worked a hand in the space between their bodies, frantic fingers searching for and finding the waistband of Hagizawa’s pants. And then, not giving himself time to think, he gulped in a breath and slipped his hand inside.
The body above him froze and Hagizawa snapped his head up, eyes wide with stunned disbelief. Kei had never seen the expression on the other boy’s face before, and it gave him the courage to lean up, brushing his lips lightly against one cheek. “I want skin,” he whispered shakily. “Please.”
And it was different, so different when there was no cloth between them, nothing but hard skin and sweat and musk. Hagizawa’s face had flared with an almost manic glee that Kei would always remember as together they fumbled for belts and zippers, shoving pants and boxers down. They rocked against each other with a new kind of urgency, and Kei would always wonder at the strength in Hagizawa’s hands as they savoured the new contact, one holding his trembling body up almost off the floor, the other wrapped hot and heavy around their lengths.
And even as climax finally overwhelmed them, and Kei shuddered almost violently against Hagizawa, some part of him was already collecting the memories and carefully putting them away.
As long as everyone gets what they want.
Not me, he thought with some regret, not really.
Hagizawa was slumped against him, panting softly against his ear, and Kei dared to reach up and stroke lightly at one cheek. The other boy moved away a little, turning to give Kei’s fingers a quick kiss before he grinned, satisfied and smug, and the expression suddenly made Kei ache.
Was this what Riza saw?
“Thank you,” he whispered, without quite knowing why. Hagizawa’s grin grew wider before he ducked his head to actually lick the tip of Kei’s nose. “No,” he breathed. “Thank you.” And even as the husky whisper made Kei shiver with the promise and contemplation of something more than what they had just done, something inside him broke.
He wanted it for himself, he realised, had realised for a long time now. It wasn’t enough, this hiding in the library. Kei wanted to touch Hagizawa outside school too, without the secrecy or pretence. But the other boy could never give him that.
The telltale burn in his eyes made him turn his head away, and he tried to wriggle his way out from beneath the other boy. He tensed abruptly when their groins brushed together again, and Hagizawa’s short laugh was surprised and hoarse. “Hey, not so fast.”
“Please,” Kei said softly. “Someone might come.” But his voice wasn’t as steady as he’d hoped, and Kei felt the slight pause in Hagizawa’s body. He squirmed a little fiercer, wanting nothing more than to flee right then, and Hagizawa groaned a curse under his breath when Kei rubbed up against him again.
“Watch it! What the hell?” Hands snagged his shoulders firmly, and Kei knew that he was truly caught. “Nothing,” he said thickly. “Just – we can’t get caught.”
“And we won’t. We haven’t yet.”
Kei shook his head wordlessly, reluctant to say anything else for the tears in his throat. He hung in Hagizawa’s grip, fearful of the silence around them. And then –
“Did you hate it?”
Kei jerked his head up before he realised what he was doing. “No!” he blurted out, briefly registering the startled look on Hagizawa’s face before he quickly dropped his face again in shame.
“Then why are you crying?”
No, Kei thought desperately, and Hagizawa growled in some shock as Kei suddenly flailed anew in his grip, anxiety charging his limbs. He couldn’t tell Hagizawa, couldn’t give the other boy more control than he already had over Kei.
But Hagizawa pulled him against his chest then, holding him so tightly there was no hope of escape. And Kei might have yet been able to resist it, until he felt the hand on his back, running soothingly up his spine to knead gently at the back of his neck. It reminded him how he had first fallen in love with Hagizawa’s hands, and he collapsed abruptly against the other boy with a defeated air.
Hagizawa slowly backed up until he hit the wall, and he dropped to the floor, pulling Kei down with him. They sat unmoving like that for a long moment, before Hagizawa asked him again.
“Why are you crying?”
Eyes still closed, Kei drew in a shuddering breath. “Because I didn’t hate it,” he whispered hopelessly.
The fingers on his neck paused, before they started moving again at a slower pace. And then –
“Are you in love with me?”
Kei’s sob was almost a laugh. “You can’t love me back.”
And this was it, Kei thought. He had given Hagizawa as much as he’d dared in this small space. And Hagizawa could take it all away with him, and never look back.
“…I could, you know.”
For one heartbreaking moment, Kei thought he had said the words aloud, and his gut churned with sick despair. But Hagizawa had not yet let him go, and there was an unfamiliar uncertainty in the other boy’s voice that made Kei pause in the midst of his muddled feelings.
Hagizawa shifted uneasily when Kei took too long to answer. Tightening his arms around the smaller boy, he drew Kei a little further up his chest to touch his lips to one ear.
“I could love you back.”
Kei held very still, before he gasped in shock. “But Riza – ” he blurted, then bit down hard on his tongue. “No, sorry, I didn’t – ”
“I’ll stop.” Guilt and discomfort were things Kei had never seen on Hagizawa’s face before, and he was almost fascinated by it. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted this.”
Kei swallowed, unable yet to quite believe what was happening. “Are you, now?” He watched Hagizawa’s face, almost afraid to try and guess at what the other boy was thinking. He didn’t realise he had fisted his hands in the front of Hagizawa’s uniform, until two hands enveloped his own, prying them open and curling their fingers together.
Kei stared at his smaller, skinnier hands cradled in Hagizawa’s larger, darker ones. And he smiled then, knowing Hagizawa’s answer even before the other boy mouthed it against his skin.