Notes From a Love Story
Sometimes, when he didn’t immediately dismiss the feeling, Akutsu worried about Dan. Dan’s small size, his still boyish looks, and his overly trusting nature advertised for perverts to kidnap and molest him. Their neighborhood wasn’t the best, either, and if Akutsu hadn’t been more dangerous than the rest of them, Dan would be in serious trouble. Dan also took idiotic risks, like visiting the red light district or hardcore bars with his university friends. “Adventures,” Dan called his trips. Stupidity was more like it and Akutsu made it a point to tell Dan, repeatedly, that he wouldn’t attend Dan’s funeral.
These occasional bouts of worry normally didn’t bother Akutsu. He chalked it up to bad food, had a beer, and forgot about it. With Dan littering up his life and the constant “desu”s in his ear, irritation quickly scratched away the feeling, anyway.
That was, until recently, when Akutsu started worrying if Dan was happy.
Akutsu didn’t know when it began, or why. Being concerned about Dan’s – or anyone else’s – feelings wasn’t something Akutsu did. Akutsu cared about one person: himself. Dan’s physical well-being had a direct effect on Akutsu; Dan belonged to Akutsu and no one messed with his stuff. By forced insertion and a refusal to listen, Dan had become a constant in Akutsu’s life. Akutsu was used to Dan being underfoot like he was used to the train passing by the window all hours of the day.
Maybe that was what the problem was. Akutsu ashed his cigarette in the ashtray sitting on the arm of the ratty green couch as the windowpanes rattled from the 5:10 express. Waning sunlight filtered through the filmy white curtains put up by Dan’s mother, which were now stained yellow from Akutsu’s cigarettes. Akutsu tossed the mail he wasn’t really looking through onto the low black table in front of the couch and slumped further on the seat. The apartment was too quiet, even with the television on. He hadn’t been able to sleep and had given up after two hours of tossing and turning in the bedroom.
Akutsu’s change of shift at the packing plant coupled with Dan’s new semester schedule meant Akutsu hadn’t seen or heard Dan in close to a month. Dan was gone from seven in the morning until ten at night, with his classes, tennis, and library studying. Akutsu left the apartment at 8:30 p.m. and got home at 8:00 a.m., working third shift. Akutsu had one day off a week, Saturday nights, but Dan went back to his parents’ house every weekend, an agreement for allowing him to go to school in another prefecture.
At first, Akutsu didn’t mind the lack of Dan-noise because it meant he could sleep in peace during the day. After three weeks, however, it was as if the train had stopped running. The silence in the apartment was stifling. Akutsu didn’t like it. Dan, with his never-ending need to share every detail of his day with Akutsu, was probably going nuts from lack of contact. Maybe he was even unhappy because of it, and that answered part of Akutsu’s question.
Akutsu wasn’t going to do anything about it, though. He couldn’t be bothered to request a shift change and Dan would have to put up with it since Akutsu paid for everything in the apartment, including the food, so Dan didn’t have to work while going to university.
Thinking about food made Akutsu hungry. Akutsu pushed off the couch and went into the kitchenette to fix a snack. In the fridge, he found the leftover miso soup he’d made the night before and a quarter-loaf of bread. Akutsu was the cook in the household because he didn’t trust Dan not to set something on fire while he was too busy talking.
Akutsu frowned as he punched the numbers on the microwave to heat the soup. Was Dan eating? He hadn’t mentioned needing money for food, but Akutsu hadn’t been called to identify a body that had died of starvation, so Dan had to be eating something. Eating what, Akutsu didn’t know, nor did he care, but he knew that Dan’s parents did and if he didn’t want an irate Dan-san to show up at the apartment and disturb his sleep, he’d better find out. Grabbing one of Dan’s school notebooks from the desk by the window, Akutsu scribbled a note on a blank page, left it on the small kitchenette table, and took his food with him as he went back to bed.
Akutsu found the notebook on one of the twin beds in the bedroom when he returned from work the next morning. It was smart of Dan to put it there; Akutsu would’ve forgotten about it otherwise. Unbuttoning his dull brown work shirt with one hand, Akutsu tilted the notebook towards the bed table lamp and read Dan’s tight and tidily penned response. He could hear the “desu”s interspersed throughout the note, even if they weren’t written.
course I eat (desu)! I have cereal
for breakfast, something from the university cafeteria for lunch, and we usually
stop for meatbuns or ramen for dinner after club.
They’re not as tasty as your meals (desu), but at least I get to use my
allowance for something, since you won’t let me contribute to the apartment
“That money is for school and tennis, brat,” Akutsu muttered.
But I won’t
turn down a bento if you make it (desu)! -Taichi
“Heh. Yeah, right.” Akutsu tossed the notebook on the bed, pulled off his shirt, and threw it into the corner with the rest of his laundry. The pile was getting high. A glance to Dan’s side of the room showed his laundry bag nearly overflowing. Akutsu supposed he’d better make a trip to the Laundromat.
And if he ended up stopping at the market on the way home, it was only because he had a taste for shrimp.
Akutsu skirted around the police tape blocking his path and went into the apartment building. He and Dan lived on the fourth floor overlooking the train that passed between the buildings. Akutsu still couldn’t believe that Dan had wanted to get his own apartment in this area of town when he’d started university. Dan had naïvely believed the affordability was due to luck, not that thugs, druggies, and prostitutes inhabited most of the complex. Akutsu had had no choice but to protect Dan from his own stupidity by moving in with him.
After unlocking the three deadbolts on the door, Akutsu entered the apartment and checked to make sure Dan wasn’t lying dead on the floor. He was relieved to find no body and he wouldn’t have to put up with the hassle of being mistakenly arrested.
He did find the notebook, however, lying on his bed. Dan’s bright and cheerful self radiated from the words on the page.
you! The bento was delicious (desu)!
My classmates were jealous that they had to eat cafeteria food.
Tatsuya joked that he was going to move in with us after he had a bite of
Akutsu scowled. He’d made the bento to ensure Dan wasn’t wasting his money, not to feed Dan’s friends.
starting pre-season practice meets this week.
I hope I get to play (desu). I’ve
been practicing hard. Chihara-buchou
has paired me with a doubles partner the past two weeks and I think we play well
together. I’ve been holding the
line because Katou is a net player. He’s
really good, too (desu)! I think
it’s because of his height. He’s
even taller than you! It’s hard to
get the ball past him. Sometimes, I
don’t get to do anything an entire set! Isn’t
that amazing (desu)?
It didn’t sound amazing to Akutsu. Chihara-buchou was insulting Dan by pairing him with this asshole Katou. Obviously, Katou was a singles player and that’s how Chihara-buchou expected him to play, relegating Dan to nothing more than a required body.
the way, have you seen my new roll of grip tape?
I think I’m going to need it (desu).
The grip tape was where Akutsu had left it, hidden with the large carving knife after wrapping the handle. He fetched it and tossed it on Dan’s bed before jotting a semi-scathing note in reply to Dan and heading to the shower.
would not do that (desu)! And
Katou’s not that type of person (desu)! I
trust that Chihara-buchou knows what he is doing pairing us as doubles partners.
Thank you for ma king another bento!
king another bento!
“Stop being so damned trusting.” Akutsu dropped the notebook on the bed and unbuttoned his work shirt. Dan was going to get hurt again thinking everyone was like him and Akutsu was tired of repeating “I told you so.”
Yawning, Akutsu wandered barefoot into the kitchenette after he’d changed to throw together some dinner and make another bento for Dan for tomorrow. Akutsu had worked a double shift plus and he was ready to crash. He hated working doubles, but the extra money was nice. If he worked a few more shifts, he might be able to afford internet installation and then Dan could study at home even if Akutsu was sleeping. That would make Dan happy.
The phone rang, making Akutsu still abruptly. People didn’t call the apartment. Dan had a cell phone and only Akutsu’s mother and Dan’s parents had the apartment’s phone number, and they knew better than to call unless it was an emergency. Setting the knife on the counter, Akutsu wiped his hands on a towel with deliberate unhurriedness before answering the phone.
It was Kawamura. “Did I wake you? Dan-kun said you might be asleep.”
The tense knot in Akutsu’s gut unraveled and he lit a cigarette. “I was up. How did you get this number?”
“Dan-kun gave it to me. He was just here with some of his friends.”
Akutsu’s brow furrowed. “He was there? What the fuck was he doing down there?”
“Uh… eating sushi?” Kawamura’s voice livened. “Did you know I’m a full partner now at the restaurant? Dad’s even changed the name of it, to include me in the title.”
“Hn.” Akutsu tuned out Kawamura as he fetched the notebook and penned an irritated note to Dan. If Dan had time to go running around eating in restaurants out of town rather than coming home, he could make his own damned bentos.
Akutsu almost didn’t read the note left from Dan, but the notebook was in the way of his going to sleep after working another double shift and being petty was stupid.
had a practice meet with T University, that’s why we were there, but I would
rather have gone to Kawamura-senpai’s with you (desu)!
Maybe we can go if you visit Yuuki-chan one weekend.
You should visit her, anyway (desu).
You haven’t seen her since I started university.
Akutsu was perfectly fine with not having seen his mother. She couldn’t nag him that way.
guess what? We won the practice
match! It was a close match, too, (desu).
Aoki-senpai on the other team was able to hit past Katou and I had to
work hard to win. Chihara-buchou was
impressed with my playing. He said
he’d try me out in a singles spot next practice meet, isn’t that amazing (desu)?
“Heh. Good for you, Taichi.” Akutsu knew Dan was a better player than being relegated to stand-in. At least Chihara-buchou had gotten his head out of his ass to see that.
put a copy of the practice meet schedule on my desk.
The regular meet schedule won’t be decided until next month.
Can we go to
Yuuki kept smiling at him like he was a cute puppy and it was annoying Akutsu to no end. He’d leave, except he was hungry and she was making western spaghetti, which would be his favorite meal of hers if he had anything stupid like favorites.
It was all Dan’s fault, his being at Yuuki’s. Dan had said they should go to Kawamura’s and then the rotten kid didn’t go to his parents’ this weekend because of a practice meet. Why should Akutsu have to look at the meet schedule? Dan shouldn’t say he wanted to do something if he wasn’t going to be there to do it.
“He wants to go to
“Maybe he just wants to spend time with you,” Yuuki said, giving him another one of those smiles.
“Then he should stay the fuck at home once in a while.” Akutsu glared at her. “And stop smiling at me.”
Yuuki’s smile only grew, but thankfully she turned her back to Akutsu to stir the spaghetti sauce in the pot. “Taichi-kun is being respectful of you. It must be difficult on you both, working third shift.”
“Tch. It’s fine. You do what you got to, to pay the bills.”
Yuuki wheeled around and there was a sudden sheen of moisture in her eyes that freaked Akutsu out. And then she rushed over and hugged him! “Get off me!” Akutsu exclaimed, trying to lean away from her in his seat. He was surrounded by the smell of laundry detergent and garlic and mom.
“Listen to you, speaking like a grown up,” Yuuki sniffed into his hair. “You’ve become a man when I wasn’t looking.”
“Will you let go?” Akutsu tugged at her arm, but not too hard. He’d seen too many bruises on her growing up to cause them himself.
“Oh, Jin,” Yuuki said affectionately and squeezed him a bit tighter. “I’m so proud of you.”
“You’re cracked, woman,” Akutsu grumbled.
He blamed the strange warmth that bloomed inside him on hunger.
Akutsu tossed the paperwork on the desk for Dan to file away with whatever system he used to keep the important papers safe. He couldn’t believe he was now a contributing member of the Employee Pension Insurance Plan. He’d never thought much about the future, and saw no reason to, but here he was making sure he and Dan had money to live off when they were old men.
Akutsu lit a cigarette, stared out the window at the birds perching on the empty train tracks, and tried to accept the fact that he was a responsible adult. It was pretty disgusting. No wonder Yuuki got all weepy when he’d visited a couple of weekends back. He was going soft.
Akutsu blew smoke at his sneering reflection in the windowpane. He needed to do something about this newfound responsibility crap – like getting rip-roaring drunk at 8:30 in the morning.
He went to get his first of many beers out of the fridge and had a short moment of questioning whether he was in the right apartment or not. The fridge normally had food in it, but not this many bags and containers, especially since Dan had been at his parents’ during Golden Week. Akutsu couldn’t even see the beer.
Akutsu closed the refrigerator door and sought out the notebook. Dan had been due back last night and would hopefully have an explanation. He did.
sent a lot of food home with me. I
think she thinks that you don’t feed me anymore (desu)!
I told her that you make bentos for me every day, even though you work
double shifts all the time and sometimes more hours than that.
She got a funny look on her face then and cooked and packed all this food
says if I’m too much of a burden for you, I should transfer and move back in
with them. I’m not too much of a
burden, am I? –Taichi
Akutsu’s fist curled as a wave of anger washed over him. Who the fuck did Dan-san think he was? Akutsu could take care of Dan and himself just fine. He didn’t need some stuffed up parent telling him what he could and couldn’t do.
Stalking into the living room, Akutsu snatched a pen off the desk and wrote Dan an incensed reply. Then he got drunk as planned, because he was a fucking adult and if he wanted to get drunk, it wasn’t anyone else’s fucking business.
Working at a packing plant and having a hangover were two things that shouldn’t be done together. Akutsu stumbled blearily through the door of the apartment and headed right for the bathroom’s medicine cabinet. His pounding headache hadn’t subsided over the ten hour shift and his only reprieve was that he was able to get out of working a double.
After taking the aspirin, Akutsu stripped and climbed into the shower. The hot water cascading over him helped relieve some of the aching. He was man enough to admit getting drunk like that when he had to work had been really stupid, but it was his choice to drink and it would be his choice not to do it again. No one told him what to do.
The idea of eating still made him nauseous, but more coffee was a must. He put on a pot before going into the bedroom to get dressed. The notebook was on his bed in its usual spot and Akutsu’s mood darkened. He pulled on a pair of shorts, draped the damp towel around his neck, and looked to see what Dan had to say.
don’t think that Dad is that flexible. Besides,
he’s only concerned about us (desu).
No, Dan-san was being an interfering jackass. And he’d never liked Akutsu, but that wasn’t surprising and Akutsu didn’t care.
I’m glad you don’t want me to leave. I
don’t want to leave, either (desu). I
like my school, my friends, and my tennis club teammates.
And anyway, I belong with you. –Taichi
Akutsu’s stomach flipped.
Akutsu’s back popped as he twisted and stretched, walking into the bedroom. His work at the packing plant included a lot of bending and lifting, so he was still in relatively good shape. He wanted to keep it that way. Dan would be prey if Akutsu got fat and sloppy like some of his coworkers.
Akutsu slipped into a change of clothes and tied a bandana around his head. He’d gotten a portion of the apartment cleaned yesterday before he’d crashed. He and Dan had made a pact to clean the apartment on the 20th of every month a few months after they’d first moved in, when they found they weren’t the only two living there any longer. Although hearing Dan’s cursing had provided much amusement, Akutsu hated rats and so he cleaned. Yuuki would probably get mushy on him again if she knew it.
Dan’s note waited for him first, though, and Akutsu snagged the notebook from the bed and read it.
spoke with the computer person and they’ll be here on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.
– is that okay (desu)? They said
I’ll have to leave my laptop at home for them to set it up.
If they need a password, use TaichiJin407 (desu).
put money under your pillow to help pay for this.
Don’t give it back! If
I’m going to use it for school, it’s my responsibility, too (desu).
“Taichi,” Akutsu sighed, annoyed, and took the money
from beneath the pillow. Dan had
left way too much, which wasn’t a surprise.
Ever since Dan-san had made a stupid comment about being a burden, Dan
had been leaving money for Akutsu instead of banking it like he was supposed to
do. Akutsu pulled up the loose
floorboard between the beds and added the money to the
Replacing the floorboard, Akutsu found a pen, scratched a response to Dan, and went to tackle cleaning the living room.
With the internet installed at the apartment, Akutsu expected to see Dan in the living room when he got up for work. But a week had gone by and still no Dan. Why the hell had he bothered to set it up if Dan wasn’t going to come the fuck home? Dan’s last note said he was in a study group, but what kind of study group met every night?
Rain beat against the windowpane and the lack of sunlight shrouded the living room with gloom. Akutsu exhaled his cigarette smoke with irritation and flipped though the channels on the television. He was too pissed off to sleep. He was going to take the money Dan had been leaving and pay himself back for the cost of the internet, and fuck Dan’s happiness.
Shit, what if that was the problem? Akutsu crushed the smoked-down cigarette in the ashtray and lit another. Maybe Dan wasn’t happy being at home, except to sleep. Maybe Dan had found happiness elsewhere and that’s why he was gone all the time. Maybe he had a girlfriend—
No, if he had a girlfriend, Akutsu would know about it. Dan wouldn’t be able to keep news like that to himself. Akutsu didn’t understand why Dan didn’t have a girl yet, but he didn’t. In fact, he’d never had one. Not that Akutsu could talk, but that was by choice; girls were annoying and clingy and not good for anything but a fuck – and Akutsu hadn’t sought one out in longer than he could remember, so they weren’t even that good.
So, no girlfriend for either of them, but Akutsu couldn’t think of another motivation behind Dan’s happiness or lack thereof. Then why didn’t Dan come home?
Akutsu caught himself worrying, scowled at the television, and stabbed at the channel changer more viciously. Why the hell did he care? Dan could do whatever the hell he wanted, and Akutsu had never liked Dan being in his space constantly, anyway. Akutsu was only there because the stupid kid would get himself raped and killed if left on his own. Akutsu couldn’t be assed to move, either, after being in the same apartment for more than two years. If Dan had a problem, Akutsu didn’t give a fuck.
The rain kicked up and hammered at the window more loudly. Akutsu turned up the volume of the television to drown it out.
first regular match is on Thursday at the university.
I’m playing singles two. It
starts at 4:00, if you want to come (desu).
Akutsu tossed the notebook on Dan’s bed unanswered. He wasn’t about to give up on his sleep to go to a dumbass tennis game.
Akutsu thumbed through the
Hiding the envelope again, Akutsu replaced the floorboard, scrubbed a tired hand over his face, and picked up the notebook to see what Dan had to say for himself this time.
I didn’t see
you at the game, but that’s okay. Sleep
is more important (desu).
Akutsu couldn’t believe Dan actually expected him to show up. Then again, it was Dan, the eternal optimist.
won my match (desu), six games to five! Chihara-buchou
says my serve needs work, but if I keep playing that well, he’ll use me in
singles two again. I’m very happy
“Way to go, Taichi,” Akutsu said, surprised. Pride wasn’t something he felt for others, but it bubbled inside him upon reading Dan’s win. A small part of him was also relieved to see verification that Dan wasn’t unhappy – he squashed it immediately.
have a big exam today. Hopefully my
study group will have paid off (desu). Wish
me luck! -Taichi
Akutsu didn’t do guilt, and writing a response had nothing to do with not believing in Dan’s study group.
He made sure to stick Dan’s tennis schedule in his wallet before he went to bed.
Akutsu pulled off his work boots and shook the rainwater from his hair by the door. He dripped into the kitchenette and deposited the plastic market bags into the sink. He was glad he’d tied the bags shut, or else his food would be swimming. He unloaded the groceries quickly, stopping to sneeze several times, and put the plastic bags into the recycling bin.
“Nn,” he grunted, peeling off his wet work uniform in the bathroom. He hung his clothes over the shower rod before climbing into the shower himself.
Finally warm, though still sneezing, Akutsu sought out dry clothes and a cigarette. He snatched the notebook off the bed on his way back out into the living room.
Akutsu chuckled at Dan’s eagerness.
have to borrow the camera from my dad so we can make lots of memories (desu)!
Are we going to take the train or a re we flying?
I’m so excited (desu)!
re we flying? I’m so excited (desu)!
A tiny sprig of Dan’s excitement rubbed off on Akutsu and he shoved it aside in favor of making coffee. Once it was percolating, Akutsu picked up the notebook again.
told me all the places we should visit and things we should do while we’re
there. She went with her boyfriend
and said she stayed at this really great onsen.
Maybe we can go there, too (desu)!
can’t wait! –Taichi
Akutsu was forced to burst Dan’s bubble by jotting down that they wouldn’t be going until August. Still, a smile twitched his lips. Once the coffee was done, he poured a cup and went over to the computer. Dan had left the laptop at home while he was gone to his parents’ over the weekend. Akutsu booted it up, took a seat at the desk, and did an internet search on “this really great onsen” of Hikaru’s.
He paused when he saw that the onsen was the kind exclusively for couples. He checked the name of the place in the notebook again just to be sure he was looking at the correct one. He was.
And he wondered why the hell Dan thought they had that type of relationship.
Akutsu stared blankly at the note in his hand. He decided he was too tired to deal with it, set it aside, and went to bed.
A clunking noise dragged Akutsu from sleep. Muzzy-headed, he turned on the pillow and froze when noise sounded again. His body tensed. Cracking his eyes open, he peered around the dim, windowless bedroom. A sliver of light shone through the partially open bedroom door. He spotted a shadowy figure moving between the beds – fuck, someone had broken in. That was a fatal mistake. Akutsu bunched his knees beneath him and, with a silent hup, launched himself from the bed at the intruder.
“Ah!” the intruder yelped as they crashed to the floor. Fighting back viciously, the intruder jabbed Akutsu in the eye and kneed him in the balls.
“Nng!” Akutsu grunted, mind spinning as pain shot through him. He tried to pin the squirming intruder before more damage was done. “Stop fucking moving.”
The intruder stopped abruptly. “Jin?”
“Taichi?” Akutsu drew back to his knees, biting the inside of his cheek at the ache in his balls. The shadow of Dan scrambled to his feet and the light switched on. Akutsu squeezed his eyelids shut at the sudden brightness.
“I’m sorry!” Dan squeaked, and Akutsu felt a touch to the side of his face. “I think I gave you a black eye.”
“Like you could, wimp.” Akutsu’s fingers closed over the ragged green headband around Dan’s wrist and, hoping his eyes had adjusted to the light, opened them – and received what felt like a sucker-punch to the gut.
It was the first time Akutsu had seen Dan since the beginning of April. Dan knelt in front of him, hair in disarray, looking at him with concern. His cheeks were flushed from the short fight. His lips were turned down in apology and worry. His warm hand was trapped against Akutsu’s cheek by Akutsu’s hold on his wrist.
And in that moment, Akutsu knew that Dan’s last note had been right.
“I should get you some ice, desu,” Dan said. He started to pull his hand away, but Akutsu held fast. Dan’s gaze turned questioning. “Jin?”
His name on Dan’s lips made Akutsu jerk and he let go of Dan’s wrist hastily. He shoved to his feet and made a beeline for his cigarettes. “I’ll be right back,” Dan said over his shoulder on his way out of the room.
Akutsu put a cigarette to his lips and had to flick the lighter several times before he could get a flame. “Shit,” he muttered, and not because of the lighter.
Akutsu dropped onto the bed, threw an arm over his eyes to block the light, and winced slightly at the pain around his right eye. At least it was good to know Dan wasn’t completely helpless when attacked.
“Here, desu.” Dan’s footsteps tapped on the wood floor and Akutsu moved his arm at the rattle of an ice bag by his head. Dan was leaning over him, a moue pursing his lips.
Akutsu had the inexplicable urge to pull Dan to him. It wouldn’t take much – a tug on Dan’s shirt would cause him to lose his balance and…
The cold of the ice made him curse and Dan wrung his hands. “Sorry!”
“Shut up.” Akutsu adjusted the ice bag and ignored his stupidly pounding heart. “What are you doing home?”
“Why wouldn’t I be home?”
“Because you haven’t been home in more than two months,” Akutsu grumbled.
Dan grinned broadly. “I missed you, too, desu.”
Akutsu scowled, even though it was the truth. He dropped his arm over his exposed eye to block out the light. “Go away, brat. I’ve got to get up for work in three hours.”
He felt a brief touch on his belly. “Sleep well.”
The light clicked off. Akutsu heard Dan’s footsteps leaving the room and the close of the bedroom door.
The feel of Dan’s hand on his stomach lingered behind.
When Akutsu woke up, Dan was still at home.
Akutsu’s insides did a ridiculous flip.
He stole Dan’s bowl of cereal, because he was obviously hungry.
“What are you doing?” he asked, looking over Dan’s shoulder.
“Biology,” Dan said. Books and papers were spread on the desk and the laptop was running.
“Hn.” Akutsu ate another scoop of cereal. “Do you want me to make you a real dinner?”
Dan’s smile lit up his whole face. “I’d love it, desu!”
Akutsu’s lips curved and he took the cereal with him as he went into the kitchenette. He set the coffee percolating, finished the cereal, and listened to Dan as he started telling Akutsu about his day.
There was no question that Dan was happy.
Akutsu would never admit it, but so was he.