Chapter 11: Both For You (3)
Kei didn’t hear from Ushio since that day—he was probably on his trip right now. Kei replayed the last part of their fight in his head over and over again, and each time he worked himself back into a frenzy. But because it would be a deep humiliation to Kei to have someone notice his distress, he exerted extra effort to play up his charm while helping Tatsuki with his shopping. He took the initiative to recommend items for Tatsuki to try on and gave him advice on what worked and what didn’t work—all because Kei wanted it over and done with as soon as possible. In the end, they were able to quickly look through the department stores and pick out a new suit, dress shirts, and some ties for Tatsuki.
“Thank you very much for your help. You seriously saved me.”
“There were many nice items that suited you. I’m also glad that I was able to help.”
The hollow words of praise left a bitter aftertaste in Kei’s mouth. It felt as terrible as the time when he accidentally used his face wash to brush his teeth instead of toothpaste.
“Kunieda-san, let’s have lunch together somewhere. I’d like to thank you for helping me, so it’ll be my treat.”
“Thank you, but all the restaurants are crowded at this time of day. I prefer to eat at the cafeteria.”
I already attract enough attention as it is. I don’t want to get held up even more by taking you and your loud motormouth along.
“I suppose you’re right,” Tatsuki said, giving up surprisingly easily. They headed outside towards the direction of the train station. As they were crossing over a pedestrian bridge, a voice called out in front of them.
Dammit, is that a viewer? I should have offered to pay for a taxi.
However, Tatsuki responded to the lady with a surprising “Oh, hello, it’s been a while.” She looked like a regular middle-aged lady, not someone from the TV news industry. Maybe she was a relative or a friend’s mother that he knew?
“I haven’t seen you around here lately.”
“Yeah, I’ve been crazy busy since I got on the show.”
“I watch it every night. It’s amazing that you’re on the same show as Asou-san! Oh, would this person here be Kunieda-san?”
It irritated Kei to be treated as an afterthought, but he smiled politely and said, “Hello.”
“That’s right! He’s helped me out a ton at work!”
“But that’s part of your charm, Minagawa-kun. People just naturally want to help you, wherever you are.”
“Oh, you think so? I happy to hear that!”
Is there no concept of humility in that brain of yours?
“Take care of yourself! Good luck!” The woman lightly patted Tatsuki on the shoulder and went on her way.
Kei asked, “Is she someone you know?” He didn’t particularly care, but it was the natural course of action in this particular situation.
“Nope, I don’t know her at all.”
“Well, it’s more like… um, she’s someone who talked to me when I used come here all the time.”
“You used to come here?”
What did you do, sell postcards with stupid inspirational messages on them? Busk on the street, singing ridiculous songs?
“Over here.” Tatsuki waved at Kei from next to the railing of the pedestrian bridge. They could see a large intersection with pedestrians crossing below them.
“I used to stand here using the people below for play-by-play practice. For example, when the light turns green, we’re off to the races. The man in the black leather jacket is in the lead, oh, he was able to slip past the group of middle-aged businessmen… Kinda like that. But I was always standing there looking down and mumbling to myself, so the lady came up to me worried that I might try to commit suicide.”
“So…” Kei was taken aback, and his voice showed some hesitance. “…You’ve been practicing this a lot?”
“Yeah, I kinda became an announcer by a fluke, but I thought hard about what I wanted to do. I like sports pretty well, and so I decided that while I was at it, I should try to become an announcer who can do play-by-plays.” Tatsuki leaned his head over the railing and smiled almost nostalgically at the crowd of people below him. “Whenever I had free time, I would come here. And on the weekends, I’d be at the horse races, the baseball stadium, the soccer stadium—anywhere I could go, I’d practice my play-by-plays, then I’d go home and compare what I did to the games playing on the TV or the radio. I think it was back in July when I got the news that I’d finally make my debut as a play-by-play announcer in the fall. I was really excited. But then for some reason I was switched over to The News. I really didn’t want to accept the job at first, and I told them that it didn’t make sense to put me there. The manager said that it was a great promotion and an amazing opportunity for me, but I didn’t see it that way.”
Kei recalled Shitara mentioning that Tatsuki had grumbled over taking the job. So this was the reason.
Tatsuki brought his hand up to his nose and whispered, “Smells like metal.” He had been holding on to the rusted part of the hand railing.
What are you, a child? Heh, did I even need to ask?
Tatsuki was the 180° opposite of Kei; Tatsuki wore his heart on his sleeve for everyone to see.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“But it’s okay now, I think things turned out for the best. I really enjoy my job, and I get to learn a lot of things. Plus we got to know each other better, Kuneida-san.”
Uh, no, we didn’t.
“As long as you’re enjoying yourself, that’s what’s important.” Kei responded only to the part that didn’t have to do with himself, but now he had mixed feelings about how he had handled his anger towards Tatsuki.
Kei wished that Tatsuki could have stayed the stupidly clever but loud idiot that he thought he was. He didn’t want to know anymore about him beyond that.
—You never know, he could be desperately putting in a lot of work behind the scenes when he’s not at work. There are sides to people that you don’t always see.
It was just as Ushio had said.
“Kunieda-san, let’s get going.”
“Oh, you’re right. Sorry, I was a little preoccupied.”
“By the way, during my interview, I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
Kei saw Tatsuki looking serious for the first time outside of his TV broadcasts. The friendliness of his puppy-like, round eyes transformed when he frowned, looking unexpectedly determined and fearless.
“I really got a big shock the moment I entered the room. It wasn’t like I had never seen any celebrities, but you really had this overwhelming presence about you. Like it was your job for people to watch you and you knew how to manipulate it. It was amazing to me.”
“You really think too highly of me.”
Kei tried to dismiss Tatsuki’s words with the line that he normally used to diffuse over-exaggerated praise, but Tatsuki honed in on Kei’s averted gaze like a well-trained bloodhound. It was why Kei always felt uncomfortable around Tatsuki, like he could never let his guard down.
“…Are you okay?”
“Just that you don’t seem like yourself today, like you’re pushing yourself too hard. Well, but I guess you kinda had no choice but to come along with me today.”
“…Oh, I’m fine.”
I’m putting 120% into this smile, why isn’t it working?
Being unable to produce the effect that he wanted with his image was a fatal blow to Kei. He decided to blame it all on Ushio. Everything is all your fault, he complained to himself, but in the end, he mustered all of his grace and said, “Thank you for your concern.”
When they returned to the announcer department, they were swarmed by a number of people asking if Tatsuki was able spend his clothing allowance.
What is he made out of, honey? And you’re all Winnie the Pooh? It’s not like you’re the elderly living out in the countryside, starved for news and excitement. Why does everyone keep flocking to him?
“Yup, I got a lot of nice clothes!”
“Oh, I wanna see!”
“I’m getting the lengths adjusted, but I should be able to pick everything up tomorrow.”
“If you were going to buy a suit, you should have taken me along. You didn’t need to bother Kunieda-kun with it.”
That’s right, dammit.
Kei casually slipped away from the area, but his ears perked up at the next part of the conversation.
“No way, you were just complaining how jealous your boyfriend can get. I don’t want to get stabbed for spending time out together with you, you know.”
Jealous? Now that sounds familiar. Spending time out together…
—Even though you’ve never once gone outside to spend time with me.
Kei almost let out a gasp in realization, and he rushed to let himself out into the emergency stairway. Those were Ushio’s parting words from their fight. Kei wasn’t thinking straight at the time; he was more incensed about the exchange they had earlier in the fight, but now that he thought about it, it was probably jealousy talking.
Kei didn’t think that they had never once gone out together, but after mobilizing his outstanding memory and putting it to work, he really couldn’t find a single instance in the 6 months that they had been together. During the week, the most he could do was head over late, sleep, then go back home. On the weekends, they… mostly slept some more. But Ushio hadn’t complained, and Kei never realized that he had been unhappy about it.
Why didn’t he say something? I don’t want to go out dressed as Kunieda Kei, but I would have been fine going out to a neighborhood izakaya. I’m not a complete monster.
That’s right, I’m not a monster, that’s why it bothered me. I thought that he never had a problem telling me things bluntly to my face, but he refused to say anything until it burst out of him like that. Was he doing it out of consideration for me and how exhausted I get from putting on an act all the time? Have I been making him feel like he needs to hold himself back for me?
However, despite his serious concerns about Ushio, he felt a levity overcome him from the sweetness of the word “jealousy” that faded everything into the background. His bad mood and distress were completely swept away. If he didn’t struggle to suppress it, a smile would threaten to break out onto his face.
He’s jealous. Because of me. He got all upset because of a little jealousy. Such an idiot. If he’d said something, I would have compromised and met him halfway. Ahhh, I’m trying to stop from grinning.
Kei rubbed his cheeks like they were made of clay and did everything he could to shape his face back to the normal Kunieda Kei. It would be a long day, but he had something to look forward to at the end of it.
When Kei stepped back out into the hallway, he ran into Tatsuki.
“Ah!” Tatsuki exclaimed while peering at Kei’s face, nearly making Kei freeze up in fear that he hadn’t been able to fix his expression. “I’m glad you’re looking better than you did earlier.”
Dammit, just what the hell are you?
Kei let himself into Ushio’s empty house. He was looking forward to his revenge. He was in such high spirits that he didn’t feel the chill in the house at all. The bed was unmade with the covers strewn about like the owner had left in a rush, and the T-shirt that had been used for sleeping was left in a wrinkled heap. It was deep into fall with early winter approaching, and yet Ushio still insisted on wearing short sleeves—at night he would bother Kei and snuggle up against him for warmth…
No, no, I can’t get distracted now!
Kei got into the bed and rolled on top of the clothes. Then he called Ushio’s cell phone. He didn’t care about the time difference, he would let it ring until Ushio picked up.
Ushio’s voice didn’t hold any trace of hesitation.
Such an idiot.
Kei smugly retorted, “If you’re going to get jealous, do it in a cuter way.”
How’s that? How do you like getting teased by having your own words thrown back at you? Now what will you do? Play dumb? Get angry and deny it? Maybe something out of character like get embarrassed? …Dammit, but I can’t see his reaction over the phone.
However, Kei only heard a flat “I see” from the other end of the phone. “So you finally figured it out. How dense can you be?”
“And you rushed to tell me proudly over the phone too… You’re such an idiot. I knew that, but you’re really an idiot.”
Kei’s plan to humiliate Ushio somehow got turned on its head, and now he was dumbstruck instead.
Uh, I should have had the upper hand here, so how did I get turned around?
“But I guess I’ll forgive you since you actually took the initiative to call me.”
“What!?” Kei’s mind blanked out as blood rushed to his head in an instant, his voice shaking with anger. “You gotta be kidding me! I don’t need your forgiveness! I was just—”
“I know, I know. Once you realized that I was jealous because of you, you were so happy that you needed to call and tell me about it.”
In his anguish, Kei rolled from one end of the bed to the other and resolved to hang up and end the call. He was about to remove the phone from his ear, but with impeccable timing, he heard Ushio say, “Don’t hang up.”
“You probably have hidden cameras set up, don’t you!?”
“Huh? Oh, are you at my house? I forgot about the ham in my fridge. Throw it out for me, ‘kay?”
“What do I care!?”
“Come on, calm down and let’s talk.”
“Cell phone charges.”
“I’ll pay, I’ll pay.”
The tone of Ushio’s voice made it obvious that he understood that Kei didn’t really care about the cell phone charges. Kei felt like he could clearly imagine Ushio’s smile, flirting and teasing, right in front of his eyes. He really hated to admit it, but it made him sad and lonely without that smile directed at him. It was a little mortifying.
“How have you been doing?” Ushio asked.
“It’s only been two days.”
“Then have you missed me?”
“Hey, did you hear a single word that I said?”
“But I missed you.”
Easy for you to say. Even though you calmly left on a trip that wasn’t strictly for work. When it’s just the two of us, the world comes to a standstill, but I know that you have lots of people around you who support you. I once thought that I didn’t need anyone by my side, but now I have you. And now that I need you by my side, you better feel that burden and take responsibility for it, stupid.
But Ushio probably didn’t take it seriously, so that was why he could say something like that.
“You’re lying,” Kei said.
“I’m not lying.”
It irritated Kei that he felt relieved by the sense of helplessness in Ushio’s words.
“Are you still sulking?” Ushio asked.
“I’m not sulking.”
“Then how about we make it up to each other?”
“What the hell does that even mean?”
“What are you wearing right now?”
He was wearing what he normally wore in private. Ushio knew that. Although Kei had a couple of sets that he rotated between washes, he only wore generic sweatshirts and sweatpants around the house. There was no need to even ask.
“What am I wearing? The usual.”
“Then don’t ask!”
“Don’t get mad… Fine, then where are you?”
“Your house, you already knew that! Are you suffering from jet lag? I’ll let you go then.”
“Don’t go,” Ushio said, but there was no forcefulness in his tone. There was a quiet “God, you’re dense” that followed, and Kei didn’t fail to hear it.
“Are you upstairs? On my bed? Most likely.”
“Ugh, come on—”
Kei was about to say, Quit asking me stupid questions that you already know the answers to, but he was interrupted by an odd command.
Kei looked around the bed and even tried putting his hand up against the wall. Did Ushio plant a surprise in the room somewhere? But nothing happened. He tried touching the floor and the bed frame, same result. Kei wondered if he’d said something that he shouldn’t have said and Ushio was just saying something get back at him. He got a little upset and grumbled, “Touch what?” but Ushio just sighed at him.
“…You’re really dense.”
“And you keep saying things that don’t make sense!”
“I’m telling you to touch something that I would touch if I was right there next to you.”
Kei finally got it. “Making up to each other” over the phone.
“—Stupid!!” Kei felt all of the blood in his body concentrate in the back of his head. He almost worried that the LCD screen next to ear would melt.
“Why are you so stupid!?”
“You already called me that once.”
“Stupid! You’re really stupid! Ugh, you’re such a pervert!”
“Why’s that?” Ushio responded calmly. “If I had wanted to do it over the phone even though we were together, it might be a little perverted, but given that we’re physically separated right now, it’s perfectly normal.”
It had been said so shamelessly that Kei nearly uttered, You might be right, but he shook himself from the smoke and mirrors.
“No, it’s not! Anyway, you’re at someone else’s home…”
“I’m the only one upstairs right now. I’ll be fine, I don’t moan as loud as you.”
“I don’t moan that loud!”
And who’s fault is it, huh? My face and my voice are my livelihood, and yet when I have work the next day, you never let up and never hold back… Shit, shit, shit.
Stop thinking about it.
“Hey…” Ushio’s tone was easygoing, but Kei knew that Ushio was putting it on to take advantage of his weakness. “If you really don’t want to, you can just hang up. I can’t push you down over the phone after all.”
Ushio was right. Kei wondered why he didn’t just hang up. Even when it was pointed out to him, Kei couldn’t move the hand that was clutching his cell phone. He could only breathe, watching his breath fog over the screen of the phone, the dull, milky-white color clouding his brain. He wondered with amazement at how his breath could cross the entire ocean, arriving right up against Ushio’s ear. It was truly a marvel.
“Touch yourself.” This time the tone of Ushio’s voice was completely different.
Kei realized that the confused tone in his voice sounded stupid, but it seemed to make Ushio happy to hear it. He replied, “Anywhere,” and it sounded like he was smiling as he said it. “Wherever you want to be touched or wherever you think I’d touch you.”
“I don’t know.”
“What? Do you want me to spell everything out explicitly for you?” Ushio breathed low and husky. “You dirty little thing.” His voice was filled with a sticky sweetness usually reserved for the bedroom. Kei found his tongue and his head creeping to a halt, sticking into place like he had been drenched with molasses.
Ushio said, “I get embarrassed too, you know.”
Kei never heard anything more shameless.
“Not as much of one as you.”
Ushio’s breathing vibrated over invisible threads of electromagnetic waves. Kei put the call on speakerphone and placed his cell phone on the pillow in front of him while he lay down on the bed facing the wall. His right hand slipped into his sweatpants, tentatively brushing himself lightly over his underwear. It was hotter there than he had realized.
“Are you touching yourself?” Ushio’s voice dealt him another blow, further inciting him.
“You want to do this… so I’m only doing it… because of you… Ngh… I don’t like this… at all…”
“That’s right.” It was only at times like these that Ushio ever gave in and agreed with Kei so easily. “It’s all my fault. I’m the only one who’ll hear you, so relax and enjoy yourself.”
It was like he was being pushed into the temptation. Or actually, maybe it was like he was being lured into it. In any case, Ushio’s whispers seduced him, and Kei moved his fingers directly over his cock, reacting to the man that he imagined was next to him.
Kei realized that it had been a long time since he had pleasured himself. Now that his body was regularly exploited by a certain someone, he never felt the need to seek any further release. It was strange to miss the feeling of his own hand. Even though it had been a long time; still, he knew where all of his sensitive spots were.
“Where are you touching yourself?”
“I’m not telling…”
“Alright then, let me hear more of your voice.”
“What do you mean ‘Alright then?’” Kei was proceeding with his usual route with his usual timing to reach his goal, but he could barely make out his own voice. “Don’t order me around.”
Kei could imagine Ushio tilting his head to one side in thought. It wasn’t like Kei wanted to continue this, but if Ushio were to answer, Then nevermind, he was going to blow a gasket. But the voice that purred back at him dropped so low and so rough, Kei felt like he was hallucinating the feeling of a cat’s tongue lapping over his eardrums.
Kei should have been used to hearing his name during sex, but it sounded different over the phone, like a man other than Ushio was the one calling his name.
“Take yourself in your hand and slowly stroke it. Don’t use your pinkie or your ring finger.”
“Just do it.”
“…I don’t wanna.”
“You’re lying again. Use just the three fingers to stroke yourself, and when you get hard, focus your fingers on the tip. You like it, don’t you?”
“I said I don’t wanna—”
“I know you like it when you’re squeezed right at the tip and I use my thumb to play with the slit there. You can’t stop moaning, and you leak all over yourself.”
Kei didn’t want to hear this. But no matter how hard he shook his head, his hand didn’t stop the stream of filthy words spilling over the device.
“…Kei.” He was overcome by the poisonous sensuality in Ushio’s voice. “Do it. I want to touch myself to the sound of your voice moaning at how good you feel.”
Along with the slight waver in Ushio’s voice, there were the sounds of clinking in the background. He was probably removing his belt. At the thought of Ushio lying down to touch himself too, arousal coursed through Kei’s body like a flame that had found an oxygen source.
“Yes, just like that. I knew you could do it.”
Kei followed Ushio’s instructions, stroking his cock to fullness while he vividly imagined the ghost of Ushio’s touch, the length of Ushio’s fingers, running up and down his shaft. Kei could feel the stark disparity between his own hand and Ushio’s doing it this way.
“Mmhhh… Mmm, ahh…”
“Make sure you pace yourself. You’re always so greedy, wanting to come as soon as you possibly can.”
“That’s because… it’s all your fault… Ngh…”
“It’s not,” Ushio breathed, tinged with half a smile and half arousal. “It’s because your face, your voice, and your body are all so lewd that I can’t help but want to do all sorts of things to you.”
In between his insults, Kei never let his hand slack, faithfully following the movements of Ushio’s caresses that had been engraved onto his body. Fluid from the tip of his cock dripped all over his length, soaking it in a smooth, slippery pleasure. Kei didn’t have to look to know that the transparent fluid slowly took on a milky, cloudy quality as it ran between his fingers.
“No, ahhh, ahhh…”
“I’m really impressed by the cell phones these days. I can even hear the sounds of your fingers all wet as they move.”
“Do you want to touch your nipples?”
It was phrased as a question instead of an order. Probably because Ushio knew that Kei would obediently follow any kind of suggestion that he would make at this point.
Kei winced at the weight of his blood-swollen cock as he asked, “Hch…unh…?”
“Which… one…?” The ear that was pressed against the pillow throbbed with heat.
“Fuck…” Ushio laughed with a hateful levity. “I came a little just now. You’re really too cute… Either one is fine, whichever you like.”
Kei reached under his shirt to find a perky little bud, surprising him at how quickly it became hard. Pleasure spread out in all directions like paint drops dripping onto the surface of water.
“Which one are you touching?”
“The left one.”
“Oh, do you like that one better? I didn’t know that. I’ll remember it from now on.”
It was simply that his left hand was free, but rather than explaining the reason, Kei was too busy indulging himself as he teased and played with his swollen nipple.
“How is it?”
“Ah, it got hard…ngh…”
“How nice, I wish I could touch it too.”
The tiny (but unmistakable) little nub evoked an arousal that surged towards his abdomen, making the hand that was rubbing his cock work even harder.
“Aahhh, nhhh, ahhhh—”
“Kei, does it feel good?”
“It feels good, mnnh…”
“Do you want to touch yourself in the back?”
“No, I don’t wanna.”
“I don’t like it unless you’re the one touching me there…”
“…Fuck, you almost made me come again.”
Kei definitely heard Ushio’s breath hitch for a moment, and so he didn’t think he was lying.
“Ah, ah, I can’t… anymore… nghh…”
Precome leaked from his cock, thick and viscous, at an almost alarming rate, and it sent shocks of pleasure that traveled up through his back. Ushio’s old wrinkled T-shirt was right in front of Kei’s eyes, and he buried his face into it. It smelled like Ushio’s scent.
“Do you want to come together?”
“Rub yourself as much as you want.”
“Ahhh! Ah! Ah! Ushio—!”
Kei chased his lust as he rubbed circles with the pads of his fingers, a desperate friction assailing his cock and his nipple. The only sounds that echoed in his ear were the racing of his heart and the heated panting breaths that escaped from Ushio’s throat.
Kei curled in on himself as his body convulsed, soiling his hand and his underwear with the proof of his arousal.
“Did you come?”
As Kei’s breathing re-adjusted to normal and he came back to his senses, it took everything that Kei could muster to issue a brusque “I should hang up.”
“Let’s do it again sometime.”
“Like hell I will! Text me if you need to talk! Don’t you dare disappear on me!”
Kei had said his piece, and without waiting for a response, he ended the call. He rinsed himself off in the shower, and when he came back, he found a text message from Ushio.
It read, “What color is your underwear?”
“Ugh, drop dead!” Kei shouted as he threw his cell phone into a pillow.