Niou and Yagyuu from the age of seven through to some time in their twenties, and the developing relationship between them. Ten things Niou remembers (or nine things he remembers and one he can't q...
Niou first played tennis when he was seven, and bored, and had some excess energy to burn off during the summer holidays. A scrawny kid with uncombed black hair and an old, battered racquet, playing against the house wall first and then against other kids in the neighbourhood. He'd been one of those kids with permanently scraped knees and a large collection of bruises, because hard-to-climb trees were just a challenge and I bet you can't... always had to be disproved, and he'd only got more scraped up playing tennis - but that never bothered him. He wasn't too good, but he seemed to be having fun, so his mother bought him a better racquet and got him lessons.
It didn't have to be tennis, he's sure; if it'd been a basketball he'd found in the room where his dad dumped all the random junk he couldn't quite be bothered to get rid of, it'd probably have been all the same to him. But it was a tennis racquet. He's pretty happy with the way that turned out, overall.
"Dad? Show me how to play?" Masaharu stared hopefully at his father with the slightly worrying focus only certain small children can achieve. His dad didn't often have time to do anything with him, which he'd been told was because of work, which was keeping him really busy; but he was hopeful. If you looked desperately hopeful, people were less likely to say no to stuff. It hadn't taken him long to work out this basic fact.
"Where'd you find that?" his father asked absently, only looking up from the papers spread across his desk for a moment.
"In the spare room. Show me how to play." If the hopeful look wasn't going to work, maybe he could get what he wanted by being a pest. For /hours/. That was a pretty good tactic too.
His dad knew his tones of voice pretty well, though, and the next look he got was a resigned one. "You're not going to leave me alone until I agree, are you?" he asked.
Masaharu shook his head, grinning.
"He gets this from you," his dad called through to his mum, but the important thing was that he was getting more attention than the bits of paper for once.
The first time Niou met Yagyuu - or rather, the first time he really registered Yagyuu's presence - was right after that summer, on a school field trip to the zoo. Yagyuu had lost his temper with another boy, hit him, and stormed off to sulk in the corner where Niou happened to be lurking, trying to avoid the teacher's attention. Back then Yagyuu was already reserved but he hadn't learned to channel his temper, and Niou takes absolute delight in telling him how much of a scene he started that day. Yagyuu claims he doesn't remember and he would never do such a thing anyway. Niou firmly believes he's lying.
After that - Niou helping Yagyuu evade the boy he'd hit, and standing next to him while the teacher told them both off (Yagyuu for being violent and Niou for helping him hide and, he was fairly convinced, also just on general principle because she didn't like him much) - Niou noticed Yagyuu more, but they'd probably never have become very close if it wasn't for tennis giving them common ground to work on after that. Or maybe they would've. Speculation isn't very useful on this point, Niou has decided.
The zoo was actually kind of boring, Masaharu thought, because most of the animals were really obviously bored themselves, and that wasn't any fun. Making faces at the monkeys had kept him entertained for a bit, but nothing else was doing anything. So what he was mostly doing was watching the rest of his class, and deciding what kind of really bored zoo animal they'd be.
Sanada would be a gorilla, he'd just decided, when chaos broke loose in the form of Yagyuu losing his temper. Masaharu hadn't really caught most of what led up to the incident, but he was fairly entertained anyway, and when Yagyuu headed his way with other people thinking about following he grabbed Yagyuu by the arm and dragged him off, on the basis that this was the most interesting thing that'd happened so far today and it'd be a shame to let it end the moment the teacher looked around to see what the fuss was about.
"He said I was stuck up," Yagyuu told him when Masaharu asked what'd happened. Masaharu looked the other boy up and down. Yagyuu was... neat. Weirdly neat. Masaharu was never neat if he could avoid it, and his parents only even tried to put tidy clothes on him if they knew they could keep him trapped inside to avoid inexplicable grass and mud stains appearing on them. He didn't know about stuck up, though.
"You're alright," he said, shrugging, and Yagyuu sort-of smiled at him.
The teacher found them half an hour later, staring contemplatively at some hedgehogs that were curled up asleep in the corner of a wooden hutch.
"Ok, so I'm a hedgehog," Niou was saying. "But what're /you?/"
His first kiss was technically when he was eight, but probably doesn't count. He didn't really have much say in it, or much warning. He got cornered by a girl from his class in the playground and she ran away looking embarrassed and giggling after she kissed him. Girls, he decided, were another species, and really weird. He told his father as much, and got a laugh in response. "You'll understand when you're older."
He still doesn't really get girls, though. At least not like that. Some girls are pretty cool, but he tried kissing them some more when he was older and it never did too much for him. He worried about it for a while - the word gay and all the reactions people had to it - but he figures if he does what he likes in everything else why should he worry about being a bit off from people's expectations in this?
She'd been staring at him. Masaharu was kinda wary. Girls did things like using nails and hair-pulling if you annoyed them, and people didn't usually look at him much unless he had annoyed them.
"I like you," she said, which wasn't actually the sort of reaction he usually got from people, and then she kissed him, a little peck on the lips, and he he was still wondering what had just happened when she made it back to her group of friends and the giggling started.
Yukimura, who was about the only person apart from Yagyuu who actually talked to Masaharu most of the time in school, agreed that it was pretty odd. ("But they do odd things /all the time./")
Playing doubles with Yagyuu for the first time was fun. They were eleven, and Yagyuu had already evolved into the perfect little gentleman. ("But I know what you're really like," Niou told him, and Yagyuu never actually disagreed.) Niou was beginning to wonder if Yagyuu wasn't actually just as boring as most people thought he was, but then he stood next to him on the court and they /matched/, because Yagyuu was every bit as vicious as Niou could ever be even if he pretended to be nice, and he adapted to Niou and expected Niou to do the same for him.
Maybe it's that Yagyuu was a natural at doubles, or maybe it's that he and Niou just fit. Niou knows it's the former really, but he likes to pretend it's the latter. He doesn't allow himself many illusions about the world, but just the one can't hurt.
"You don't hold back," Masaharu said, after the first match they played together. He was impressed with Yagyuu's strength and ability, but...
"Should I?" Yagyuu asked, voice mild, but Masaharu could see the set of his mouth and a hint of something very interesting in his eyes, half-hidden by the glasses that covered them - it wasn't a mild expression.
"You think that I should give them a chance?" Yagyuu looked incredulous, as though this was the last thing he expected from Masaharu. Well, it probably was.
"Nah, nah. But they're not as careful if they don't think you're up to much at first."
"I see," Yagyuu said carefully, and looked thoughtful for a moment.
The next match was even more fun.
Niou bleached his hair for the first time on a dare. Niou has done a lot of things on dares in his life, although most of them he did before the age of twelve. It came out unevenly and his mother, after shouting at him for what felt like hours and threatening to just shave all his hair off, helped him do it properly.
Masaharu looked at his hair critically in the mirror, and ran his fingers through it, making it stick up at even weirder angles than normal. The texture of it felt a bit odd now, but it looked... interesting.
"I think I like it like this," he told his mum, grinning.
"I'm sure you do," she said, disapproving but not enough to actually tell him /no/. "If school will let you then I suppose..." there was a bit of a pause. "If I see your brother playing with bleach I really will shave your hair off."
He didn't doubt it for a moment.
The first time he kissed Yagyuu, just before they left high school, was something totally different from previous attempts at kissing anyone. Yagyuu wasn't soft and wasn't in the least bit girly, and though it was Niou who kissed him first, Yagyuu was the one who took control, made Niou feel light-headed and out of breath - which might've bugged him if Yagyuu hadn't looked like he was in just the same state when they broke apart. He'd taken off Yagyuu's glasses then, wanting to see his eyes, and the look in them had made him even more lost and he'd had to kiss Yagyuu again.
Yagyuu wasn't doing anything, wasn't responding or pushing him away, and Masaharu's first thought was that he should've tried this when he was drunk (even if he didn't drink all that often) so that at least if Yagyuu rejected him he could claim he'd only done it because of the alcohol and maybe they could get on with things and it wouldn't matter too much. Maybe. You don't even know if he swings this way, his mind put in helpfully. Just because he's never been out with a girl? That doesn't mean anything. And he was getting ready to pull away and act casual when he felt Yagyuu's hand come to rest on the back of his neck, and Yagyuu smiled against his lips. Masaharu's breath caught, and then he was being kissed and kissed, as though Yagyuu never wanted to stop. He definitely didn't want to stop. They drew apart for breath and to look at each other, and then they kissed some more, Yagyuu's glasses clutched tight in Masaharu's right hand (/You'll get fingerprints on the lenses, Niou,/ but did he look like he cared?) while his left hand grabbed at Yagyuu's shoulder as though that point of contact was all that held him up.
The first time they did more than kiss is, honestly, pretty firmly etched into Niou's memory. In Yagyuu's bedroom, work forgotten, lying together and kissing until Niou was about as horny as he'd ever been and couldn't think of a good reason not to reach between them and run one finger across Yagyuu's crotch - so he did, smug to discovering that Yagyuu was just as hard as him. The image of Yagyuu spread out on the bed, shirt pushed up and trousers undone, hand pressed to his own mouth to keep quiet as Niou touched him -- that's something Niou has no intention of forgetting.
"You're... ah! Masaharu, you..." Masaharu paused, giving Hiroshi a quizzical look.
"I didn't mean /stop/," Hiroshi gasped, reaching down to cover Masaharu's hand with his own; Masaharu felt obscurely pleased at having reduced Hiroshi to actual impatience.
"Quieter, then. Your sister might hear," Masaharu murmured, licking his way up the side of Hiroshi's neck and taking delight in the little gasp which that earned him, despite his words. "And I'm not giving her a sex ed talk if she starts asking questions."
"You try being quiet when you feel like this later," Hiroshi told him firmly, and it sounded like a promise to Masaharu.
And letting Yagyuu fuck him ("make love to him," probably, but it's all just words) for the first time is something Niou doesn't really know how to explain. It's not that it was the best sex ever - he's had far better since - but it was the most intimate thing he'd ever experienced, and Yagyuu looked at him with the kind of openness he craved so much, as though Niou was truly amazing. If anyone else looked at him like that he'd have thought they were deluding themselves, but it was Yagyuu, and Yagyuu knew him better than anyone by then.
That's one of the things Niou loves so much about Yagyuu; that he's seen all of Niou, the worst parts, and that he can love Niou anyway without trying to ignore or explain away the flaws.
"Are you certain, Masaharu? You're not obliged to do anything." Masaharu couldn't quite understand how Hiroshi could be so fucking patient at a moment like this, but that was Hiroshi - concerned and thoughtful, and for him it was even genuine. Some girls would kill for a guy like that. Sucked to be them.
"I'm certain," he told Hiroshi, wicked grin spreading on his face to cover nerves. "What, you don't want to?"
"I do," Hiroshi said, seriously, and then caught the spark of mischief in Masaharu's eyes and actually had to suppress a chuckle. "Masaharu. I just don't want to do anything to make you uncomfortable. You know that."
"I won't break," Masaharu pointed out. "Not made of glass. Get over here and have sex with me." ...which could've been more romantic, really, but Hiroshi understood that this was just how Masaharu was, and it took remarkably little time for Masaharu to find himself pressed down into the mattress with Hiroshi's familiar weight above him.
And when Hiroshi was inside him, a little later, and looking at him with that expression on his face, Masaharu didn't even feel nervous any more, couldn't; not when Hiroshi looked like that. Then they were moving together, awkwardly, but it felt... pretty good, actually, and he really wanted to kiss Hiroshi, to do something, because he needed to show how he felt without actually having to say it. Even if Hiroshi probably knew anyway.
He doesn't remember the exact first time he realised he was in love with Yagyuu, but it was at some stage while they were at university - probably. There wasn't a shocking moment of revelation, just a closeness that only increased over the years they knew each other until at some stage he realised that he wanted to spend lots of time with Yagyuu, look out for him; and that he wanted to kiss him and touch him and whatever else he could get away with. And if that didn't add up to love then what actually did? He wasn't totally sure if he liked the idea; it had bits of meaning he wasn't comfortable with, about being tied down to something, so he just ignored it and went on as before. He'd always cared for Yagyuu, and he wasn't going to let some stupid word alter that in any way.
He'd pretty much assumed that everyone who should know about his relationship with Hiroshi would just pick up on it. They'd never really sat down to talk about it with anyone; his mother knew (which meant his father knew) because she hadn't knocked on his door that one time, the summer before he and Hiroshi went to university. They hadn't been doing much but, given Masaharu's total lack of physical affection with anyone else, seeing her son with his arms around Hiroshi had been more than enough of a clue. But he didn't talk a lot with his parents by then.
"I hope you're being careful," his father said to him one day, driving him to tennis practice when he was running late. It was... awkward. "If it makes you happy, you know... we don't mind," he'd added, though he hadn't looked too impressed, really. And that was the closest to a Relationship Talk he'd had.
But really, Masaharu thought, the point was... the point was that he'd never had to define his relationship with Hiroshi for anyone. He'd never, ever put it into words, and that meant he hadn't had to decide what it was in his own mind. Which should've suited him fine, really.
For some reason, he just felt annoyed.
"Is something wrong?" Hiroshi asked, and Masaharu felt a fingers brushing lightly across his arm in the darkness. It was calming. "You're fidgeting."
Masaharu thought about it for a moment, but the only thing that was wrong was that he was thinking too damn much, really, so he shrugged and turned over, letting Hiroshi slide an arm around him and kiss him, unhurried and sleepy. Affectionate. The word loving hovered in his mind for a moment, and though he dismissed it, he couldn't help thinking that maybe it wasn't actually such a bad word.
He drifted into sleep with Hiroshi's hand resting on his hip and his face buried against Hiroshi's neck, and didn't worry about anything for a while.
The first time Niou dared to actually tell Yagyuu that he loved him was the day he finally realised that going to Yagyuu felt like going home and that actually, for all he'd always been afraid to be tied down, he didn't even mind.
He still doesn't say it easily or lightly, but the look on Yagyuu's face when he does makes it more than worth it.
The first expression on Hiroshi's face was disbelief - but only for a second, and Masaharu couldn't really blame him. It'd been... hell, it'd been four years since they first kissed, and it'd taken him until now to say those words. It wasn't surprising that his boyfriend never really expected to hear them.
Then Hiroshi smiled, possibly a bit smug (though he could've imagined that), and said, "I /know/, Masaharu," and let him come inside, and never asked him why he'd been gone for the last week, or where he'd been. He'd just taken Masaharu back into his life as though he'd never left, or maybe as though he understood why without having to ask. Which he probably did.
And Masaharu thought, yeah, I could live like this.