Plait
by Ruebert


He isn't much of one for nostalgia, but every once in a while, when they are lying together on a hotel mattress, sweat and semen and saliva staining the sheets beneath them, still coming down from gasping completion, he asks Choutarou if he has heard anything from them recently.

He doesn't bother to keep up on old teammates, though some might expect him to; Choutarou is all he has ever really needed to keep from his time at Hyoutei, and he always accepts the soft scolding which precedes the reply to his question.

"I gave you the list of numbers. You should at least call Atobe-san ... he asked about you." Amusement and annoyance thread together in that voice, and he shrugs simply, leans over to kiss lips that he has so recently ravaged and that have ravaged his. It has been too long again, but that is life; he has thirty-seven papers to grade over the weekend.

They do not see each other so often, between work and school -- he is a teacher now, just as his father was, and sometimes he finds that fact amusing, but more often he runs his fingers over his father's tie in the morning before slipping its silken noose around his neck -- and family. The frequency of these small meetings has diminished even further recently, now that the baby has been born, and Choutarou is not as easily able to find a night free from his new paternal duties.

"He never changes. Is his business doing well?" Atobe is the one they speak most about, but he knows that Choutarou speaks to the others, sometimes. He does not feel a need to; when he feels curious about old friends and acquaintances, he needs only to ask the one lying beside him. He has long since ceased running in that circle, gave that interaction up when the silken noose became his own, when he first began each morning with burned incense, uneaten rice, and soft-spoken words that are never answered aloud.

He listens to Choutarou's words continue on, and he smiles when talk of Atobe's latest franchise operation instead moves on to Mukahi's telephone shop (they are not the only ones to carry on with the family business; Choutarou, too, has his name on a polished engraved plate on a heavy oak door somewhere, but he has never seen it). He smoothes platinum hair beneath his fingers as the words drone onward, taking pleasure in simple contact and not really paying attention to what is being said; it is simply an excuse to hear that voice all around him.

"He smiled at me this morning," Choutarou says, suddenly, and the abruptness of the silence after that statement causes him to drop from his reverie, focus his attention on the man laying beside him, on warm velvet skin brushing against his hip, on the imprint of a thumb left on the inside of his wrist.

"Wakashi?" He asks, and the shy nod he receives makes him chuckle; of course Choutarou would eventually mention him. "He'll be talking before you know it," he says, and he rolls his eyes, but he is secure in the knowledge that his sarcasm is taken for the gentle joke it is meant to convey.

He receives a stilted smile in return for his jibe; Choutarou looks away, distracted, and he twists to see what it is that has drawn that attention away from him. Reaching over, he removes the silken snake from Choutarou's limp hands as though it is poison (choking him, slipknot). A reminder, a faint sense of deja vu that makes him blink.

"Do you remember?" He asks, and then Choutarou looks up at him, smiles vaguely. Of course he remembers; he remembers for both of them. "There was a boy ... back in junior high." But Choutarou doesn't ever speak of him, and his name is never on the list of numbers, so he thinks that he must be one of the ones that his friend has lost contact with. But he can't be sure (the years blur with the haze of morning incense), so he continues onward. "Hiyoshi ... Hiyoshi ... something. What was his name?"

Choutarou's smile is fragile like glass, but he doesn't see it, dark eyes captured by fingers twisting, twisting a plain gold band around and around and around again, a worn pattern between two knuckles.

"I don't remember."




The End

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