Summary: Yagyuu sucks at physical affection, but he'll work on it. Really he will.
Yagyuu Hiroshi was no stranger to the unspoken. Alliances and certainties had gone unlabeled, unsaid, understood for as long as he could recall. Some things simply were not discussed; their practices and methods known to all that employed them: Rikkai did not lose, all school subjects were of equal importance, and team bonds would last forever.
There were other unspoken rules, of course, that were harder to obey because they were undefined. His partnership with Niou, for example, could fluctuate on any day of the week due to external, immeasurable things. Even the tides, Yagyuu thought, could be better calculated and understood than the recent changes in their combination. They would always remain partners -- that much was certain, now more than ever -- but to what extent? When tennis had become blasé, when four years of university had passed and they had their degrees in hand, when they needed to move on with their lives ...
... certainly, they would still be there for each other, wouldn’t they? Their friendship may have been need-based initially, but it must have become something stronger -- it must have, for the two of them to still stick to one another despite all possible divergences in their paths. They'd cleave together, ultimately.
But Yagyuu didn't want that to be unspoken. It worried him, and it was worrisome that it worried him. With a sigh, he turned the shower off and reached for a towel, then stepped out into the university's locker room proper with it tied around his waist. He changed quickly -- more because of a desire to get home than because of modesty -- and was frustrated to find his glasses still foggy from the shower steam. He put them on anyway, and half-blindly navigated his way back to the door outside.
"Took your time," Niou chuckled, giving his hacky-sack a couple more kicks, heel, toe, bridge – a pass to Yagyuu. It wasn't as if the other had kept him waiting, but it was customary to jibe Yagyuu about pointless things, just like it was customary for them to walk home together after practice. Sometimes tradition was okay <3
Yagyuu caught the pass on the inside of his foot and kicked it up to his own hand, fingers curling around it like talons catching prey. "I was thinking," Yagyuu admitted. He knew Niou was in no rush -- neither of them was; it was just conversation.
Just words, and those were nice to hear, too. It felt normal, like the three years of high school that they didn't spend together had taken place in some alternate dimension, and things were now right again. Yagyuu didn't offer any clues as to what he might be thinking about, and it was not in Niou's script to ask. "Coming over tonight?"
"Mm~ if you'll have me <3" Niou winked, slinging his bag over one shoulder. (It was also customary to tease Yagyuu with sexual innuendo and not really mean it.) Of course he was. There was still uni tomorrow, so it was easier that way: all his textbooks were under some table or other, at Yagyuu's apartment. "What's cookin'?" He wanted to bleach his hair back, too, sometime soon. Maybe tonight, if Yagyuu didn't have a crapload of homework (again).
Yagyuu mentally went over the list of items in his cupboards at the apartment. There wasn't much. He might be able to devise some sort of poor man's stir-fry by blending the remaining elements from past meals ... "I have no concrete dinner plans," he said. "I am, however, open to suggestion."
Niou thought about that for a moment, before: "I'll get it later," he decided. Now that he was working (even if he wasn't getting money for it, for the time being), he could afford to. His parents'd poked him (only half joking) about paying some of the rent at 'Hiroshi-kun's apartment'. He wasn't going to do that, because it defied the concept of randomly crashing over, but hey. He felt like sushi anyway, so maybe he'd get Yagyuu some tokoroten for dessert too, while at it.
"Ah -- thank you," Yagyuu replied. That kindness on Niou's part was normal, too -- not because he expected anything in return; all their favours to one another were nulled by the simple fact of their company. What Niou did for Yagyuu was also done for himself, and vice-versa -- one did not pay oneself back for one's own dinner, and if one were to take into account all the favours granted over the years, surely they would come out even.
And yet Yagyuu never felt he was taken for granted. That Niou could stay with him was a given; that Niou would balance the favour was also understood. If he hadn't wanted Niou there, Niou would not be there. Certainly the opposite was also true; Yagyuu's apartment couldn't be chosen only for its proximity to university, no matter how much of an opportunist Niou could be.
So the silence settled between them comfortably, as the sun dipped towards the horizon and the few blocks between campus and Yagyuu's apartment grew fewer with their steps.
And now Niou was the one thinking: hands in his pockets, and Yagyuu still holding his hackey-sack. Yagyuu'd probably keep it and put it somewhere when Niou forgot to ask for it back, and it'd be gone 'til one of them found it in a random box or closet. Because that was just how things went.
But keeping his own mind company grew pointless, after a while. Before long, he headtilted a bit, watching Yagyuu's profile for a few dozen paces with minimal discretion.
"...what were you thinkin' about?"
What, indeed? It seemed too sentimental a series of thoughts to share with Niou, even though it was Niou, and Yagyuu needn't worry about whatever mocking might be done after his admission. About us, he nearly said -- the phrase was on the tip of his tongue, so clear in his mind that he half-expected Niou to pick it up through some kind of doubles players’ telepathy. "Our game," he said instead. Practice had been normal as it ever was; perhaps if Niou could read his mind after all it would be interpreted as code for what he really meant to say.
By some kind of imperceptible inflection, present or missing, Niou did recognise what Yagyuu left unsaid. He kept it that way though, for now: "Yeah?" came the return question with rhetoric ease, the silence following even more easily. Niou retreated back into thought for the time being. Well, if Yagyuu didn't want to say anything up front, that was fine for the moment.
The moment only lasted a couple of minutes. "'s there really much t' think about?"
"Mm." Was there, in the game or otherwise? Their game was easy, rhythmic, predictable in its unpredictability. Each of them could read the other as easily as he could read himself, and fill in the gaps in play. That was how it always worked -- both of them were perfectly capable of playing either role, now. Certainly the same must be true for life off the court as well. "I suppose not," Yagyuu replied.
But one thought still lingered, nagging, in the back of his head: Niou's erratic play style could just as easily be applied to his personal life as well, couldn't it? The intimate moments they'd shared hadn't really been addressed or repeated in the weeks since they'd occurred. Yagyuu wondered if Niou thought that he'd lost the memory of the kisses to alcohol -- certainly Niou himself hadn't forgotten, but Yagyuu wasn't about to bring it up.
"Where 'supposition' allows for contingent future uncertainty?" Niou chuckled. 'Possibly', 'maybe', 'probably' and 'I suppose' were just ways that normal people (who weren't Inui Sadaharu or Yanagi Renji) conceded surety like 30, 50, 80 and 97 percent. Though really, 'I suppose' held the implication of dependency upon the interlocutor's point of view. It was someone not fully convinced, allowing the opportunity for default acquiescence or easy disagreement.
Niou shrugged, and delivered more of the same: "If you're sure..." A larger gap than 'if you say so' would leave, meaning: I don't totally believe you either, but whatever. Let it slide if you like.
Yagyuu was mostly sure, but mostly wasn't fully, and his answer couldn't be positive. His second's pause was long enough for Niou to hear and understand the hesitation, and already Yagyuu cursed himself for not answering immediately, even though to do so would be false.
There is one thing, he thought, not loud enough or strong enough to pray that it would be received by Niou's brain (if he were listening). It was uncertainty enough. Yagyuu kept silent, though, until he'd turned the key in the door and removed his shoes, until he'd dropped his books and tennis gear in its usual location, until he'd seated himself comfortably. Talking would certainly alleviate the tension in his mind; not talking would only strain it.
He gestured for Niou to sit.
The old Trickster crossed his legs on the floor, shrugging off his satchel strap and leaning back on locked arms, conveying an image of full openness (as a blank sheet might). He watched Yagyuu with an air of calm expectation, cuing the other to begin when he was ready with a pointed lack of pressure.
Niou gave nothing away; his mastery of body language made sure of it. Yagyuu wasn't sure how to address his thoughts, though -- they could be too easily brushed off as inconsequential. He briefly flirted with the idea of acting rather than speaking: how surprised would Niou be to find himself embraced, locked beneath Yagyuu in another passionate kiss?
But that wouldn't do, not when the whole cause of Yagyuu's worry was his own uncertainty.
And yet -- would he risk the comfortable rhythm that they'd developed over the past months? Would he risk tainting it just to be sure of one small element? How could he even begin?
He removed his glasses, cleaned them on the edge of his shirt, and replaced them on his face. "At my housewarming," Yagyuu began, and knew that that wasn't quite the right word as soon as he'd said it, but continued anyway. "When you brought over that bottle of sake."
...okay?. Niou's brain ticked over. So what was the issue this time? It wasn't that Yagyuu thought Niou'd 'only been drunk' (– or had better not be. They'd gone through that already). "Yes?" he said simply, the uninflected question doing no more than confirming Yagyuu held his attention.
They'd discussed the event before, Yagyuu knew -- at some length, and indirectly; they had confirmed that it had been intentional. This, now, was less about one-time intention and more about what was to come. Yagyuu pushed his glasses up on his nose (new frames, courtesy of Taki's makeover, with featherweight lenses that let his eyes show) and cleared his throat, studied Niou for a sign, a clue, anything that might indicate how to proceed.
Very well; Yagyuu would have to carry on blindly. "Was that, ah, an avenue you wished to pursue?" The question sounded incomplete. "Ah ... more permanently?" Do you want to date me...?
Niou'd given the question little thought; he wasn't really one to properly 'date' – trust Yagyuu to need things defined like words in the dictionary – nevertheless, he paused for a handful of heartbeats and considered the concept. Was it? Did he? Well. The answer would depend entirely on Yagyuu, and what the Gentleman would require of a 'more permanent' arrangement.
"Yes," he said again, simply. But: That agreement would be on my terms <3 An elegant shrug of one shoulder, a slight shift, a slow smile; Niou released his body language lock, and sat up a little straighter, grinning. "It's your call whether I will." Tell me your own conditions. If they're too far from my own, there may be no deal.
Well, that now that that was made clearer, the ball was back in Yagyuu's court, so to speak. It would require more thought on his part, then, to define his needs -- to put a label on his sexuality. He wasn't inclined to decide so immediately, but ...
... but it was Niou. Yagyuu couldn't deny that he felt more at ease around his best friend, nor could he say that this 'ease' wasn't an attraction unlike any other that he'd yet experienced. "Well," Yagyuu said slowly, "pursuit would be a ... misnomer, I believe, as I'm, ah ... already here." They'd had each other all along, really.
"Mm, that you are," Niou said, vaguely amused. A cute sentiment. "But it's not you at the end of that avenue to chase, is it?" It's 'us'.
"Ah ... no," Yagyuu replied. "I'm walking it. What I mean is -- I suppose -- I believe I may be trying to determine whether you're walking with me, or just alongside me."
Well. "Give me your definitions," Niou replied, "and I'll give you my answer." 'My answer.' It would be one answer out of many – that didn't also have to be Yagyuu's answer, by necessity. They were walking in the same direction, with the same steady, measured paces. They'd end up at the same place. Just 'How' would be up to Yagyuu's mind.
"I wish to eradicate any uncertainty," Yagyuu began. That much he knew, and could easily vocalise. "I ... I, ah, want to know that you won't stray, that I need not suspect you of -- I want to be able to trust you, ah, in more ways that I already do, I mean." Yagyuu knew, already, that Niou had his back in any number of situations; the implicit trust of friendship and doubles partnership was already in place, but this would mean extending that trust just one step farther. "I won't presume to keep you from your extraneous affairs, of course, but I would like some ... differentiation between whether this is casual -- ah, friends with benefits, as it were, no matter how good of friends, ah -- or if your intent is, in fact, more, ah, exclusive."
Niou couldn't quite help a wry smile at the issue of 'extraneous affairs' – or Yagyuu's questions as a whole. There was no straightforward answer to give. The dating game had been about as much a part of his social life for the last few years as ice-cream with Kirihara. He had no intention to stop – and Yagyuu knew that – though neither did he intend to settle down. Any parties involved were always more than clear that it was casual; Niou had been accused of screwing up relationships by everyone from Bunta to boyfriends' uncles (and more) to care for anything else.
"What kinda diff would'j like?" he asked. Girls were girls; guys were different – as it was, he hadn't so much as looked at another sideways with any intention, since his inadvertent pseudo-hookup with Yagyuu. If the other needed to be told that, or wanted something else, then so be it.
"Your word will suffice," Yagyuu said. "I trust you enough to take it at face value." He looked over, then, and met Niou's eyes. "I just need to know where you stand, exactly -- if they're harmless fun, if you're looking for ... something, elsewhere; what it is your intentions are with, ah, with myself..."
"You have my word," Niou said – and my track record. He held Yagyuu's gaze with his own half-lidded eyes even, unflinching, unblinking without even having to try (there was no dishonesty, and no acting necessary); moving up to sit beside his partner, an arm on the other's shoulder, Niou leaned in until they were just shy of nose-to-nose. And grinned. "I'm not looking. Just waiting."
"Waiting?" Yagyuu echoed. He was too aware of Niou's arm across his back, of the proximity between them, and couldn't be sure whether his heart was beating from nerves or fear -- possibly a combination of both. He dropped his voice. "What's there to wait for?"
Niou didn't say the guy who thinks virginity's a big deal, but the thought was there with his lopsided smile. "You," he said. Far from mocking Yagyuu about that stance (past what was ordinary under the 'mocking yagyuu' banner at any rate), he understood their differences just as well as their similarities and had no problem with either set.
Things were going to happen differently – Yagyuu was different, and Niou was going to indulge that, however it happened, and prove it by his actions. For a start, he wasn't going to be insistent about sex or anything. Wasn't going to go further than Yagyuu did, or want for more than Yagyuu wanted at any given time...
In concept <3
His fingers curled in Yagyuu's shoulder, and he licked a little up the side of Yagyuu's neck, absently wondering how long it would last...
Yagyuu's eyes fluttered closed almost immediately upon the light contact. Niou's tongue was warm, his touch barely-there, and Yagyuu let him lick, tilting his head just so. It was a declaration of Niou's open invitation, after all; beyond that, Yagyuu didn't care to think.
He turned his head and brought a palm to Niou's face, searched his eyes -- Niou had started it, this time, therefore, Yagyuu could absolve himself of all blame. Readily, too easily, he pressed his lips to Niou's, squeezing his eyes shut and letting the kiss too quickly become something completely felt. There was nothing to wait for -- not anymore.
Niou let his fingers trail down Yagyuu's back, just under the hem of the new shirt he had on – indulging in Yagyuu's scent, and the feel of his hand – steady enough, though not quite confident. He chuckled, pulling an inch back from Yagyuu's lips with one eye closed. "Well, I'd say you could just take me now but... <3"
"But?" Yagyuu echoed. He could guess the reason -- all to do with himself, of course, and his own uncertainty, and nothing at all to do with Niou. He pre-empted himself, answering in Niou's place. "Ah ..." and it sounded more like a sound of pleasure than his usual stalling -- "just let me," he requested, then dipped his head to murmur against Niou's skin, close enough to feel a part of him, too close to even think of feeling his eyes, "let me take you as far as I can, at least."
"'s what I meant for..." Niou chuckled, trailing off again. He didn't really feel like talking much, today – which was better now that Yagyuu seemed to have gotten over whatever mental knot he'd worked up this time 'round...
Niou pressed his palms flat against the small of the other's back, pulling them a little closer, quietly enjoying the warmth of Yagyuu's breath on his skin. Whatever Yagyuu wanted, however he wanted, was the name of this game <3 The rules were set and the players knew it now.
Of course -- now that that was settled -- Yagyuu latched his lips to Niou's neck again, tentatively tonguing the skin just behind his ear and slowly dragging the kiss downward. He lapped his earlobe, shyly nibbled, found himself gaining confidence in response to the pleased sounds Niou emitted. He was aware of both of them, separately; they hadn't engaged in enough contact to feel like one, just yet.
Yagyuu had gone far enough with Sayoko to know what it was like just this side of feeling consumed -- just far enough that he was still aware enough of himself to hold himself back. He had no intention of restraining himself with Niou; he knew he could trust himself. Niou's skin was rough enough beneath Yagyuu's lips that he could easily push errant thoughts of Sayoko out of his mind -- it was pleasant, he thought, differently so from the softness of his ex-girlfriend. Niou felt more real.
Yagyuu met his lips again, this time opening his mouth and took firm control of an exploratory kiss. He wasn’t going to let go this time, not before he was ready.
Niou acquiesced, submitting himself to the sensations Yagyuu brought forth; his fingers curled a little into the other's back, pointedly resisting the urge to just tug the damn shirt off already. His tongue slid against Yagyuu's roughly, inviting without words that Yagyuu didn't need, purring quietly. Despite things, he had to admit he appreciated Yagyuu's practice <3
Yagyuu let them continue, let the building heat taper off into a level plateau of comfortable enjoyment of Niou's attention. The kisses were deep and the touches were gentle, and he knew that he did not need the activity to escalate beyond what it was just then.
But he did allow for one break, and removed his glasses, folding them before setting them on the table beside his couch. He let his hand rest on Niou's face, as if trying to memorise the planes by touch alone. This was his best friend -- Masaharu had been so since junior high school, and Hiroshi imagined that he would be for some time to come, no matter what consequences might arise from this ...
He still said nothing, but held him close, breathed him in, kissed him again, and found each kiss still easier than the last.
"Mm~ settled?" Niou chuckled presently, quietly – it vaguely felt that way, or 'settling', by Yagyuu's lips. He'd almost forgotten about the other's glasses already. (It didn't help that stealing was less fun when the thiefee didn't look like he depended on the stolen object – but Yagyuu had pretty eyes, so Niou considered the thinner glasses a fair trade-off in the end). He brushed his fingers across brown bangs that always looked combed. If Yagyuu had any more questions (though Niou hoped not), right about now would be the time to pose them.
Yagyuu nodded, bowing his head so that his forehead met Niou's. He closed his eyes to block out the distorted image of his friend's face, preferring touch and smell and sound to imprint this moment on his memory. It was easier to breathe, now, though he could feel his heart racing in his chest. 'Settled' was a good word for it -- settled and content, with touch as comfortable as silence now.
But the promise of 'as far as I can' echoed faintly in Yagyuu's mind, words he'd spoken himself not moments ago, and that, he knew, was somewhere beyond mere contentedness. He needed to show Niou how much he was willing to give, after all, wanted to prove that he really meant something.
That he meant every word he hadn't felt the need to say.
Passion flaring, Yagyuu seized Niou's mouth -- mine, you're mine now -- and pressed forward, both figuratively and literally, shoving fear of the next step aside.
--that was different <3 There was the distinct sense of a hand being forced, though Niou wasn't sure whose yet – not a bad impression from Yagyuu either way, given the circumstances. Niou chuckled deep in his throat, pushing back, unwilling to go down yet. He kissed Yagyuu harder, in turn levelling more of the covert intensity he was capable of, as Yagyuu did the same.
Yagyuu considered absently that he should have expected Niou to fight back instead of complying, but the resistance still took him by surprise. It fuelled him, though, to keep going; challenged him to find other ways to step forward.
With Sayoko he had employed a logical sequence of actions to move from one stage to the next until both were content. Logic, however, didn't apply to Masaharu -- and that, then, was why he was so much more appealing. Yagyuu rubbed his hand over Niou's side before slipping fingers beneath the shirt hem and sliding up to his chest -- he knew Niou was no woman, but skin was skin, regardless of gender, and sensitive areas remained similar across the board.
Niou broke away with a breathy ah~ and his eyes slipped shut in sensory appreciation, fingers trailing faintly up Yagyuu's spine in response. There was nothing like the rough, base feel of close contact; he could never get enough of it. Especially not now. Shirts off, shirts off please... no. Niou chuckled an admonishment at his own half-inarticulate subconscious, dipping his head to nip sharply at Yagyuu's neck, breathing deeply. Instinct could be distracted; he could wait <3
The beginnings of an appreciative moan turned to a hiss as Niou changed direction, and Yagyuu braced his hands on Niou's sides -- whether to pull him closer or keep him at bay, he couldn't be sure. He tilted his head anyway, and tried unsuccessfully to bite Niou's neck in return. Failing, he smoothed palms up Niou's back, as much to examine the planes of muscle as to pull himself not-quite-flush to his chest. The space between them was barely wide enough to slowly, almost secretly work at the buttons of Niou's shirt, starting at the bottom and working his way up.
Teasing with tongue and teeth, Niou continued marking a line down Yagyuu's neck to the other's shoulder, nudging aside his shirt collar (and faintly glad it was no longer buttoned as high as it sometimes was <3)... He could fairly feel their warmth radiating, mingling with proximity, and brushed his fingertips forward over Yagyuu's hips, just above his waistband, lifting his head just enough to see the other's face.
Yagyuu wasn't sure what to make of Niou's hands at his waist -- he certainly wasn't planning on taking the action quite so far just then, but at this rate, he was sure he would follow suit if that's where Niou led him.
Except Niou was astonishingly passive, apparently preferring to let Yagyuu set the course himself. Yagyuu wasn't unused to taking the lead, of course (Sayoko certainly never would), but certainly it would have been different with Niou ...?
No matter. Yagyuu peeled the shirt from Niou's shoulders, exposing skin. Of course he'd seen him before, but there was a vast difference between seeing Niou's body in the locker room and seeing him here, on the couch in Yagyuu's apartment. Moreover, Yagyuu needn't have felt any apprehension about pressing lips to taut shoulders, tasting the salt of his partner's skin -- no, not apprehension this time, but a quiet rush of exhilaration at feeling so comfortable with what should have been taboo.
Niou buried his nose in Yagyuu's newly-streaked hair, biting lightly on the tip of his ear. His hands changed course, scratching a trail up Yagyuu's stomach, drawing his shirt up, undoing buttons: mimicking what the other did, a careful step behind. A slight shiver coursed over his skin, from Yagyuu's mouth out, the advent of heat maybe beginning to centre in the wrong places; he moaned quietly.
"Is this okay?" Yagyuu murmured, not yet looking up, and instead just hoping for some kind of verbal confirmation. He'd do better with it, then; words could make concrete what actions only hinted at. He stared at Niou's exposed collarbone, waiting, examining the crest and dip just beneath skin, let his eyes wander over the body filling his field of vision, as if he could memorise each imperfection ...
... but there would be time enough for that, wouldn't there? Of course it was okay, of course -- Niou had already given Yagyuu carte blanche, essentially, to do as he desired. He traced that collarbone with his lips, with the tip of his tongue. "Just tell me if I should stop," he added, before continuing to explore.
"…geez, Hiroshi," Niou chuckled, almost hissed. Nothing turned him on like sight and touch – watching Yagyuu watching him, and feeling that everything – was going to be unfortunate kinda soon, he could tell, the way he did during matches. He took a deep breath, threading his fingers through the other's hair too gently, whispering close to his ear, though more teasing than hooked with any real expectation: "And if I said never? <3"
The words alone set Yagyuu's blood racing, a surge of passion and adrenaline forcing him to claim Masaharu's mouth in a deep kiss. He touched him even as he kissed him, pressed his back into the couch behind him, moved hands over him and stopped at the waistline.
He was being pushed and pulled in too many different directions -- his desire and Masaharu's -- Hiroshi fought between unbridled joy and the restraint that he knew was proper, restraint fuelled by uncertainty of ... of consequences, and of ...
He met Masaharu's eyes. "Later," he said, calmer, and gave him a simple kiss on the lips. "Is later okay?" Hiroshi hoped it wouldn't be any failure on his part if he somehow fell short of Masaharu's expectations.
"…" Niou just nodded.
God damn... yeah, so he'd seen it coming, but – just after that other brief flash of… almost-hope? Well, damnit…
He had to laugh again, at himself this time – a little less breathless and a touch more dry – sitting up again to shrug the shirt back over his shoulders. "Yeah…" he reiterated. The disappointment still stung a little over cooling skin, but he returned Yagyuu a peck on the cheek all the same. "Whatever. Later's fine <3"
"Ah ..." Yagyuu began, and hesitated for just a moment -- would it be right to keep going? Would it be right to take this farther, right here and right now, or would that only increase the chances of a loss?
He was too afraid to take that risk, and he nearly cursed himself for it, but the fear remained as it was, and Yagyuu bowed his head. "Thank you," he said, and stood to head for the bathroom before he could change his mind.
The shower ran cold over his shoulders, cold enough to extinguish the flame that burned inside him. He'd have to live with it for now.