Copyright © 2017 by Yuki Edo
Hiroki felt less certain about how much he actually needed to use the bathroom when he saw the poorly lit, steep staircase he would have to descend to get to the men’s washroom. But his friends wanted to hit yet another club after this one, and since they wanted to go someplace they could dance, the next place would probably be even more crowded, not to mention there’d probably be a line. At least here he knew no one would be buying or using drugs while he was trying to piss. At least, he hoped not.
He was just glad they’d given up the idea of going to a strip club. When most of them struck out finding partners for the night, they often tossed this idea around. It just wasn’t Hiroki’s thing. Never had been and never would be. He’d only gone with them once, and he’d left after only about half an hour.
His older brother Yoshi had often told him since graduation that he had to stop hanging out with guys who were still in school, especially the students at UTokyo where he taught. As he slowly made his way down the steps, he felt how right his brother was. He had to think about his career now, stop spending all his free nights out drinking. At least he would be moving into a much better apartment next week. He would meet his new roommate the next day over dinner with Yoshi. Dai Hashimoto had built his own small company from the ground up, and he worked very hard, according to Yoshi. Once Hiroki was around older, more mature people instead of living in his current apartment building with lots of students, he felt he would finally be able to focus. He knew his own laziness had hurt him. He’d never be considered for the next available full-time position if he didn’t buckle down.
Hiroki pushed the door open and stopped in front of the mirror first to run his hands through his hair. He heard footsteps and turned just as a guy a little older than him moved to the door.
And locked it.
Hiroki’s mouth fell open as he tried to figure out what in the hell he could do. The guy wasn’t too big, so maybe Hiroki could take him. Or should he lock himself in a stall and text his friends?
“You’re late,” the guy said very softly, “but I’ll forgive you because you’re so beautiful.”
Hiroki still couldn’t make a sound. What is going on here? The guy came closer, none of his moves aggressive or threatening. He reached up and caressed Hiroki’s cheek before taking his hand and kissing his knuckles.
Say something! Hiroki’s mind spun as he tried to figure out what was happening. There had to be some kind of mix up. “I think there’s been a mistake,” Hiroki managed to say as the guy leaned in to kiss him.
The man frowned. “Blue shirt, black pants, silver chain.” His frown deepened. “Are you backing out because I disappoint you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hiroki said. Why did this guy just itemize what I’m wearing? He glanced down at his clothes, clueless as to what kind of sign his generic attire could’ve been putting off.
“Are you so sure? Perhaps you’re only pretending to be shy and confused?” the guy asked before pressing close and gently kissing him.
The soft caress of lips stunned Hiroki, and he opened his mouth again, only to be pushed up against the wall and kissed more deeply. Hiroki’s mind raced, but the kiss enthralled him. He knew he should pull away, but the man was being so gentle. It seemed ridiculous to think that, since this man was forcing his attentions on him, but Hiroki felt so much emotion coming from the other man. And it wasn’t mere lust. There was longing in that kiss. Tenderness even. Was this guy just lonely and awkward? Or was he outright crazy? Hiroki returned the kiss without thinking about the consequences, and the man moaned.
When he pulled back, the man looked both happy and conflicted at once. He whispered, “You’re more perfect than I dreamed. May I touch you more?”
“Than you dreamed?” Hiroki held his hands up and pulled away, trying to find the right words. “I really think you have me confused with someone else.” A thought occurred to him. “Late. You said I was late, but I didn’t realize I was expected.” He shifted his weight to his other foot, moving away a bit more. “Were you waiting for someone here?”
The other man’s expression darkened in dismay, and then his cheeks went crimson. He yanked out his phone, suddenly looking panicked. He held it up and asked, “This isn’t you?”
Hiroki looked at the phone. He saw a profile on some kind of app. There was no real picture, just an anime-style avatar of a guy with short dark hair. “No. I’m just here with my friends and needed to go to the bathroom.” He read the name of the app. “Our Secret? Is that a dating app?”
The other man seemed ready to really panic now. His breathing became labored, and he turned to the side. “Please forgive me for touching you.” He stared down at the floor, looking as if he might cry, despite obviously being in his thirties. “My family … they would disown me, if they knew.”
Relieved this guy wasn’t crazy, Hiroki reached out to touch his shoulder. The guy flinched and didn’t look up, but he didn’t pull away either. “I understand. My grandparents aren’t that happy about me being gay. Not at all. But this kind of stuff is dangerous. Guys get hurt and robbed and all kinds of awful stuff. You should be careful about meeting men this way.” Hiroki didn’t mean to sound condescending, but this guy seemed like the type that might get taken advantage of.
The man finally looked at him. “Thank you for being so gracious.” He paused and reached out, but stopped just before touching Hiroki’s cheek again. “You really are beautiful. I’ll always remember your kindness.”
Voices could be heard on the stairs, and the guy turned and unlocked the door, bolting before Hiroki had a chance to say anything else to him. Hiroki rushed into a stall to get his head together as a couple of guys came in and went to the urinals, talking loudly about the girls they were drinking with. His need to piss forgotten, Hiroki yanked the stall door open and shot out the door and up the stairs. He hurriedly scanned the main room for the guy, but after five minutes of searching, he couldn’t find him. He told his friends he didn’t feel good and headed out the back, searching the streets despite the fact he felt sure the guy had fled as quickly as possible out of embarrassment.
Hiroki licked his lips, the longing in the stranger’s kiss making so much more sense now. He hoped the guy would make better decisions in the future, feeling oddly sad that he hadn’t been able to get the guy’s name. But he shook his head and laughed at himself. He’d come too far to date a closeted man. It was for the best.
At least, that’s what he told himself the whole way home, his fingers occasionally coming up to touch his lips as he walked.
* * * *
Dai hit the buzzer to let Yoshi and Yoshi’s younger brother into the elevator for his floor. He’d taken a penthouse because his cousin had planned on returning from college in America earlier this month, but Kuro had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and decided to stay in California. The family had been scandalized at first, but they’d become amazingly accepting once a ring was on the girl’s finger. Marriage and a baby, it seemed, made everything right. But if Dai was even seen touching another man intimately, the reaction would be very different.
And he would not be forgiven.
Dai sighed and rubbed his temples, trying to push the bad thoughts away. He also struggled with thoughts of the beautiful young man he had foolishly kissed the night before. He still couldn’t believe he’d been so stupid. So many things could’ve gone wrong. He’d hardly slept at all, feeling shame and arousal in equal turns. The kiss had been so sweet, and instead of anger, the young man had offered him kindness in the end. He could’ve called the police, but instead he’d tried to help Dai and even comfort him. Dai ached thinking about it, about what it would be like to be free to love such a man. The elevator dinged, and Dai shook himself as he opened the door to the small lobby between the private elevator and his own front door.
The world began spinning when he looked up and saw the young man from the night before emerge from the elevator with Yoshi. Dai hardly heard a word Yoshi said as he tried to compose his features and watched the younger man doing the same, his eyes wide as he gazed at Dai with his hands clasped behind his back.
Hiroki Kita. Dai had lain awake half the night wondering what the man’s name was. Now he knew. Would Hiroki say something? Would last night make him change his mind about moving in? Dai couldn’t blame him if it did, but he wondered what Hiroki would tell Yoshi if he chose to decline moving in. Did his kindness extend to hiding something like this from his older brother? Dai hoped so as he somehow managed to invite them in for a drink. Both men removed their shoes and left them in the entry hall. Yoshi had been here before and went right to the lounge area, but Hiroki walked more slowly as he looked around.
“Feel free to look around, Kita-san. Your rooms would be on the left side, over there,” Dai said as he pointed the way and waited for a reaction.
Hiroki turned to him, a faint smile on his face. “No need to be so formal,” he said softly. “If you think we’re a good match by the end of the evening, we’ll be living together, after all.”
“Yes, of course,” Dai said, following Hiroki’s lead of pretending they hadn’t already met. “What would you like to drink?”
“Just water. I’m trying to cut back,” he said, turning away to explore the kitchen.
Dai went to the bar set against one wall and poured bottled water into one glass before mixing martinis for himself and Yoshi.
“You two will be perfect. You’re just what he needs,” Yoshi said once Hiroki was out of earshot.
“You think so?” Dai had to pour slowly with both hands on the mixer to keep it from shaking.
“Yes. He’s quiet and serious. But, believe it or not, needs to settle down. He lives with students now, too lazy to move from a place he liked while he was still in school. But he’s a professor now, a professional. He needs to move on. Quit drinking with his friends almost every night. It’s a bad habit he picked up early on in school.”
“Yes, it sounds like this would be a good change.” Dai pushed Yoshi’s drink over to him.
“I’m going to wash my hands.” Yoshi pointed to the kitchen. “Go talk the place up. He needs this, and I want him sold on it.”
Dai nodded and walked into the kitchen with the water and his own drink, which he took a huge gulp of. He handed the water to Hiroki, unsure what to say or do now they were alone.
Hiroki thanked him and sipped the water before saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t tell him. But if you don’t want me here, I understand. I can make some excuse. Yoshi can’t make me do this.”
“I don’t object at all, if you don’t mind. I could understand you wanting to bolt right now.” He paused. “You’re openly gay, you said last night. And not everyone in your family accepts it? Yoshi did mention it as well when he proposed this.”
“Yeah, I’ve been out since my second year of college. My grandparents don’t like it and said I’m never to bring a lover to their home, but they are accepting enough of me, at least. It’s better than some of my friends have it.”
“Yes. My parents … well, I would no longer be welcome in their home. Or at any family gathering.”
“Thank you.” Dai heard Yoshi returning, and he pointed to the cabinets as his friend entered the room. “There’s plenty of cabinet space, and I’m not fussy about things, though I do like to keep all of the surfaces free of clutter. The small appliances are stored in that tall cabinet.”
Yoshi laughed. “He’s neater than you are, Dai. You should see his place now. It’s the cleanest apartment in his building.”
“Ah, he’ll keep me on my toes then.” To Hiroki he said, “I sometimes neglect things when I’m very busy.”
“You run a travel agency, Yoshi said. And you began it yourself. That’s amazing. Do you have to work every day?”
“I do, but I set my own hours and can do most work from here. Come, I’ll show you my office space. There’s a very similar room on your side. The layout almost mirrors itself, though your half has a smaller primary bedroom with a bonus room because it’s supposed to be for children.”
“I can use all the rooms? Not just the bedroom?”
“Yes. There’s nothing on that side right now, though I have some extra furniture if you need it.” They walked through the dining area to the right side of the penthouse. He pointed down the hallway. “The last door is the master with a large ensuite. Then there is my office,” he said as he opened the door so Hiroki could look inside. He pointed to the next door and said, “This is a small powder room, and this last one is where I store things. My last place was small, and the spacious living and lounge areas here fit all of my bookcases.” He opened the storage room. “I do have one spare bookcase, plus other things, if you need them. On your side there’s a small room connected to the primary, intended to be a kind of playroom for young children or a study room for an older child. The space is very versatile.”
Hiroki chuckled. “You sound like you should be in real estate instead. I’m sold before I’ve even seen my rooms.”
Yoshi grinned. “Then let’s go eat. You can take measurements tomorrow when you come back. Can the office still add him to the lease tomorrow morning?”
“Yes, they said he just needed to bring the usual documents.” Dai found it hard to swallow. “But perhaps we should wait to settle things until after dinner. We’ve only just met. You can’t just force me on your brother, Yoshi.”
“No,” Hiroki said. “It’s not like that at all. I think we’d be … well suited. You two finish your drinks while I step across and look at the other rooms. Then we can go.” He nodded to them both and walked away.
Dai watched him go a moment before turning back to Yoshi. “He’s very different from you.”
“I know. He’d be the favorite if it weren’t for him being gay.” Yoshi finished his drink. “And you are fine with that, right? I know your family is very conservative.”
“I’m not like my family, Yoshi. You know that.”
Yoshi nodded, looking somewhat abashed. “Yeah, I know. He doesn’t date much anyway. He’s very picky.”
“Is he?” Dai asked, trying not to sound too curious.
“Oh yes. A romantic. Thinks someday fate will intervene in a mysterious way and bring the right man to him.” Yoshi laughed. “I don’t mean to make fun of him, but he’s got his head in the clouds. For such a smart guy, I mean. I’m hoping you can ground him a bit. He’s much smarter than I am and could do so much if he focuses.”
“We’ll see then,” Dai said. “I hope I’m good for him the way you think I will be.”
Yoshi clapped him on the shoulder and walked back out to the living area.
Dai lingered a moment. “There’s nothing wrong with being a romantic,” he said to himself softly before taking a deep breath and going to join the others.
* * * *
Hiroki couldn’t help being nervous, but he was also excited. He’d signed the lease the day before, and this morning he was letting himself in to his new penthouse to wait for the movers.
And the only man he’d kissed in the last six months was now his roommate.
He removed his shoes and put them on the empty bottom shelf on the very pristine shoe rack in the entry hall. Even the shoe horn had its own holder, which matched the wood tone of the rack perfectly. Hiroki smiled, liking that Dai was a neat person as well. He licked his lips as he remembered that kiss yet again. It would be so easy to seduce Dai, if he was truly as repressed as he seemed, but Hiroki kept telling himself it wouldn’t be right. He would be taking advantage, and it might end badly. He’d hate it if his brother became angry or if Dai refused to be open about a relationship.
Hiroki could not do that ever again. He’d almost lost his heart to man who couldn’t admit what he truly was, and he needed to stay strong.
That resolve wavered a bit when Dai emerged wearing only faded jeans and a dark green fitted t-shirt. He’d been handsome in nicer clothes, but the casual look had its own appeal. Dai smiled, looking a bit nervous as well.
“Welcome home, Hiroki.” His smile wavered a bit. “How are you today?”
“Good. The movers will be here soon. I’m glad the elevator is so spacious.”
“Yes, they take very good care of the penthouse residents here. One of our neighbors is having a party next weekend and said I should bring you along. It would be a good way to meet other tenants. Ichiro-san is a director with a publishing house. Being in language arts, you’ll have a lot to talk about with him and his friends, I’m sure. He said he’d be happy to introduce you to them.”
Hiroki couldn’t help grinning. “That’s amazing. I can’t wait to meet him. It would be a good networking opportunity.” He sighed. “My brother will be pleased with that.”
Dai crossed his arms and hesitated before saying, “He has high hopes for you. Thinks a lot of you. Does he really push you so much?”
Hiroki laughed. “He can be about as bad as my parents, but he means well. I don’t mind that much. I know it’s done affectionately.” He laughed again. “Though it doesn’t always feel that way.”
“I’m an only child, though both of my parents have younger siblings.”
“Do you spend a lot of time with your family?”
“Not that much. Just a few times a year. Dinners in Tokyo now and then. They’re disappointed I’m not married yet. I’m thirty-three, and they’re dismayed by me, honestly. They think I should settle down because my career is stable.”
“Oh.” Hiroki didn’t know what else to say. “They want grandchildren?”
“I think what they really want is proof I’m not gay. I believe they’ve made it so clear that it would be intolerable to, well, scare me into what they consider normalcy.”
“They suspect then?”
“I believe so. I never felt it was right to lead on the girls they tried to set me up with. They must have some idea, but they’ll never say anything, of course. Even talking about the subject would be too much for them.”
Hiroki tried to hold his tongue but found he couldn’t. “Based on what I felt in that kiss, you’ll end up very unhappy if you spend your entire life pretending.”
“I’m already un…” He stopped and sighed, trailing off. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do. It’s good to finally have someone to talk to.”
The elevator chimed, and Hiroki walked over to it, though he looked back at Dai as he spoke with the men and pressed the button to let them up. When he walked back over, he said, “We can talk any time. I want us to be friends. I’ve been through ups and downs since I came out. I’m willing to share.” I’m also willing to show you how good it could be. He clasped his hands behind his back, his grip tight as he tried to tell himself not to think that way. He should focus on being Dai’s friend, not trying to seduce him.
“Thank you,” Dai said before leading the way to prop the door open for the movers.
Hiroki stared at the floor a moment. No use getting worked up now. I knew what I was getting into coming here. He lifted his gaze to Dai’s back. Knew I wanted him. Would be tempted. He blinked to try to clear his expression. He thought of all the objections he’d raised in his mind throughout the morning, suddenly realizing he’d been protesting so hard to deny what he’d really done.
Moved himself into the penthouse of a man he wanted desperately.