The next day when I came into work, it was to a very strange atmosphere. For possibly the first time since I had began working at the clinic, Maru was not wearing his trademark ladies nurse uniform. Instead, he had on the clinic issued scrubs that most of the medical staff wore.
"Maru-chan," I called, watching as the older man poured a cup of coffee that was already so full, its contents were spilling out onto the counter. "Hey Maru!" I called again.
Finally, he snapped out of the daze he was in, staring down at the coffee soaked counter. "Ah, oh no..."
I grabbed a towel from a nearby orderly cart, mopping up Maru's mess. "Are you okay?"
He nodded, but I didn't think he was really listening to me. "Sorry, I just spaced out."
"Are you sure?" I whispered to him.
Murakami chose that minute to walk by, saying loudly, "Good morning," with alarmingly little emotion. He pretended that Maru wasn't standing there looking at him hopefully.
The nurse dropped the cup he had been holding. It felt to the floor and broke with a crash and Shingo ignored the noise, continuing on his way.
I bent down, using the towel to soak up the coffee that had spilled on the floor and all over my shoes. He sighed and bent down, helping to clean up the mess.
"Why don't you talk to him?" I suggested, picking up pieces of the broken ceramic cup. If it hadn't been for me, they probably wouldn't have gotten into that fight. The last thing that I needed was more drama, but I resolved to help them anyway.
"We don't have anything to say to each other," he said stiffly, standing up. He walked over to a garbage can by the counter, dumping a handful of glass into it.
"If you don't talk to each other, it'll never get better," I told him, following him to the garbage and dumping the coffee soaked towel in a laundry bin.
"As far as I'm concerned, its over between us," Maru stated matter-of-factly, turning away so that I couldn't see his face.
"What?" I felt a combination of guilt and disbelief at his statement.
"I'm going to his place tonight to get my stuff," he turned back to me again, trying his hardest to keep from breaking down. "Could you help me? It will speed things up."
"Maru..." I began. I didn't know what to say. It wasn't my place to do or say anything, and I knew that. I couldn't grasp the idea, however, that there could be a world where Maruyama and Murakami weren't together. "Please just talk to him."
"I don't want to. I'm sick of trying so hard..."
"If this is because of what he said yesterday, just forget about it. I agree with him, anyway. It's wrong of me to have feelings for..."
"Shhhhh..." he covered my mouth with his hand. "Do you want everyone to know?"
I shook my head, but suddenly felt that my relationship with Tadayoshi was the least of my problems. Removing his hand I said in a pleading voice, "but you love him, don't you?"
"It doesn't matter if I do. It's not just about yesterday, Shota. He's ashamed of our relationship and of me. He's met my family dozens of times. I even introduced him to my grandparents. He hasn't even told his family about us. And you know what? He tells his mom that I am his roommate..." He didn't look as though he was crying, but Maru's voice was filled with emotion.
This struck a cord within me. I could completely understand the way that Murakami felt. I needed to hide my relationship too, not only from co-workers, but from family and friends too. As much as Maru was supporting my relationship with Tadayoshi, I could not support this decision of his. Because in my heart, I felt that I would behave the same way.
"Maybe it's not that he doesn't want to tell people..." I trailed off, imagining how Shingo must have been feeling.
"I can't keep trying so hard. It's impossible for a relationship like this to last forever. It's better to just end it now than to drag it out when it'll end anyway. He's not willing to commit to a serious relationship with me, and I'm not willing to wait around forever hoping that eventually he will." I could tell from his tone that the debate was over. I couldn't convince him to go back to Murakami.
I sighed, feeling sick to my stomach. "Where are you staying?"
"With an old college friend..." Maru answered. I could tell there was more he wanted to say, but he kept his mouth shut.
"I'll help," I said, only because he was my friend, not because I agreed with his decision.
"Thank you, Shota," He smiled a little then, but not with his usual dimpled smile. He returned to his work, leaving me standing there with an empty feeling.
In my head, I knew it was impossible for me to tell anyone that I was involved with a sixteen-year-old runaway boy, who also happened to be my patient. Our relationship was sick and wrong on so many levels. In my heart, though, being with Tadayoshi was the only thing that felt right.
In reality, the only right thing about our relationship was the way I felt when I was alone with him. If I could, I would erase everyone from the world just so that we could be together. That was an impossible dream.
It wasn't too late to turn back now. I had promised Tadayoshi that I wouldn't push him away, but it was a promise that could easily be broken. I was a constitutionally weak person. Torn between conflicting emotions, I had no resolve on how to handle the current situation.
Half of me wanted to get as far away from Tadayoshi as possible. Whenever he was around I did stupid, risky things. He had an unhealthy control over me. It would be so easy, I realized, to get rid of him. All I would have to do is turn him in as the thief and he would be gone forever.
The other half, the one that took control over any reason I had within me, could do nothing to harm Tadayoshi. He was a fragile person who had been beat down and broken almost his entire life. Even if I wasn't in love with him, there was no way that I could send him back to the life that he hated so much.
Whether I liked it or not (and at this particular moment I did not), Tadayoshi was mine. I would do my best to protect him, not because I was obligated to, but because I wanted to. I would cherish him the way he deserved, even if it meant putting my career on the line.
This realization made me heave a resignated sigh. I now knew what it meant to be a slave to love.
I didn't have time to be left alone with these thoughts, as I was still standing in the reception area, probably with a stupid look on my face. I decided that my office was probably a better place to dwell on these Tadayoshi related thoughts. Once in my office, with the door shut, I could daydream all I wanted.
As it turned out, I did not have time to daydream. I had open office hours that day, which meant that although I had no scheduled appointments, patients were free to come and go as they pleased.
No sooner had I sat down in my chair, than my office door swung open. I was pleasantly surprised to find Subaru entering my office, a small smile on his lips. Not only did he take my mind off of the morning's drama, but it was a relief to be in the company of someone who understood and supported my relationship with Tadayoshi. Especially when I had so many doubts running through my mind.
"Good morning, Subaru," I called happily.
"Morning," he smiled and sat down across from my desk.
"You seem to be in a good mood..." I trailed off, hoping he would tell me what happened the previous night.
He nodded, "I am."
A silence fell over the room and I waited, somewhat impatiently, for him to continue. After a few moments, I leaned forward, "Well? What happened?"
Subaru leaned back in his chair, "Yokoyama woke up right after you left. He had no idea where he was, and when he sat up in his bed and noticed me he panicked. 'I have to go,' he muttered, trying his hardest to ignore me.
"'Wait!' I called after him as he pulled on his shoes. 'We need to talk.' I sighed with relief when he turned to me and sat back on the edge of the bed.
"It was silent for a few minutes before I worked up the nerve to talk. I hadn't expected him to stay and my heart was soaring. 'I'm sorry,' I apologized, looking at the floor. 'I shouldn't have told you my feelings. Just forget I said anything, okay? You're my best friend, Yuu. I don't want to lose you.'"
He smiled at me then, a genuine smile, and I felt more at ease. 'I don't know if I can forget,' and I felt disappointed. I thought that for sure it was over. 'But, Subaru, you are my most important person. I don't think I could go on without you.'
"That made me so happy. I knew that he would never return my feelings. I knew that someday I would have to watch him get married and probably have kids. I knew that it would hurt more than anything, but I would be by his side for as long as he lets me."
Subaru looked up at me, smiling bitterly; a smile which was fast replacing his trademark ear to ear grin. "Love really makes you do stupid things, huh?"
I nodded my head in agreement. If anyone knew how stupid love could make a person, it was me. "So things are okay between you two now?"
Subaru shrugged, "As okay as things can be..."
"That's good to hear," I leaned back in my chair, satisfied with what he had told me. I was happy for him. He had confronted the fact that he had romantic feelings, not just sexual. It was a huge step for him, but I knew that perhaps Subaru wasn't quite ready for a relationship. I hoped that someday, Yokoyama would be able to tell him the truth and they could be happy together.
"You know," Subaru began. "For years, he's been my most important person. When my mom died, no one wanted me. And then Yokoyama came into my life. He visited me in foster care, and he was always there in court, reassuring me. Then the courts decided to put me with a new family.
"One day I was waiting for my new mom to pick me up from school. I was new to the area and I didn't know how to get home yet. After a while all of the teachers left and the closed the gates to the school. It started pouring rain, but still no one came to pick me up. I was freezing and hungry and tired, so I decided to try to walk home. I got lost though. So, I sat down on the corner, crying and wondering what would happen to me.
"Then a car pulled up next to me and when I looked up, it was Yoko. He bundled me up and brought me to a ramen shop, saying that I needed to be warmed up. 'Can't I live with you?' I asked him, wanting nothing more than to spend time with the man that I admired so much. My new family didn't love me. To them, I was just a paycheck from the government. I felt, even back then, that Yokoyama was the only person who cared about me.
"But he just patted my head, 'That's impossible, Subaru.' And I was crushed. No one wanted me. Not even Yokoyama.
"So I ran away. For a few weeks I lived on the streets. I was just another statistic. Some poor kid that fell through the cracks of family services. I knew that Yokoyama was looking for me, but back then I thought it was only because it was his job. I had convinced myself that he was against me too. And then some men offered me protection and friendship, and I followed them.
"For two years, I lived a life that most people can only imagine in their worst nightmares. I knew that if I didn't get out of it somehow, I would end up dead. And by some miracle, I found this clinic. And another miracle led Yokoyama back into my life.
"I shied away from him at first. I was still convinced that he didn't care about me. Everyday, though, he would come here and visit me. He remembered my favorite manga, bringing me copies. He remembered that I thought Lawson's had the best curry pan, smiling as he handed me a freshly made bread. Slowly I realized that he cared and he never forgot about me.
"I had changed so much over those two years. Slowly the boyhood admiration I had for Yokoyama turned into love," Subaru shook his head and smiled. "I guess its really his fault that I am in love with him. If he'd forgotten me in those two years, none of this would have ever happened.
"But you know, I don't regret it. I'm even thankful for it. Even if he doesn't love me, he's the reason I wake up every morning and makes me want to be a better person. I'll get my life turned around and make him proud of me."
I smiled at my patient. I always felt overwhelmed with emotions whenever one of them had a breakthrough. Pride, excitement, and sadness rushed over me once. Pride at possibly contributing to the breakthrough and what a wonderful person he was becoming. Excitement because of the possibilities and opportunities that would be presented to Subaru when he left. And sadness because I knew it was only a matter of time before Subaru would leave the clinic forever.
He stood at that moment, glancing down at the watch. "Which reminds me that he's visiting today..."
I stood up with him. I needed to get out of the room and away from all of the heavy thoughts on my mind. Outside in the hallway, Subaru and I parted ways. He headed to his room and I went back to the admissions area for a cup of coffee.
I was surprised to find that Yokoyama was already sitting in a chair by the coffee maker, sipping on a cup of coffee and reading a celebrity tabloid. "Shouldn't you be at home recovering?" I scolded him lightly.
"I can't sit in bed that long," he commented, setting his newspaper on the counter.
I nodded, and poured myself a cup of java, glancing down at the paper. I did a double take, nearly dropping the coffee pot. "Ehhhhhhh?"
"What's wrong?" Yoko asked, trying to peer over my shoulder at what I was looking at.
"Can I borrow this for a bit?" I asked hastily, holding up his tabloid.
A sly smile crossed his face momentarily, "You want to look at Furano Mika's gravure shots in private, huh?"
I looked down at the magazine and noticed some model topless. If only he knew how uninterested I was in such a thing. I just nodded in reply.
"You can keep it. I don't think I will want it back after you're done with it."
I hurried from the room, too preoccupied to be embarrassed about what Yokoyama had implied. I rushed towards Ohkura's room, pausing and trying to look non-chalant as Murakami walked by. Once I made it to my destination, I shut the door and turned to Subaru, "Can you give us a minute?"
"Are you guys going to do dirty things? I want to watch," he commented.
"Subaru, out." I pointed to the door.
"At least let me set up a camera first. I've been dying to see you naked, Yasuda..." And then he gave me a look that made me feel like a piece of meat.
A pillow went flying across the room and hit Subaru in the face. I turned my head and noticed Tadayoshi glaring hard at him. He held another pillow up, prepared to throw it.
"Okay, okay, I'll go." He rushed towards the door, "But I still want to see him naked!" Subaru called before quickly shutting the door.
With Subaru gone, I looked around nervously, momentarily forgetting why I had come to his room in the first place. My eyes finally landed on Tadayoshi, stretched out on the bed, his long legs almost dangling off the end. His eyes were watching me intensely, and I found myself staring at his lips, remembering our kiss from the day before.
He must have been aware of where my thoughts had turned because he had gotten on his knees and crawled to the end of the bed. Grabbing me by the hand, he gently pulled me closer towards it.
I suddenly felt nervous, realizing that his thoughts were probably closer to Subaru's than to mine. I stopped at the edge of the bed, my knees hitting the metal bed frame painfully as I refused to be pulled any further. "Wait," I said, finally able to form words.
"Hmmm?" he asked, still holding my hand.
I pulled it out of his grasp. "I have to show you something."
"What is it?" he asked, and I could tell that he was only doing so to appease me.
I tried to answer, but the way he was looking at me made me feel as though someone had just electrified me. I didn't think it was possible for a sixteen-year-old to seduce someone, but he was certainly doing an excellent job. "Here," I held out the tabloid for him.
"What is it?" he asked, tossing it aside with disinterest.
"Read it," I urged, pointing at the paper.
"Okay. But give me a kiss first," He smiled at me.
I sighed, "This is serious, Tadayoshi. Just read it."
He shook his head. I could tell that he was going to milk the childish Lolita act today. He patted the empty space next to him on the bed, laying down. "Just come lay next to me for a minute then."
I shook my head. It wasn't the time or place. The last thing I needed was for someone to walk in and see me laying in bed with a patient.
"I won't read it then," he pouted and I sighed, glancing at the door.
"Fine," I said, trying to use my grumbliest voice. I laid down stiffly, staring up at the ceiling.
He grabbed my shoulder and pulled me so that I was laying on my side, facing him. He was laying on his side, one arm under his head, the other gripping my shoulder still. He was so close I could count every freckle and mole on his face, and I was transfixed by his gaze. "Close your eyes," he said quietly.
I shook my head, knowing that he was probably planning something. "You said we would just lay here."
"We are laying," he replied, using his fingertips to gently close my eyelids. I tried sighing in annoyance, but it came out sounding more like a contented sigh. And I had to admit, his touch felt really good.
His ran his fingers across my eyelids, dragging them lightly against my cheeks. I inhaled deeply, enjoying the feeling of his fingers on my skin as the trailed down my neck. He wrapped his hand around the back of my neck and pulled me closer, his lips connecting with my own.
Unlike our previous kisses, which started gently, he pushed his tongue past my unsuspecting lips. I tried pulling away but his hand had weaved its way up the back of my neck and into my hair, holding my head firmly in place.
All of the will I had to push him away slowly dissolved and I found myself enjoying the feel of his tongue sliding over my own and the sweet taste of his mouth. I could tell that he was coming closer to me and when our bodies finally touched I found myself squirming to get further away.
I realized where things were headed, and as good as it felt to have his chest against mine, his hips were getting dangerously close to mine. And although the thought of him rubbing himself against that particular area had turned my insides to hot liquid, I had to remember where we were.
I grabbed his hip, half tempted to pull him closer and see if he was as excited as I was. A mixture of embarrassment and fear at getting caught stopped me from doing so. Instead, I dug my fingernails into his hip in attempt to push him away and he moaned into my mouth.
My head was about to explode, and I quickly pushed him away, scrambling to sit up.
"Sorry," he said, although it was hard to believe him when he had such a satisfied smile on his face.
I motioned for him to read the magazine while I caught my breath. I sat on the edge of the bed, facing away from Tadayoshi.
"Uchi Hiroki arrives in Osaka: the new heir?" he read from the cover of the magazine. "This is what you wanted to show me?"
I turned around to face him, "Yeah. I thought it was important..."
"Who cares? It's what I wanted, anyway."
"You wanted him to come? He hates you. What if he tries finding you?" I asked, wondering why he was so calm.
Tadayoshi shrugged, fixing his perfect hair. "Why would he? He gets to be the heir, I get out of that house. We both win this way."
It made sense to me now why Tadayoshi left. Not only was he miserable, but if he disappeared off of the face of the earth, he would be able to give his brother what he had so desperately wanted.
"If you're not going to worry about it, then neither will I," I stood up, feeling slightly disappointed about Tadayoshi's indifference.
"Wait," he called after me, and stood up, following me to the door. "Thanks for telling me. I appreciate it." He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me in for a hug. Unable to resist, I found myself wrapping my arms around his neck, leaning my cheek against his shoulder.
We stayed like that for a moment before Tadayoshi whispered in my ear, "This feels so good."
Finally, I pulled away, opening the door. He walked up behind me, wrapping his arms around my shoulder from behind and rested his chin on top of my head. With his free foot, he kicked the door shut.
"What are you doing?" I asked. "I have to go."
"Hold on. I don't know when we'll be together again. I just want you to myself for a few minutes."
A few more minutes passed and he let go of me, kissing the top of my head. "Go on, get back to work." He opened the door for me, pushing me out.
I started my way down the hallway, towards the admissions desk, finally going for that cup of coffee I had wanted earlier. As I rounded the corner, I noticed a group of people gathered around the desk, their backs facing me.
"I'm here to visit a patient," I heard. A young male dressed in an expensive coat trimmed with fur continued, "Nishikido Ryo."
"Name?" the nurse at the desk asked.
The young man yawned and, sounding extremely bored, he replied, "Uchi Hiroki."