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all the ways this place has changed

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It is the moments of clarity that leave you nauseous. The moments when everything looks way too bright, and your heart beats so fast it nearly bursts. The moments where you’re fully conscious, but you still manage to jolt awake almost from a dream.

It is the warm body next to you that ties you to that dream. The one that you held for too many years. And the pretty, wide hands that bruise your wrists because you asked him to. Because you missed him. Because you want to be held.

When you wake up this time, he’s there. Actually there. Not on the couch or the floor, but curled under your blanket with an arm thrown over your chest. You can’t remember when you last saw him this way. His lips swell and sweat clings to his neck. He looks ruddy and relaxed, and he’s chewing in his sleep like a little kid.

Your lungs deflate and you almost forget how to breathe. You haven’t cried in a while. Not really. You’re hardly ever alone long enough to. Sometimes you look through the skylight in your shitty, lonely apartment and the pressure in your throat burns so badly you just want to scream. Other times, you feel so numb you swear you lose hours staring at your music or even at nothing. You’ll look in the mirror and forget what you look like.

You’re the cynic and he’s—well, you would never call him the optimist but that’s probably the closest thing. He’s by no means an early riser, but he’s always up before you. He cooks and leaves a plate for you in the microwave everyday, even though he really doesn’t have to. He tidies up your work space and makes sure your violin is put away. You don’t care that he doesn’t pay rent. You don’t care that he’s sort of a freeloader. You tell him otherwise, but it always hangs heavily on your tongue. You know that you should care. You know that pushing him away would be best, but Akihiko is stubborn. You did push him away, but he pulled you right along.

Akihiko stirs when you finally take a deep breath. His hand clenches gently and he pulls you closer. You’re pressed flush against his chest. You want to squirm. Maybe if you just lay back and try to imagine that you’re 17 again, you’ll fall asleep. Maybe. Hopefully. Before the world was big, this was your favorite place to be.

You don’t have to wait long before Akihiko turns over again. Though he takes you with him. He pulls your hand and wraps it around himself. You sigh and let it happen. Something is different this time, and you’re not sure it’s a good thing. Frankly, you feel like you’re floating—it’s 3 AM and there’s a miasma in your brain that you can’t shake.

Akihiko sounds like he’s dreaming. Or maybe he’s half-awake. The nauseous clarity suddenly hits you full-force and you realize that you may never hold him again like this. For real this time. He’ll move on and he’ll forget. He’ll love again and it’ll be someone better for him. You’ll move on eventually too and memories will hardly be remnants in a few years. You owe it to yourselves, but part of you is scared, so fucking scared that you’ll lose sight of everything without him.

You can tell yourself all you want that he’s holding you back. He is, but it’s never that easy. Your music will always be there, but Akihiko won’t. Someday you’ll have to cook for yourself and someday you’ll have to remember by yourself how to get out of bed. Part of you knows that you will, you’ll get there, and it’ll be relieving, but you’re still not sure you want to. You still can’t really fathom not celebrating his birthday or not complaining about him drumming too loudly while you’re sleeping.

You often forget that he was your friend first. Your best friend. You loved him then and you love him now.

Akihiko whines quietly. He tangles your legs together and on some whim, you end up rubbing his side and down to his thigh. It’s comforting. His skin is soft and you can tell he’s been working out again. He arches into your touch when you go lower to rub his butt.

“Ugetsu—.”

His voice is so tiny and so uncharacteristically desperate that you can only gasp in response. You wake up a little more. Not enough for rational thinking; you’re still floating, but now Akihiko is pressing against your hips and you’ve stopped thinking completely. Your hands travel below his waistband. You touch him, and you’re two fingers inside of him when he finally moans and twitches underneath you. His entire body trembles against your own, and he grips onto your forearm. He’s never been one to act like this in front of you, and that scares you even more. But you don’t want to stop.

You sit up onto one elbow to get a better angle. Akihiko hisses and reaches back to card his fingers through your hair. He leans up and kisses you. Hard. The energy between you is so frenzied that your skin almost burns. Akihiko’s voice gets louder in tandem with your rhythm and you feel like you’re going to snap and just cry. You want to touch him forever, but the clarity comes back long enough for you to find words.

“Aki,” you whisper. “Do you want me to stop?”

He gasps and blinks dazedly. “What?”

His eyes widen as if he’d just come back down to Earth. He stiffens and sucks in a huge breath of air. The flush on his cheeks turns sour. You think to yourself that he looks disappointed, but you can’t tell how much of that is just your projecting.

“Fuck,” he mutters. “Yeah. We shouldn’t.”

The energy is suddenly grim, but the frenzied feeling doesn’t entirely go away. You pull your hand back and turn on your other side. Everything feels cold.

“I’m sorry,” you say.

Akihiko doesn’t answer. You resolve to just go to sleep because that was honestly fucking embarrassing. But then again, it was a mutual fuck up. Sex is one thing--you know how to have adult fucks without feeling any sort of way. You don’t kiss. You hardly look at each other, and that makes it easier. This 3 am intimacy is a lot different, and not something you’ve shared in a really long time.

Your heart doesn’t slow down even as you stare at the wall. You can hear Akihiko breathing behind you. His body is still. You can picture him sitting up, with his hands folded and his lower lip between his teeth. In high school, you used to tease him for always looking blank. When you look at old pictures, it’s odd seeing him with a baby face and no piercings. But particularly, it’s odd seeing how genuinely emotionless he looked. He hardly smiled and, if you didn’t know him better, looked rigid.

You can’t exactly recall when he started to change. Regardless, you know now why he got better. He has others besides you. He has his band and his little girlfriends and his drinking buddies. You have him. Just him. And he’s manipulative and brings out the absolute worst in you. But when it’s all you know, you can’t bring yourself to actually push him away like you want. Like you’ve been trying to.

The bedsheets rustle and a hand tucks your hair behind your ear. You shiver at the contact, but don’t turn around. Akihiko leans close to your ear and stops for a moment.

“Actually…,” he mumbles. “Would it be bad if I didn’t want you to stop?”

Warmth pools in your stomach. You really shouldn’t. But then again. Do you care? Do you actually care?

“No.”

The desperation comes back and you’re on top of him. He kisses you fervently while he grabs your waist. You help him out of his pants, and can’t help but just look at him. His shoulders have always been massive. His legs too. He’s genuinely the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen and you hate it. You stop looking.

“Can I go down on you?” you ask.

“Yes.”

He latches onto your hair when you take him into your mouth. You wish you could say you still feel like you’re floating, but you’re painfully present. Your cock is so hard in your own pants, and Akihiko keeps moaning . You’ve never known him to be very vocal but he’s loud, and you wonder to yourself why this is the most intimate you’ve felt with him in years. He cums with a harsh gasp and shaky thighs. He looks down at you with the gentlest eyes, and fuck, maybe you are going to cry.

You expect him to flip you over and take control. Instead, he pulls you up to his chest and kisses you slowly. He tastes your tongue and runs his fingers across the edge of your jaw.

“Hey,” he whispers. “I love you, Ugetsu.”

You stop. Your mouth runs dry and you can only stare at him. The warmth in your stomach twists and you scowl.

“I know.”

Apparently, that’s enough for him. He pushes you onto your back and you feel exhausted all of a sudden. Akihiko only ever says that in the moment, and it genuinely makes you feel like shit. You never understood it. You’ve gotten in so many fights over it, but you figure there’s no use now.

Akihiko wants you to want him.

You want to want him.

But you’re tired.

Akihiko looms over you and kisses you again. You used to love his tongue ring. You went with him when he got it pierced, and you took care of him while it healed. His mouth was so swollen. He hated it, but it was endearing back then.

“Can I touch you?” Akihiko breathes.

You hum in response. He helps you out of your pants and rubs your cock through your underwear. You throw your arms around his neck when he goes below your waistband. He strokes you slowly, and he really is just touching you. It makes you tremble, and you mewl against his cheek. Why is he doing this?

You clutch him tightly as he goes faster. You get lost in his quiet voice. You don’t know how you’re going to let him go. Every last time, you went through the mental gymnastics of trying to justify it all. But at the end of the day, you’ve seen him naked, you’ve kissed him, you’ve slept in the same bed, you’ve laughed together, you’ve cried together. You’ve seen him at his lowest. And someday, ten years down the line, you might still remember his favorite color or how he only wears boxer briefs. But you’ll forget the feeling of his skin. You’ll forget his scent.

You don’t expect to cum from just his hands, but you do. You cum with a strangled groan and Akihiko holds you. He gets up and brings back towels. He cleans both of you up, and every bit of tenderness you felt is gone. Something a lot sharper replaces it, and you’re glad your apartment is dark. The familiar pressure rests in your throat as Akihiko gets back into bed.

Every inch of your skin crawls, and you stifle a sob. You miss him, but he makes everything worse. So much worse.

You think of the mug that shattered on the hardwood and you taste salt. You think of Akihiko’s jewelry box that holds all of his earrings. You think of his ankle bracelet. You think of that time you both wore skirts to school.

One day you’ll forget.