It isn’t easy sharing an apartment with Yashiro Nene.
That — Amane has learned the hard way. Ever since the two of them graduated university last summer, scraping up what little savings they had to split an apartment in the city, every day has been an offbeat sit-com with her as the plucky idealistic lead, and him the unwitting deuteragonist always thrown into her hair-brained schemes of romance and delusion.
It’s been like this ever since high school, and really he should have known better.
Nene is loud, she can be sloppy (often leaving her clothes and hamster food strewn about), and she can be a lot .
She screws up his Netflix recommendations with her romantic comedies, adds her garbage soap operas to his watch list without asking, and her alarm is too loud every morning, travelling through the paper-thin walls, rousing him awake from his slumber day in and day out without fail, while she often conveniently manages to sleep through it.
Not to mention the fact that he’s told her time and time again, that the walkway to the bathroom is too dark at night, and she needs to remember to leave the lamp turned on. Yet, surprise surprise, come middle of the night when he has to pee, and he will once again have to navigate the trek to the bathroom like a foreigner, fumbling and cursing all the while. The number of times he’s banged his shin against the doorframe of the washroom easily exceeds the fingers on both his hands, and that’s not even counting the one time he walked right into the side table, injuring his groin area, and perhaps endangering his ability to produce offspring in the future.
But living with Nene has its perks too.
She sings in the shower on rainy days, leaves him cute little sticky notes on the stacks of papers he has to grade like, ‘you got this’ or ‘do your best’, and she makes him themed lunch boxes, ones of stars and cosmos when she knows he has office hours and will come home late. He’d never tell her, but sometimes he volunteers to take the later office hours just to see what she cooks up.
Most of all, he loves looking out over his morning coffee to see her out on the terrace tending to the small vegetable garden she’s planted there. There’s just something about the sight of her with dirt on her cheeks, soft smile on her lips, and fringes falling into her eyes while basked by the glow of early sun that does it for him.
They’ve got a fairly decent view from their terrace all the way up on their tenth-floor apartment, it’s one they paid for, but as much as the horizon tries, it’s just not as kind on the eyes.
Okay, so maybe, absolutely the hardest thing about living with Yashiro Nene is the fact that Yugi Amane is hopelessly, irretrievably in love with her, and has been since high school.
Maybe the trouble he finds himself in has a lot less to do with the way she sometimes forgets to soak the pan after cooking omelettes, and much more to do with the ache that plagues him each morning when he wakes up, knowing the girl he loves is only one door down from him and will probably, most likely never reciprocate his feelings.
But hey — his younger brother Tsukasa has always told him he’s a masochist.
“Don’t be mad,” Nene says as soon as he steps foot inside their apartment.
It’s Friday night, and Amane had spent the majority of his day drifting in and out of lectures, and holding lab sessions for the Science students he TAed for. To say he’s tired would be an understatement. Still, he scans around the kitchen and the living room, looking for signs of trouble.
“What?” he finally asks, when he comes up empty.
Fidgeting for a couple of seconds, Nene produces from behind her back (and seemingly out of thin air) a brown and white puppy with long ears and droopy eyes, and he swears to god he’s dreaming.
“Whose is this?” Though he fears he already knows the answer.
His brows knit together. “Excuse me?”
“The dog, I adopted him today. They were looking for owners.”
Trying not to spiral, he pinches the bridge of his nose, a migraine already manifesting.
“We already have a hamster. Your hamster.”
“Yeah but that way our doggy can keep Black Canyon-chan company. You know, when you’re off TAing, and I’m busy with deadlines.”
Making his way from the entryway into the living room, he rests his satchel on the dining table, stretching out his neck.
“Please Amane-kun, just wait till you hear his name.”
Sighing, he palms his face in his hand, exasperated. “Don’t name it Yashiro, you’re already too attached as it is.”
Ignoring him, she cuddles the puppy deeper in her chest, nuzzling him affectionately with her cheek (for a moment he is consumed by an absolutely irrational, but still very valid bout of jealousy). “It’s not an ‘it,” she chastises gently, pouting at him. “It’s a he , and his name — ” Nene pauses for dramatic effect, and he has to stop himself from rolling his eyes, “ — is Violet Supernova .”
“Supernova?” he asks, not quite believing his ears. “Why Supernova?”
She turns away from him slightly, a soft blush coloring her cheeks. “It’s from that documentary you made me watch the other night. Don’t tell me you forgot.” Amane can only gape dumbly at her so she continues. “At peak luminosity, a supernova can shine as bright as an entire galaxy, right? That’s a good name for a dog. And also—” appearing to pluck up some courage, she makes eye contact with him again, the blush now fully visible across her countenance. “He needs a name we both like, he’s both of ours, which makes you the dad.”
Amane has all but stopped functioning at the piece of information she just dropped so casually. To say the wind had been knocked out of him would be an understatement.
Now there were a lot of things he could say to Nene. Too many in fact, and all of them were cycling through his brain at rapid pace on autopilot. Maybe he could ask when he became a father, and why his offspring is not human, but instead a dog of all things. Or why is the color violet in the dog’s name when he’s clearly brown and white? Or maybe he could point out the fact the name is still incredibly tacky, and if she really wanted him to like the name, she should’ve consulted him before naming the thing — to backtrack even further, she should’ve consulted him before she agreed to bring the puppy home at all.
But looking at Nene then, all bouncy hair, starry eyes, slight tremble on her lips as she awaits his reply, and he can only sigh for the umpteenth time that night, realizing he’s losing yet another internal war with himself. That seems to be a side effect of loving her.
Is he really desperate enough that the mere implication of the two of them being even remotely romantically connected is enough to make him cave to yet another one of her selfish requests?
“Give me Violet Supernova, let me hold him.”
It would appear so.
Though Nene’s delighted squeal as she hands him their new dog-child, and her coos of ‘look Violet, it’s daddy!’ does help soften the blow.
They adjust to their new normal relatively quickly, and really, living with a dog is not that bad. Not when Violet Supernova is a fairly well-behaved puppy.
He only barks when overly excited about something (and that something happens dinner every night), and aside from being over-eager to go on walks, he spends most of his time gazing into Black Canyon’s cage — completely unaware that the little critter is absolutely terrified of his new larger canine friend.
And soon, the sight of Violet Supernova wagging his tail by the doorway, as Nene cooks them miso soup and eggs for breakfast becomes a typical morning.
And he can see it. Just like this, years from now, newspaper on the dining table, half-finished Sunday morning crosswords, old rocking chairs swaying back and forth slowly. It’s a wonderful image.
All is right in the world.
When Nene gets a new boyfriend, all is not right in the world.
She stays out late, spends hours getting ready (which is less time for her to hang out with him), and when she does come home, often her and her date will linger right outside their apartment door to say goodnight. Amane would be able to hear them flirting and giggling as they bid each other adieu for the billionth time.
And when she finally manages to pull herself away from the date, she’ll walk into the living room with cheeks flushed, and silver hair tousled. And god if the sight isn’t a just straight punch to his stomach every single time.
If he were to describe the feeling, he’d describe it as being in a state of constant free-fall — just helpless and directionless, feeling as though he might hit the ground at any second.
The guy’s name is Fuji-kun. Like the mountain.
He’s a publisher at the Manga company Nene works at, and they met going up the same elevator while running late. “How funny is that?” she asks him one evening while fixing up supper for Violet. Her fingers are tap-tapping on the kitchen counter as she pours dog food into the bowl. “And he said he didn’t mind my legs! As long as I wear tights, it doesn’t even matter to him.”
And Amane just has to bite his tongue and smile, because it’s not his place. It’s not his place to tell her she deserves so much more than someone who only tolerates who she is. It’s not his place to be anything , other than happy for her that she might’ve found true love this time around.
How funny is it that she’s always loved love , and he’s always hated her being in love .
They last about a month.
Nene and Fuji-kun.
It had been a rather cordial breakup in the grand scheme of things. There was no cheating, no outrageous breaches of trust, no heated blows or unkind words exchanged. But a month into the relationship had given Fuji-kun enough insight to determine what exactly he’s looking for in a partner. And it would appear she just isn’t it.
In some ways Amane figures that’s way worse
They’re drinking beer, empty bottles and half-eaten cups of instant ramen littered between the two of them over the tea table, as she whines about the breakup. He passes her another tissue as she blows out her nose.
“Is it me? Am I the problem?”
“You’re not the problem.” You could never be the problem , he wants to say.
Sniffling a little, she gives him a look that tells him she doesn’t quite believe him, before taking another sip of beer. Her nose is slightly red, and her eyes puffy from crying as she downs the rest of it. Uncapping yet another Asahi, she raises her bottle to him in what appears to be a sloppy toast. “Thank you Amane-kun, for everything. For being the longest relationship I’ve had.”
And it hurts, oh it hurts, it hurts.
It hurts when he lifts his bottle to clink against hers.
It hurts watching the sad smile wane on her face, and her eyes darken as she undoubtedly replays the breakup over in her mind.
It still hurts, later that night when the ramen is devoured, the beer bottles have all been cleaned up, and they sprawl out on his king-sized bed watching a home makeover show.
The TV in his room is a lot smaller than the one in the living room, but neither of them mind as they pull the blanket up to their chins.
The couple on screen has just finished sobbing about their newly updated crown molding ceilings when Amane realizes Nene has dozed off. Turning off the TV, he pulls the covers further up over her before settling in bed himself.
He’s lying flat on his back, counting the cracks on the ceiling, wondering how on earth he’s supposed to find it in himself to let go of the girl lying next to him when she calls out to him.
“Hey Amane-kun,” she says, and his heart stops because he could’ve sworn she was asleep. Shifting so he’s on his side, he sees her looking at him, eyes wide, sparkling like rubies, looking stone cold sober. “Do you remember that night?
And he knows the exact night she is referring to immediately, because he does remember.
Summer after high school — the impending dread of both of them going off to different universities wafting their heads — the matsuri they attended where they’d lost all their other friends in the chaos of games and booths. Though Amane did bitterly theorize this was due less to an accident and more to the fact that their other friends were couples and wanted to sneak away for some time alone, leaving them, the two spares to drift into a nearby park to watch the fireworks away from the crowd.
They’d sat down on a bench, and she’d made an on-brand joke about the several inches he’s grown since freshman year of high school, going as far to lean over and affectionately ruffle his hair.
Young Amane must’ve been feeling particularly bold, or maybe he was just full of plucky schoolboy courage only the youth can possess, (but really it’s probably because she looked so beautiful in that yukata, the red camelia pattern bringing out the softness of her magenta eyes, and hair done up, with fringes sweeping across her face like starlight), because he remembers catching her hand before she’s able to pull away, the shocked look on her face momentarily illuminated by a bright burst of fireworks. He remembers leaning down with the intention of kissing her. He remembers her not moving to stop him. He remembers stopping anyway, right before his lips could touch hers.
He remembers all of it.
The biggest what-if of his entire life.
“Do you ever think about how maybe things would be different?”
Different good or different bad, she doesn’t specify. Not that it matters, because it’s all a hypothetical situation anyway. That moment is long gone — locked away in distant dark places in the back of his mind, tucked into the shadowy crevices of his darkest desires for him, and him alone to visit on his worst days.
He blinks, overwhelmed with the sheer volume of emotions he’s feeling.
“Yeah,” he finally replies, honest.
A beat passes before he hears her shuffle in bed.
“I do too,” she says so softly he’s not sure if he imagined it.
“Yashiro?” he squeaks, but she’s already fallen back asleep.
The next morning she is up bright and early, humming from the kitchen as she makes them both breakfast. For once he’s not woken up by her blaring alarm lock, but instead a steady stream of sunlight sifting in from between the cracks of his drapes.
“Yashiro?” he says sleepily, rubbing his eyes as he makes his way into the kitchen.
“Good morning!” She smiles at him in her strawberry patterned apron. “Breakfast is almost ready.”
And as they sit and eat their omelettes and miso soup, they make light conversation about how her work is going, some of the students in his class, Violet Supernova’s antics, even the weather — but no mention of the night before, and the dangerous, perilous confessions almost uttered under the perceived safety of nightfall.
He feels a strange combination of strangled relief and disappointment at this development.
After stacking up the finished dishes on the table, he grabs his satchel that had been sitting by his chair, slugging it on.
“Well, I’m off then.”
“Wait!” Nene exclaims as she hurriedly makes her way back to the kitchen. Seconds later, she produces a neatly wrapped bento box, complete with the furoshiki tied in a pretty bow. “You have office hours today, right?”
His eyes soften, his entire exterior relaxes as he’s so completely and utterly consumed by love for her at that moment.
“Thank you,” he says sincerely. She returns his smile.
“Good luck at work today!”
“You promise to hold down the home front?”
“I’ll do even better than that! I just had a great idea on how to fix the lighting issue in the hallway.”
He sighs, wondering if all she internalized from yesterday were those inapplicable tips the home renovating show throws at the audience right before commercial breaks. What were the chances he’s gonna come home to their furnished apartment stripped bare, and DIY projects carelessly strewn about their already cramped living space.
“There is no issue, you just need to remember to leave the light turned on at night,” he says, pinching her cheek.
She swats his hand away, pouting. “I already said I have it figured out! Now you go to work,” she says, eagerly ushering him out the front door.
There’s no room to argue as she closes the door behind him
Amane spends the entire day at work, and the entire subway ride home reasonably fretting over the state of their apartment.
If he wanted this much chaos in a living space, he would’ve opted to move in with Tsukasa after University.
Still, there’s an unmistakable sense of excitement that creeps over him as he turns his key in the keyhole and clicks open the door. Maybe he’s excited to see what she’s managed to cook up in his absence, or maybe that’s just the thrill of getting to come home to her every day.
However, his excitement soon turns to confusion when he finds the inside of the apartment pitch black.
He blinks, trying to adjust to the darkness. Why hadn’t she turned the lights on? Did she purchase leave to go to the store? No wait — don’t tell him, is it possible that Nene somehow blew out a fuse trying to imitate whatever home renovating hack she’d seen?
“Yashiro!” he calls, dropping his back by the entrance and turning the corner down the hall, terrified he’d find her hurt.
Instead, he finds something else entirely.
“Surprise!” Nene yells, grinning. She’s got Violet Supernova scooped up in her arms, and both of them are lit up by splotchy uneven lighting courtesy of the dozens and dozens of glow in the dark stars now pasted all over the walls and ceiling of the walkway.
He is absolutely speechless as he takes in the galaxies she’s created right here in their tiny, two-bedroom apartment. “Yashiro,” he says again, awestruck.
“Now you can see in the dark, right?” She tries to sound cheeky, but her eyes are glistening as she takes in his reaction. She reminds him of a four-year-old proudly showing off a macaroni art piece during recess. “Look Amane-kun, a Supernova in space!” she says excitedly, holding up their dog-child Lion King style.
There’s so much he wants to say to her. So much. He feels like a hundred years would not be enough time to tell her how much she means to him. So taking the few steps needed to bridge their distance together, he looks down at her and holds her gaze for a beat. Then two.
Then he leans down and kisses her soundly.
It’s a soft kiss, hesitant, and a tiny bit tentative, but dammit it if it isn’t the best kiss he’s ever had his entire life.
Nene’s eyes are wet with tears when he pulls away from her, so he leans in again and kisses her cheek, her nose, then finally her forehead. She laughs a little, gazing up at him, looking so frighteningly similar to the way she did that night of the matsuri that he wonders if they’ve even changed at all since then.
“That’s good enough then?”
And he’s not sure if she’s asking about the light in the hallway, or about her, or them.
But it doesn’t matter, because it’s more than good enough. All of it. It’s fantastic. Incredible. Preposterously marvelous.
“It’s everything ,” he says back to her.
And he means it.