Author's Notes: written for digital_blitz in the funpotexchange.
Summary: Saeki realizes he isn’t so great with this "friends-with-benefits" thing.
They didn’t plan this.
With Fuji, nothing is ever planned. They are riding the train on one of the lines between Tokyo and Chiba in the early evening. The city lights streak across the windows as the train rushes past buildings and houses, a panoply of movement and chaos, but inside the car there’s nothing but a rumble and skip of wheels on steel and the sound of their breathing.
It had started with a smile from Fuji and that’s usually all it ever takes. He never asks for anything directly, merely suggests without needing words -- more often than not Saeki ends up feeling that it was his idea to begin with. With Fuji’s regulars jacket draped over his lap, Saeki tries not to squirm, which is difficult when Fuji’s hand is down his pants. He doesn’t look at Fuji, because he’s sure that would give him away, and while the train is not completely full, it’s also not completely empty, and the three salarymen at the other end of the car could wake up at any moment. Out of the corner of his eye, Saeki can see Fuji, eyes calm and closed in concentration, the light from the setting sun casting his cheeks in a warm, golden glow. The corner of his mouth keeps twitching up in a smirk. He doesn't seem at all concerned the publicness of this. On the contrary, he seems to like it. Saeki supposes he should be used to that by now. What is exciting for Fuji is terrifying for any normal person.
The door to the bathroom swings open a moment later and Fuji murmurs in Saeki’s ear and jerks them both to their feet. Saeki is terrified for a second that everyone will see, but the fear doesn’t last because Fuji pulls them into the bathroom and as he slides the door closed, cloaking them both in secrecy and safety, Saeki can see the businessmen still dozing quietly, no one suspecting a thing.
Once they’re in the bathroom, it takes some navigating to get into a comfortable position. The room is small and cramped; hardly enough room for the both of them to stand and with each sway of the train car, Saeki is certain he’s going to lose his balance and topple face first into the toilet. Train bathrooms weren’t really intended for this sort of thing -- whatever it is Fuji and Saeki have going on here; Saeki’s never been sure. With Fuji, things are rarely clearly defined. Then again, they never need to be. Saeki trusts Fuji wholly. He holds onto the sink as Fuji shivers out of his pants and reaches for Saeki’s own, not hesitating. They’re both hard now and when Fuji sucks at the pulse point on Saeki’s neck, it’s almost too much for him to handle. He bucks up against Fuji’s thigh and they press their bodies together, their gasps rising over the rhythmic click-clack of the train.
And then comes the moment that changes everything.
Saeki comes, suddenly and hard against Fuji’s stomach and Fuji follows soon after, his arms wrapped tight around Saeki’s shoulders for balance. Saeki smiles and opens his eyes to look at Fuji but realizes as he is doing so, that Fuji isn’t looking back at him. When he catches the flash of Fuji’s open eyes, they’re hazy and unfocused, staring at nothing at all. He could be looking at anything but he definitely isn’t looking at Saeki. It causes Saeki to suck in a breath he didn’t know he was longing for, and something constricts painfully in his chest.
He knows he isn’t thinking clearly, but he wants to shake Fuji and make him look at him like he’s been looking at Fuji all this time, but Fuji just smiles and hums to himself, still staring off at nothing. Saeki doesn’t know why it suddenly matters. They do this all the time, so why should this be any different, and yet it is. Saeki wonders suddenly if all Fuji cares about is the publicness, the thrill of the situation and suddenly he doubts this-- whatever it is. He doesn’t want this to be something that they just do as a passing hobby. He’d never put much thought in it before, because everything with Fuji had always been uncomplicated and comfortable and he’d never searched for reasons or explanations. But now he wants this to mean something, although he doesn’t know what at the moment, just that he feels something, and it’s painfully possible that Fuji doesn’t.
As soon as the train reaches their station, Saeki bolts from the train, embarrassed and confused, leaving Fuji standing on the platform looking equally puzzled. He isn’t sure why he runs, why things feel different all of a sudden. A part of him is shouting, this isn’t supposed to happen. He isn’t supposed to get worried or angry, not at Fuji. That’s what always held them together; they never fought. There was never anything to fight about.
Now Saeki wonders if there was something all along, and he was just too much of a doormat to notice.
Fuji finds him half an hour later in the playground of their old kindergarten. Saeki is curled up inside the tube slide, knees to his chest. He knows it’s Fuji without needing to open his eyes. He’s always been able to sense Fuji’s presence because Fuji tends to glide more than walk, his footfalls gentle and carefree.
He stops in front of the slide opening and crouches down, and when Saeki opens his eyes, Fuji is looking at him with the same expression he’d had on the train platform, one of confusion, but not hurt.
"What’s wrong?" Fuji asks. "Did I do something?"
Saeki wants to grab him by the collar and pull him towards him, and at the same time wants to shove him away. Of course Fuji doesn’t understand. "Who were you thinking about?" he asks, voice low and dangerous.
"On the train."
"No one, really. What’s wrong, Saeki? You’re acting strange."
Saeki wants to yell, I’m not the strange one! because he’s finally realizing that the whole feelings thing, the thing they’d never acknowledged about this-- that’s normal. He’s normal. He’s just been denying it for too long, and frankly, he’s been hanging out with Fuji for too long to remember what the "normal" way to do things is.
"I was thinking about someone, you know," he replies quietly.
"Oh," Fuji says. He puts his hands over Saeki’s knees and squeezes, but that isn’t the response Saeki wants. Saeki wants Fuji to understand and feel the same.
"Are you unhappy?" Fuji asks. Saeki shakes his head, because he doesn’t know what he is. He doesn’t know how he feels, just that he does, abruptly and desperately, and he doesn’t know what to do. Fuji smiles up at him, face light and open. His expression is impossible to read. Saeki didn’t realize how blank a smile could be. The most terrifying thing about Fuji, Saeki thinks, is that he could break someone’s heart and smile, just like that, eyes closed and crinkled at the corners. He wouldn’t even realize he was doing it either. Saeki isn’t sure why, but he feels a bit like that’s what Fuji is doing this very moment.
"If you’re not unhappy then that’s good," Fuji says, and he squeezes Saeki’s knee again. The touch is warm and cold at the same time, because Fuji isn’t saying anything, really. He isn’t saying the right things. The problem with Fuji is that he wants to make people comfortable. He will adjust to play at the level that will connect them, but it's never representative of his true skill. He says what he thinks Saeki wants him to say, but is himself a mystery. He can deal out platitudes by the dozen, but his true feelings remain masked. Saeki remembers when he and Fuji were so close that they caught each other's colds. Back then, he had seemed so simple and easy to comprehend. Now Saeki has no idea what Fuji’s thinking and it scares him.
"It’s all just fun, right?" Fuji continues, eyes going unfocused again. Right. Fun. Maybe it’s all just another kind of game to him.
It hadn’t started that way.
The first time had been the summer of their first year of high school. Fuji and Yuuta had come back to Chiba with their family for two weeks of vacation and they’d stayed in Saeki’s house, the three boys sharing Saeki’s room, sleeping on futons squeezed in wall-to-wall.
It was the first time they’d seen each other since they’d graduated middle school and Saeki had been terrified that Fuji would have changed, come back completely different -- a meter taller, or with spiky hair or a girlfriend on his arm.
But Fuji had been the same as always and they fell into the easy rhythm of friendship. It had never taken any work to be friends with Fuji.
One especially humid afternoon, they had gone down to the beach, sinking their toes into the sand as they sat sharing oranges and soda.
The orange juice had dripped down Saeki’s chin and he’d laughed, wiping it away with the back of his hand. That’s when it started--
Fuji had always been strange, and maybe if they were younger Saeki would have thought nothing of it, but now it was deliberate, purposeful, full of a different kind of intent.
Fuji had taken Saeki’s hand and licked the orange juice off, running his tongue over the back of his palm and pressing what might have been a kiss against Saeki’s knuckle, his eyes locked on Saeki the entire time. Saeki had been unable to do anything but stare back. He could have sworn there was a crackle of electricity in the air, and in his chest. He could see in the curve of Fuji’s mouth as he had let go of Saeki’s hand that something was about to change, that something was about to happen between them.
It was the most terrifying moment of Saeki’s life.
But with Fuji, there had never been any real danger, and the fear was mixed with excitement and anticipation for what would come. Saeki had given Fuji a curious look, wondering if one of them should say something, and Fuji had replied with a raised eyebrow, like a challenge, before leaning in and kissing Saeki on the mouth.
Just like everything else in their many years of friendship, it had been easy and right, not like he’d always heard first kisses with girls would be. Fuji had seemed like a natural. He knew exactly what to do, he knew all the pressure points on Saeki’s neck and shoulder, all the ways to make him tense up, or curl his toes, or moan out loud.
Saeki hadn’t even allowed for the thought that maybe Fuji had done this before.
They ended up in the ocean, the waves rushing against their backs as they kissed, Saeki getting the hang of it as things went on. He learned that Fuji liked it when he sucked at his ear lobes, or bit his bottom lip. He learned how Fuji’s shoulder blades felt under his palms, the way they jutted backwards when he arched his back. Fuji kept pulling Saeki under, wrapping his legs around Saeki’s, one knee hooked around Saeki’s thigh, and holding them both down until they couldn’t stand it anymore and came up, gasping for air.
It felt invigorating.
Saeki had no idea how long they stayed like that, bobbing in the shallow water, tongues in each other’s mouths and hands in each other’s hair and sliding over skin. He had heard a voice calling his name from somewhere down the beach, sounding very far away. When they finally pulled apart and Saeki looked around, he realized they’d drifted quite a ways. Funny the things you don’t notice.
"Dinner!" The voice called.
Fuji had squeezed Saeki’s hand before letting go and running, laughing, out of the water, splashing Saeki deliberately as he did.
At dinner that night, everything had been completely normal. Fuji was calm and composed. He didn’t even acknowledge what had happened, not even when the two of them went to the bathroom to wash their hands. Saeki was terrified to be the first to mention it, so they stood there side by side at the sink in silence, but as Saeki ran his hands under the faucet all he could picture was Fuji’s mouth covering them.
As they all sat there around the table, Saeki’s palms had felt clammy and hot at the same time and he was sure his cheeks were bright red. He was jittery, feeling everything all at once. Before that day, he didn’t realize it was possible to feel quite that much. Sure, he’d heard of all the shoujo manga stories, but he thought that was just dumb girl stuff. Now he felt certain he actually did have butterflies in his stomach. He’d met eyes with Fuji over their bowls of rice and miso soup, but Fuji’s expression revealed nothing and Saeki thought that maybe he’d just dreamed it, gotten heat stroke on the beach and merely imagined that they’d kissed.
But then before they went to bed, Fuji had climbed over Yuuta and onto Saeki’s futon, straddling him and kissing him cleanly on the mouth. He’d whispered, "Goodnight!", in the same cheerful tone he always did and Saeki had echoed it back like a reflex. He didn’t realize until Fuji was gone and the weight of his body disappeared just how strange it was. Only then did Saeki realize that something had changed and could never be undone.
That it was a terrible mistake.
But Fuji doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t regret anything. He just has fun and does what he wants to do and that sets everyone else at ease. The next morning when they woke up, Saeki had felt Fuji’s arms wrap around him, one knee nudging its way between his legs. He’d squawked in horror, but Fuji had quickly reassured him that Yuuta was already gone, although Saeki was half-certain that Fuji probably wouldn’t have cared either way. Fuji had kissed Saeki then, the two of them lying there with hair sticking up at odd angles and their pajamas wrinkled from sleep. It had felt like the most natural thing in the world. Saeki didn’t have to worry, because it was just the two of them. And things with the two of them had always been simple and perfect and required no instruction manual or explanation.
It had started so small, but now it had turned into this big thing, Saeki thinks. It’s consumed them both and eaten up the root of their friendship. It is never just the two of them anymore. It’s the two of them and a tennis locker room, or the two of them and a subway car, or, once, the two of them and an empty supermarket aisle. It feels like the setting is more important than the players and Saeki doesn’t know how to get back to that simple summer day when it was just them and the waves and the beach and the tangerine that had tasted so good on their tongues.
That was the first and only time that Fuji had come to him. Every other time had been incidental, or at Fuji’s suggestion. Saeki realizes that he went along with it every time because he wanted to be with Fuji, but he was always the one doing the work. He’d gone to Tokyo so many times that they might as well have been dating. But that isn’t what this is, right?
Saeki has no idea.
They haven’t talked since the playground. Saeki has three text messages, one voice mail, and a dozen other missed calls from Fuji on his phone, but he hasn’t replied to any of them, except to say, "I’m busy", once. Fuji doesn’t seem to be pushing the subject. His messages are casual, rather than demanding, and that annoys Saeki because he wants Fuji to feel more than that, to care more, to want fight for this, for him. He wants to be missed and wanted and needed, because he is realizing increasingly that he misses and wants and needs Fuji.
Maybe he was always just another distraction. Fuji has many friends now. What if he has other friends like Saeki? Saeki had always imagined their friendship was somehow special and better than the others, but maybe it wasn’t. Or maybe it was and they compromised it by adding this extra element. After all, in the year since it started, they hadn’t ever just hung out. Maybe they didn’t know how to just be friends anymore.
It had seemed like the most natural thing in the world at first but Saeki is realizing, in his time apart from Fuji, with his other friends, that it is anything but the norm. He had never thought anything they did was strange until now. And what is it, exactly, that they are doing?
Saeki isn’t sure how to define it. It isn’t dating. Dating is with girls. Dating is going to dinner or the movies and holding hands. Saeki wonders why Fuji never seemed to think any of the things they did were strange. Sometimes Saeki thinks that Fuji just can’t feel things like nerves or anxiousness. He never seems to have doubts or worries. He doesn’t get stressed when he’s playing tennis either -- because it’s all just a game to him. Maybe this is too.
Saeki didn’t plan on it going like this.
He is riding a bus towards downtown Chiba City, sitting at the back of the bus, staring out the window at the gray buildings that pass by. He doesn’t realize they’ve stopped, that someone’s boarded, that footsteps are approaching. He doesn’t even turn his head until a familiar voice says, "Is this seat taken?"
Saeki looks up and sees Fuji. "What are you doing here?" he asks, his voice coming out weirdly quavery.
Fuji smiles. "I wanted to see you."
"You could have called or come to my house..." Saeki replies, feeling defensive.
"Well, I knew you’d be here." Fuji’s smile broadens as he says that and Saeki understands why Kentarou calls him creepy. "So can I sit here?"
Saeki drags his bag off the seat and Fuji sits down. They ride in silence for a stop before Fuji speaks again. "I’m sorry," he says. "I know something is wrong, but I don’t know what."
Saeki freezes up. He doesn't know how to explain. "It’s about... um... the things we do."
"What about them?"
"Do they mean anything for you?"
"Of course." Fuji laughs. "That’s a silly question."
Saeki sighs. "Well then why is it always in weird places? It makes it feel... it feels like a game. It doesn’t feel right."
Fuji’s face goes serious. "I didn’t know you didn’t like that."
"I don’t-- I mean, it’s fine. I mean, I do. I like it. But why are we never alone? Why never at my house?"
"You didn’t invite me."
"Then why never at your house?"
"With Yuuta there?" Fuji’s eyes crinkle up with delight, before softening again. "What’s wrong with the way things are? What’s wrong with just this?" Saeki isn’t sure why, but his chest always feels like it’s about to burst when he’s around Fuji lately, like it’s all too much and too big, and "just this" is not enough anymore.
"You’re missing the point!" he grumbles.
"Then what is the point?"
"The point is..." Saeki begins to reply. He feels frustrated, not sure how to make Fuji understand. "The point is I think I like you!" Saeki blurts, not sure what he’s saying but realizing that it’s the truth, that it’s been the truth since that first day on the beach when the air had been electric and he’d had butterflies fluttering around inside him.
"Good," Fuji replies, "because I like you too."
"And just because you--" Saeki starts angrily. "Wait... what?"
"I like you too," Fuji repeats, slower this time. "I’m crazy about you. I don’t really care where we are because I don’t care who sees. I don’t notice when I’m with you. Wasn’t that obvious?"
"Well..." Saeki says, and can’t get out much more than that because he’s too stunned to think. Suddenly everything about Fuji seems to fall into place. Fuji has always seemed to be a mystery, his whole existence there solely to confuse or unbalance. But it’s all so simple when Saeki steps back to look at it. Fuji just... likes people. Fuji just likes him. He’d spent so much time puzzling over Fuji’s hidden motivations, wondering if it was all a scheme, if he was just a pawn in some greater game. He hadn’t been expecting all that to fall away and leave something so uncomplicated.
Fuji is not trying to trick him or use him. He just wants to be with him.
"So are we still friends?" asks Fuji. The tone of his voice is hesitant yet hopeful. Saeki’s never known hesitation from Fuji and it thrills him in an unexpected way. Fuji is nervous.
Fuji is scared too.
"Best friends," Saeki replies, and there’s nothing but confidence in his reply.
Fuji grins. "Well, in that case..." he says, tone suddenly suggestive.
Saeki smiles back. "How about we start with this," he says, and takes Fuji’s hand in his, like they're on a first date.
Fuji doesn’t hesitate and squeezes back tightly.