He doesn’t know what wakes him up this time – bad dream, or something, maybe – the feeling’s lost when his arms tighten, as they so often do, around the body he’s holding, and he smiles to himself. He’s got his cheek against Taka’s shoulder and is pushing his head up to kiss his neck like he always does when he wakes up, and instead of thinking I’m so lucky, which is true, he thinks, I love him so much, which is a first.
Mondo stops, lips still pressed to flesh. His eyes widen, suddenly wide awake and self-conscious of his movements, and repeats his last thought to himself: I love him so much.
He feels an overwhelming sense of sudden confidence knock into him. Oh my god, he realizes. I’m in love with him.Well, he’s not going to get back to sleep now, not with this still on his mind and there’s no way he’s gonna just forget about it anytime soon. It’s the kind of world-shattering epiphany he’d normally talk to Taka about, but since Taka is the subject of his mental e-mail and also asleep, he can’t really do that.
Or, rather – in a literal sense, he could. Emotionally, he doesn’t think he’s capable.
He's always been a man that gives into his impulses, like challenge his brother to life-threatening motorcycle races and kissing his best friend/platonic life partner/apparently the love of his life on the neck literally every time he wakes up holding him, which is every day, Jesus, how the hell has he managed? So with absolutely no self-awareness whatsoever, he calls his other best friend. Which he realizes by the start of the second ring might actually be a bad idea given the hour, but tells himself it’s probably not that big a deal. Chihiro always went to sleep late, right? All the way through college. They’re probably still awake now.
It’s an incorrect assumption. When Chihiro answers, their voice is soft and mumbled through sleepiness. “H’llo?”
And now Mondo feels like crap. He takes a breath and second-guesses himself, wimping out on his actual topic of conversation. “Listen, if this ain’t a good time -”
“You alr’dy woke me up, Mondo,” Chihiro grumbles, voice getting clearer with each word. “Go ahead, what’s up?”
Mondo looks around the living room of the apartment he and Taka share while Mondo works on the house. He’s standing there, vacantly, and worries for a minute that he’s still close enough to be overheard. Even though his roommate is asleep. Because he yells when he gets nervous.
Mondo moves toward the balcony, sliding the door open and stepping out to lean against the rail. He chews on his lips, tearing off strips of skin as he thinks of how to start the conversation. “A’ight, so like, I gotta problem.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured,” Chihiro says. “Are you okay? Is Taka okay?”
“Yeah! Yeah, Taka’s great. He’s – uh. I mean, I’m -” Mondo fidgets, shifting weight from foot to foot, trying to find the right angle at which to bite this bullet. He’s nervous, even talking to Chihiro, swallowing around a dry throat, croaking out, “Y’know. I think I’m in love with him? With Taka. Like, I just woke up, and Jesus, like, the first thing I thought was – that I love ‘im. Like that I’m in love with him.” He pauses. There was supposed to be a question there, right? Oh, yeah. “Is that weird?”
There’s a stretch of time that Mondo actually counts as three minutes, mind ticking like a clock in anxiety. He’s just about to ask Chihiro if they’re still there, if they fell asleep or the line went dead when Chihiro says, in a tone he has never heard before, “Mondo. Did you really wake me up at three in the morning to tell me you’re in love with your husband?”
“He’s not my husband!” The second he says it, Mondo understands how colossally stupid it sounds and closes his mouth so quickly he bites his own tongue. Oh my god.
OH MY GOD. He went almost all the way through high school telling people that he was going to spend the rest of his life with his best friend. He told them he was going to build a house for them to live in, together, a statement he was actively making good on. He said they were going to adopt a dog together. He stood there and he said all of this, planning on holding hands and sleeping together and embracing in warmth and affection platonically, with Taka, forever, and didn’t realize that maybe, potentially, that meant he might be in love.
Oh my god. No wonder everyone thinks I’m an idiot.Chihiro’s being awfully nice, giving him a few seconds of quiet to work it all out. The only thing Mondo can really say to break the silence is, “We really are married, aren’t we?”
There’s no forewarning to the shout that follows. “YOU HAVE A RING ON YOUR LEFTHAND FINGER! YOU SIGNED A DOCUMENT AND MADE VOWS IN FRONT OF GOD AND EVERYONE!”
Mondo almost drops the phone in shock. They’ve been friends long enough for him to have heard Chihiro’s frustrated voices, but they’ve never shouted at him before. “You really don’t need to scream, Chi,” he says, although given the circumstances he can totally understand why they want to.
His words do nothing to calm them down, shouting over him. “YOU CALLED ME -”
“Chi -” He starts.
And is immediately cut off. “AT THREE IN THE MORNING -”
“Chi!” he tries again, desperately.
“ON A TUESDAY -”
What the date has to do with it, he doesn’t know, but their volume is starting to make his ear hurt. “Chihiro!”
“TO THINK YOU MIGHT BE IN LOVE WITH THE MAN YOU MARRIED?” they scream. “REALLY, MONDO? YOU THINK? DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU MIGHT BE IN LOVE TAKA? THE GUY YOU HAD TO TOUCH TWELVE TIMES A DAY EVERY DAY FROM THE MINUTE YOU BECAME FRIENDS FIVE YEARS AGO?”
“It was all platonic!” Mondo cries, knowing full well that his own words are either utter bullshit or the evidence that will one day be used to convict him in court of being a total dumbass.
“NO IT WASN’T!” There’s a minute that Chihiro uses to catch their breath before they speak again, no longer screaming, but still adamant and harsh. “It was never platonic, Mondo.”
He tries to form a defense to that, but it all dies on his lips, sighing weakly. “I thought it was,” he offers, running his hands thought his messy hair. “I guess I should prolly say somethin’ to ‘im. I just –“ The hand in his hair tightens painfully as he thinks about how that conversation will go, how awkward it could be, because God help him if Taka starts crying – “I don’t wanna lose him, yanno? D’ya think there’s any way I can like, gauge his interest in me ‘r somethin’? Like, ta see if he’d be interested in havin’ a romantic –“
“Mondo.” Chihiro’s voice has that same irritated tone in it, and he braces himself for more yelling. “Are you asking me to help you flirt with your husband?”
He lets out a pitiful whimper. “Please don’t start screamin’ again.”
The growl they let out reminds him way too much of the noises Chuck used to make, and he wonders if his dog would have the same reaction to this nonsense that Chihiro does. And then his mind takes him down the road of wondering what kind of dog Taka might like when they get to move into their house, and – “Do you really think there’s any possibility Taka’s not in love with you, too?”
He blinks, returning to reality. “Chi. I just realized thirty minutes ago I might actually be in love with the guy I married. Ya think I’d be callin’ ya and askin’ ya if he’d wanna be more than friends if I knew –“
“Mondo?” Not Chihiro this time, but a very tired Taka with rumpled bedhead standing in the living room looking at him. Wearing Mondo’s shirt. And rubbing his eyes.
Oh god oh god oh god – “Yeah, babe?”
“Babe?” Chihiro asks. He thinks he hears a high-pitched, manic giggle. “You call him babe –“
“Are you okay?” He was too distracted by Chihiro laughing in his ear and Taka wearing his shirt to notice him getting closer. Now they’re almost chest-to-chest, Taka’s eyes still unfocused in exhaustion. He’s so warm, this close, one hand on Mondo’s hip. “You weren’t in bed.”
Chihiro at least has the decency to whisper so Taka can’t hear them repeating to themselves that they sleep together. Mondo swallows and says “Yeah, I’m good, just – had a nightmare, ‘s all.” He feels like such shit lying to Taka about this, especially when his brows furrow and he starts to look a little weepy. And because they’ve been friends – or whatever – for five years now, he knows what Taka’s upset about and what he’s gonna say so beats off any bad feelings with a stick to say “You were jus’ sleepin’ so peacefully I didn’ wanna wake ya.”
“Oh,” Taka says, although he still doesn’t look all that happy about it. “Are you coming back to bed, or would you like me to stay up with you?”
He knows there’s no in-between answer to this where he stays up and Taka goes back to sleep. “Yeah, babe –“
“I’ll be back in a sec.” Taka nods and hums, leaning up on the balls of his feet to press a soft kiss against Mondo’s cheek.
Right next to the receiver.
As he shuffles out, Chihiro whispers, voice baffled, “Mondo?”
“Yeah?” His voice sounds strained.
“Did he just kiss you?”
He blinks rapidly, tongue pressing over his lips and thinking oh man what if he kissed me on the lips instead, wouldn’t that have been nice – “Yeah. Just- Just on the cheek.”
“Huh.” He hears them start to giggle, too, before they even start making their next comment. “I’m just wondering, do you guys also platonically make out? Do you have friendship sex?”
“I’m not answering that,” Mondo says. Perhaps a little too quickly, judging by the full-bodied laughter his friend breaks out in. “Good night, Chi.” He doesn’t listen to their protests to wait and answer the question, dropping his cellphone on the kitchen table. Now that he’s opened this door he knows Chihiro’s gonna have a lot of ribbing to get in before they finally let the subject drop. Hopefully they’ll help him out, or at least not go telling everyone else from their class what an idiot he is.
He’s nervous, now, to get back under the covers, but it’s not like he can just sleep somewhere else without having to explain why, and whether or not he explains why Taka will definitely be upset about it. To be honest, he’d rather wake up with another awkward boner than upset Taka.
He slides underneath the covers and plans on surveying Taka for a minute before he makes any kind of physical move, like spooning as they had been, but the second he’s under the cover Taka scoots forward and wraps his arms around Mondo. He hopes that the thin t-shirt he’d been wearing until Taka apparently decided to confiscate it is enough to mask how hard his heart beats when he feels Taka press kisses against his collarbone and sigh in contentment against his neck.
Yeah. Awkward boner it is.
He decides he needs to get this out of the way as soon as possible. He doesn’t sleep much that night, trying to think of a way to start flirting with Ishimaru and discovering, to his dismay, that they already do pretty much all the introductory types of flirting. And that he may or may not have already used pickup lines on him in the past, as a way of teasing him (another type of flirting, apparently, how is he this dumb) for not being current with his lingo.
So the next morning he sits with his hands folded, pressed against his lips while Taka, now fully clothed from his own wardrobe, makes coffee. He hasn’t really kept track of the time he’s been sitting here, wracking his brain for a way to have the What-Are-We conversation with his husband, but it’s long enough that Taka has noticed.
Taka moves his chair so they are sitting with their thighs touching and pulls Mondo’s right hand from his mouth, wrapping his fingers around Mondo’s. “What’s wrong?”
He looks so sweet, so concerned, that Mondo can’t help but cover Taka’s hands with his left hand, holding it tightly. Just in case it’s the last time he gets to. He sighs, resigned, and says, “I got somethin’ kinda important ta tell you. ‘S makin’ me nervous.”
In his peripheral vision he sees Taka smile at him, warmly, bowing his head a little so Mondo has to look at him. His fingers are strong where they tighten over his hands. “You know that you can speak freely to me about anything! Whatever it is, I will not judge you.”
He’s so cute that Mondo’s tempted for a second to throw out the speech he’s been trying to mentally prepare and just kiss him, let his lips and then his body to the talking for him and – No, no, no, mind out of the gutter, this is a serious conversation. Even if his blush is now so noticeable that Taka is just caressing his face now, his knuckles against Mondo’s cheek. And he knows that it’s not all that different from how they normally interact, but with his mind now putting it all in different contexts it’s almost impossible to not just forget all the sentences he’s constructed and blurt out his thoughts ungracefully. “I think I’m in love with you.”
Or maybe it actually is impossible. Taka’s hand on his face stills, and Mondo watches as his cheeks color, blinking rapidly.
But he doesn’t look... angry, or disgusted, as Mondo was up half the night worried he would. He’s actually smiling.
Wait, no... is he – is he laughing? “I’m sorry,” he says. “I was just, ah…” he scratches on cheek, looking away for a moment. “Well, I am a little surprised.”
He covers his mouth, but still snorts when he giggles. Mondo’s not sure if he should be embarrassed or maybe insulted by his friend’s reaction and it’s taking a lot for him to night pull his hand back and maybe run off somewhere. This would be a shitty time for his absolute terror at opening up to others to resurface, but, like, what the hell, Taka? “You can just say ya don’t feel the same, man, you ain’t gotta laugh at –”
“Mondo,” he interrupts, looking a little more serious. “I am sorry for laughing. It is just… Do you remember, the year we graduated? There was a week I would not speak to Chihiro, and did not participate much in class?”
“What the hell does that –”
“Just humor me,” Taka says. “Do you?”
He licks his lips, looking anywhere but at Taka, trying to keep himself from fucking crying. “Yeah. Shit, that bugged the hell outta me. You never did say what was goin’ on with ya.”
“I’ll get to that in a minute.” His fingers squeeze Mondo’s suddenly, and Mondo takes a deep breath to look back at him. And now Taka looks like the one who’s gonna cry, which shouldn’t make his heart race because the guy has no control over his eyes. “Do you remember what you said, that made me start speaking with you both again?”
Taka blinks at him, still caught between laughing and crying. “Mondo. You asked me to marry you.”
“I did not,” he says automatically. It feels weird to say something so defensively when it’s not like it’s a bad thing, like it’s not exactly what he wants, but he never has liked people getting the wrong impression about the things he says. And Taka’s looking at him, bemused, head tilted, holding up a finger.
“You asked me if I would be your life partner. You had someone draw up a contract and we exchanged rings in front of our friends. Mondo, you asked me to marry you.” He smiles, looking down at their hands, turning Mondo’s over to look at it. “I said yes for a reason.”
“I...” The hand that’s not being held runs through his hair, unbrushed, and he remembers it’s the hand that has his wedding band oh god, he’s married, he’s been married for three years and he didn’t know it. “I just thought it was platonic?”
Taka’s smiling nervously at the tic in his voice getting higher on the last word. “Well, I was confused when you didn’t attempt to consummate our relationship –” Oh, fuck – “So I thought perhaps I had misconstrued your friendly banter as flirting. Especially when I saw you being, er…friendly, with Chihiro –” he looks away and Mondo wracks his brain for what it is he’s talking about. “I admit, I thought you were guilty of…infidelity.” He looks absolutely mortified. “B-but then Chihiro set me straight –”
It clicks. “You mean when we got drunk at that party Leon threw an’ I kissed her on the cheek?”
He frowns, like the memory itself tastes sour. And when he says “Yes,” it comes out bitterly.
Mondo thinks he might faint. “You think we been datin’ since high school?”
“I wasn’t sure,” he admits. “I thought we were. Then that happened, and Chihiro clarified for me that your behavior towards them wasn’t meant to be taken romantically. Which called a lot of my perception into question. And then you proposed to me, so I assumed that you had realized your mistake and were attempting to make up for it.”
“Which is why you said ya’d think about it.” He hates how much sense that makes. And also kind of hates how stupid he’s been. And especially hates that no one told him about any of this. “Why didncha say somethin’? Don’t this seem a lil’ different to you from how normal couples do it?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean, like –“ he gestures to nothing, Kiyotaka following his arm as it moves like he’s hoping it’ll lead to some conclusion. “Like – I dunno, affection or somethin’?”
“Mondo.” He’s getting real tired of hearing people say his name like that. “You call me ‘babe.’ We share a bed. You hold me when we sleep. I wear your clothes. Last night you asked whether I would prefer to portmanteau our names or hyphenate them for the dog we will definitively adopt together. You kiss my neck every morning. We hold hands when we go out together, and you literally growl at people who look at me for too long.” Yeah, they do – wait, he does what?! “I fail to see how I came to the incorrect logical conclusion.”
He’s still a little overwhelmed by all the information, looking for something that would defend how he is, apparently, the last person to know about his own romantic relationship. “Well, I never kissed ya on the lips?” is all he can come up with.
To that, Taka just shrugs. “I thought, perhaps, you were uninterested in that. It’s something not everyone enjoys, like sex.” He pauses. “I had assumed you weren’t interested in that, either, though knowing the circumstances now, perhaps that is something else we –“ Mondo stops him, leaning forward, their noses bumping when he kisses him. He knows he’s not doing it quite right, still sort of nervous about it all; but Taka has no problem putting his hand on his cheek and tilting his head so that their lips fit together better. His mouth is so warm and so soft and Mondo just wishes he’d done this last night. He lost a good couple hours of sleep worrying over something that was ultimately pointless.
...and now, with all the adrenaline worn off, he feels himself crashing, pulling away from Taka’s mouth to a disappointed whine, covering his own mouth to yawn.
Taka’s still smiling softly, his hands moved to Mondo’s knees. “Is this what you were up about so early in the morning?” Mondo nods, and Taka leans in, kissing his jaw, trailing up to his ear. “If you want...I can help you get back to sleep?”
Mondo doesn’t mind the laughing as much this time when he stands up so fast he nearly knocks right into his husband, grabbing his hand and dragging him back to their bedroom.