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Suki to ienakute written by Ogawa Illa and illustrated by Kitahata Akeno [Mar. 9th, 2010|09:07 pm]
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Suki to ienakute by Ogawa Illa and illustrated by Kitahata Akeno is a sweet story about two university students and the friendship that turns into something more. The main character is a simple guy, sweet and straightforward, so the narrative is colored sweetly and endearingly by his point of view. He's not that angsty, but he has his troubles that he has to work through. Basically, the two care about each other so much they can't make the next step because they don't want to destroy their friendship and don't think the other loves them back in that way. Yes, it's cliched, but I wanted to pet the main character throughout (though I personally wouldn't want to be his best friend or girlfriend). I adore this story so much, even though there is nothing really original in it.

University sophomore Sakuma Tomoharu attempts to recruit freshmen into the basketball club. He's ordered by the upperclassman he's manning their club table with to talk to every tall guy. Unfortunately every other club wants the tall guys as well, and most of the guys Tomoharu tries to talk to have already been taken. He asks if he can ask any guy, regardless of height. The upperclassman, Tajima, is okay with the idea, but Tomoharu is warned that if he recruits only point guards they will end up as competition for a regular spot in that position along with Tomoharu and Tajima. They want power forwards and centers. The club is only three years old and only has nine members. They desperately want to grow.

Tomoharu figures that since their motto is "fun basketball," it shouldn't matter if everyone is a point guard, but he gets scolded and bonked on the head by Tajima when he voices his opinion. He sees a pair of thighs pass in front of him as he lays his upper body on the table and realizes that the owner of those legs must be quite tall. Tajima notices as well and orders Tomoharu to go get him. The guy is holding a bunch of pamphlets from other clubs so he must be a freshman.

When the freshman turns back towards Tomoharu, Tomoharu recognizes him as Ootomo HIsashi. Ootomo recognizes Tomoharu as well. They'd gone to high school together.

Back in high school they'd first met in P.E. when they paired up to stretch, but nothing came of their first meeting. They were in different classes so they didn't interact until they accidentally found themselves sitting next to each other in the library studying for exams. Finding a lot to talk about, they quickly became friends after that. They'd both played basketball in intermediate school, but their high school didn't have a team. They'd even talked of creating a club to play for fun.

Their friendship had ended by the second term, however. Ootomo was a popular though aloof figure. He was also gay. Classmates would ask Tomoharu for info on Ootomo, and Tomoharu had casually revealed that Ootomo was gay. Tomoharu personally had no prejudices against gays and hadn't reacted much to Ootomo's confession, but their classmates had reacted predictably. They'd avoided Ootomo and talked behind his back. Tomoharu had wanted to explain and apologize, but Ootomo had avoided him. Ootomo had transferred before the second terms began, supposedly for family reasons. Everyone had thought Ootomo had left because he couldn't stand being in school anymore. Tomoharu had felt very bad about the whole thing.

Back to the present: Talking to each other in the cafeteria, it turns out that Ootomo had actually moved to America with his family. He'd entered university a year later than Tomoharu because he'd graduated high school in America first. Tomoharu apologizes for the incident four years ago and asks Ootomo to join their club. Ootomo, for his part, doesn't seem to be paying much attention to Tomoharu. He walks away, but Tomoharu persists. Ootomo tells Tomoharu that he doesn't want to play basketball in Japan. There's no need for Tomoharu to apologize to him either. Tomoharu feels rejected, but asks if Ootomo isn't actually mad at him whatever he says. He knows he could just make Ootomo mad by coming out and asking, but he's not good at being subtle or sensitive. He wants to know.

Ootomo comments that Tomoharu hasn't changed at all. He asks if Tomoharu hasn't been inconvenienced or troubled by being so straightforward. Tomoharu doesn't know how to take that comment, but Ootomo clarifies that he's glad that Tomoharu hadn't changed. He repeats that he has no plans on playing basketball and walks away again. Tomoharu, left behind, realizes that apologizing may not be enough. He'd love to rekindle the friendship he'd lost, but things just aren't that easy.

Tomoharu is harassed by Tajima and the other upperclassmen about Ootomo. He needs to get Ootomo to join them. They know each other and Ootomo has played basketball! Even two weeks later they haven't given up, but Tomoharu doesn't want to bother Ootomo and have him dislike him more. Finally, the upperclassmen order Tomoharu to challenge Ootomo to a one-to-one match. If Tomoharu wins Ootomo will join them. And Tomoharu must win. Tomoharu realizes he has no choice, so he agrees if they talk to Ootomo and get him to show up for the challenge.

The next day Tomoharu is dismayed and surprised to see Ootomo in the gym. Turns out the upperclassmen had gotten Ootomo to show up by lying to him that a professor Ootomo is taking a class from had called Ootomo to the gym. The upperclassmen push Tomoharu to actually challenge Ootomo. Tomoharu, having no choice, does so. If he wins Oomoto will join their team, if not they'll stop harassing Ootomo. Tomoharu doesn't think Ootomo would have any reason to accept the challenge, but figures the upperclassmen will give up if Ootomo clearly refuses. But to Tomoharu's surprise Ootomo accepts.

They play one on one, with the first one getting five points winning. Turns out Ootomo is quite a good player and wins handily. The upperclassmen are amazed and beg Ootomo to join them. They even offer to keep Tomoharu from playing in games with Ootomo if Ootomo wants it that way. Tomoharu hopes Ootomo will refuse. He'd likely be bumped off playing in any games. He thinks about quitting even though he'd joined only wanting to have fun and hadn't been concerned about getting a regular spot. Unfortunately for Tomoharu, Ootomo agrees to join. Everyone is happy except Tomoharu, who wants to shake Ootomo. Why had Ootomo agreed so easily now when Tomoharu had asked him so much so humbly before? Ootomo, for his part, comments that Tomoharu is a pretty good player and thinks it be interesting to play together.

Tomoharu knows Ootomo hadn't even played seriously against him in the game and feels miserable since it feels like Ootomo is pitying him. Tomoharu decides to let the past go. He's an upperclassman to Ootomo and Tomoharu will treat Ootomo appropriately. He's not going to lose to Ootomo!

But then Tajima comes up to Tomoharu and tells him he has to organize Ootomo's welcome party as a penalty for losing the match. Tomoharu feels like Ootomo is some kind of a jinx.

A week later the club gather for a welcome party for Ootomo at a nearby izakaya (one that they always go to, no thanks to Tomoharu's non-planning). They say "cheers" and drink (they don't say "kampai" as bad luck after losing miserably 50-zip the year before). They finally have ten members so they can split into two teams and play! They've added a great player so that they won't lose so badly anymore. The club members ask Ootomo about basketball in America. They also ask why he'd decided to attend university in Japan. Ootomo explains that the professor he is interested in studying under is at this university. Turns out that the professor, Oozaki, is quite famous in his field of sports mechanics and is well known to athletes and trainers. The club members had previously been asked to participate in experiments by the professor and had found him odd. They had no idea Oozaki was well known.

While the upperclassmen pepper Ootomo with questions, Tomoharu is busy playing host and ordering food, serving drinks, and being teased by the upperclassmen sitting next to him. He's forced to drink a lot and becomes quite drunk. He's told not to fall asleep (when he drinks too much he tends to fall asleep). Once when he'd fallen asleep inTajima's room they'd taken off his clothing and dressed him in a sailor-style girl's uniform. When Tomoharu had woken up and looked in a mirror he'd been very surprised. He looked like a half-assed new-half. Of course the upperclassmen had found it all hilarious and had teased him with photos taken at that time. Tomoharu excuses himself to go to the restroom.

Tomoharu nearly trips at the restroom door. Ootomo, who'd followed him to the restroom, asks if he's okay. He thinks Tomoharu is drunk. Tomoharu is drunk, but he doesn't want to admit it to Ootomo. They do their business silently. Tomoharu is uncomforable, so to break the silence he asks Ootomo if Ootomo is really okay with joining the club. He didn't want to play basketball in Japan, right? But Ootomo tells Tomoharu that he changed his mind after getting his hands on the ball again. Plus, it was fun playing with Tomoharu. Tomoharu is surprised but happy to get a bit of that camaraderie from high school back. He also almost falls over, but Ootomo catches him before he actually hits the floor. Ootomo decides Tomoharu is in fact drunk and announces that he's going to take Tomoharu home. The upperclassmen complain that the reason for the party and the organizer are leaving early, but they don't argue much with Ootomo. Ootomo is the type of person people listen to and respect. Tomoharu ends up throwing up outside. His apartment is quite a distance away, so Ootomo decides to take him to his room, which is nearby.

Tomoharu is taken to Ootomo's room on the third floor of a walk-up. He throws up again, and feels much better. They talk for a while until Tomoharu notices a bunch of photos stuck on a board near Ootomo's desk. Ootomo gently tries to prevent Tomoharu from looking at the photos, which makes Tomoharu even more curious. He thinks he'll see embarrassing photos of Ootomo's boyfriends or something, but instead they are pretty normal pictures of friends, family, classmates. Tomoharu finds out that Ootomo had been part of a basketball team that had won their state championship. He is amazed at the achievement and praises Ootomo, which causes Ootomo to look away in slight embarrassment. Tomoharu remembers Ootomo looking like that in high school, when Tomoharu would heap praise on him for something or another. A bit embarrassed, but also a bit happy. It's rather cute since Ootomo is usually rather expressionless. They talk enthusiastically about Ootomo's high school team until quite late. Tomoharu has recovered from his drunkenness, but timidly asks to stay over since he's not sure he can make the last train. At first Tomoharu regrets asking because Ootomo looks startled, but Ootomo says he can. When Tomoharu asks to borrow the shower, Ootomo asks if Tomoharu has forgotten that Ootomo is gay. Tomoharu hasn't forgotten. He asks if Ootomo's boyfriend is coming over. It's Saturday night, after all. Ootomo says that he doesn't have a boyfriend now, but when Tomoharu looks totally puzzled at what the problem could be Ootomo gives up and explains where everything is to Tomoharu. When Tomoharu emerges from the bathroom, Ootomo is making up a place for Tomoharu to sleep on the floor. Tomoharu is impressed. Usually everyone just sleeps on the floor after drinking. Tomoharu is happy to regain such a good guy as a friend.

The next morning Tomoharu wakes up to a close up of Ootomo's face. He'd just slept on Ootomo's fairly large bed and ended up using Ootomo's arm as a pillow. When Ootomo offers to make a simple breakfast Tomoharu is again impressed. He can't cook at all and has been eating crap food (happily). Ootomo had learned some simple recipes from his mother. As they eat breakfast, Tomoharu asks about Ootomo's boyfriend from high school. Had they broken up due to the difficulties of a long-distance relationship? Ootomo vaguely makes noises of agreement, then asks about Tomoharu's love life. Tomoharu had been dumped by his girlfriend not that long ago. Turns out he'd fallen asleep on her three times in a row when they were going to have sex. Ootomo is exasperated and commiserates with Tomoharu's ex-girlfriend. When Tomoharu asks if Ootomo would ever fall asleep on his lover, Ootomo declares that he'd never do such a thing. He'd do what he had to before falling asleep, even if he'd been up three nights in a row. Tomoharu doesn't have anything to say to that. He instead asks if Ootomo if he's secretly perverted, belying his nice image. Ootomo agrees that he just may be. He points out that Tomoharu is rather dry about sex despite his appearance. Tomoharu is a bit put off. What, does he look like he's desperately horny? When Ootomo replies that Tomoharu kinda does, Tomoharu asks which is better, a guy who is secretly perverted or a guy who is actually rather dry about sex despite appearances? Ootomo responds that the guy who can get what needs to be done is in the end better. Tomoharu had thought the same thing and collapses his upper body on the table in defeat.

Whenever Tomoharu sees Ootomo on campus he goes over to talk to him, so they end up spending a lot of time together. Ootomo also spends time helping Professor Oozaki. Tomoharu is impressed that Ootomo knows what he wants to do. He figures he'll just join some company and get pushed around by his bosses and drink and bitch after work. Ootomo points out that it's not that different from Tomoharu's situation now. Tomoharu has to agree...But he doesn't want it pointed out by Ootomo! As they walk along they see Professor Oozaki trying to carry some large piece of equipment up ahead, and Ootomo immediately goes over to help Oozaki. Tomoharu had never paid much attention to Oozaki before, but since Ootomo thinks so highly of him Tomoharu has observed him around campus. Though he may be famous in his field, he seems very young and relaxed.

One day during practice Oozaki shows up looking for volunteers for a new piece of equipment. The upperclassmen know that Oozaki's experiments tend to be very tiring and odd, so they offer up (the unwilling) Tomoharu and (the willing) Ootomo. After they do the experiment, Ootomo stays behind to help with the data analysis. As Tomoharu walks back to the gym by himself, it suddenly hits him that Ootomo is gay and thus is attracted to men. He remembers how Ootomo smiles at Oozaki and thinks that maybe Oozaki is totally Ootomo's type. When he returns to the gym he is still spaced out, wondering about Oozaki and Ootomo. He gets hit in the face with a basketball and his nose starts to bleed. He is still spaced out, until someone rushes over and shoves a towel at his bleeding nose. It's Ootomo. Tomoharu is led towards the bench and lays down. He wants to ask Ootomo if he likes Oozaki, but hesitates. He doesn't think it'd be a big deal to ask, but he doesn't want to mess up their rekindled friendship. Ootomo, for his part, finds Tomoharu amusing. How does Tomoharu manage to do such manga-esque things? Tomoharu sits up and tells Ootomo that things may be tough for Ootomo, but to do his best. His nose starts dripping blood again, so Ootomo tries to get Tomoharu to lay down again. He tells Tomoharu that Tomoharu is the one that has it tough so he should lie down and be quiet. Tomoharu has to agree with Ootomo's assessment. Why does his life have to turn into a comedy the more he tries to be serious?

Tajima shows up with a towel soaked with cold water to put on Tomoharu's forehead. He peers at Tomoharu's face and gently asks if Tomoharu is okay. Though he's normally teasing and strict, he can also be very considerate, which is why he's the candidate to be the next captain. Ootomo tells Tajima that he'll watch over Tomoharu so he should go back to practice. He sounds a bit displeased. Tajima returns to practice. Ootomo tells Tomoharu to lie down quietly until the bleeding stops. Tomoharu closes his eyes and relaxes. He does not want to do anything to mess up his friendship with Ootomo like in high school. He's happy that they are friends again, but it feels like there's a distance between them because he has to try to avoid saying or doing something unthinking that will make Ootomo avoid him. This time Tomoharu will support and encourage Ootomo as a friend, no matter who Ootomo ends up with.

Tomoharu ends up staying at Ootomo's room often on the weekends. Ootomo complains even as he prepares food for (and generally mothers) Tomoharu. Tomoharu explains that Ootomo's room is close to their university so he can get to practice without worrying even if he drinks the night before. Ootomo points out that Tomoharu shouldn't drink if he knows he has practice the next day. Besides, his refrigerator is full of the beer Tomoharu buys. Tomoharu retorts that Ootomo would have no alcohol if he didn't buy any. Ootomo only stocks water and milk. Ootomo replies that he's underage so he's not supposed to be drinking. Turns out he's born in February so he's younger than Tomoharu. Tomoharu had totally thought Ootomo is older than him, so he's surprised. And comments that Ootomo shouldn't be drinking if he's underage. Ootomo responds that he doesn't keep alcohol in his room precisely because he's underage but Tomoharu keeps bringing some over.

Tomoharu realizes they'd never talked about their birthdays back in high school. They'd mostly talked about basketball or schoolwork. He remembers that it had been only by accident that he'd learned that Ootomo was gay, One day walking home from school a car had stopped near them. Ootomo had smilingly ran over to the guy when he'd caught sight of the driver's face. Tomoharu had wondered who the guy was, when the driver placed his hand over Ootomo's in an oddly coquettish way. Ootomo had said goodbye to Tomoharu and had jumped into the car. The next day Ootomo had told Tomoharu that he was dating the driver, that he was gay. Ootomo seemed very troubled, so Tomoharu worried that things weren't going well with the guy and immediately asked if something was wrong. Had they broken up? Looking back on it now, Tomoharu realizes that Ootomo must have been troubled because he was revealing a big secret to to a friend, but at that time Tomoharu hadn't even bothered to worry about that. Sexual orientation didn't seem to be a big deal to Tomoharu back then. Even now that Tomoharu understands a little better the way the world works, he still personally doesn't think it's a big deal.

Tomoharu asks about what happened with the guy Ootomo had been dating in high school. He'd told Ootomo about his break up, so he thinks it's only fair that Ootomo dishes. Turns out the guy had been in love with someone else. Ootomo had comforted the guy and they'd gotten into a relationship. Ootomo had hoped the guy would fall for him, but in the end the guy went back to his boyfriend. So Ootomo had decided to go to America with his parents and start anew as well. It wasn't because of Tomoharu. When Tomoharu objects that he did in fact make things harder for Ootomo, causing Ootomo to avoid him, Ootomo tells Tomoharu that he'd avoided Tomoharu to prevent Tomoharu from being gossiped about as well. He feels bad that he didn't explain himself to Tomoharu then, but he wasn't exactly full of composure back then.

Tomoharu is incredibly happy to learn that Ootomo had actually acted to protect him instead of having avoided him out of dislike. He tells Ootomo that he's glad they are friends again. He declares Ootomo a swell guy. He eats and drinks with gusto, making Ootomo warn him about drinking too much. As Tomoharu dries the dishes Ootomo washes after dinner, he comments that they seem like newlyweds. His ex-girlffiend hadn't cooked so he'd never stood next to someone to wash and dry dishes before. Ootomo is rather embarrassed and tells Tomoharu that he's being ridiculous. Tomoharu laughs at how embarrassed the normally self-possessed Ootomo is over a silly joke. Ootomo tells Tomoharu to go take a bath because he's just in the way, so Tomoharu joking asks, "Wanna take a bath together, dear?" and gets a kick in the pants.

When Tomoharu comes back from taking a shower, Ootomo is at his computer with a beer in his hand. Tomoharu points out that Ootomo is underage, but Ootomo coolly replies that he felt like drinking as well after seeing Tomoharu enjoy his beer so much. He's organizing data for Professor Oozaki. He's quite useful because he knows English. In the meantime, Tomoharu wastes time reading magazines and watching TV, but he soon gets sleepy. As he heads towards Ootomo's bed Ootomo tells him to lay out the futon. Tomoharu ignores Ootomo as he's been doing every time. He doesn't want to bother with taking out and putting back the futon when there's a perfectly serviceable bed that can fit the two of them just fine.

As Ootomo takes a shower, Tomoharu lays in bed. He'd forgotten to grab the cushion he'd been using as a pillow, so he grabs Ootomo's pillow. It faintly smells like Ootomo's deodorant. He figures he can get Ootomo to throw him the cushion he uses later. As he snuggles in he suddenly gets an erection. He panicks. Why the hell is he getting an erection now? Yeah, he used to get hard at the drop of a hat when he was younger, but that kind of thing had subsided. He has to do something about it before Ootomo comes out of the shower, but it's not going away easily. Ootomo soon emerges and gets into bed, muttering about Tomoharu never listening to him about sleeping in the futon. Tomoharu is totally regretting not laying out the futon, but it's way too late. He's only getting harder the more he panics. Of course Ootomo eventually notices Tomoharu's state. Tomoharu can't get up and go into the bathroom, so he asks Ootomo to kind go away so that Tomoharu can take care of things. Instead, Ootomo offers to help Tomoharu out. He's used to it and quite good. As Tomoharu panics Ootomo lays down next to Tomoharu and wraps his arms around Tomoharu from behind. He grabs Tomoharu's dick and jerks him off. As Tomoharu gets close to ejaculating he tries to get Ootomo to let go, even biting Ootomo's arm, but he ends up cumming in Ootomo's hand. Ootomo hugs Tomoharu tightly to him.

The next morning as they do laundry, Tomoharu bitches about having to wash his underwear while wearing an extra pair of Ootomo's underwear. When Ootomo suggests Tomoharu go without underwear to practice, Tomoharu demurs. He'll get teased to death if the upperclassmen find out. Tomoharu then bitches that Ootomo shouldn't use his gay skills on newbies. Ootomo really was quite good, which makes Tomoharu feel odd, embarrassed, and a bit peeved. Ootomo doesn't think it's a gay thing. He also reminds Tomoharu that Tomoharu had asked for another round of jerking off afterwards, which resulted in them dirtying the sheets as well as Tomoharu's underwear. Tomoharu points out that Ootomo had run into the bathroom afterwards. Ootomo calmly states that guys are made that way. Besides, he hadn't dirtied the sheets. Tomoharu resents Ootomo's self-control and hysterically accuses Ootomo of butting in on his erection. He didn't need help! Ootomo just snorts in disbelief. Tomoharu gives up. He can't win with words against Ootomo. Suddenly Ootomo hugs Tomoharu from behind. Tomoharu yells out loud. What was that for? Ootomo lets go immediately, but Tomoharu's heart races. Ootomo tells Tomoharu that they don't have much time before they need to leave for practice, so they quickly finish up everything and go to practice.

They are preparing to play the team that beat them pretty badly last year so everyone's pretty excited. Ootomo and Tomoharu get put on one team in the practice and turn out to be a pretty good combination. Tomoharu is not super tall or super skilled, but he's fast. The rest of the team is not able to keep up with his speed, but Ootomo is faster and more skilled and so can work with Tomoharu. They will be used together in the game next week, which pleases Tomoharu. The upperclassmen plan on drinking after practice, but the two decline. Tomoharu has to go home and do housework. Before parting ways with Ootomo, he remembers his underwear still at Ootomo's room. He tells Ootomo to keep it safely for him. Ootomo tells Tomoharu that he can keep Ootomo's new Italian-brand underwear. As Tomoharu heads home, he is glad that they had basically forced Ootomo to join the team. Not only do they have a chance to win, he enjoys seeing his best friend play. As he thinks of Ootomo as his best friend, he remembers Ootomo's breath on his neck the night before and wonders if he really wants to be just Ootomo's best friend...

The next week Tomoharu plays the first half. The plan is to have Tomoharu move around quickly and Ootomo make the points, and it works. At half time they are over ten points ahead. Tomoharu switches out with Tajima, who pats his head and tells him he did well. Ootomo comes over and pats Tomoharu's head as well, telling Tomoharu that they will definitely win. Tomoharu resents being patted on his head by someone technically his junior, but he is happy that Ootomo doesn't hold back on the encouraging words. Tajima switches with Tomoharu with seven minutes remaining, and they do end up winning by two points. It's the first game they've ever won and Tomoharu is delighted. He looks forward to celebrating the victory with Ootomo...

But ends up drinking with his upperclassmen. Ootomo had been grabbed by Professor Oozaki and taken to his lab after the game. Tomoharu is not happy. He knows helping Oozaki is very important to Ootomo, and he had pledged to support Ootomo if he was interesting romantically in Oozaki...But he is still somewhat resentful. He leaves early, but instead of going home goes over to Ootomo's apartment. He yells out loud, "Give me back my underwear!!" at Ootomo's door as he kicks it. Ootomo is home and had been taking a bath. He opens the door, to Tomoharu's surprise, and tells Tomoharu to shut up and pulls him inside. Tomoharu, totally drunk, cries over not having been able to celebrate the victory with Ootomo. He accuses Ootomo of thinking of him as just some run of the mill friend rather than the special friend Tomoharu thinks of Ootomo as. Ootomo bitches right back, but takes care of Tomoharu. He makes Tomoharu to take a bath and tells him to brush his teeth, like a lecturing mother. Tomoharu is glad that Ootomo hadn't gotten so disgusted at him after his drunken antics so he hugs him after taking a bath (but before he puts on any clothes). He apologizes and begs Ootomo to not forsake him. He keeps clinging onto Ootomo, so Ootomo drags him over to the bed. Ootomo tries to get him to at least put on underwear, but Tomoharu falls asleep...

When Tomoharu wakes up the next morning he's totally forgotten everything, but is lectured by Ootomo. He feels very badly about acting out and promises to be good. He's worried that he's said something about Professor Oozaki in his drunkenness, but Ootomo doesn't mention anything. There is no practice that day, so they hang out at Ootomo's room. They lay around talking, watching TV, reading magazines. Tomoharu suddenly gets an erection. He asks Ootomo to help out again since it had felt so good the last time, so Ootomo reluctantly jerks him off again. Ootomo himself gets hard again, but he refuses Tomoharu's offer to reciprocate and goes to the bathroom to take care of himself. Tomoharu thinks Ootomo is being faithful to Oozaki. How so like Ootomo.

Tomoharu decides to stay over another night and go to class from Ootomo's oh-so-convenient room. Ootomo is a bit exasperated. He feels like he has a useless pet that's only good at being indulged. Tomoharu forgets the lecture he got that morning and gets a beer from the frig before dinner, but is scolded again. Ootomo makes fried rice, which Tomoharu compares to really delicious fried rice he'd eaten as a kid with his family. Ootomo feels sorry for the restaurant being compared to an amateur cook's version. Ootomo had learned to cook fried rice from a Japanese woman he'd known in America. At first Tomoharu misunderstands and thinks Ootomo had dated her, but it had been a completely platonic friendship. Tomoharu thinks about how painful Ootmo's relationships seems to have been and asks why Ootomo can't be in a relationship that is fun, that isn't so painful. He hopes Ootomo can find such a love some day. Ootomo is grateful for Tomoharu's support and well wishes.

Tomoharu is kicked out of the kitchen when he tries to "help" clean up after dinner and takes a shower. He notices bruises at his neck and around his thighs. He initially thinks they are kiss marks and flushes. He dismisses thoughts of Ootomo putting the marks on him, despite the fact that he doesn't remember anything from last night. He'd probably gotten the bruises from bumping into something or another. He's a bit disappointed that he's obviously not someone Ootomo is attracted to...And is surprised at his disappointment. His feelings for Ootomo are those of a friends, not something more...Right? Tomoharu suddenly becomes conscious of the fact that the way he bums over at Ootomo's room--taking showers, eating together, and sleeping in the same bed--is rather similar to what he'd been doing with his ex-girlfriend not that long ago. He had never thought anything about what he'd been doing, but what had Ootomo thought of Tomoharu's actions? Tomoharu ends up putting on all his clothing after taking a shower rather than just wearing a shirt like he'd normally do.

When Tomoharu emerges from the bathroom, Ootomo tells Tomoharu not to sneak some beer while he's taking a shower. He then comes over to Tomoharu and starts drying his hair with a towel. Tomoharu wonders at this situation. Does anyone else he knows take care of him like this? Would he let himself be so indulged by anyone else? He looks up at Ootomo's face and sees Ootomo smiling gently at him. What were they doing? They'd seem like lovers to a third person. Tomoharu flushes at that thought. He'd never been so conscious of the intimacies they'd shared before.

Ootomo notices that Tomoharu is red and asks if he has a fever. He brings his face close to Tomoharu to put his forehead against Tomoharu's forehead, but Tomoharu draws away. He'd had the urge to kiss Ootomo right then. Tomoharu makes some excuses and goes home. As he walks to the train station Tomoharu covers his face with his hands. He's realized that his feelings are not those of a friend. He doesn't know what to do with his feelings. He finally understands the difficulties Ootomo had falling in love with someone of the same sex. He has no idea how he'll face Ootomo from now on. And had he been mistaken about love until now? Had what he'd experienced not been true love? Was true love this painful?

The first two days of the next week Tomoharu does his best to avoid Ootomo. As he's changing for practice, Tajima grabs his crotch and accuses him of celebrating their victory with a new girlfriend. Tajima thinks Tomoharu's bruises are kiss marks as well. Tomoharu vehemently denies having a girlfriend. He'd been at Ootomo's place all weekend, anyhow. When Ootomo shows up Tajima asks for confirmation, but still thinks Tomoharu's new girlfriend had marked him up while he'd been drunk. Tomoharu is startled at Tajima's conjecture, so similar to his own. Before he can deny it his gaze meets Ootomo's. Ootomo looks away. Tomoharu realizes Ootomo now thinks Tomoharu had avoided him because of the bruises. Tomoharu knows full well that Ootomo would never do something that. Besides, Ootomo wouldn't think of him in that way. He wants to dispel Ootomo's misunderstanding, but he doesn't know what to say. He doesn't know how to clear up his own confused feelings.

After that Ootomo doesn't talk to Tomoharu either. They speak minimally at practice, and the upperclassmen notice. They ask what's wrong. They figure Tomoharu had done something to piss Ootomo off. Tomoharu wants to say it's the upperclassmen's fault. The upperclassmen tell Tomoharu to do whatever it takes to keep Ootomo on the team. They don't want to lose him now. They notice that Ootomo hasn't showed up yet. Someone had seen Ootomo with Oozaki earlier, and they worry that Ootomo's time will get sucked up by helping Oozaki. They comment that someone has pissed Ootomo off recently. When everyone looks at him, Tomoharu objects that Ootomo is probably just helping Oozaki out and will show up when he's done. But they tell Tomoharu to go fetch his friend. They won't let him practice until he does.

Tomoharu has no choice but to go find Ootomo. On his way to Oozaki's lab, he thinks hard about what to say. He thinks about apologizing but decides it'd get too complicated. He'll just ask if Ootomo will attend practice. When he knocks on the door no one answers. He enters and sees Ootomo embracing Oozaki. Tomoharu has his suspicions confirmed and feels really jealous. Neither had noticed Tomoharu yet. Ootomo asks Oozaki if he's okay. Oozaki says he's okay, and asks if his eyes are red. Ootomo brings his face close to Oozaki. Tomoharu makes a noise then that makes the two notice him. Tomoharu leaves, his mind a jumble. Ootomo follows and grabs him to stop him. Tomoharu rattles on about how he won't tell anyone about Ootomo and Oozaki. Ootomo doesn't know what the hell Tomoharu is talking about, but he can't get a word in. Tomoharu tells him that the upperclassmen had sent him to check on Ootomo. Ootomo should let the club know when he won't show up so they won't be concerned that he'll quit. Saying what he needed to say, Tomoharu runs off. Ootomo doesn't follow him this time. Tomoharu hates that he's messed up the friendship they'd managed to rekindle. He hates that he can't come out and confess. He'd always been able to at least do that when he'd found himself in love, even if there wasn't much of chance that he'd be requited. And he's jealous and lonely and sad that Ootomo will never hold him like he'd just seen Ootomo hold Oozaki.

The two outwardly act normal, but are in fact very awkward with each other. Normally Tomoharu would just yell in frustration at the situation and do something to break the ice, but without having reconciled his own feelings he thinks it'd be pointless. Only when they play together in practice do they act naturally. One day Tajima announces a goukon with girls from another university for that weekend. Ootomo tries to get out of it, but he and Tomoharu are ordered to attend because they are the star attractions of the club. If they don't attend they'll have to do 100 sets of dashes and sit out three games.

Later that day, Tomoharu happens to see Ootomo walking with Oozaki. He hides behind some trees and watches them go by. He wonders if they are working on something, or if they will go back to Oozaki's room and spend time there. He hasn't been able to talk to Ootomo normally for two weeks now. He wonders if they will drift apart eventually. He realizes how crappy it is to be unrequited in love. He'd always imagined it to be romantic, but it totally isn't. Tomoharu decides he'll try to find a new love at the goukon that weekend. Maybe if he falls in love with someone else he can be normal around Ootomo and actually support and encourage Ootomo's relationship with Oozaki. He tells himself that it'd be best if they can be dear friends from now on as well.

At the goukon Tomoharu talks to several girls, along with Tajima and Tajima's girlfriend (who is from the university the girls are from). He wonders how Ootomo is handling the situation, and is upset when he sees that Ootomo can handle being around girls socially very well. Tomoharu starts drinking more. Tajima warns Tomoharu not to drink too much since he'll fall asleep. He shows the girls a photo of the time they'd dressed Tomoharu up in a girl's uniform. The girls make such a fuss everyone else's attention is drawn to them. Tajima's cell phone is passed around so that all the girls can see the photo. Tomoharu pretends to be horribly embarrassed, not really caring. That is, until the phone is passed to Ootomo. Tomoharu thinks it'd be embarrassing for Ootomo to see him dressed as a girl, but before he can do anything Ootomo does see it. And finds it displeasing, apparently, because he glares at Tomoharu. Tomoharu has no idea why Ootomo would glare at him, so he glares right back.

Tajima announces that they are going to move to karaoke. Tomoharu sees Ootomo leaving with the three pretty girls he'd been talking to and resents that he was glared at while Ootomo acts all nice with the girls. He marches up to Ootomo and tells him that he's drunk and will throw up and fall asleep. He expects to be pushed away, but Ootomo just sighs and reminds Tomoharu that he'd told him not to drink so much. Ootomo goes to Tajima to say that he's taking Tomoharu home and drags Tomoharu off. When they are out of sight from the group, Ootomo stops. He asks if Tomoharu is okay. Tomoharu is about to confess that he isn't that drunk (he just wanted to get Ootomo away from the girls), when Ootomo says that he's glad Tomoharu got drunk tonight. He was tired of dealing with the girls and really wanted to get away, and Tomoharu gave him a good excuse. When Tomoharu points out that Ootomo seemed to be getting along quite well with the girls, Ootomo tells him he'd learned to deal socially with girls. It's kinda necessary to get through life, after all.

When Ootomo offers to escort Tomoharu home, Tomoharu tries to refuse. He's not that drunk...But Ootomo doesn't trust Tomoharu's "I'm not that drunk." He refers to the Tomoharu dressed as a girl incident. Tomoharu explains what had happened and laughs about it. Ootomo scolds Tomoharu. How can you not be aware that your clothes are being taken off? But then he adds that it's not totally impossible when it comes to Tomoharu, probably remembering when Tomoharu had fallen asleep naked.

Tomoharu brings up Professor Oozaki, but in the end cuts off Ootomo's explanation. He doesn't want to know, claiming that he blabs. Ootomo, for his part, asks why Tomoharu had started avoiding him. He asks if Tomoharu had actually believed that Ootomo had done something to him while he'd been asleep. Tomoharu says that he doesn't. He knows Ootomo wouldn't ever do such a thing. Ootomo explains that the bruises are from when Tomoharu had fallen down on the way to Ootomo's room. He then asks why Tomoharu had avoided him. Tomoharu can't say the real reason, that he'd figured out he was in love with Ootomo and couldn't look him in the face. He has no idea what to say, so he starts banging his head against a nearby telephone pole until Ootomo stops him. He'll become stupid if he keeps banging his head like that. Tomoharu wishes he could become stupid and use that as an excuse to not respond to Ootomo. He tells Ootomo that he felt really bad about getting all drunk and falling asleep and having Ootomo put on his underwear for him.

At the next practice Tajima tells Tomoharu that he has to do 100 dashes as a penalty for getting drunk and leaving early and taking the star attraction with him. Ootomo offers to run with Tomoharu because he'd left early as well, using Tomoharu as an excuse. Tajima halves the penalty, giving them 50 dashes each. As they run, Tomoharu tells Ootomo he's being stupid for offering to run with him. He doesn't know why Ootomo had even bothered going in the first place since he has no interest in girls, especially since he's ended up running as a penalty anyway. Ootomo claims they'd been ordered to go. Plus there was something else that concerned him. Tomoharu asks what Ootomo was concerned about, but Ootomo refuses to tell him. They go back and forth, "tell me," "no," "tell me," "no," until Tomoharu jokingly asks if Ootomo had been worried that Tomoharu was going to get drunk and fall asleep. Tomoharu is surprised when Ootomo speeds up instead of responding. Was he right? Tomoharu persistently asks if he'd been right, until Ootomo counters by asking about why Tomoharu had avoided him. He's not satisfied with Tomoharu's answer. After all, Tomoharu's been trouble from the very beginning. Why get all worried at this point? Ootomo doesn't mind, so Tomoharu shouldn't either.

Tomoharu feels warm and fuzzy because Ootomo is being nice and indulging him as always. But he also feels crappy because he knows Ootomo's gentleness is not coming from romantic feelings. So he stops running and tells Ootomo to stop being so indulgent. Ootomo asks what Tomoharu's problem is. Tomoharu doesn't want to tell Ootomo the truth because he doesn't want to be let down gently by Ootomo. They are interrupted by Tajima, who yells at them to keep running. They silently finish their punishment. Practice is over by then, so they change clothes. When Ootomo leaves, Tomoharu figures Ootomo is going straight home since Oozaki is out of the country. He misses Ootomo's comfortable room, but he plans on never going there again.

Tomoharu buys a magazine showcasing part time jobs. He plans on working over the summer so that he can buy a motorcycle. His commute takes over an hour by train, but he could get to school in half an hour by bike. He reads the magazine as he walks and runs into someone. He apologizes, but the guy just walks off. When he gets to the station he looks for his wallet that contains his train pass, but can't find it. Eventually he realizes that guy he'd run into must have stolen it. He figures out what he's lost and calls to cancel his cash card with his bank. He can replace everything else but he doesn't have enough money to get home. He wanders around hoping to run into someone he knows, but he doesn't. He doesn't think at this late hour that he'll run into someone on campus either. He'll have to call a friend who lives relatively nearby and ask them to help him. As he looks at his call list on his phone, he knows the closest person is Ootomo. But he'd just told Ootomo not to indulge him, so he doesn't want to rely on Ootomo. He looks through the list and knows he can surely reach someone who will help him, but he doesn't want to call anyone. He thinks about how Ootomo would totally scold him in a situation like this, especially once he learns that Tomoharu had been reading while walking. But after the scolding Ootomo would always be very nice. It would always make Tomoharu feel secure knowing Ootomo scolds because he cares.

As Tomoharu stands on the street, looking up at the sky, it starts to rain. Tomoharu feels tired. He should just tell Ootomo his feelings already. Why can't he be with the person he loves? Why can't he rely on that person right away when he's feeling so lonely? Suddenly, the rain stops hitting him. When Tomoharu looks up there's an umbrella over him. When he turns around Ootomo is holding the umbrella. Ootomo had stopped by the lab and is just going home. Ootomo naturally wants to know why the hell Tomoharu is standing around getting rained on. He gently pushes back Tomoharu's wet bangs. Tomoharu explains the situation, feeling relieved that he'd been able to run into the person he'd wanted to see. Ootomo pulls Tomoharu to him with his free hand. Tomoharu is surprised and tries to draw away since Ootomo will get wet as well, but Ootomo just holds onto him harder. Ootomo calls him an idiot. Tomoharu should've just called him right away. Now Tomoharu is all wet. He should've at least gotten under cover. Even a child would know better....

Ootomo trails off, surprised, as Tomoharu clings to him and starts to cry.

Tomoharu ends up at Ootomo's room. He'd just wanted to borrow some money and go home, but Ootomo forced him over since he was all wet. Tomoharu tries to only borrow a towel and dry off and leave, but Ootomo makes him take a shower. When he comes out of the shower, Ootomo has some leftover stew warmed up. Tomoharu's clothes are in the dryer and should be done by the time he's finished eating. Tomoharu feels very relaxed. He'd truly been all bottled up these past few weeks, and when his wallet got stolen his feelings had overwhelmed him. Ootomo asks why Tomoharu had cried earlier. Tomoharu explains that he was happy that he'd run into someone he knew. Ootomo asks if Tomoharu would've cried it he'd run into Tajima. He then asks why Tomoharu hadn't called someone since he still had his phone. Tomoharu looks down, not wanting to respond. He can feel Ootomo silently pressuring him to respond. He doesn't know what to say, so he attacks. He asks why Ootomo is harassing him. He tells Ootomo he shouldn't be mean, otherwise his boyfriend will come to dislike him. Ootomo tells Tomoharu that he doesn't have a boyfriend. Tomoharu doesn't believe Ootomo, but Ootomo clearly explains that there is absolutely nothing between him and Oozaki. If there had been something between them Ootomo wouldn't have hidden it from Tomoharu. Tomoharu finally accepts that there's nothing between Ootomo and Oozaki, and apologizes for misunderstanding.

Ootomo complains that he has no idea what went on in Tomoharu's head to lead him to such a conclusion. He then asks if he'd driven Tomoharu into a corner. He'd tried hard to be extra gentle and caring towards Tomoharu since they'd rekindled their friendship. He may seem to sail through life, but has his own troubles. It's nice to have someone nearby. That somebody for him is Tomoharu. He feels relaxed and warm around Tomoharu. Even though Tomoharu does cause him trouble all the time, in the end he's the one who has been rescued by Tomoharu.

Tomoharu tries to keep things light, but Ootomo won't let him. Ootomo wants to come out and say his piece and wants Tomoharu to respond honestly. Tomoharu doesn't want to hear that Ootomo just thinks of him as friends, so he covers his ears and closes his eyes. Ootomo gets up and pulls Tomoharu's hands away and confesses that he thinks of Tomoharu as more than a friend. He is willing to keep a certain distance from Tomoharu if that's what Tomoharu wants, but he doesn't want Tomoharu to be so wary of him.

Tomoharu is silent for about ten seconds, then yells out loud. What had he just heard!? Ootomo pales, but pulls at Tomoharu's ears as if to chide him for not listening. Tomoharu complains that his ears hurt, but Ootomo just says that he is in love with Tomoharu. He asks if Tomoharu has heard him this time. Tomoharu reacts with disbelief. Ootomo assures Tomoharu that he's not lying. Does Tomoharu think that Ootomo would joke about something like this? Of course Tomoharu doesn't think so. When it finally sinks in he starts yelling again. He can't believe it! He's not Ootomo's type! Ootomo had refused his offer to jerk him off! Ootomo explains that he'd already realized his feelings at the time and couldn't indulge in letting Tomoharu jerk him off when he knew Tomoharu didn't share his feelings. He adds that he'd get all upset seeing Tajima touch and hug Tomoharu all the time. Tomoharu remembers the little things Ootomo had said and done (like patting Tomoharu on the head after Tajima had and saying how glad he was that Tajima had a girlfriend) and realizes Ootomo had been jealous. Tomoharu finally accepts Ootomo's feelings as reality.

Ootomo turns his back to Tomoharu and explains that he'd thought Tomoharu was cute when he'd first met him, but at the time he'd been interested in trying to reach out to someone more mature. When they'd met again at university, Tomoharu hadn't changed at all. He was still straightforward and simple. How did he manage to not get hurt living like that? Ootomo had been worried enough that he'd joined the basketball club. He'd also remembered the fun and passion of playing basketball when he'd played against Tomoharu that first time, despite having realized his limits in high school. He'd enjoyed taking care of Tomoharu. Even when he was stern and not particularly sociable, Tomoharu stayed with him, always smiling and laughing. Before he realized it he'd fallen in love with Tomoharu. He'd tried to keep his feelings a secret. He didn't want to destroy their friendship...

When Ootomo turns back towards Tomoharu he is surprised to see that Tomoharu is crying. Tomoharu tries to explain why he's crying, but he can't get the words out. Ootomo can't understand Tomoharu's broken words and asks if Tomoharu is drunk. Tomoharu rubs his eyes and nose and manages to clearly confesses his own feelings. Ootomo asks if Tomoharu is just being nice. Tomoharu punches Ootomo in the stomach. Like he'd turn gay out of pity!

They'd both been too afraid of making the same mistake as in high school and hadn't been able to be forthcoming with their feelings. They'd really been in the same dilemma. Tomoharu looks up at Ootomo and asks if he's special to Ootomo. As Ootomo rubs his stomach, he brusquely says that to be in love with someone is to find them more special than anyone. Tomoharu is happy. He tells Ootomo that Ootomo is special to him as well, and smiles. But then Ootomo turns away and distances himself from Tomoharu. Tomoharu gets up and goes around to face Ootomo to see what's wrong. Ootomo is hiding his bright red face with one hand and tries to push Tomoharu away with the other.

Naturally Tomoharu doesn't leave immediately. He's going to stay over now that things are totally different. He brushes his teeth and gets ready for bed. Ootomo takes a shower and comes over to the bed. He asks if Tomoharu understands that to date includes doing "things like this." He pulls Tomoharu to him and kisses him. When Ootomo tries to coax him to open his mouth with his tongue, Tomoharu stubbornly refuses. Ootomo tells to open his mouth. Tomoharu turns away and shoves his face into a nearby pillow. Ootomo is willing to restrain himself if Tomoharu doesn't want to kiss or do other things, but Tomoharu assures Ootomo that he's not unwilling. He does want to, really. Ootomo then says that he will initiate such things, and in fact will go all the way. They have sex.

The next morning while taking a shower together Tomoharu is amazed to discover that Ootomo's dick is actually quite large. He hadn't ever gotten a good look at it until then. How'd that thing fit inside of him? No wonder it'd hurt so much. Yet in the end it had felt so good...How wondrous the human body is! They do laundry and Ootomo makes breakfast (omurice, per Tomoharu's request) as Tomoharu hangs the laundry up on the balcony. He can't help but feel like he'll be hanging their laundry like this five, even ten years from now. He'd never felt so able to see a future with someone before. He knows that you never know what will happen in the future, so he'll take each day one at a time. If he loves Ootomo fully each and every day, the days will surely keep going with them together. From the kitchen, Ootomo asks how many eggs Tomoharu wants. Tomoharu replies that he'd like two eggs, still soft inside, as he continues to hang up their clothes. The July sky beyond is totally clear, as if the rainy season had just ended.

I wish this book had a "x-years later" story tacked on. I'd love to see them a few years in the future, preferably after they've graduated. I can see a continuing pattern of Ootomo indulging and scolding and mothering Tomoharu and the two of them adoring each other utterly...

[User Picture]From: flyby311
2010-03-10 08:11 am (UTC)
Aww, that sounds sweet. Though Tomoharu sounds completely oblivious, aha.
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[User Picture]From: insaneneko
2010-03-11 08:35 am (UTC)
Oblivious! That's the word! Yes, the poor dear is oblivious. But adorably so.
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[User Picture]From: xinxie
2012-05-30 09:12 am (UTC)
This is sweet. I wish there's x-years later as well. ^_^ Just lovely.
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