The Burdens We Hide (SFW)— Chapter IV

Fifteen minutes before it started, Chūshi conveniently remembered once more that he and Aoto did, in fact, share an advanced course seminar. He’d been on autopilot for days. Even visiting his grandmother with his mother didn’t shake him out of his mental fog. Since the moment Aoto left him alone in the bathroom stall, nothing could penetrate through his cloudy thoughts. The student librarian had actually found Chūshi blankly washing his hands after the library closed.

With a tsk, the slightly older woman wrote his name down on a small notepad, but Chūshi couldn’t be bothered, even though his father would not react well to the news. All he could think about was how Aoto had seemed unruffled by his “situation.” No hesitation! No questions! He regretted not listening whenever their classmates whispered about Aoto. I could always ask someone for more information… 

The problem with that strategy being, of course, that he had no friends. Chūshi didn’t see the point when his father planned on sending him back as soon as he graduated. Or if his grandmother died. 

What if I asked Aoto?

Chūshi shook his head so vigorously his brain seemed to ping pong off the sides of his skull as he entered the seminar’s lecture hall. 

Stop being a little bitch, he thought to himself, surveying the room for the person in question. His shoulders relaxed when he saw that Aoto wasn’t in class yet. He hurried to  his usual seat in the back corner, next to one of the only windows in the room. Putting his bag on the right side of the desk, he put  his head down next to it and hoped it would serve as a shield from prying eyes. Think of it like a kind of one-night stand. No big deal! 

But he’d never gotten complaints about how he tasted before. In fact, it was often complimented.. Chūshi wasn’t arrogant, but he couldn’t help but feel Aoto was lying. Or bitching just to be a bitch. Such an interesting guy

Not only that, but it was clear Aoto was gay. Despite himself, Chūshi felt his heart flutter with hope. The background chatter in the hall ceased suddenly, signaling the guest lecturer was ready to start, and Chūshi tuned in halfway. But he kept his head down. 

Students with good grades, regardless of their area of study, were invited to a seminar series each semester. The speakers varied from all professions and it was one of the university’s selling points. Usually Chūshi paid close attention to the schedule because every now and then he’d skip if he had a tough weekend studying. 

I should have skipped today too. 

But then he wouldn’t have a chance to see Aoto. His heart stuttered as he lifted his head from the table as a small woman began introducing herself. 

He spotted Aoto quickly, noting that he sat near the front of the room. By his posture, Chūshi could tell he was giving the woman his utmost attention. It made Chūshi sit completely upright, too, and finally look at the board to see who the speaker was. He didn’t recognize the name, but by the title of the talk he knew she specialized in architecture. 

Is that an interest of his? Is it why he’s taking English? He tried to pay attention, strictly  for the sake of finding a way to strike up a conversation with Aoto after the lecture. 

But try as he might, he couldn’t focus on a word the woman said. Instead, he focused on the back of Aoto’s head. How could he go about talking to someone who seemed to be set on disliking him? When Chūshi really put his mind to it, he could charm even the most stoic of people. While he found Aoto’s standoffish nature annoying, it also intrigued him. And bewildered him. Why do that to him and then be so rude afterward? 

“Why come to these things if you’re just going to leave your mouth open wide enough for flies?” The object of his desire appeared suddenly and leaned onto the table next to him. 

Abandoning the weak strategy that he’d started to formulate, Chūshi bluntly replied “When I remembered you were in this seminar, I decided to come.”

They stared at each other and just before Chūshi really began to fall into those dark eyes that were even more bottomless against the stark whites around them, Aoto started in with “I said your cu—” 

“And I know you were lying.” Chūshi stood up and packed his things away, noticing just how short Aoto was compared to him. Once those eyes sucked you in, the rest of Aoto seemed to disappear. “I’ve never had complaints. Not from men or women.”

He watched Aoto’s face closely to see if there was any indication that his words landed. The only reaction he got was a slight twitch at the corner of Aoto’s mouth. “And as I recall, you chose to swallow.” 

That time he was awarded with a slight widening of almond shaped eyes and a deliberate blink. That’s enough teasing him for now. 

“Why are you talking to me anyway?” Chūshi asked. “You clearly don’t  like me.  I’m not into forcing myself onto others.” Chūshi leaned against the table, too, putting himself right next to Aoto. He crossed  his arms as he stared at the other young man and he tried to remain still. 

His words were a gamble, but he had a feeling he would be entertained no matter the response. He noticed Aoto was dressed differently, much more casually: a V-neck t-shirt, cardigan, and jeans. His normal business casual attire,  fitted pants with a button-down shirt, helped Aoto look stiff. Today he was more… relaxed. vulnerable.

So adorable, Chūshi thought to himself as his eyes traced over the other young man. And then he finally noticed something strange. He felt the smirk all his exes complained about creep onto his face. 

“Do you talk to me because this person,” he reached for the hickey barely hidden by Aoto’s shirt, “didn’t quite do it for you? Maybe you like battery acid?”

He pushed off the table, deliberately walking past Aoto to exit the seminar room. Each step from the lecture hall felt like a thousand, and Chūshi made a point to shorten his stride in the event that his parting move rather than drive him away, lead to—

“Hey jackass, you left your cell phone!” Aoto shoved the device into his back firmly, sounding somewhat out of breath. “And it’s none of your business.”

Chūshi turned to face the other young man again and reached for his phone. “I hope that you’ve put your contact info in here, seeing as I’m tutoring you.” He kept a light smile on his face when a cursory look through his contact lists didn’t have Aoto’s information. “How am I supposed to help you finish your assignments, like the one due tomorrow if I can’t contact you?”

The haughtiness Aoto had visibly rushed out of him, leaving him looking deflated. A very light blush tinted his cheeks as he responded, “I think I can manage, you stalker.”

“I’m your tutor, it’s my job to know these things. And remember, I know your last test scores…”As much as he liked teasing Aoto, Chūshi didn’t want to alienate him, so he forced the smirk on his face into a neutral smile. “I’m serious, I’m able to help. If you need it.” 

Aoto looked up at him again, and Chūshi let himself fall into his gaze this time. Though he knew Aoto’s eyes would give no indication of what he thought of the offer. The other young man blinking cut their connection, and Chūshi felt like he had finally thudded onto firm ground after a thousand year fall. 

“Fine. I’ll text you when I’m free.”

Chūshi tried to hide the face-eating grin as he watched the other young man take his phone and type away. Aoto slowly handed him the phone back, which he eagerly grabbed to double check that Aoto had indeed added  himself to the contact list.

The other young man didn’t quite scurry off, but he definitely walked fast enough that Chūshi felt a breeze in his wake. It smelled like something sweet yet bitter, a scent he’d smelled before but couldn’t place. The more he tried to remember the more his head hurt. Oh, well. 

He had taken a gamble and knew it’d pay off. Until Aoto messaged him, Chūshi decided he wouldn’t skip like he initially planned. He wanted to be available the minute he got a message.

His cellphone felt heavier than a bowling ball resting in his front pocket. He knew that spacing out in classes waiting for a text that could—at the earliest—come around 4 PM was stupid. But that didn’t stop his imagination concocting scenario after scenario of them not only fucking all night long, but  growing closer over coffee and dinner dates. 

Chūshi was embarrassed to admit to himself how ridiculous he was being. He’d done more with other lovers and couldn’t be bothered to remember their names. 

Maybe I’m losing my mind? What kind of man fell head over heels for someone after such biting words? 

Remembering Aoto’s words from that day filled him with an emotion he couldn’t name, but it demanded to be resolved by seeing Aoto a crying, quivering mess underneath him. What made the prospect even more exciting to Chūshi was that it was clear that Aoto had been around the block, as they liked to say in America. A lesser man might be embarrassed, but Chūshi didn’t let stuff like that phase him. 

Rather than dwell on the turmoil of his feelings about Aoto and everything between them, Chūshi let his mind wander to his father’s radio silence since the initial issuing of the tutoring job. Not even a text. 

Inside him, two voices warred constantly over his father’s negligence. It was never good whenever his father actually paid attention to him in any capacity on one hand; it always led to being yelled at, threats of violence, and a slew of words and phrases that would make anyone else run away and never look back. So being completely ignored often felt like a blessing (as long as he was doing what was expected of him), but it was also lonely. Knowing that he was more of an asset than a son made his chest hurt. Even so, he still managed to fool himself into thinking that his father would “check-in” on him. And he somehow allowed himself to be affected by the silence. 

For the rest of the afternoon Chūshi’s thoughts were gloomy. He was so torn  up at the thought of his father that he could barely feel his original excitement at receiving his first text message from Aoto. 

Meet at the library in ten minutes. 

He considered taking his time but decided against it, because when Chūshi was  honest with himself, he was anxious to see the other young man. Maybe apologizing straight away would prevent any further misunderstandings that would keep them from getting along.

It’s worth a shot, he thought to himself as he  sped up his pace. 

Cold air and the smell of old books hit Chūshi as he entered the main lobby of the library, only slightly winded. He walked to the front desk where the reservation sheets were kept. Though he tried not to think about it, all his imagination could do was generate fantasies of all the things he and Aoto could get up to besides studying. 

Was it likely? No. 

But it didn’t stop the little thrill and rush of blood to his nether regions when he saw what room Aoto booked. It was the one at the end of the hall, with only one window that faced a dense patch of trees and had enough space for a small couch.

Don’t make assumptions, he told himself even though there were plenty of other rooms open. 

Aoto was laying down on the small couch angled toward both the door and the dry erase board when Chūshi entered the room. His eyes were closed and he looked to be asleep. His pale hands rested on his stomach and his ankles were crossed with one foot moving restlessly, the only tell that he was indeed awake. Chūshi decided that he would play along and quietly shut the door behind him. He gently placed his bag down at the side of the couch and moved so Aoto’s serene face directly underneath his gaze. 

Chūshi leaned down as if to kiss him. He hovered just above those thin lips and felt more than saw when Aoto’s eyes opened. “Isn’t this sexual harassment? I could report you.”

“You seem to keep forgetting you need me,” Chūshi teased in English, smiling to himself at the furrowed skin between Aoto’s thin eyebrows. “Let’s look at your assignment.” The skin between Aoto’s eyebrows smoothed at the sounds of Japanese, and Chūshi tsked to himself. 

For someone like him… it’s almost embarrassing that he can’t get this down. 

They spent the early evening going through each question of Aoto’s assignment to try and not only answer it correctly, but find the topics they would cover later that week for their tutoring session. 

Chūshi’s tutor mode was on in full force, to the point where he forgot just where they were. If he didn’t like the prospect of being a doctor so much, he would have liked to be a teacher of some sort. He became aware of their surroundings again when Aoto brushed against him as he got up from the couch to stretch. They were almost done, with two more questions to go but Chūshi figured that Aoto had picked up enough on the grammar to answer them on his own. 

“That wasn’t your first time doing something like that, huh?” He asked, focusing on the minute tensing of Aoto’s shoulders as the only tell. 

“I think I can finish these last few on my own,” Aoto responded, reaching to grab his papers from the table they’d been working at, the one they’d pulled to the couch. “Thanks for the help.”

“That wasn’t me judging you. I just wanted to confirm that you’re into guys; nothing more, nothing less.” Aoto’s wrist was cold in Chūshi’s loose yet firm grip. “Because if you are, I want to talk.”

“Talk about what, your need for better hygiene?” His chilly tone sent goosebumps across Chūshi’s skin, yet Aoto didn’t pull away from him. Score. 

He pulled the other young man closer to where he sat on the couch with only a little force, and the lack of resistance from Aoto threw him off balance, the back of his knees hitting the couch. Chūshi thanked his good fortune and situated Aoto’s slim body against his own before laying them down across the length of the couch, careful to watch Aoto’s head against the armrest. 

“But you did it, didn’t you Hoshino-kun?” He didn’t bother with being coy, sliding his hand over the front of Aoto’s pants.”Doesn’t that mean you’re a pervert?”

“You’re the real pervert,” Aoto’s voice rose an octave in response to Chūshi’s hand slipping into his paints and underneath the band of his underwear.

“You seem to be excited Hoshino-kun. I haven’t even kissed you.”

“Are you going to do something about it, or just keep talking with that dumb mouth of yours?” The cruelty of the other young man’s words was somewhat lessened by his grinding against Chūshi’s hand, as Chūshi pushed Aoto’s pants down his thighs. 

Chūshi finally stared into those dark pupils, hoping, but unsurprised when he didn’t find even a spark of what Aoto could be thinking or really feeling. All he had was Aoto’s labored breathing, which made his chest lift slightly in the air, and of course the growing mess in his pants as an indication of the effect he had. 

“If I do something about it, you can’t let anyone else see you like this anymore, Hoshino-kun.”

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How to read the NSFW scene

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Chūshi laid in bed that night wide awake, with his blood still rushing in his ears. By the time they finally left the study room, it was minutes to closing and he felt completely drained. Aoto had only seemed a little worse for wear, the only indication that he was  affected at all was the slightest limp in his walk as they left the library into the humid night air. 

“Come over,” Chūshi had said, reaching for the other young man beside him. 

Aoto let him pull their bodies close together once more as they walked the empty campus grounds toward the exit. “I’m tired, you insatiable pervert.”

Chūshi had let out a tired laugh, squeezing Aoto closer. “You kept saying ‘don’t stop,’don’t you remember? You’ll find that I’m good at following directions.”

Tch, get off me, you oaf.” Aoto had pushed at him, though weakly. “We’re in public.”

“Don’t be like that.” 

They had walked in silence for a while after that, and Chūshi relinquished his hold with reluctance. He was aware that Aoto had never agreed for them to date, and that pushing him now could lead to the relationship being nipped in the bud. 

“You can’t tell anyone,” Aoto said quietly, staring straight ahead at the empty road in front of them. 

Soon they’d reach the street where they would part ways to go home, and Chūshi had tried to come up with some way to persuade Aoto to go with him. Maybe if I tell him there won’t be any sex… He smirked to himself because even though he felt dried up, the prospect of seeing Aoto’s dark eyes shining with unfiltered pleasure got his pulse racing. 

Aoto stopped walking at the corner of the street. “Seriously, don’t tell anyone about this.”

“Give me a kiss, and I promise I won’t tell a soul.” 

They stared each other down for what felt like eternity. Who am I kidding, he’ll never agree to this. Chūshi had opened his mouth to promise to keep their assumed relationship a secret, when bruised and slightly chapped lips grazed his own. 

“Goodnight.”

Chūshi had only watched, his cheeks hot and his heartbeat echoing in his head as Aoto bolted off in the opposite direction. 

Does this mean that we’re officially dating? 

It was the only question that had been running in his mind, and as he laid in the darkness he couldn’t help but think that he still had to win the other young man over. He lazily reached over to the nightstand for his phone. 

Can we walk together tomorrow morning? 

Chūshi didn’t expect an answer, but he stared at the text screen, the brightness of the LEDs sharp, burning his retinas. He clutched at the phone anyway, even as his eyelids grew heavy. Just as he took another slow blink, three bubbles on the screen popped up, indicating Aoto was responding. 

Go to sleep, idiot. 

Chūshi smiled despite himself and typed out a reply before placing his phone back on the nightstand to fall into a dreamless sleep. 

See you at the corner at 8 A.M.

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