Continuation of the first two.
When the cabin is silent, there are several possible explanations. Ohno can be out fishing, out tanning (- and Nino loves touching the sun kissed skin, breathe into it, skate his fingers over it - ) or he's up to no good. The sun is up, the neverending supply of brightness, and Nino doesn't see Ohno anywhere when he gets back to the cabin.
Satoshi, he calls, stepping cautiously into their carefully built home. Where are you?
It’s irrational, but he always fears the day he’ll come home and Ohno isn’t there. Just because they have left the past doesn’t mean that it isn’t still ghosting around.
Kazu, here, and Nino’s heart loosens gently in his chest.
The sun filters in through the tiny air spaces between the wood walls. Delicate dust babies tumble over each other in the delight Nino finds tickling at the back of his eyelids, lit warm by the sun.
Ohno doesn’t turn when Nino’s feet whisper against the kitchen floor. The countertops are strewn with ingredients and haphazard tools, cupboards are ajar, lazy with the crashing of waves against the shore.
Nino winds his arms around Ohno’s waist from behind to watch him work over his shoulder. Nino thinks he would never grow tired the way Ohno leans ever so slightly backwards, shoulders no longer tensing up in fear of being found out.
Your birthday cake, Ohno hums and Nino knows he’s grinning, just like he knows that it’s worth it, all of it.
My birthday was in June, Nino laughs, squeezing Ohno and Ohno shakes with mirth. You freak.
Then we’re just celebrating you, Ohno shrugs, mixing the batter. The fingers Nino knows intimately, the hands he held on to as they fled everything known and dove right into the insecurities of newness. He’d feared the separation from their worlds, but he knows that he all he needs is right here with him, never shying away.
Nino buries his face in the soft skin of Ohno’s neck, greedily inhaling his scent of warmth and musk and Ohno.
And before he can register it, Ohno has whipped around and left a spot of cold, sticky batter on the tip of Nino’s nose.
Oi, Nino tries to sound his most menacing, but Ohno shrugs and turns back to the batter like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Nino pouts for moment, taking his battleground in. Then he wriggles his hand under Ohno’s arm, and nudges at Ohno’s hand. He catches Ohno off guard, and when Ohno turns around, he is laughing, his nose scrunched up in joy.
I’m going to get you, Ninomiya! Ohno’s chin is wet with batter, but they are both breathless with too much sun, too much happiness, too much warmth. I’m going to get you!
You wish, Nino laughs, turning and running, and just when he thinks he’s clear, Ohno’s fingers encircle his wrist, turning him back sharply, and it would’ve hurt if he’d resisted the slightest. He never resists this. He’s pulled flush against Ohno’s warm body, out of breath, and he’s chuckling into Ohno’s grin.
Ohno leans in and Nino’s heart flutters, and just as he thinks he’s about to be kissed, Ohno smears batter down his cheek, and he squeaks.
Ohno laughs and nimbly dances out of reach as Nino feels indignant grumbles rise in his throat.
You, he threatens with a step forward.
Me, Ohno agrees amiably, eyes still laughing and he is still out of reach, and for a moment, Nino is taken back to a time where Ohno always should’ve been out of reach, but Nino had been so selfish and reached out anyway.
He almost remembers, with dredges of kept-away memories almost stepping past the line. He almost remembers long nights of being alone and sitting on ice-cold park benches, watching couples passing, his heart plummeting. He almost remembers how everything they had was empty promises and cold bentos, stolen moments with each other in alleyways.
The next thing Nino knows is Ohno’s clean hand curling around his wrist.
Are you okay? He says, and Nino is jolted out of his reverie by concerned eyes, bleached from the laughter just a moment before.
What do you think? Nino pushes back the memories and finds the happiness in his heart. He rubs his battered cheek against Ohno’s. The smile on his face doesn’t fade when he catches a flicker in Ohno’s eyes.
Always, Ohno says, returning the word they’d promised time and time again. Nino wants to say a lot more, but he doesn’t need to, because everything that needed to be said had already been spoken a long time ago. Sometimes the regret is staggering but not today when Ohno rubs back, his fingers sliding over the base of his skull.
He’s happy here with Ohno, he doesn’t need anything else. Not the haunting words of long ago, not the dead memories of what was.
Always with you, Nino adds silently, and he exhales, the memories fading away as the air leaves his lungs. And the smile he musters is true. You’re still as sappy as ever.
The heartfelt grin that brightens Ohno’s eyes makes Nino’s heart trip over its feet.
What are we putting on the cake? Nino asks after they’ve cleaned up, and all that’s left to do is decorate it.
I don’t know, Ohno replies, absentmindedly, staring into space, a finger tracing Nino’s knuckles.
The sky outside is dim with the evening. Twilight is indigo in the spaces of the trees, the canopy shuffles with the sound of birds coming home, little calls of a satisfied day.
Ohno tugs on Nino and leads him out back. They stand side by side, staring up into the darkening sky, and the mango tree that they planted when they first arrived. On the lowermost branch, hangs a fully-riped mango. Ohno turns to Nino. Nino’s heart is swelling from the sudden array of emotions.
Mango cake? Ohno reaches out for it, and Nino laughs.
If you want, Nino says, reveling in the feeling of contentment.
It’s your cake, Ohno points out, holding out the fruit for Nino.
You made it.
But it’s for you, celebrating you, Ohno reminds him and back into the cabin, knowing that the cake is waiting for them.
Nino grins fondly, his heart an impossible size and it feels like he has to speed to keep up with it. Why are we celebrating me?
We should celebrate you every day, Ohno says in response, fingers curling at Nino’s hip. The other hand is still holding the mango. A sappy cliché like the fruits of our labor is on the tip of Nino’s tongue, but he refrains and instead, he winds his fingers around Ohno’s hand.
Another word is at the tip of his tongue, but Ohno beats him to it with tender words of, it’s enough with you.
Ohno squeezes his hip one more time before he disappears into the house, leaving Nino out on the back.
I love you, Nino says to the dimming sky.
Cake? Ohno calls him from inside.
Nino grins. That too.