Rating/Warnings: R for scariness, see below.
Summary: The third floor bathroom is supposed to be haunted, but all Jinguji finds in there is Genki.
AN: Halloween horror fic! Based intensely loosely on the Greek story of Philinnion, plus a handful of other Japanese school urban legends about bathrooms and Genki's true facts bullying problem. It turned out a bit...weird this year.
REAL WARNING: Think Asian horror ghost movie like Ring or Shutter or White. Scary stuff happens to people you enjoy! Character death possible! I don’t want to spoil all the spoils, given the nature of it, but ghosts are involved and they are pissed.
It’s not gory or anything, though, not like crazy serial murder fic or anything, if that’s what you’re worried about. It’s plotty. So…good luck?
Cold Hands, Warm Heart
Nothing was weird at all about the afternoon Jinguji, Reia, and Shintarou were coming down the back second floor hallway in the late afternoon. Most of the other students were either gone or in their clubs, but Jinguji was cutting soccer practice and Shintarou had suddenly discovered his rebellious period, so they had coaxed Reia up onto the roof with them to hang around like hooligans, gossiping about nothing and smoking until the wind was too much, their fingertips too cold to even hold the cigarette they'd been passing back and forth.
"Let's go to karaoke," Jinguji suggested, in no hurry to go home.
"Bad influence," Reia accused without any heat. "I'm going to the bathroom first, though."
"We just passed a bathroom," Jinguji pointed out, thumbing over his shoulder. He stopped, ready to wait, but Reia and Shintarou both looked over their shoulders from a few steps ahead as if he were crazy.
"Dude, that's the haunted bathroom," Shintarou said.
"What?" Jinguji snorted, then laughed when Shintarou only looked back seriously. "How are you the tallest and yet such a crybaby?"
"No, he's right," Reia said with a shrug. "If you go in there, there's weird noises, like somebody hurt or crying, the faucet goes on and off, stuff like that."
"I heard if you're in the stall and somebody knocks on it, if you open the door you'll get dragged straight to hell," Shintarou added.
"You two cannot be serious," Jinguji said.
"Do you get dragged to hell through the toilet pipe?" Reia asked contemplatively. Shintarou said he sure wasn't planning on finding out, and Jinguji finally had to put a stop to this insanity.
That's how he found himself inside the bathroom, calling over his shoulder that Reia and Shintarou were both ridiculous crybabies.
"There's nothing in here at all!" he called through the door. "No weird noises! No toilet portal to hell! Not even anybody crying." As soon as he stopped talking there in fact was a soft noise, making Jinguji frown. The second noise was clearer, a definitely sniffle. "Ugh, okay, there might be someone crying." Jinguji got no response from outside. "Guys?"
He stuck his head back out of the door and found the hallway entirely empty.
"Assholes," Jinguji grumbled. Since he was in here anyway, he figured he at least had to check on whoever was in the stall. The noise was clearly crying now, the sniffles louder as Jinguji reached the third stall. He knocked on it with his knuckles. "Hi? Are you okay in there?"
The noise stopped. Jinguji shifted his weight, not sure what to do.
"Hello?" he tried again. "I swear I'm not going to drag you to hell, I'm a regular person and not a ghost at all. Do you need help?" Just when Jinguji was thinking about turning around and leaving whoever it was alone, there was another loud sniffle. Jinguji sighed a little. "Come on, huh?" he said, trying to sound coaxing. "I won't tell anybody you cried. You don't really want to sit alone in this bathroom, do you? It's kind of gross in here."
A loud click sounded, the latch of the stall door, and then the door swung gently open. For a tense second, Jinguji was kind of afraid of what he would find in there, ghost or demon or toilet portal or what, but the only thing he saw was a disheveled teenager in a school uniform just like his own.
"Hey," Jinguji said gently. The guy was shorter and more delicate-looking than Jinguji, skin pale except for a bruise across his cheek and dark hair hanging in his eyes. He didn't say anything, only stared at the floor. "That's some bruise there. You okay?"
The guy nodded, eyes still down.
"Whoever did that to you is gone now, if you were hiding in here," Jinguji offered. "Want me to take you to the nurse or anything?"
"No." His voice was barely above a whisper, thin like paper. Everything about him was like paper, pale and delicate and like he might blow away any second.
"Okay." And then, because he didn't know what else to say, he added, "I'm Jinguji Yuuta, from class 3F."
"Genki." Genki looked up just long enough to make brief eye contact, eyes surprisingly dark against his pale skin, then back down. "Iwahashi Genki."
"Nice to meet you, Iwahashi-kun," Jinguji said. "Come on, let's get out of here, huh?" He reached for Genki's wrist, but Genki jerked his hand back at the first touch. His skin had felt cold under Jinguji's fingers even from that brief touch. "Sorry. Come on, it's freezing in here."
Jinguji half-thought Genki would just stay there, but when he turned and headed for the door, he heard the quiet shuffle of Genki's indoor shoes behind him. Jinguji held the door open and Genki shuffled out behind him, looking left and right down the hallway.
"See? Gone. They must have gotten bored," Jinguji shrugged. Genki looked just as paper-pale in the more natural light of the hallway as he had under the fluorescent bathroom lights, his bruise just as ugly. "Are you sure you don't want to go to the nurse? That looks it hurts."
"It doesn't hurt," Genki said. He snuck another nervous glance at Jinguji before looking away again.
"You should put something on it anyway," Jinguji said. He pulled his phone out of his pocket to message his so-called friends and tell them again that they were crybabies and also assholes. Reia mailed back that they were waiting for him at his shoe locker and still up for karaoke if Jinguji was up to it. Jinguji didn't answer, wanting to make Reia feel guilty for the five minutes it would take him to walk down there and meet them. "I can walk you if you…"
Jinguji looked up from his phone to find himself alone in the hallway.
The whole way down to the shoe lockers, he kept glancing behind him, looking above and below on the stairwell, but he didn't see Genki again.
"There you are," Reia said with relief when Jinguji turned the corner to find them hanging around near his shoe locker. "We were starting to wonder if you really did get dragged to hell!"
"Calm down, you're the ones who ditched me after thirty seconds," Jinguji crabbed, yanking off his shoes and tossing his sneakers down to try and toe them on without sitting and undoing the laces.
"What?" Shintarou asked, making Jinguji look up with a frown. "Dude, we've been down here for twenty minutes, at least."
Jinguji wasn't exactly looking for Genki over the next few days, but he was curious if he was okay. He thought about checking the other classrooms during lunch, but he realized Genki hadn't even said what grade he was in. Instead all he did was casually scan the hallways as he walked down them, and if he never caught sight of Genki that wasn't especially strange, since a kid who got beat up like that had a pretty good chance of being a kid who skipped school a lot.
It wasn't until a week later that Jinguji saw Genki a second time. He was skipping soccer practice again, alone this time since the other two had been told off by their mothers the last time, and when he came out of the stairwell to the roof, Genki was standing on the very edge of it, his back to Jinguji. A section of the chain link fence had come loose and not been fixed yet, and Genki was standing on the wrong side of it, Jinguji realized when he took a few steps closer. About to call hello, Jinguji's voice stuck in his throat, afraid that if he startled Genki, Genki might trip and slip right off the edge.
The trip across the roof only took five seconds, but it seemed a lot longer to Jinguji as he watched Genki's pale fingers curl around the chain link diamonds, the wind ruffle Genki's hair. When he was close enough that he could make a grab for Genki's jacket if he scared him, Jinguji chanced a soft, "Hi, Iwahashi-kun."
Genki turned his head just enough to eye Jinguji, bruise still dark across his cheek. Or another bruise, Jinguji supposed, since one from last week would be fading by now. After a second, he turned his face away again.
"Hey, are you okay?" Jinguji asked, the situation making him more uncomfortable by the second. Genki didn't react, as if he hadn't heard. "Can you come back in here so we can talk? You're scaring me."
When Genki still didn't move, Jinguji reached through the gap in the barrier and grabbed Genki's wrist. Genki's skin was freezing under Jinguji's fingers, but he didn't let go; he pulled on Genki's wrist, gently at first and them more firmly when that got no response, until Genki let Jinguji pull him away from the roof's edge and back through the gap in the fencing.
For a minute they just stood there, Jinguji's breathing quick and panicky, while Genki seemed curiously blank, watching Jinguji dispassionately.
"Were you going to…" Jinguji couldn't bring himself to finish his question. It made his stomach roll when Genki gave a small shrug with one shoulder.
"It wouldn't it matter," he said. His voice blended in with the wind whistling over the roof, thin and indistinct.
"It does matter!" Jinguji snapped. Suddenly he realized he was shaking, his fingers almost numb with cold. "Let's just go inside, okay? Come on."
They sat on the top step of the stairwell, silently at first, until the silence got to Jinguji and he started talking. He talked about school, about Shintarou and Reia, about the math test he'd bombed last week and how his mom wouldn't stop putting embarrassing notes in his lunch and how he was skipping soccer practice again.
"It's not even that I don't like soccer," Jinguji sighed. "I love soccer. But practice goes forever and I don't have time for anything else, and it isn't even like we ever get past the first round, so what's the point, you know? It's so frustrating…"
"I like baseball," Genki interrupted, speaking for the first time and startling Jinguji.
"Yeah?" Jinguji asked after a moment. "Are you on the team?"
Genki's lips pressed together in a thin line as he stared down at the steps. "I was."
"What position did you—" Jinguji cut off as his phone buzzed in his pocket. It had grown dark enough that both the light of the display and the name flashing on it made Jinguji wince. "Ugh, it's my mom." He thumbed the answer circle across, looking up towards the ceiling for strength. "Hi, mom."
"Don't you 'hi, mom' ME, young man!" Jinguji-san's voice came across the speakers almost loud enough to echo in the stairwell. "I'm parked in front of the school gate, and if you aren't down here in TWO MINUTES FLAT, explaining why I'm getting mails from your coach, you'll wish your father and I had tried adoption!"
"Uuuuuugh," Jinguji groaned quietly after his mother hung up on him. He snuck a glance at Genki, who looked mildly amused. "It's not funny," Jinguji grumbled as he stood up. He reached down to help Genki up, and even though Genki's hand was still chilled when Jinguji gripped it, he was actually meeting Jinguji's eyes. "Will…you be okay? You won't go back out there, right?"
"Pitcher," Genki said, as if that was the answer to Jinguji's current question and not the one from two minutes ago. "I was the pitcher."
"Listen, come and find me tomorrow, all right?" Jinguji asked as they started down the stairs. He felt like if he didn't check on Genki, he'd worry about it all day. "It's class 3F, remember? In the morning. Okay?"
"If that's all right," Genki said after a second and Jinguji told him of course it was.
Genki followed Jinguji down the stairs and outside, but stopped at the school gate. Jinguji paused, looking over his shoulder.
"Do you need a ride home?" Jinguji offered. "My mom would take you."
Genki shook his head. "I'm fine."
Once he'd climbed into the car, Jinguji half-listened to his mother lecturing him as he twisted around to look back over his shoulder. Genki was still standing at the school gate, face a pale smudge in the gathering darkness.
"Yuta!" his mother snapped. "Are you listening to me?"
"Yeah, Mom," Jinguji said, turning around with a sigh.
"I told you, right?" Reia said. "Didn't I tell you?"
"Mm," Jinguji said, poking at his lunch.
"Jin!" Reia snapped. Shintarou reached over and punched Jinguji in the shoulder.
"Ow!" Jinguji looked up finally. "What the hell?"
"You haven't heard a word I've been saying," Reia said, rolling his eyes. Jinguji grumbled an apology. "I said, I told you that bathroom was haunted, right? Abe-kun said the lights went out when he was in there and the stall door slammed, and he wouldn't go in there again for a thousand yen."
"Aran is a baby," Jinguji said dismissively. "I told you there was nothing in there. Well, except for Iwahashi-kun, but he was hardly terrifying. He probably couldn't even scare Morita-kun."
"Everything scares Morita—YAH," Shintarou's chuckle cut off with a yelp, making Reia and Jinguji look at him curiously. "Ugh, sorry. Some idiot in the hallway had his face pressed against the glass, he looked like a freaking tengu or something."
Jinguji turned to look over his shoulder, but the pale smudge of a face lurking around the edge of the window just filled him with relief. "It's just Iwahashi-kun," he said, getting up and abandoning his lunch.
"Hi!" Jinguji said, sticking his head out of the door and finding Genki lurking nervously in the hallway. "I'm glad you came. When you didn't come this morning, I was worried that…well, I'm glad to see you."
Genki's face looked half disbelieving and half pleased, but he gave Jinguji a wan smile. "I'm still here."
"Come in! I'm just eating lunch with Reia and Shin-chan, they won't mind," Jinguji offered. Genki all but shrank against the wall, glancing inside the bustling classroom with obvious misgivings. "Or…we could hang out somewhere quieter if you want."
Jinguji retrieved his lunch, brushing off Reia and Shintarou's questions, and they ended up sitting at the bottom of the stairwell this time, the roof a popular lunch spot and thus too well trafficked. Jinguji coaxed little pieces of information from Genki about himself, like that he was an only child and wanted to go to university, and offered to share his lunch, although Genki politely declined.
After that, Jinguji saw Genki more often, at least once most days. Sometimes Genki would be waiting by Jinguji's classroom door at lunch or before soccer practice, and other times Genki would sneak up on him unnoticed, cat-quiet.
"Holy crap!" Jinguji gasped when he looked up from washing his hands and caught sight of Genki's reflection just over his shoulder in the bathroom mirror. "You scared me! Thank goodness it's just you, Reia will not shut up about this haunted bathroom thing."
Genki looked amused. "Yesterday some second years shut a first year in that stall," Genki thumbed over his shoulder, "and made him cry. Then they shoved a second one in here and told him if he heard the ghost crying, that meant it was going to drag him to hell with it. When he threw open the stall door, they both screamed SO loud…" Genki broke off with a dark chuckle.
"You shouldn't laugh," Jinguji chided. His gaze strayed to yet another bruise on Genki's face; it seemed like ones appeared before the old ones ever faded fully, so clearly that was still going on. "You don't think it's so funny when they bully you, I bet."
Genki's smile disappeared, and Jinguji felt immediately bad for bringing it up.
"Hey," Jinguji changed the subject. "I don't have practice after school, so I'm going to the arcade with Reia, from my class. You should come. Do you want to?"
Genki's eyes slid away, off to the side. "I can't."
"All right," Jinguji said, not wanting to pressure Genki. "Next time, then." Genki made a noncommittal noise as he trailed Jinguji out of the bathroom.
"Shouldn't you be in class?" Jinguji asked when he found Genki on the landing between the first and second floor, palm and nose pressed against the window glass. Genki turned to look over his shoulder, eyebrow raised, not looking in the least surprised that Jinguji had snuck up behind him. Somehow Jinguji hadn't managed to make him jump even once.
"Shouldn't you?" Genki asked. He turned back to the window; Jinguji came to stand next to him, looking out over the main entry way of the school, and the road out past the gates.
"Hey, I brought you something," Jinguji said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a cell phone strap with the Tokyo Giants logo on it. "I went to the last game of the season last weekend with my Dad, and I picked up this for you." Genki blinked, looking from Jinguji's hand to his face without making any move to take it. Self-conscious, Jinguji added, "Since you like baseball…I guess it's silly, sorry."
"Can I give you something back?" Genki asked, expression serious.
"I…sure?" Jinguji felt weirdly nervous suddenly. He wasn't unaware that he was thinking about Genki or hoping to find him more often than was normal for a strictly platonic school friend, but keeping that secret quietly on the inside was a lot different than Genki perhaps feeling the same way. "If you want. But you don't have to."
Genki reached up to the back of his neck and pulled out a chain Jinguji had never noticed before, hidden underneath the collar of his button-down uniform shirt. Genki pulled the chain over his head, long enough to do so without unhooking it; on the end dangled a silver ring. He held it out for Jinguji to take.
There was a pause where Jinguji struggled to pick between having a well-deserved freakout and not wanting to hurt Genki's feelings.
"Are you sure?" he finally asked. "I just mean…it's why you keep getting beat up, right? Because…isn't it because they think you look gay?"
"It doesn't matter why," Genki shrugged with one shoulder. "I like Jinguji-kun, so it doesn't matter."
Nodding once, Jinguji reached out to take the necklace with one hand and to hand over the baseball strap with the other. He dropped the chain over his own head and examined the ring. It was plain, other than a simple wavy line etched around the outside of it.
"It isn't exactly a fair exchange," he said, feeling a bit guilty. Genki seemed entirely satisfied with it though, busy affixing the strap to his phone, a small smile curling the corner of his mouth. It was an older flip phone instead of a smartphone like Jinguji's, so the strap hung properly from the corner.
"It's perfect," Genki answered, slipping his phone back into his pocket before Jinguji could tease him about his lack of up-to-date technology. "Hey. Can we go somewhere after school?"
"After…" Busy fiddling with the necklace to get it to slip under his own shirt collar and tie, it took Jinguji a second to understand what Genki was asking him. "Oh! Really? You want to?" It was a surprise, since Genki had only ever told him no every time he asked if Genki wanted to hang out.
Genki nodded. "Only…someplace that's not crowded, please."
"Karaoke," Jinguji said authoritatively. "Karaoke for first dates, for sure. This…is a date, right?" he checked himself, cheeks already turning pink at the thought of how embarrassed he was going to be if Genki said no.
Genki nodded, eyes cutting to the side shyly, and Jinguji huffed a quiet sigh of relief.
Karaoke was perfect, the room small and dark and cozy, Genki sitting close enough on the couch for their rolled up shirt sleeves to brush, their jackets tossed beside them on the couch. Genki's voice was nice, sweet if a little quiet, and his song choices were as adorably outdated as his phone. He blushed when Jinguji teased him about it, which meant his pale face almost turned a normal color.
After an hour, Genki's hand slid into Jinguji's, cold as usual but not at all unpleasantly so when Jinguji curled their fingers together. Jinguji grinned so widely that his voice cracked right in the middle of the chorus to "Yume Monogatari," and Genki snorted into the microphone, making both of them crack up.
"Hey," Jinguji said a while later, both of them slumped comfortably against the back of the couch, Genki's cheek against Jinguji's shoulder. Jinguji kept thinking about getting up and turning the air conditioner down, but then just sitting there because it seemed easier. "Let's trade numbers. Since we're…you know. And it'll be easier for me to find you that way instead of hunting all over at school."
For a few beats Genki didn't answer, but then murmured an "Okay" against Jinguji's shoulder and squeezed his hand tight.
Genki wasn't much of a texter as it turned out, but sometimes he sent Jingjuji pictures. He was never in the pictures himself, unlike the kissy or duck face selfies Jinguji tended to send. They were pictures of places in the school, the end of a hallway, the benches in front of the gym, the third landing of the stairwell. They were often poorly lit, tilted, or blurry.
Jinguji hadn't figured out whether Genki thought he was being artistic or was just a terrible photographer. Either way, he thought it was pretty cute.
"So the door locked behind him, locked!" Shintarou was saying a few days later at lunch, face alight with the excitement of telling a good, gossipy story. "Trapped him right in the supply closet, and the lights wouldn't turn on!"
"Hm," Jinguji said, encouraging Shintarou to go on while only half-listening.
"Somebody locked him in," Reia waved Shintarou off.
"No way, the rest of the baseball team had left ages ago," Shintarou corrected with relish. "Sou-kun stayed behind to wrap his glove and he was supposed to lock up after. He said he heard the lock click itself, plain as day. Would have been stuck in there all night!"
"Would have been?" Reia asked.
"Well, he was only in there like half hour before Kauan and the manager showed up to make out in there and stumbled over him. They accused him of being so stupid he locked himself in, but the lock's on the outside…fuck, Jin-chan, will you stop smiling like that?" Shintarou interrupted, making Jinguji snap back to what he was saying. "I'm telling a perfectly good scary story, and you're grinning like it's a love letter from Horikita Maki! It's creepy!"
"Horikita Maki?" Reia asked, snickering. "Seriously, are you thirty?"
"Shut up!" Shintarou snapped, shoving at Reia and nearly sending him off the edge of Shintarou's desk where he was sitting. "Horikita Maki is GREAT."
"I like her, too," said Genki from just behind Shintarou's shoulder, making Shintarou stifle a gasp and Reia actually fall off the desk. They'd been so intent on Shintarou's story, neither of them had noticed Genki coming in the door or his approach. "Hi, Jinguji-kun."
"Iwahashi-kun!" Jinguji's grin got even wider. He patted the desk behind him, the one his elbow was resting on. "Wanna eat lunch with us? Shin-chan was just telling us the story about Sou-kun getting locked in the supply closet."
"I know about that," Genki said, skirting around where Reia was picking himself up off the floor to slide into the seat Jinguji's had pointed out. "He sprained his wrist banging on the door, so he can't pitch in the tournament now. It's a shame."
The way he said 'It's a shame' sounded more like 'isn't that funny,' and Reia and Shintarou exchanged a glance that Jinguji couldn't read.
"Iwahashi-kun played baseball before," Jinguji explained. Shintarou frowned, but before he could comment, Genki spoke up.
"You can call me Genki," he said, and Jinguji mumbled an okay and hoped he wasn't blushing obviously, because he hadn't exactly told his best friends what was happening between Genki and himself yet. Jinguji changed the subject quickly.
When lunch was ending and Genki had slipped out of the room to go back to his own class, Reia turned to Jinguji, expression serious.
"That guy creeps me out," he said.
"Genki?" Jinguji asked, raising an eyebrow. "Are you kidding? Why?"
"He did just pop out of nowhere," Shintarou pointed out, rubbing the back of his neck as if it still felt like somebody was watching him. "Doesn't he do that a lot?"
"He's quiet." Jinguji rolled his eyes. "You'd sneak around too if people were beating up you every other day."
"He thought it was funny Sou-kun got hurt," Reia added.
"He did not, he just…" Jinguij thought about Genki telling him the story of the two freshmen in the bathroom. "He's a little awkward."
"How'd he even know that story?" Shintarou wanted to know. "It just happened last night, and Sou-kun only told it to me an hour ago outside the nurse's office! He came in late to school!"
"Geez, how am I supposed to know?" Jinguji demanded. "He was on the baseball team, like I told you! He's probably still friends with some of them!"
"I went to a ton of Sou's games last year, and I've never seen him play or—"
"You think he's lying? What's with you two?" Jinguji interrupted Shintarou, feeling unreasonably nettled about the whole thing. "You're being dicks. What's he ever done to you, huh?"
"He just…" Reia trailed off, looking to Shintarou for help.
"He creeps me out," Shintarou repeated, "and I don't think you should hang out with him."
"Well, that's tough shit," Jinguji snapped, temper flaring all at once, "because I've been dating him since Tuesday. So back off, all right?!" Shintarou and Reia exchanged another look, but Jinguji could read this one perfectly. "Seriously, fuck both of you."
Their math teacher came in and interrupted just then before they could finish the fight properly. Jinguji stewed angrily for the rest of the afternoon, refusing to speak to either Shintarou or Reia, or even to look over no matter how obviously Reia was trying to get his attention. Their Japanese literature told Reia off twice for not paying attention, which probably mortified him since he was a good student usually, but Jinguji just stared at his desk harder, thinking that it served him right.
When class finally ended, Jinguji stood up to try and slip away quickly, but Shintarou boxed him in easily, his larger frame making it impossible for Jinguji to escape through the space between the desks.
"Sorry, okay?" Shintarou said. "We're not trying to fight, we're just worried about you."
"Yeah, okay. Sorry," Jinguji answered, but he didn't mean it and and he knew they didn't either.
"They don't like me, huh?" Genki asked later, on the roof. It still made Jinguji nervous to sit out here with Genki, but it was peaceful and the sun was out, and it was tolerable with Genki's hand clutched firmly in his own. It felt almost okay when Jinguji thought that he could hold Genki right where he was.
"It's not that exactly," Jinguji hedged. "I don't know. They're good guys. They just don't know you."
"It's okay," Genki said, in the same voice as when he'd shrugged off the reason he was getting beaten up. It wasn't exactly like he didn't care, more like he was resigned to it and didn't expect any better. Genki shifted just a bit closer, leaning his cheek on Jinguji's shoulder. "It's fine if just Jinguji-kun likes me."
"Jin-chan," Jinguji corrected absently. "That's what R…what most people call me." The wind ruffled their hair, and Jinguji shivered from the chill. Soon it would be winter, too cold to sit out here comfortably even in the sun. One of them was shivering, and Jinguji couldn't even tell which one of them it was. "Let's go in, it's getting cold."
"Just a bit longer," Genki asked, snuggling closer. Jinguji let go of his hand to wrap an arm around his back instead, rubbing idly at the outside of Genki's arm. By the time the sun was going down and they went inside, Jinguji's fingers were so numb he could barely feel them.
"What the heck is that?" Shintarou asked, looking over Jinguji's shoulder at the latest picture that had arrived on Jinguji's phone during class change.
"I think it's half the water fountain and maybe some of the window," Jinguji said fondly, amused as ever at Genki's terrible photos.
Shintarou tilted his head this way and that. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, if you hold it way up and turned…" Jinguji made a noise of frustration as his phone automatically rotated the picture. Thumbing up the bottom menu and locking the rotation, Jinguji turned again. "Okay, see? Like if you were lying on the floor and were looking up…"
"Dude, why would you lie on the floor in front of the water fountain to take this picture?" Shintarou asked, staring at the floor under his own feet, nose scrunched.
"I don't know," Jinguji chuckled. He'd asked Genki about it, but Genki was weird and vague about the pictures, and Jinguji just assumed he was embarrassed about it. But he kept sending them anyway, so maybe he'd be ready to tell Jinguji about it eventually. "I guess that's his art or something."
When Jinguji looked up, Shintarou's face said that he didn't think 'that's just his art' was even close to a good explanation, so Jinguji changed the subject, tucking his phone into his pocket. It buzzed a few seconds later with an incoming message, but Jinguji resisted the urge to check.
It was another picture, but this time there were people in it, although out of focus and in the top left corner, cutting off their faces. After a second, Jinguji recognized the sloppy way his own shirtsleeves were cuffed up near his elbow, and the way Shintarou tended to stand with his weight on one foot. If you stood just at the end of the hallway, as you were turning the corner, you'd have about the right angle to where the two of them had been standing, in front of the notice board.
Jinguji wondered why Genki hadn't just said hi, if he was standing right there. He was two words into a text to ask about it when he thought of Shintarou's unimpressed face, the way he and Reia went quiet whenever Jinguji forgot to censor himself and mentioned Genki. Sighing, Jinguji erased the message he was going to send and asked where Genki was instead.
"Right behind you," Genki whispered in Jinguji's ear, making him jump six centimeters in the air and curse, clutching at his heart. Genki burst out laughing, the sound echoing down the hallway.
Winter for some reason felt bleak and endless that year. Jinguji felt stretched too thin, always too tired and too cold, stressed out about university exams and his grades and his applications, his mother and teachers all riding his case. It was a relief when he and the other third years retired from soccer and he had more free time, but it wasn't like he spent it doing anything productive. More and more of it he spent with Genki, sitting at the top of the stairwell or near the windows, going out for karaoke or ramen or coffee. Genki was a notoriously picky eater, often just sharing whatever Jinguji was eating and barely touching even that, but Jinguji privately thought it was cute that Genki enjoyed holding a cup or a can of hot coffee in his hands even if he left nearly all of it once it had cooled.
Shintarou complained that Jinguji barely ever hung out with them anymore, and Reia more gently tried to suggest times to hang out, but the truth was that Jinguji was frustrated with both of them. They'd made up after the initial fight, but Jinguji found it tiring to have friends who clearly couldn't hang out with him at the same time, juggling who he was seeing when and trying not to mention them to each other. Genki had amiably suggested that he not come by Jinguji's classroom anymore, but that just made Jinguji more irritated.
"I'm not ashamed of you," he protested. "You don't have to hide! You haven't done anything wrong."
"It's just easier," Genki shrugged him off. "It's fine."
"Come home with me," Jinguji said out of the blue, surprising even himself. Genki stared at him evenly, looking him over, and Jinguji looked away, cheeks heating. "You know, if you want. You've never seen my house. My dad works late most of the time and my mom's visiting her sister for the weekend so it's…just me." Jinguji frowned at the ground. "It's just me a lot. Sorry, I don't know why I'm telling you this."
"Because you're lonely," Genki surmised. Jinguji nodded, feeling like it was obvious when Genki said it. He really wasn't looking forward to going home to an empty house. "Then I should go home with you, right? So you won't be alone."
"Yeah," Jinguji agreed, giving Genki a small smile when Genki hooked a finger in Jinguji's necklace, hidden as always just under his collar, and tugged him close enough to press a kiss to his cheek.
As predicted, no one was home when Jinguji let Genki in. Jinguji led Genki up to his room, and Genki prowled around looking at his stuff as Jin unpacked the snacks and bentos they had picked up at the combini on the way. He was still looking around when Jinguji said he was just going to change and slipped out to the bathroom, feeling awkward about taking off his clothes in front of Genki.
"You really do like soccer, huh?" Genki asked when Jinguji came back, looking at the tacked up pictures of Jinguji's team from summer training camp and their spring tournament. The local paper had printed a shot of Jinguji scoring a goal, which made Jinguji whine with embarrassment whenever his mother brought it up in front of people, but the article was proudly tacked up there with the rest of them.
"Yeah," Jinguji paused unwrapping his bento, looking at his hands. "Maybe I'll keep playing in university if there's a neighborhood association. It's too bad you couldn't come to any of our games, huh? We should have met earlier."
Genki didn't answer, and when he looked up, Genki was still facing the wall, motionless. He barely looked like he was breathing.
"Genki?" Jinguji asked again. Frowning when he got no response, Jinguji sat his food down and crossed the room. "Genki? Something wrong?"
Genki started when Jinguji's hand touched his shoulder. "Oh! Sorry. I was thinking."
"I mean, I know I'm sexy in my uniform, but come on," Jinguji teased, squeezing Genki's shoulder. Genki snorted softly. Jinguji looked down at his hand on Genki's uniform jacket and realized he'd actually never seen Genki in anything other than his uniform. "Hey, do you want to change? You can borrow a T-shirt and some sweatpants."
"Oh, no, I…" Genki trailed off, eyes trailing down Jinguji's T-shirt and track pants. "Well, if it's all right…"
"Why wouldn't it be all right?" Jinguji chuckled, turning to find some clothes. He expected Genki to go to the bathroom instead, but Genki just turned his back as he undid his tie and stripped off his jacket. When he unbuttoned his shirt, Jinguji caught a glimpse of another string of bruises down Genki's pale back, and he forced himself to turn away, gritting his teeth.
He didn't look back up from his food until Genki slid onto his bed to sit cross-legged beside him.
"You look mad," Genki commented.
"You should tell somebody what they're doing," Jinguji said, voice sharper than he meant it to be. He'd tried to talk to Genki about this before, but had given up, not wanting to start a fight. "You should tell someone who they are! I can't stand that they're hurting you!"
"It doesn't hurt," Genki said, giving that same one-shoulder shrug. "It doesn't matter. Aren't you going to eat?"
"It does matter," Jinguji grumbled, but Genki shoved a piece of karaage into his mouth to shut him up.
After eating, or after Jinguji mostly ate and coaxed Genki into eating about every fifth bite, they curled up in Jinguji's bed to watch a movie on his laptop. Jinguji hadn't meant to fall asleep, but eventually he woke up to find it completely dark, his neck scrunched painfully from his head being pressed awkwardly into Genki's side. Genki's usually pale face was lit almost blue from the light of the laptop.
"Sorry, I fell asleep," Jinguji said, yawning. "Do you have to go? Do you have a curfew?"
Genki shook his head. "No one's waiting for me. Can I stay over?"
"Yes," Jinguji said with relief, glad he didn't have to go out in the cold to walk Genki to the station. It was cold enough in here already. Jinguji was already halfway to wriggling under the blankets before his brain caught up to the fact that maybe his boyfriend to stay over the first time wasn't exactly no big deal. "Is this…okay? Like I can put out a futon, or…here, you stay here, I'll just…"
"Here's fine," Genki interrupted, finally looking away from the laptop screen to smile at Jinguji, as if his panic was cute. "I want to stay with you."
"Good," Jinguji said, relieved. He got up to sit his laptop safely on the desk and make sure its charger was firmly plugged in, since his battery had lost nearly all of its charge. He frowned at that for a second-was his stupid battery going already? Laptops were junk-before closing the lid and heading back to his bed. The floor was cold against his feet and he was happy to hop up into his bed and tuck them firmly under the blankets. "Can I have the wall? I like the wall side."
"Yeah," Genki agreed amiably. He waited until Jinguji was settled before sliding in against Jinguji's side. He hugged Jinguji tightly, their heights compatible enough that Jinguji's chin was resting comfortably against the top of Genki's head.
Jinguji heaved a sigh of contentment. "This is really nice."
"Hm," Genki said. His hand was under Jinguji's T-shirt suddenly, fingertips cool against the small of Jinguji's back. "Other stuff could be nice too."
Jinguji's heart sped up and suddenly it didn't feel cold in his room at all. "Well, okay."
Jinguji woke up in the middle of the night, freezing cold, and muzzily thinking that he must have left his window open, fumbling for it blindly. His knuckles banged painfully against the cold glass, and Jinguji squinted in confusion at his window, tightly closed.
"Whatever," he grumbled, rolling on to his side, back to the window. Genki blinked at him from the other pillow, clearly also awake. "Hey, you watching me sleep? Creep," Jinguji teased. He reached over to slide an arm across Genki's waist, the worn t-shirt Jinguji had leant him soft under Jinguji's palm. "Mm, you're freezing too. Stupid winter. C'mere."
Jinguji gathered Genki in close, Genki fitting against him pleasantly even if his feet were icy against Jinguji's ankles and his nose was a cold spot against Jinguji's neck. They warmed up slowly, and Jinguji fell asleep with Genki slowly rubbing fingers over the bumps of his spine, one by one by one, soothing and repetitive.
In the morning Jinguji felt exhausted, his limbs like lead as he dragged himself to the shower and shivering until the water heated up the whole way. He wished harder than anything that he could just crawl back into bed and stay there until spring. After a second, he chuckled at himself, thinking maybe his battery was faulty, just like his laptop's.
Back in his room, Genki was sitting up in Jinguji's bed, the blankets nested around him, and he gave Jinguji a fake pout. "Do we have to get up? Can't we stay here a little longer?"
"God, yes," Jinguji said, completely fine with how terrible a decision it was to crawl back into bed, under the blankets, and cuddle Genki tightly against him.
Genki seemed to agree, arms sliding around Jinguji's neck and murmuring, "Mm, warm," in Jinguji's ear.