Then What – MomoKai – PG
Girls are easier to understand, at least to Momoshiro they are. He’s been on a few dates with a couple of girls. They went out to eat, or went to go see a movie. Everything was nice and pleasant, and pretty clear and cut. They would talk, eat, laugh, and then Momoshiro would walk her home. That it never went anywhere further than that is not Momoshiro’s fault for lack of trying, he tried to kiss one girl after dropping her off at her home, but she awkwardly dodged his attempt and dashed inside. It didn’t bother him; Momoshiro thinks he has his own merits, and certainly, someone out there would appreciate them.
But those are girls.
You treat girls gently, you treat them nicely. You shower them with compliments, and smile at them all the time. You give them flowers, you give them other gifts, and they’d love you forever. You hold their hand, or you hug them, or you might even kiss them.
Yes, girls were indeed easy to understand and deal with; Momoshiro knew this from experience. He’s quite the popular guy, and he loves being surrounded by people. He’s even received a few love letters and confessions. The entire team would know about it, because he wouldn’t stop boasting about it. He knew exactly how to act in front of girls to make them like him and also make them happy.
Yet Momoshiro has no idea how to handle this current situation.
The setting is there, it hasn’t changed: it’s after school, the sun is going down, and they’re standing behind the tennis club house. Cherry blossoms are flying around, and everything is looking pretty and sparkly. This should have been a piece of cake for Momoshiro, this shouldn’t make him break out in cold sweat and tie up his tongue.
Because what should have been a girl standing in front of him to confess, is none other than Kaidoh Kaoru himself.
“Momoshiro,” he says.
Momoshiro looks up and he feels this crushing weight on his chest.
“I don’t … hate you.”
That’s not how it’s supposed to go, stupid moron. He’s supposed to say ‘I like you’. And then Momoshiro is supposed to smile and say ‘thank you, I like you too’ and then they become a couple and go out on dates.
“Well, I don’t hate you either,” Momoshiro replies.
But this isn’t the standard procedure anymore. Momoshiro is racking his brain for a back-up plan; is there a manual for this sort of thing? Kaidoh is not a girl, so how does he respond?
How is Momoshiro supposed to react to that? Usually the girl would be timid and shy, and say she’s been watching him for a while and has liked him ever since they first met eyes. Then Momoshiro is supposed to accept her heartfelt confession and start going out. But what in the world does he say to ‘fshuuu’?
“Is that all?” Momoshiro asks.
“Ah,” agrees Kaidoh.
They stand there, awkwardly, fidgeting—glaring at each other. Wait, glaring? This is not going right at all … they’re supposed to be sneaking shy glances at each other, they shouldn’t look like they’re ready to pummel each other’s faces. Momoshiro clenches the strap of his tennis bag in his hand, and he nods at Kaidoh. If he doesn’t know what to do, he’ll just leave.
“I’m going home then.”
“Don’t be late tomorrow,” says Kaidoh.
“Yeah,” says Momoshiro.
They go home separately. Momoshiro rides his bike and stares blankly ahead. Momoshiro dumps his bike on the front lawn of his house, and stares with empty eyes at the street behind him. Momoshiro enters his bedroom and he falls on top of his bed, staring at the ceiling. He thinks. He cracks his brain. He frowns some, pulling his face into these bizarre comical expressions as each thought crosses his mind.
Was that … a confession?
Momoshiro isn’t sure. None of it went according to plan, despite the beautiful romantic setting. Not to mention Kaidoh is a guy, not a girl. A very grumpy guy who always looks like he wants to punch Momoshiro’s face in. It’s not that Momoshiro doesn’t like Kaidoh too. He does. Sort of. Does it count that when he sees his face, Momoshiro wants to do nothing more but to throw him down on the ground and attack him? He guesses it does. Maybe. He feels the tips of his fingers buzzing with electricity. He wonders if Kaidoh feels the same. But that’s why he called him out, isn’t it? But Kaidoh was supposed to say ‘I like you’ not ‘I don’t hate you’ and then they were supposed to walk home together, and maybe hold hands, and maybe kiss at the end.
Except when Momoshiro tries to imagine doing those things to Kaidoh, he feels sick to his stomach and the room starts spinning. It’s not a pleasant feeling.
So. Now what? Are they now a couple or something? That can’t be right. Then what … are they a fake couple? Or a couple in spirit? Just what are they now!?
The next day, Momoshiro realizes nothing has changed. He’s still late to practice, and Kaidoh makes him run ten laps as punishment. Later on, they grab each other by their collars and get into a physical fight, and Momoshiro ends up winning. They close the tennis club up together in silence.
“See you tomorrow,” says Kaidoh as he looks at Momoshiro.
He grips the strap on his shoulder again. “Yeah,” he says. And then he goes home alone.
Maybe it wasn’t a confession? Momoshiro is unsure of what to think of it, and even more unsure of what to do. This is Kaidoh, he’s not some girl who will giggle and blush at him because he said his hair was cute. If Momoshiro did that, he’d probably get an elbow to the face. If Momoshiro would ask him to go out and eat burgers, he’s sure Kaidoh will call him disgusting, and completely ignore him. He’s sure that if he asks Kaidoh if they can walk home together, Kaidoh will probably point out he has a bike, and Kaidoh is going to run for training so they couldn’t walk home together.
What an asshole. He’s ruining all of his standard dating scenarios, and Momoshiro is confused, and agitated, and grumpy, and he sort of feels like calling Kaidoh up to start a fight.
He does, and Kaidoh doesn’t reject it. They meet up at a park, mostly because Kaidoh was already running when Momoshiro called him, and he told him in an out of breath voice to come by the park as it was on his route. Kaidoh’s shirt is completely drenched in sweat, that it looks like someone threw a bucket of water on him, and Momoshiro laughs when he sees it.
“What do you want,” Kaidoh snaps at him.
Momoshiro forgot what he came to do. “Did you fall in a river on your way here, Kaidoh?”
Kaidoh hisses. “Of course not, you moron.”
“Who are you calling a moron!” Momoshiro grabs Kaidoh’s yellow towel to pull him close, but it’s kind of awkward as it slips from his neck, and all he achieves in is stealing his towel instead.
“You wanna go at it!?” Kaidoh clutches the end of the towel and yanks it back, and Momoshiro yanks too, and they end up in a small tug-a-war. Until Kaidoh throws a punch at Momoshiro’s shoulder, and Momoshiro jabs at Kaidoh’s side, and then they’re on the ground wrestling with each other.
The towel lays on the ground, forgotten.
“What’d you call me for, idiot,” says Kaidoh. He’s lying on the grass right next to Momoshiro, arms out stretched, and his chest heaving up and down from his heavy breathing.
“I don’t know,” says Momoshiro. Suddenly, it feels like he really doesn’t know about anything anymore. But he does know one thing. “Because I don’t hate you?”
Kaidoh shifts his head, until he’s looking directly at Momoshiro through the tall blades of grass. “Is that all?”
Momoshiro eyes dart over to the snake. “Yeah.”
“Idiot,” says Kaidoh. He looks back up at the orange sky.
“Dumbass,” says Momoshiro. He also looks up at the puffy clouds.
They go home separately once more, but Momoshiro does turn his head to look back at Kaidoh as he’s running off. Before Kaidoh disappears around a corner, he turns his head to look back as well, and their eyes meet for a split second, until they both walk away.
Everything appears normal. Kaidoh is still captain of the tennis club, and Momoshiro is still vice-captain, and they still get in about three fights a day. Kaidoh still hisses and glares at all the first years, scaring them. Momoshiro still tries to calm them down and hopes to convince them that no, Kaidoh doesn’t eat first years for lunch. Because Kaidoh can’t cook; his mother does it for him, so obviously there’s no truth in that. Kaidoh still trains every day like some sort of machine, and Momoshiro still slacks off whenever he can. He’s still eating burgers alone, and rides his bike home.
Yeah, everything was still normal. Nothing changed. Nothing really did.
Except for Momoshiro’s internal feelings. What was once a slight buzzing feeling in the pit of his stomach, is now turning into something that flutters and bounces around in his chest. When he sees Kaidoh, and their eyes meet, Momoshiro still calls him a moron, and Kaidoh still calls him an idiot, and they fight, but Momoshiro feels elevated. He still doesn’t know what to do with Kaidoh, and simply continues to do what he always does with Kaidoh, as he doesn’t hate it, and Kaidoh doesn’t either. At least they don’t hate each other.
Nothing changes for so long, that Momoshiro is starting to forget about the day Kaidoh confessed.
He starts to wonder; what was the point? So what his fingers light up with a warm glow, and his chest feels jittery and his pulse quickens? So what if Kaidoh might feel the same? Does it even matter if they do? It’s not like Kaidoh is a girl where Momoshiro can walk him home and kiss him, and do other couple stuff. They’re still the same, still the same Momoshiro and Kaidoh. And maybe that’s all they’ll ever be.
Momoshiro goes to eat burgers alone one day. He munches on a big double cheeseburger and stares out the window, watching people walk by. Suddenly, he hears his name being called out. He looks up: it’s a girl. More precisely, it’s a girl who he once went on a date with, but nothing ever came from it. He had nearly forgotten about her, and doesn’t even remember her name.
“You still like hamburgers, don’t you, Momoshiro-kun?” she says with a smile.
Girls he can deal with. Girls are easy to understand. “Yeah, can’t live without them,” he says. He grins at her, then gestures towards the empty seat in front of him so she can sit down. She does, but it looks like she’s waiting for someone.
“Are you meeting up with anyone?” asks Momoshiro.
“Ah yes, my boyfriend, we agreed to eat here and then go see a movie.”
Something twists inside of Momoshiro’s stomach, and it’s not the cheeseburger. “Oh, so you’re on a date?”
She smiles so widely, that the light on her shiny white teeth reflect back into Momoshiro’s eyes, and he has to turn his gaze away from her. “Yes! It’s our fourth date. I’m so happy. What about you, Momoshiro-kun?”
What is he supposed to say? What is he supposed to do? How can he reply to this question, when Momoshiro feels like nothing has changed, and nothing ever will change, and it’s not like he knows how to change it either. So he instead lowers his eyes at his cheeseburger and slightly shakes his head.
“Not dating anyone,” he says. “Just me and my burgers.”
“Ahh, don’t worry, I’m sure someone out there likes you,” she says in a sympathetic voice.
Momoshiro tries hard not to snort. That doesn’t seem to be the problem here. It’s not the liking part that’s hard. It’s the … entire other thing that is hard. Whatever that is. Kaidoh is hard to understand. Girls are not. He’s starting to wish Kaidoh was a girl. Then everything would have been so easy. Everything would click and fall into place, and then he could say ‘I have a girlfriend’. What can he say about Kaidoh when all he’s ever said was ‘I don’t hate you’?
“Oh, it seems Satoshi-kun is here, I have to go. It was nice to see you again, Momoshiro-kun.” The girl politely bows her head and with a bounce in her step, she skips away to greet a taller boy at the entrance.
Momoshiro loses his appetite.
At night, he stares at the ceiling again, wondering, thinking; what’s Kaidoh doing? Does he think about him too? Does he think about what this is? Does he wish Momoshiro was a girl too? It’s so confusing, even after three long weeks, Momoshiro still doesn’t know what to do, he doesn’t even know if Kaidoh and him are even dating at all. Not like they agreed to it. Stupid Mamushi. Why did he have to be some stupid grumpy guy. Why did he have to mess up Momoshiro’s game, to do everything unconventionally, to make him confused, to make him question what’s wrong with him. Why hasn’t anything changed with Kaidoh?
Maybe, Kaidoh never liked him in the first place. Maybe ‘I don’t hate you’ really did mean he doesn’t hate Momoshiro. Then this entire thing was a misunderstanding by Momoshiro, and that makes him feel like an idiot. He doesn’t want to feel like an idiot, and he’s almost one hundred percent sure that was a love confession, Mamushi-style. Except … then what?
The next day, Momoshiro notices a slight change in the snake. He keeps trying to start a fight with Momoshiro, before breaking it off prematurely, and then he keeps shooting these nervous glances at him, and he’s clawing the sides of his thighs, and his hiss sounds oddly high pitched and short of breath. Maybe he was constipated, that’s Momoshiro’s best explanation for the sudden change. He helpfully suggests that Kaidoh take a bathroom break, before Kaidoh really does punch him in the face. Then he has to run laps too, for insulting the captain. What an asshole.
After practice is over, Momoshiro does his regular routine in locking up the place. He’s left alone with Kaidoh once more, and he looks at him, giving him a small nod, and wondering if he needs to buy him laxatives.
“Well, see yah,” says Momoshiro. His fingers curl around the blue strap of his bag, and he clenches it tight. He stares at Kaidoh for a few seconds, before turning around.
“M-Momoshiro,” Kaidoh calls out.
His heart leaps into his throat, and Momoshiro turns back on his heel. “What?”
Kaidoh looks at him with those scary snakey looking eyes of his, and he’s clutching the sides of his pants. He says nothing. He says nothing for a long time. And then Momoshiro sighs out loud and takes one step away from him.
“Wait,” says Kaidoh hastily.
“What is it, I need to get home before dinner.”
“You …” Kaidoh averts his gaze this time, and he’s looking at a small patch of grass that’s sprouting out from between the tiles of the ground. It’s silent. The wind howls between them, picking up a few dead cherry blossoms from the cement, and it whirls around them. Momoshiro stares long and hard at Kaidoh, waiting for him to say whatever he wanted to say.
Until the snake hisses and says it’s nothing, and then he leaves Momoshiro standing there confused.
Momoshiro tells himself Kaidoh might not have been constipated, but had diarrhea instead, if he didn’t, he’d start thinking about why Kaidoh was acting weird. And why he called him out and why … and he’s thinking about it, isn’t he.
A week passes. Kaidoh is still being a bit weird, he looks really awkward around Momoshiro, and he keeps trying to tell him something, but comes up with some kind of half-question half-insult sentence instead. It’s annoying. It’s annoying when Kaidoh can’t spit it out. Usually Kaidoh has no problems with telling Momoshiro anything, in fact, he loves pointing out how fat he’s gotten lately, and that he should train some more. It’s when he starts stammering and looking away from his eyes that Momoshiro feels like something needs to be done.
Except Momoshiro has no idea what that something is. He’s still confused and lost without a map when it comes to that bandana clad snake. He can’t simply ask Kaidoh what’s wrong—they don’t do that. They’re not like that. They fight and they yell insults at each other, that’s what they do, that’s what they’ve always done.
So Momoshiro calls up Kaidoh again, he’s not running this time when he picks up. Momoshiro calls him names. Kaidoh hisses and insults him right back—but they decide to meet each other at the park again. The park is relatively quiet, and no one seems to be around when he arrives. The sun is setting, and the cherry blossoms are slowly disappearing. It feels like Spring is ending. It feels like something else is ending, too. Momoshiro waits while leaning against a big fountain, he can feel the little drops of water splashing onto the back of his shirt, but it’s not like he’s paying attention when his eyes are fixated on the small dirt path leading out of the park.
Kaidoh comes at him while running, though his shirt isn’t drenched in sweat this time. He leans against the fountain too, but he’s far away enough from Momoshiro that it seems like they were strangers. They’re quiet. They don’t know what to say, they don’t know what to do.
“You’re not training today?” Momoshiro finally asks.
Kaidoh grunts. “I already did.”
Momoshiro kicks a small pebble with the tip of his shoe. It bounces off against a bigger rock, and flings back to hit Kaidoh’s ankle. He gives him a mildly annoyed glance. The atmosphere around them feels heavy, like there are words hanging in the air that aren’t being spoken. Unresolved feelings and situations have been building up these past few weeks, that it was threatening to spiral out of control, threatening to come bursting out of his chest. Something had to be done, but Momoshiro still doesn’t know what. Not knowing what to do is the worst feeling in the world, coupled with that nauseous swirling feeling in his stomach.
A small pink petal falls on top of Momoshiro’s hair, and it sticks on the pointy end of his spikes. He brushes it off while mumbling something about stupid flowers under his breath.
“Momoshiro.” Kaidoh’s voice feels like this cannon ball shooting off in the dead silence of the night. It thrums against his chest, and Momoshiro looks up, startled, confused, but most of all, intrigued at what he has to say. “… You like burgers?”
The corner of his mouth lifts up in this weird scowl. “Hah?” he says. “What kind of question is that. Of course I do, you idiot.”
Kaidoh balls his fist up at him and growls. “Shut up, it was just a question!” The air feels slightly lighter; fighting has always been a comfort zone to Momoshiro.
“Why do you want to know anyway. I thought it was obvious already.”
“Do you … do you eat it with other people?”
Momoshiro throws his head back to gaze at the blue and orange gradient in the sky. “Used to. With Echizen and Eiji-senpai and stuff. But they’re not here anymore, so no, I don’t.”
Kaidoh’s hiss is suddenly at Momoshiro’s ear, and he yelps out loud when the snake twists his fingers around the collar of his yellow shirt and pulls him close. “Liar,” he says.
On pure instinct, Momoshiro grabs Kaidoh’s shirt as well, his fingers buzzing with electricity. “What the hell, I am not!”
Kaidoh butts his forehead against Momoshiro’s painfully before quickly pulling back, but this is how it’s always been like. This is how they are. This is how they act. It’s all so familiar and unchanging that Momoshiro actually feels disappointed. He doesn’t know why, but this dreaded feeling of not moving forward, this stagnant and stale routine—it’s bothering him. It’s been bothering him. For as long as he can remember.
“I saw you eat with a girl.” Kaidoh’s voice is like a low electrical current sweeping through his body.
“Yeah, so?” Not that he was, but what’s it to Kaidoh? Why does he care? Wait, when did he even see him? Was he spying on him?
Kaidoh’s fingers loosen his collar, and he lets them rest against his collarbone, and it feels weird and zingy and zoomy. Momoshiro feels like something is about to catch on fire with their close proximity to each other. With Kaidoh’s locks of hair peeping out of his bandana, and brushing up against Momoshiro’s clammy forehead. He relaxes his own fingers as well, and slips the tips of his fingers inside of his shirt for support.
Momoshiro wonders how to answer that one. Well, the answer is pretty cut and dry; he wasn’t eating with some girl, she merely came across him, chatted a bit, then went away. But that’s not the answer Kaidoh is looking for, there’s a different meaning behind that question, one that Momoshiro knows all too well. One that makes the blood flow faster through his veins. So he asks, in return:
Kaidoh narrows his eyes, and his fingers slide up from his collarbone, to his neck, a move that makes Momoshiro feel like he’s lost his voice, and that buzzing electricity starts to overflow. They move upwards, until his fingers are brushing up against his black hair, and they tangle themselves in that non-gelled part of his hair. He tugs at it, squeezing it between his fingers—Momoshiro can’t do anything but gape at Kaidoh with an open mouth and a puzzled expression on his face.
“Because we don’t hate each other,” says Kaidoh.
Feeling like they are going in circles, Momoshiro groans out loud, and he digs his fingernails into Kaidoh’s chest.
“You moron—what does that even mean?”
“It means …” Kaidoh hides his face from Momoshiro and slips his hand away from his neck, pulling it back. He blinks his eyelids a bunch of times, as if doing this would make everything seem easier, to make the blurry picture more clear. Make everything seem so easy to solve, easy to fix. Easier to understand. But it’s not. It’s like an unsolvable puzzle, and they’re missing the last piece that’s supposed to go right in the middle, the piece that would make everything click together. Then everything would make sense. Then they wouldn’t be doing this thing where nothing happens. They wouldn’t be saying opposite words to each other. They wouldn’t be stuck in this weird stagnant and unmoving place, where neither of them knows what to do, knows what to say. Neither of them is taking that step to move out of that place.
Girls were just so much easier to understand …
“Do you like me?” Momoshiro asks.
“Stupid, of course I don’t!” says Kaidoh immediately. Except all the colour starts rushing to Kaidoh’s face until he’s beet red.
“You idiot,” Momoshiro breathes out loud, and he digs his nails deeper into Kaidoh’s skin. “I like you too.”
The expression on Kaidoh’s face at that moment absolutely flabbergasts him. He’s fully red, blushing like there’s no tomorrow, his thin eyebrows are knitted together, his plump lips are pulled in this weird grimace, and he’s looking at Momoshiro as if he were sending out radio signals to him that spelled out S.O.S. It’s something Momoshiro has never seen before, he’s never seen this side of Kaidoh. This vulnerable and confused side of the usually tough and arrogant Kaidoh. It’s clear to him now, the last jigsaw piece finally snaps right into its place.
Kaidoh doesn’t understand Momoshiro either.
They’re two stupid idiots who had no idea what to do. How to communicate. How to move forwards. They’re probably the stupidest people on earth.
Momoshiro lets out a chuckle that’s half an exasperated breath, and half a relieved and heartfelt laugh. So what, Kaidoh isn’t a girl. So what he’s grumpy all the time and the only kind of conversation they have seems to be volleying insults with each other. So he may not be the type to go eat burgers with him, or to walk home together. That doesn’t mean Momoshiro can’t find out what type Kaidoh actually is. What he does like. What they can do. They don’t hate each other, so they must be doing something right.
Ah, who cares how it goes. Who cares what the steps are. Who cares about the order of dating. Who cares about stupid girls.
“Mamushi,” says Momoshiro.
Kaidoh reluctantly tilts his face towards Momoshiro. “What.”
“Don’t punch me.”
One pull of the rim of his shirt is all Momoshiro needs to get their mouths crashing against each other. Kaidoh’s teeth hit the top of his lips and it stings like hell, and Momoshiro scratches Kaidoh’s skin on accident, so he yelps as well and they both spring apart. Momoshiro rubs his lips with his thumb; it feels like a paper cut.
“You moron,” says Kaidoh.
Momoshiro continues to rub his lips and he glares at Kaidoh. There are two streaks of blood forming on his neck. “So are you.”
“Yeah,” says Kaidoh.
“As long as you know.”
Momoshiro goes for a second attempt, and this time their noses clumsily bump against each other, but he doesn’t give up, not until his throbbing lip touches Kaidoh’s for an awkward and uncomfortable two seconds. He pulls away from Kaidoh, whose face is beet red once more, and he rubs at his lips again. He shields his face away from Kaidoh before he says the next few words.
“That’s … reserved only for you,” says Momoshiro. It’s cheeky. It’s stupid. It’s awkward. It embodies them perfectly. “I wasn’t eating out with some stupid girl by the way.”
Kaidoh’s face returns to his normal colour and he glares at Momoshiro. “Yes you were.”
“She was someone I knew who chatted with me for a couple of minutes before she met up with her boyfriend—and how’d you know anyway? Were you spying on me?”
The snake hisses and stomps his feet on the ground. “I wasn’t! It was on my jogging route.”
“Dude, I eat burgers there almost every day, and that is not your jogging route.”
“You shut up! Stalker!”
Kaidoh shoves at Momoshiro’s chest, until he topples over the ledge of the fountain, and falls right into it.
So it may not be the typical and romantic confession. So they fight with each other a lot, and yell profanities. So Kaidoh isn’t a girl, but a boy. But at least they don’t hate each other, and Momoshiro really doesn’t hate this at all. Like this, it’s fine. It’s okay. They can figure things out on their own pace. It might end up with him having a black eye, and Kaidoh a broken finger, but he figures it’s worth it when Kaidoh suggests they should walk home together.
Even if Kaidoh meant ‘jogging’ and ‘training’ and not ‘holding hands together’.