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Out of Sync: Fever Pitch

A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #044 back issue

I’m going to die if this meeting lasts any longer. Blah blah blah, sales sales sales, die die die. My manager already told me what I needed to know, and what I needed to know was that I kicked ass on tour, so I don’t care about the minute details they’re going into. I don’t need to be sitting in this stuffy conference room looking at this stupid presentation on sales. Besides, with how dark the room is, it’s making it hard to be sneaky about what I’m actually doing. If I turn my phone brightness down too much I can’t read it, but too bright and everyone can see what I’m doing, which means I’ll get lectured later, which is annoying.

Kyoya, on the other hand, looks pretty immersed in this. I think he knows something I don’t know, based on how he keeps frowning. I’ll bug him later–way later though.

Tonight, I have a date!

It’s been a couple months since I was last really back in town long enough to do anything, so once I knew exactly when I was going to be back, me and Shou made plans. It’s just small, innocent things–dinner, maybe a movie, but it’s exciting!

With how busy things have been, we haven’t really been able to sneak many phone calls either, so I took to texting him–which sucks, but I’ll struggle through it for Shou. I miss him too much not to.

My phone buzzes in my hand and I slide my finger across it, unlocking the screen. It’s a text from Shou!

“You should send me selfies more often when you’re gone.”

I frown at the phone–I post them on my Twitter, and I know he follows it. Unless…

“R u implying smthng?” I quickly tap my fingers across the keys. The sooner I reply, the sooner he can text back, after all.

I lock my phone again and wait for his reply. I think I know what he’s suggesting, but doesn’t he realize how risky that is? I know he knows it’s risky, but I can’t very well be sending suggestive things when my phone could  get stolen! Or his!

I wait a few minutes, wondering if work got busy for him. It’s not unlike him to be focused on work, but he usually at least tells me that he’ll be back later.

I try to focus on the meeting, but I can’t bring myself to give even the slightest fuck about it. I did second best out of everyone, I don’t care about anyone else’s numbers!

I move to put my head on the table and Kyoya kicks me. I glare at him, he glares right back. Okay, Kyoya, fine. I don’t actually want him mad at me, honestly. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s also already figured out that Shou and I are sneaking around and I really don’t want him to tell if I piss him off too much…

At the front of the room, our manager loudly clears his throat, giving me and Kyoya a look. I sit back in my chair, keeping my head up and trying not to look too visibly annoyed. Kyoya’s returned his attention to the data on the screen, focused on nothing else.

Meanwhile, my eyes are glazing over, waiting for this awful meeting to end.

….

Forty minutes later, it’s over! I’m free!

Shou hasn’t texted me back, though.

I send another text, asking if he’s okay, and wait again.

“Everything all right, Taisei?” Kyoya asks, “We need to clear out of here.”

Oh yeah. Fuck.

“Yeah–sorry.” I shove my phone in my pocket and follow Kyoya out of the meeting room. He’s quiet for a long moment before speaking up again.

“How’s Shou?” It’s an innocent enough question, but it makes me nervous.

“He’s fine.” I pause, “I think…” Fuck. “He stopped replying to me and I’m not sure why.”

“Maybe he’s busy?”

“He usually tells me when he is, though–I dunno. I’m probably being paranoid.”

“Probably.” Kyoya smiles at me, stopping by the back doors of the building, “Anyway, you should go, right? I’m sure you want to get out of here for the next couple weeks and not come back.”

He smirks, and I want to throw my phone at him. If we get caught, it’s probably going to be his fault.

But… he has covered my ass a few times. Maybe I’m being too suspicious.

“…Yeah. I’ll see you later, Kyoya.” He gives me a wave and disappears back inside the building. Taking a breath, I slip out the back door, taking winding side streets away from the building until I’m at one of the main roads. Shou still hasn’t replied.

I check where I am and cross the street, going down another side street until I arrive near the train station.

From there, I slip into the corner store, the doors dinging as I enter. I’ve been here a few times before when I was able to sneak away for a few minutes to see Shou. All we could ever do was say hi and make small talk, but it was better than nothing at all.

The clerk at the counter looks up and waves. Can’t remember his name. Hiroshi?

“Hey! Tai, right?” He gives me a friendly wave, “It’s been a while! How’re you doing?”

“I’m good–things are good.” I grimace a little–they’d be better if Shou hadn’t stopped replying. “Is Shou around? I was supposed to meet him here.”

“Oh, he went home early,” maybe-Hiroshi explains. “He asked if he could leave before his shift ended, and it’s been slow around here today so I said it was fine. Honestly, he seemed kind of off all day–maybe he just needs a break.”

“Oh! I’ll just head to his place then. Thanks!” I turn to leave when he speaks up again.

“If you’re gonna see him, can you take him his phone? He left it.” Maybe-Hiroshi holds out the beat-up little flip phone that I’m all too familiar with, though it looks worse for wear since the last time I saw it.

“Yeah, I can do that.” I take it from him, nervous that he might’ve looked at what was on it. “Thanks!”

I slip out the door before he can say any more and open up Shou’s phone, to be greeted by a screen asking for a passcode. I sigh with relief, putting it into my pocket. I should’ve known Shou wouldn’t be careless with his phone.

Shou doesn’t live too far from here–I wish he had told me he was gonna be at home, not the store. Another stab of worry hits me–his coworker said he seemed off today, so what if something’s seriously wrong? Is Shou avoiding me? Or did something happen to him?! My mind comes up with all kinds of worst case scenarios as I make my way down the narrow streets.

I get a few looks on the walk there, but keep my head down–I don’t have time for autographs. I have to know Shou’s okay– he’s never the type to leave work early and he’s especially not the type to leave his phone behind. He’s not forgetful like that…

I make it to his apartment building and quickly duck into the old elevator, fidgeting while I wait for the numbers to slowly tick up to Shou’s floor.

A painful minute and a half later, I’m there.

Arriving at his apartment, I grab the key that I keep around my neck and unlock the door without bothering to knock.

“Shou?”

The lights are off in Shou’s apartment, and for a moment I think he isn’t there, until I hear a faint rustling and a low moan from further in the living room.

A sense of terror shoots through me as I rush into the room, frantically kicking my shoes off behind me. I hit the light switch and practically skid over to the sofa.

“Shou?! Shou! What’s wrong?!”

Shou is sprawled half on the sofa, still in his rumpled uniform, long legs flopped on the floor. As I lean over him, he twitches once, then groans and looks up at me, blinking slowly.

“Taisei…?”

I’m glad to see that he’s conscious, but his voice is a weird croak. Something’s definitely wrong with him. Is he sick?

“Are you okay? You look like hell!”

“Ugh…” He rubs a hand across his face, then looks up at me. His eyes don’t seem like they’re focusing like usual. “Sorry–I was gonna meet you back at the store, but I guess I fell asleep. Let me go take a shower and we can g–”

“Hell no. No, you should be in bed.” I squat down beside him, pressing my forehead to his, except I’m not a hundred percent sure he’s warmer than he should be. I think he is? I know you’re supposed to do this, but I don’t really have any experience doing it…

He smells like sweat and his face is red, though, so he must be running a fever.

“Okay, so we’re staying in tonight, and I’m gonna take care of you.”

He just stares at me, visibly confused for a moment before shaking his head.

“No, it’s your first day off…and I’m fine, really. I’ll just be a couple minutes.” He pushes himself to his feet, but he only takes about two steps before he’s tilting to the side and has to catch himself against the doorframe.

It’s been a while since I last saw him in person–his hair is longer and he’s kind of scruffy now… but the biggest change is that I’m used to seeing him happy and affectionate, not half-dead in a heap. It’s jarring–I don’t think I’ve ever really seen him sick before.

I step forward and push under his arm, trying to support some of his weight, and he does let himself lean against me a little. But when he looks down at me, he’s frowning, and after a moment he pushes off and walks unsteadily toward the bathroom again.

“Come on, Shou. You can’t go out tonight–you need to be in bed so you can get some decent sleep. I’ll make something to eat and get you some medicine and everything’ll be fine!” I say cheerfully, ignoring that look on his face.

“You don’t have to do all that, ” Shou says. “It’s not that bad. Really.”

Why is it so hard for him to imagine me taking care of him? Am I that bad at everything?

No. No this is not the time to be getting insecure over stupid shit. Nope, nope, nope.

I follow behind and insist on helping Shou into the bedroom, convincing him that he needs to strip out of his work clothes and then get into bed. He does need a shower, but he’s struggling with that whole ‘standing’ thing right now, so that’ll have to wait.

He’s so hazy…

“Stand still.” I say, gently pushing his arms to his sides. He lets me, at least, though I do hear him mutter something about not needing help, which I ignore. I undo the buttons of his shirt faster than he’s capable of right now, sliding his shirt down his shoulders and onto the floor. The smell of his deodorant and sweat hits me and I’m surprised by how comforting I find that–I don’t like smelling the rest of my bandmates, but Shou isn’t awful… I think I miss him too much to find the smell unpleasant.

Shou’s skin is too warm to the touch, his cheeks red… There’s only one time I like seeing his face flushed, and this sure as hell isn’t it.

I get him out of his pants and then carefully guide him to the bed, pulling back the covers. He sits and immediately flops over, and his face goes slack with what looks like relief now that he isn’t trying to stand.

“We can…We can cancel the date for tonight, maybe,” he says as if there’s any other choice, “But I promise I’ll take you out tomorrow.”

He’s out like a light a moment later.

I get his legs onto the bed, pulling the covers up to his shoulders. I watch him for a moment, his breathing deep and even. He’s always struck me as being the stronger one of us… I really don’t like seeing him vulnerable like this, but some part of me is happy that it’s me taking care of him and not someone else.

I head into the kitchen from there, grabbing a pot down and finding the rice and stuff he already has here. I’ve made rice porridge for myself a few times, so I shouldn’t be able to fuck this up too bad–It’s just rice porridge, not fucking rocket science. Or maybe it is when it comes to me. I hope not.

After rinsing the rice, I put it in the pot on the stove, putting all my focus into keeping this from burning. Can’t very well have a repeat of the last time I tried to cook something, can I? That would be embarrassing. The fact that Shou never gets sick and now he’s really sick is scaring the shit out of me, honestly. What if it’s worse than it seems? What if he’s dying? Fuck–No. No. Focus on the rice.

Focus.

About thirty minutes later, the rice porridge is done and I take it off the heat, spooning some carefully into a bowl. Hmm… Should I put something on it? Does Shou like anything on it?

Leaving the porridge on the counter, I go into the bedroom again, gently rousing Shou.

“Shou?”

He grumbles at me and sorts of wakes up.

“Huh?”

“I made rice porridge. Do you want anything on it?”

“What? Oh, thanks.” He pauses, like he’s struggling to think, “No, I don’t want to throw up again…”

I try not to let the worry show on my face–he threw up, too? I don’t want to panic and make him feel like he has to console me–I’m the tough one today, dammit. It’s probably just a stomach bug or maybe the flu, and as long as I take good care of him he’ll be fine.

“Okay! I’ll bring it here in a minute.”

I go into the kitchen and come back, and in the minute I was gone, Shou fell asleep again.

“… Shou?”

Nothing.

“Shou.”

He opens his eyes again, “What–Oh.”

Shou sits up a bit, using his headboard for support and taking the rice from my hands. I take a seat beside him, not able to think of anything to say. I hope it turned out okay. Did it? How bad am I at this? Would he eat it even if it was shit? I make myself busy around the room, putting his dirty clothes in the hamper and finding extra blankets, trying not to hover while he eats.

He hands me back a clean bowl and I feel a rush of excitement– I can make something without killing us both in the process!

“Is there anything I can get you?”

“No.”
“Are you sure?”

“Mm… a bucket, maybe.”

For a moment, I want to be hurt for the suggestion that my food made him sick, but that’s not it–he wasn’t suggesting that, right? He’s sick. He’s can’t help it if he throws this back up.

I hop up from the bed, looking around the apartment until I find a large bowl, bringing it back to the bedroom. He’s out again. I should tell him I brought it back.

I gently rouse him, and he seems more resistant this time. C’mon…

“… Nn. What?”

“I brought a bowl. Will this work?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

I set the bowl down beside the bed and he rolls over, flopping on his belly.

“Do you n–”
“I’m good.”

I hesitate a moment before slipping back out of the room, shutting the door behind me. He’s annoyed–am I doing something wrong? Am I not doing enough?

I sit there for a while before remembering that I still have his phone. I think he probably wants that…

I head back to his room, knocking lightly on the door before going in.

“Hey, uh, Shou?”

Silence.

“… Shou?”

His breathing stills and he turns to look at me and I feel my stomach drop.

“S-Sorry.”

“Can I sleep, Taisei? That’s literally all I want to do.”

I grab his phone out of my pocket, squeezing it in my hand before handing it over.

“You left it at work. And you don’t need to be mean to me–”

“I didn’t ask for your help!”

… He… didn’t…

I clench my fists, sucking in a deep breath. He’s not wrong– he didn’t ask for help. He probably does just need to sleep it off. Maybe I’ve been more of a pain in the ass since I came over. Maybe I should’ve just left him on the sofa where I found him.

It hurts.

But he isn’t normally like this– he’s always so patient and sweet and right now, he’s looking away from me, uncomfortable, I think.

I’m hurt but I’m not going to let that consume me. I’m not going to lash out, even though I want to hurt him too–I don’t really. I don’t. I want him to feel better. I don’t care about our date anymore, I just want him to feel better.

“I’m sorry.” I let out the breath, “I’ll be out in the living room. Call me if you need anything, otherwise I’ll see you in the morning!”

He stares at me and I give a little wave.

“Feel better!”

With that, I step back out of his room before he can say anything, shutting the door behind me. I guess I’ll sleep on the couch. I’ll talk to him about this when he feels better. If he just wants to be left alone every time he’s sick, I can do that. I know he can take care of himself… I can have some self control.

When I check my phone, Kyoya’s sent me a bunch of pictures of him partying at some club–I think I had an invite to something tonight… I wonder if this is it. There’s a lot of attractive people around, and in one of the photos, he has his arm around the waist of a cute girl, a glass of champagne in his free hand while she takes their photo.

They’re both doing the stupid duckface. Though it’s not like I haven’t done it too, so I can’t say anything.

I’m sorry you’re not here–except maybe not really, reads the message after the last photo. I bet *your* plans for tonight are even more fun, right?

I hover my thumbs over the screen, starting to type and hesitating before finally settling on a message. Im glad 1 of us is having fun.

I’m not sure if that’s too passive aggressive, but I don’t know that I care either.

You’re not?? What happened to your ~*~plans~*~? It must’ve gone sideways if you’re taking the time to reply to me.

I scowl at the phone, Dont do that sparkly thing. U txting where ppl can see u??

My phone buzzes in my hand a minute later, No. But this bathroom stall is really familiar… ( ゚o⌒)

He’s going to get me fired. He’s going to get us fired.

Stop that. Ur 2 shitfaced 4 this.

I pause to pull up his profile on one of his social media accounts, wondering if he’s posted anything else. He has, but it was before he got the drink in his hand. The text alert appears at the top of my screen as I’m scrolling through.

I’m not *that* drunk yet. What’s wrong? I can get you in here if you need a distraction and some… whatever I’ve been drinking.

I scowl, tapping out a reply. “Made Shou mad. He’s sick, so I’m letting him sleep.”

His reply comes a minute late., “Hope he’s not too mad. He seems pretty calm? I hope he feels better for both your asses’ sakes ( ゚o⌒)

For fuck’s sake, Kyoya. You’re definitely going to slip up with this shit and get me in trouble.

Thx. go party with ur hot people, unless they’re why ur alone in the bathroom

“>:(“ comes his reply back a minute later. See, Kyoya? It’s obnoxious, isn’t it?

We text back and forth for a bit, mostly sending agitating emoji to each other until I find myself drifting off. I hope Shou doesn’t manage to die while I’m sleeping…
Proceed to Out of Sync: Fever Pitch, page 2–>

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