Because of its location, high in the hills, St. Catherine’s had a lot of snow each winter. This was a blessing and a curse; a blessing to the boys who loved to play in it, a curse to the staff who had to commute through it. Overall, winters were very enjoyable.
Each year, classes would be held on winter survival skills. Under adult supervision, the boys would grab sleds, skis, supplies, and hike out into the winter wild. And each year, the infirmary would be put to good use, mending all sorts of injuries, from cold-related ones like frostbite to dislocations or broken bones due to accidents. Boys will be boys, after all.
—Winters at St. Catherine’s
Kato entered the room, but Tachibana was gone. He set down the bag of goodies, took his shirt off, and put on the one Takahashi gave him. It fit perfectly. He busied himself putting the contents of the bag away into his cubicles and then, with some trepidation, walked down to the game room. He wasn’t sure what he was going to find.
“About time, Kato-san,” one of the boys said as he was greeted at the door. Kato didn’t know his name, but he knew Kato’s. “I’m Naoki Higashihara. Come on in.”
Kato entered the room. There were seven other boys; two were playing chess, four were playing cards, and Higashihara. On one table, there was a spread of snacks and drinks. “Uh, I didn’t bring anything,” Kato thoughtfully admitted.
“Don’t worry about it. We got you covered. Let me do the introductions.” Higashihara went around the room and introduced the boys. Kato figured it would take some time before he could remember all the names. “Grab a plate of snacks and come play cards with me.”
Kato thanked him and did just that. There were all sorts of chips (or, crisps), soda, candy, and so forth. He made a plate and grabbed a drink and sat down at the table with Higashihara.
“Have you ever played Cribbage?” he asked.
Kato shook his head, saying “No,” at the same time.
“Ah, it’s a great game. It can be played 2-player.” Higashihara took the time to teach Kato how to play. Kato wasn’t a card player, but Cribbage was all about numbers and he liked that.
After about thirty minutes of training, they began a game in earnest. While Higashihara was shuffling the deck, he looked at Kato with a friendly smile, “How are you liking St. Catherine’s?”
Kato watched as the cards were dealt. “I don’t.”
“Oh?” came Higashihara’s reply.
Kato shrugged, replying “This place can be scary.”
“Scary? Like what?” Higashihara motioned for Kato to play a card.
Kato, ever the one to speak the first thought to come to his mind, “Showering with other boys.”
Higashihara laughed. “What?”
Kato blushed and looked at his cards.
“Seriously, what’s to be scared of? We all got the same parts. Nobody is different.” Higashihara tried to speak reassuringly while laughing.
Kato replied, “I’ve just never done it before.”
“Ah. Well, not like anyone here really cares what you look like naked. No reason to be modest, nobody is looking.”
Kato doubted that, remembering the first time when people looked. But he figured he had no choice in the matter so might as well get used to it. He played a card.
“Anything else ‘scary?’” Higashihara played a card.
“Well, at first, eating in the chow hall was scary as hell but seems to be okay now.”
“Yeah,” Higashihara agreed. “Was scary my first time in there too.”
“Can I ask you something, Higashihara-san?” as he played another card.
Meekly, he asked, “Do you have a seme?”
Kato paused. “What, exactly, is the job of an uke? I still don’t understand.”
“Well, that depends entirely on the two people. Seme/uke defines roles, but it’s up to the couple to determine what that looks like.”
“I still don’t understand,” Kato replied. “Is an uke supposed to be a slave?”
“Slave? Well, some see it as that. I don’t. Sure, I do lots of things for my seme but I don’t feel like I’m a slave.”
“Things? Like what?” Kato asked.
“Well, I help him with his homework, chores, clean his room.”
“Sounds like a slave,” Kato mumbled, looking at his cards.
Higashihara laughed. “I suppose so.”
“What do you get out of it?”
“Companionship, and protection.”
Kato looked up. “Companionship?”
“Yeah, someone who’s mine, and mine only, that I can talk with. St. Catherine’s can be a cold place. It’s nice to be special to someone else and have the warmth of a companion.”
“Do you…” Kato couldn’t seem to ask this question.
“Have sex with my seme?”
Kato blushed furiously and look down at his cards.
Higashihara laughed and so did the other boys who were overhearing the conversation, which Kato only now came to realize. He was utterly embarrassed.
“You are so easy to read, Kato-san.” Higashihara chuckled. “Yes, we have sex.” Kato contemplated for a moment, trying to decide if the answer was more embarrassing than the question. He was beet red.
“Are you…” Kato was beside himself with this super awkward conversation.
“…gay?” Kato squeaked out.
Higashihara smirked. “No.”
“But—” Kato started.
“Listen. Seme/uke isn’t about sex, or love, or even sexual orientation. Boys who do have sex may or may not consider themselves gay. What’s it matter? In the end, we’re all human. We have basic needs.”
Kato didn’t like emphasis on the word “needs.” He was pretty sure he didn’t have any such needs.
“Boys don’t really turn me on, and I don’t want a romantic relationship with one. Just some innocent fun.”
“Kato-san. I like my seme. But it’s more of a ‘friend’s with benefits’ arrangement.”
Friends, with benefits? This was a new thought to Kato.
“Boys do fall in love with each other here, but I think it’s kind of rare.” He then looked at the other boys who were there, “Anyone here in love with their seme?”
They all shook their heads.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay, just as there is nothing wrong with being bisexual, straight, or anything else. None of that really matters here. I’m simply not attracted to boys, but I still want the comfort of sharing a warm bed in the caring arms of my seme once in a while.”
“I see.” Kato didn’t, but he also didn’t know what else to say in this weird conversation.
“Have you had sex with Takahashi-san yet?”
Kato choked at the insanely embarrassing question and bellowed out, “No!”
All the boys laughed hard. Higashihara, between his laugher, exclaimed, “Kidding! I’m just kidding! Ha ha Kato-san. You’re so easy!”
Kato wanted to flee, run back to his room. Higashihara must have sensed this as he reached out for Kato’s arm, still laughing, “Hold on, Kato-san. Just having some fun with you.”
Kato just did not understand how these boys could talk about such matters, let alone laugh and joke about them. He, with a rather serious tone, stated “I do not want to have sex with Takahashi-san.”
“I’m not saying you do. There are boys who don’t have sex with their semes. I didn’t at first.”
“Oh?” Kato replied with renewed curiosity.
“Yeah. I needed a seme. I mean, look at me.” Kato looked at the boy before him who was smaller and scrawnier than himself. “I couldn’t defend myself against a kitten, let alone the wolves around this place. Last year I befriended a boy who didn’t have an uke and we clicked. We spent a lot of time together at first, but we’re both horny teens, so we started fooling around.”
“What if Takahashi-san wants to and I don’t? Will he stop being my seme? Can he do that?”
“First, you assume Takahashi-san wants to. I don’t know him like that. Would he stop being your seme? Well, it’s been known to happen.”
“What if he uses…force?” Kato replied in a somewhat small voice.
“He would be breaking seme/uke by hurting his uke. I don’t think he would force you. If he really wanted it, and you denied him, it’s more likely that he would break it off and find someone who would.”
Kato sighed. At least he figured he wouldn’t have to have sex with Takahashi, but it looked like he couldn’t be friends with him either, without the benefits.
“I will tell you the one thing that I do know about Takahashi-san.” Kato’s ears perked up. “He has had a few ukes. For some reason, things don’t work out and they end up splitting. The last one, everything seemed to be going alright, but they had a nasty split. Rumor had it that the uke tried to force himself upon Takahashi-san, upsetting Takahashi-san and so he beat the uke up.”
This only served to confirm in Kato’s little mind that Takahashi is a violent individual. Kato was worried. And I’m this guy’s uke now? he thought.
“I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think Takahashi-san is the type to force himself on others when he himself doesn’t like it. Again, you are totally assuming he wants to have sex with you in the first place.”
“If it’s that much of a bother, you could always refuse to be Takahashi’s uke.”
“That wouldn’t be a good idea,” Kato said. He knew enough to know that if he didn’t have Takahashi’s protection, Handa, or some other trouble, would come knocking. He needed Takahashi.
“At any rate, I think this conversation is something you should have with him, not me. Ask him if he expects sex from you.”
Kato sighed. “I’m afraid of the answer, either way.” Kato figured that if Takahashi said yes, it would end their relationship, and if he said no, then Takahashi might eventually end it anyway and find someone else.
“Well, enough of that. It’s between you and him. Let’s get back to cards and having some fun.”
The boys started telling jokes and laughing. Even though Kato was still a bit perplexed about his situation with Takahashi, he lightened up a bit and laughed along with the boy’s bawdy jokes. It was nice to be welcome and included in a group of others for a change.
東原 直樹, Higashihara Naoki, (hee-gah-shee-hah-rah nah-oh-kee)